A fully loaded semi-trailer is well over 50 feet long, and it can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. On dry roads they take about 20 percent longer to come to a complete stop than a passenger vehicle, and when roads are wet, they can take up to 50 percent longer. Semi-trailers might weigh 20-30 times more than a passenger vehicle, and have significantly increased ground clearance too with the danger of underride accidents.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 3,842 people died in large truck crashes in the United States in 2015. A frightening 69 percent of those people were drivers or occupants of passenger vehicles. Another 15 percent were pedestrians, bicyclists or motorcyclists. Over 104,000 people were injured. Many of those injuries were catastrophic.
The most recent ascertainable large truck crash statistics from Pennsylvania are from 2014. There were nearly 6,600 large truck accidents in Pennsylvania that year. Of those, There were 136 fatalities.
If a semi-trailer crashes into you or rolls over on top of you, it’s likely that somebody in your vehicle will be severely injured or killed. For those who are lucky enough to survive an accident with a large truck, common injuries include:
- Traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries
- Complicated crush fractures
- Spinal injuries
- Nerve damage
Common causes of large truck crashes
As per the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), driver fatigue is the leading cause of large truck accidents. Some drivers receive incentives for shortened delivery times. By virtue of that fact, the driver’s ability to operate the semi-trailer decreases while the likelihood of becoming drowsy or falling asleep while driving increases. Some of the other common causes of large truck crashes confirmed by the NHTSA are:
- Driver distraction like using a cellular device while driving
- Speeding and reducing the driver’s reaction time
- Overloaded trucks that increase stopping time and the chances of rolling over
- Mechanical failure involving brakes and tires
- Poor driver training and inexperienced drivers
The law of negligence
When a person is injured or killed in a crash involving a large truck, a lawsuit is likely to be filed. Nearly all of such lawsuits involve the law of negligence. Proving negligence in large truck accidents can be difficult as it’s fact specific, and certain elements must be proved through those facts. Those elements are that:
- The truck driver owed the claimant a duty of care
- There was a breach of that duty
- The truck driver’s breach of duty caused the claimant to be injured
- Those injuries were proximately caused by the crash
- The claimant suffered legally recognized damages
If the claimant fails to prove any single element of negligence, his or her case fails in its entirety. That’s just one of the reasons why you need us.
If the claimant has indeed proved all of the elements of negligence, he or she is entitled to an award of damages. Most damages awards are based on the following factors:
- Past and future medical bills
- Past and future lost earnings
- Any permanent disability
- Any permanent disfigurement
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of a normal life
- Funeral and burial expenses in the event of a wrongful death
Wrongful death in Pennsylvania
The Pennsylvania Wrongful Death Act is found at 42 Pa. C.S. 8301(a). The statute defines a wrongful death action as a claim seeking “to recover damages for the death of an individual caused by the wrongful act or neglect or unlawful violence or negligence of another ….” The statute only operates to the benefit of certain of the decedent’s family members, and those family members are specifically limited to the spouse, children or parents of the decedent or the decedent’s personal representative if no such family members exist. Damages that are recoverable include:
- Reasonable hospital and medical expenses
- Funeral and burial costs
- Loss of contribution and services and society from the decedent to his or her children
- Expenses of the decedent’s estate administration
Pennsylvania survival actions
An action for personal injury is allowed to survive the death of a decedent who died as a result of the carelessness and negligence of another. Survival actions are almost always brought as a second count of a lawsuit founded on a wrongful death claim. Only the administrator of the estate of the decedent can bring a survival action. Some of the damages in a survival action might include
- Loss of earnings from date of injury to date of death
- Loss of retirement income
- Pain and suffering until time of death
- Medical bills until time of death
The statute of limitations
Pennsylvania has set a two year period within which an action for wrongful death or a survival action must be filed. There are very limited exceptions to these rules. If a claimant fails to file his or her lawsuit within that two year period, he or she is likely to be forever barred from proceeding further. Note that there might be a different filing deadline for each cause of action. A survival action might accrue before a wrongful death action.
Large truck crashes involve complex litigation. Both state and federal statutes and regulations might apply to a case. With our knowledge of the commercial trucking industry, we’re able to discover details and data that most attorneys don’t know is available. That’s why it’s vitally important to retain a law firm that has vast experience in large truck crashes. We’ll put our knowledge, experience and resources to work for you and your family. We’ll even seek out any “black box” data from the truck to determine the facts of the case immediately before impact.
Don’t hesitate to contact us for a free consultation and case evaluation about any truck crash anywhere in Bucks County or Pennsylvania. You don’t need to have a penny in your pocket to talk with us, and no legal fees are due until such time as we obtain compensation for you. We’ll do everything that we can to maximize that compensation for you too.