The average tractor can weigh over 40 tons when fully loaded – that’s 80,000 pounds moving through the world at highway speeds. With something that size, anything that goes wrong can often reach disastrous proportions. Truck and tractor trailer accidents often result in wrongful death and life-threatening injuries, including amputations, organ damage, paralysis and spinal cord injuries, and traumatic brain injuries.
There are a multitude of factors that can cause trucking or tractor trailer accidents. While plenty of trucking companies aim to do right by their drivers, others impose harsh schedules and deadlines. To meet unreasonable expectations, their drivers often feel they must engage in dangerous driving habits such as speeding, improper lane changes, and an unsafe disregard for other traffic. Drivers are often fatigued, rushed, and distracted while driving, posing serious risks to smaller vehicles.
Maintenance and repair issues also cause or contribute to trucking accidents. Tractor trailers are high-use vehicles and as such can be prone to mechanical failure, poor equipment maintenance, and even non-compliance with legal standards. One of the most catastrophic mechanical failures in trucking is known as a “wheel-off”. A wheel-off means the tire and wheel have completely detached from the axle, usually at higher speed on highways. The tire/wheel is then propelled into traffic, crashes into other vehicles and can cause devastating injuries and/or wrongful death to other drivers or passengers.
Commercial trucking companies are typically armed with an insurance company with a large team of lawyers, adjusters, and specialists. After an accident, their sole job is to minimize the potential recovery compensation for victims. They are trained to act while the victim is still recovering, or the family is still grieving over the loss of a loved one. This onslaught may leave you feeling powerless and unable to do anything.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a trucking or tractor trailer accident, you need attorneys with the experience, credentials and the resources to stand up to the company and their agents. Sheff & Cook is a veteran of bringing trucking and tractor trailer accidents to court. When retained, our truck accident lawyers act quickly to inspect and preserve the evidence, incorporating cutting-edge technology and trial techniques to present your case. If needed, we’ll bring in experts to evaluate and testify about the accident circumstances and the effects of your injuries. Our unique and thorough team approach has led to significant recoveries in multiple truck accident circumstances.
Even if you have been in a truck accident that is not the fault of the truck driver, there are still many ways to pursue litigation against the company. Contact our team to discuss your options.
Trucking accidents, sometimes involving more than one car due to their large sizes, are more serious than an average auto accident between two personal vehicles. Large trucks and tractor trailer rigs, including “combination rigs”, “twins” or “Western doubles”, are often greater than 60 feet in length and may, at times, exceed 80,000 pounds. By contrast, the average personal car ranges only from 3,000 to 5,500 pounds. Federal and State governments have passed regulations to try to avoid these serious collisions and the dire circumstances when a truck causes an accident with a passenger vehicle.
Two U.S. Department of Transportation agencies plus individual states oversee large truck safety. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) sets standards for new truck equipment. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) administers the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) regarding safe trucking activities on the highways and byways. Under the FMCSR, all employers, regardless of size, are required to comply with its regulations. These regulations include:
- FMCSR Part 380 subpart E – Covers the training requirements for entry level drivers and the employer’s recordkeeping responsibilities regarding these activities
- FMCSR Part 382 – Requires that employers have all drivers participate in a random drug and alcohol program; the subpart lists the required testing types, testing and reporting requirements and procedures, and the retention of files for 3 years
- FMCSR Part 383 – Regulates the Commercial Driver License; employers are required to run an MVR on each driver prior to hiring and annually, ensuring the driver qualifies with the regulations
- FMCRS Part 391 – Covers the general qualifications of drivers, application requirements and investigations to perform, road test, physical qualifications needed, and the general requirements for the Drivers Qualification File
These regulations also provide rules that require daily maintenance “circle checks” of important components and systems of commercial trucks. FMCSR Part 392.7 regulates the inspections of equipment and requires the trucking company to maintain these records. Rules and standards require that a daily “circle check” of the equipment be performed and recorded. Maintenance records are also required to be maintained. These rules also regulate driving schedules and habits to prevent driver fatigue and exhaustion.  FMCSR Part 395; (Regulates the hours of service drivers can operate, daily and weekly). Part 395 also requires the employer to review, audit, maintain files containing the drivers logs for 6 months from the date on the log. For drivers who operate for multiple carriers, each carrier is required to receive the logs from the other carriers before that driver can be dispatched to ensure compliance. Drivers can operate 70 hours in 8 days.
Evidence in Trucking Cases
At Sheff & Cook, we dig deeply to find all the evidence to support your claims. Oftentimes, the evidence is the driver’s log records – showing what the driver is doing to ensure he or she is following the safety requirements while on the road. FMCSR Part 395 requires strict adherence to hours of service to be recorded by a daily “driver’s log”. Commercial laws dictate that the truck driver may be on duty for a maximum of 14 hours. Only eleven of these hours, however, may consist of driving time. The other three hours include truck maintenance, loading and delivery, paperwork, fueling or any non-driving activities. Our experienced team can use these logs and records to ensure the truck driver or trucking company who caused your injury did not violate these federal rules.
Sheff & Cook’s Approach
Sheff & Cook leverages courtroom experience, expert witnesses, and investigative expertise to ensure that every aspect of a trucking or tractor trailer accident is documented, enhancing our ability to produce compelling evidentiary presentations. Unlike most firms, we employ a unique team approach to multiply efforts and results for our clients. In cases of wrongful death and serious personal injury due to a trucking or tractor trailer accident, our team of lawyers works closely with victims’ families to navigate through what can be a confusing and difficult process. In case after case, we achieve superior results and the authentic connection we forge with our clients motivates our team to perform at the very highest level.