Frequently Asked Questions About Truck Accidents in KYCentral Kentucky Semi Truck Accident Law Firm
Large trucks are an important part of the economy of both the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the country as a whole, transporting the food and other items we need in our daily lives. The trucking industry provides employment for many thousands of people. Unfortunately, trucks that share the road with passenger vehicles are also responsible for thousands of deaths and injuries each year.
Lexington, Kentucky personal injury lawyer, Julie Butcher, has been helping victims of truck accidents for more than 20 years. Below are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about truck accidents. If you have other questions, call Julie at 859-233-3641 or 866-77JULIE.
What causes most truck accidents in Kentucky?
Statistics from the National Transportation Safety Board show that driver error is the leading cause of large truck accidents, accounting for 31 percent of fatal truck accidents. Other causes include the truck being overweight or improperly loaded.
What kinds of errors do truck drivers make that can result in a crash?
The main factor is fatigue, which is responsible for about 40 percent of large truck accidents. Julie and her investigation team have caught many drivers illegally driving over their allowable hours of service and even keeping two sets of log books with the real time in one and fake times in the other to show DOT.
Drivers who stay on the road too long, trying to meet a delivery deadline, present a danger to every other vehicle on the highway. Speeding or driving too fast for conditions (rain, ice, fog) causes a fair number of accidents. And driver distraction accounts for 6 percent of truck accidents.
Is substance abuse a problem with commercial motor vehicle drivers?
There are many thousands of hard working, law abiding truck drivers in this country. Unfortunately, though, there are many truck drivers who use illegal substances to try to stay alert or deal with the boredom of being on the road for long stretches. In one study by the Insurance Institute for Traffic Safety, 15 percent of tractor-trailer drivers had marijuana in their system; 12 percent had used stimulants; and 2 percent had cocaine in their system!
Alcohol use is also a problem for many long distance truckers. Fortunately, under Federal law, the allowable alcohol concentration in truck drivers’ blood is half the level for the presumption of intoxication in most states.
How many truck accidents are there on Kentucky roads?
In 2012 alone, there were 7,950 commercial motor vehicles involved in collisions in Kentucky, according to the Kentucky State Police. Eighty-five of these collisions caused a fatality.
Do most large truck accidents happen on interstates?
Surprisingly, no. Most of the Kentucky truck collisions in 2012 occurred on state routes (2,123), as opposed to interstates (1,843). In the Central Kentucky area, this would include roads such as KY-4 (New Circle Road); KY-922 (Newtown Pike); KY-1927 (Liberty Road); KY-3375 (Catnip Hill Road); KY-676 (Frankfort East-West Connector); KY-169 (between Nicholasville and Versailles); KY-127 through Boyle, Mercer and Franklin Counties; KY-1927 (Todds Road); US 60 (Winchester Road and Versailles Road in Lexington); US 68 (Harrodsburg Road and Paris Pike in Lexington); US 421 (Leestown Road) and US 27 (Nicholasville Road and Paris Pike in Lexington).
What features of trucks make them especially dangerous?
The main thing is the sheer size of a commercial motor vehicle. A tractor-trailer can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, more than 20 times the weight of a typical passenger car. This means they cannot stop as quickly; it also means that the accidents they are involved in can result in very serious injuries. In addition, big trucks have large blind spots, called “no-zones,” which prevent them from seeing cars behind them or directly next to them.
What can a personal injury lawyer do for me after an accident with a truck?
Gathering satellite tracking and other data is crucial to many cases. That evidence has a tendency to disappear pretty soon after a wreck. An experienced trucking injury attorney like Julie knows how to get and to preserve that evidence as soon as possible, but you need to engage counsel as soon as possible to maximize evidence protection.
It is important that you contact an experienced truck accident attorney as soon as you can after the accident for other reasons. Trucking companies generally have a team of lawyers and insurance adjusters who are going to be looking right away for ways they can minimize their liability. They might even try to make a quick settlement which would pay you less than the full compensation you deserve for your injuries.
Another one of the differences in a car accident and a truck accident is the number of parties who may share in the liability for the accident. With a car accident, you’re usually just dealing with the driver of another car. But in a truck accident, the driver, the trucking company, perhaps the shipping company, and maybe even someone responsible for faulty truck maintenance may be responsible. One of the first things Julie will do is carefully investigate the facts of the case to identify all potential defendants.
What is a “commercial truck?”
A commercial truck is a vehicle used in the course of business and/or for the transport of commercial goods. Examples include tractor-trailers, tanker trucks, delivery vehicles and large freight trucks. Commercial trucks are much larger than light-duty vehicles such as pickup trucks. They often serve a specific purpose (cement or oil trucks), and a commercial driver’s license is required to legally operate them.
Is an accident involving a commercial truck more likely to cause injury than one involving another passenger vehicle?
Generally, yes. What makes commercial trucks more dangerous is their size (a fully-loaded semi-truck can weigh 80,000 or more pounds, but the average car may weigh only about 3,000 pounds).
- This makes large trucks far less maneuverable, more difficult to stop and less able to accelerate out of a dangerous situation.
- The force on your car in an accident is far greater when a commercial truck is involved because of its much larger mass.
While most of us driving cars are only running errands or commuting to work, those driving commercial trucks may be on the road all day and be far more fatigued, more distracted and less alert. This greatly increases the risk of an accident.
What are common reasons for accidents between commercial trucks and passenger vehicles?
There could be any number of reasons for an accident, including:
- The difficulty the truck has with stopping, accelerating and steering out of a potential accident
- Limited visibility by the truck driver
- Driver fatigue and distraction
- Poor judgment by the driver, including speeding
- Over-loading the truck or not properly securing the load and causing it to shift, leading to the truck’s turning over or making it harder to steer
- Alcohol and/or drug use by the driver
- Going too fast for conditions or driving in weather where it’s simply unsafe to drive
- Equipment failure
- Illegal parking and/or not properly lighting the truck at night when it’s pulled over, creating a hazardous situation.
Who is legally responsible for an accident caused by a commercial truck?
It depends on the facts of the accident and the applicable laws.
- If the driver caused the accident and is an employee of the trucking company, the trucking company may be held responsible. If the driver is an independent contractor, he or she should have his or her own insurance.
- If a shifting load caused the accident, the shipper may be responsible.
- If an outside company is responsible for maintaining the truck and bad maintenance caused the accident, they may be responsible.
- If a defective piece of equipment on the truck or trailer caused the accident, the manufacturers of the truck or trailer and of the part could also be made to pay.
- Complicating the issues is the fact that there may be multiple reasons for an accident, and the multiple parties involved each have their own insurance coverage. If there is more than one defendant they may blame each other for the accident.
If the semi-truck involved in an accident “jackknifes” does that mean the truck driver was at fault?
Possibly, but not necessarily. If a truck jackknifes, it may be evidence that the driver was going too fast or there was an equipment failure on the truck or trailer. It may also be the result of an accident caused by other drivers; in an effort to avoid another vehicle, the truck driver may have suddenly applied the brakes, causing the jackknife.
Just as there are differences between passenger vehicles and commercial trucks, truck accident cases are not the same as car accident. There are many laws and regulations specific to the trucking industry that don’t apply if only automobiles are involved. Federal laws and regulations may have been violated, whereas most car accidents involve only state law.
Call Julie Butcher for help after a Truck Accident
Attorney Julie Butcher has knowledge and experience that’s been developed with the many truck cases she has handled over her 25+ years of practice. Julie is one of only a few attorneys in Kentucky who is a member of a group of lawyers dedicated to helping the victims of commercial truck accidents and preventing future truck wrecks, APITLA (Association of Plaintiff Interstate Trucking Lawyers of America).