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PERSONAL INJURY AND WRONGFUL DEATH LAWSUITS IN TRUCK ACCIDENTS

Every year, nationally, there are approximately half a million accidents involving large trucks (those with a gross vehicle weight rating greater than 10,000 pounds). The results are devastating. Over a recent five-year period, these types of accidents resulted in an average of over 4,000 deaths and nearly 115,000 injuries every year. Although large trucks account for about 5% of vehicles on the road, 11% of all motor vehicle crash accidents in 2017 occurred in crashes involving large trucks. Also, about two-thirds of fatalities and injuries that occur in truck-car collisions are suffered by the occupants in automobiles. 

Why Truck/Car Collisions Are So Violent

Physics plays a big role in the outcome of truck-car accidents. Automobiles typically range between 3,000-4,500 pounds. When loaded, tractor-trailers can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds. Although both vehicles are subject to the same force at impact, the automobile’s much smaller mass leads to it experiencing higher acceleration. Any change in the velocity of an object – speeding up, slowing down, and changing direction – constitutes acceleration. The human body can withstand virtually any constant speed. (Space shuttle astronauts traveled at 18,000 miles per hour.) However, to avoid damage to the human body, the rate of travel must be changed relatively slowly. 

At the moment of impact in a vehicle crash, a tremendous amount of kinetic energy, measured in terms of “G-force”, is released. Unrestrained occupants in a car can be subjected to upwards of 120 G’s, ten times as much as fighter pilots can experience. Seventy G’s is enough to tear the pulmonary artery in a person’s heart, an injury almost impossible to survive. Impact force can be reduced by a seat belt. While seat belts do occasionally contribute to a serious injury or death, the use of seat belts can dramatically increase the chances of surviving an accident.

Truck/Car Accident Injuries

Accidents involving large trucks can often be horrific, resulting in fatalities and catastrophic injuries. Some serious injuries include:

Head/brain injuries

The majority of head injuries from traffic accidents are concussions. However, accidents involving large trucks frequently result in traumatic brain injuries (TBI). Depending on the severity, TBIs can substantially and permanently compromise a person’s ability to function.

Spinal cord injuries

Massive collisions can cause spinal cord injuries which leave survivors partially or completely paralyzed. People with spinal cord injuries often need lifelong care that may cost millions of dollars.

Neck injuries

In addition to whiplash, these injuries can include herniated disks and fractures. Herniated disks occur when a collision causes the disk to move out of place, creating severe pain in neck, back and legs. Abrupt impact or twisting of the neck during a collision can cause complex neck fractures that can result in a lifetime of medical problems.

Back injuries

In large truck accidents, a person’s back can experience damage to the bones and soft tissue, resulting in chronic pain and serious physical impairment.

Injuries to internal organs

The enormous impact of a truck accident can injure organs within the chest, abdomen or pelvis, resulting in internal bleeding, reduced function, organ failure, and other complications.

Burns

Severe burn injuries can occur when a truck carrying corrosive materials is involved in a crash. Burn hazards can also result if fuel from the vehicles ignites. Injuries can be extremely painful and can leave victims vulnerable to serious infections.

Amputations

Extreme collisions in a large truck accident can cause limbs to be severed. Limbs can also be so severely damaged that removing them becomes medically necessary.

Bone fractures

In a severe collision, any of the body’s 206 bones can be broken. Some fractures such as that of a femur may be life-threatening. Other breaks may never heal properly (e.g., scaphoid fractures.)

Lacerations

A large truck accident can cause deep cuts or a jagged tearing of the flesh. These open wounds can result in permanent scarring and disfigurement.

Causes of large truck accidents

HKQ Law Personal Injury Attorney Christopher Quinn notes that, “There are number of factors that can lead to a truck crashing. Our Personal Injury team works tirelessly to determine the precise cause of the accident.” HKQ Law investigates all the circumstances surrounding the accident, including:

Driver Fatigue

The National Transportation Safety Board estimates that 30%-40% of all semi-truck accidents involve some element of driver fatigue. Regulations restricting the number of hours truck drivers can operate are not always followed by trucking companies or drivers.

DUI

Driving under the influence of alcohol, street drugs, prescription drugs, and even over-the-counter medications can substantially impair a trucker’s driving skills, posing serious dangers for other motorists.

Distracted Driving

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA) truckers who text while driving are over 23 times more likely to be involved in an accident than those who refrain from distracted driving.

Unsafe Driving Practices

These practices include speeding, failure to check blind spots, following another vehicle too closely, failure to use turn signals, frequent lane changes and road rage.

Inadequate or Improper Training

An FMCSA study concluded that inadequate or improper truck driver training resulted in thousands of truck accidents. Truck drivers who were properly trained would be less likely to engage in unsafe driving practices.

Faulty Equipment / Improper Maintenance

Large truck accidents can be caused by problems with components such as brakes, steering, tires, fuels systems, suspension and hydraulic systems. The problems can be the result of manufacturing defects or poor maintenance.

Overloading / Improper Loading of Cargo

An overloaded truck can travel down a hill much faster than anticipated by the truck driver,  requiring additional braking force to stop in time. Loads that are not properly distributed can cause the truck to be off balance which can lead to multi-vehicle accidents or rollover accidents.

Road Conditions

Truckers can face a variety of conditions such as snow-covered surfaces, pot holes, poorly designed roads and confusing or insufficient signage. While these conditions can contribute to an accident, commercial truck drivers still need to meet a higher “duty of care” than other drivers in order to avoid liability.

Defendants in truck accident lawsuits

While the truck driver may be the most obvious defendant, there are a number of other potential defendants, including:

  • Truck driver’s employer
  • Owner of the truck
  • Company leasing the truck
  • Owner of the leasing company
  • Owner of the trailer
  • Company leasing the trailer
  • Maintenance and repair service companies
  • Freight loading contractors
  • Broker of the freight and trucking company
  • Manufacturer of truck, trailer, or components
  • Governmental agencies responsible for road conditions


Recovering Damages

In a personal injury lawsuit, victims of truck accidents can seek compensation for economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages compensate for actual costs, such as medical expenses and lost wages due to time off for work. Non-economic damages cover intangible costs such as pain and suffering. Pennsylvania also allows an injured party to make a claim for punitive damages.

In a wrongful death lawsuit, economic damages can include medical, funeral and estate administration costs, loss of income and other financial contributions of the deceased, and value of the services that the deceased would have provided. Non-economic damages can include emotional and psychological loss, grief and emotional distress. Punitive damages may also be awarded to punish a defendant for conduct that is particularly reckless.

If you are considering a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit involving a large truck accident, call HKQ Law at (800) 760-1529 to schedule a no-obligation consultation.

About HKQ Law

HKQ Law is considered one of the top civil litigation and commercial law firms in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Nine attorneys at HKQ Law were recently named to the 2019 Best Lawyers List and has been designated a Tier 1 Best Law Firm for personal injury, medical malpractice litigation labor law and corporate law in Northeastern Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley. The firm’s Personal Injury Team, led by Attorney Joe Quinn, has won some of the largest verdicts and settlements in the region's history on behalf of injured clients. The firm was also recently recognized for one of the top 20 Verdicts in Pennsylvania.

The Personal Injury Team focuses on a wide array of personal injury claims and civil litigation, including medical malpractice, auto and truck accidents, aviation accidents, unsafe vehicles, dangerous or defective products, workplace injuries (worker's compensation), construction site accidents, claim denials by insurance companies, dangerous drugs, defective children's products, nursing home abuse and neglect, and falls due to unsafe conditions (slip and fall).

Attorney Joseph A. Quinn is one of only 100 attorneys in the United States (and one of only three in Pennsylvania) honored with membership in the Inner Circle of Trial Advocates, and one of only 500 attorneys worldwide chosen to be a Fellow of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers. He has been a Pennsylvania Super Lawyer every year since the program began and has been listed in The Best Lawyers in America every year since the publication was established in 1987. Best Lawyers also named him top personal injury attorney for Northeastern Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley.

Since the inception of the firm, the Commercial / Corporate Team led by Attorney Allan Kluger has provided comprehensive, integrated legal services to many of Northeastern and Eastern Pennsylvania's largest corporations, businesses, banks, non-profits and institutions, handling matters involving labor and employment, wills, trusts and estate planning, estate administration, elder law, commercial transactions, residential and commercial real estate, zoning, land use and development, telecommunications, mediations and arbitrations, commercial litigation, title insurance, business planning and business succession, corporate/business structuring, employment discrimination law for employers, banking, creditor’s rights, finance, lender liability defense, covenants not to compete, construction law, mergers and acquisitions and other business matters.

Additional information can be found at www.HKQLaw.com or by calling (800) 760-1529.

				

 

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