The latest study on large truck accidents from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicated an increase in the number of injuries and wrongful deaths from 2011 to 2012.
The May 2014 report found that fatalities from large truck accidents increased by 4% from 2011 to 2012. This reflects 3921 deaths and 104,000 injuries in 2012 as a result of large truck accidents.
The study found that 472 people were killed in New Mexico in large truck accidents. Most of the fatalities on both the national and New Mexico level were to passengers in the other vehicle. This might be expected in light of the fact that large trucks will weigh 20 to 30 times more than passenger vehicles.
A collision between a truck and a passenger vehicle is likely to be catastrophic to those in the passenger vehicle. Of the fatalities in these accidents, 73% were occupants of the other vehicle while only 18% were occupants of the large truck.
These accidents bring up many issues. Among the first, in terms of compensation to those injured or killed in an accident with a large truck, will be fault for the accident.
Causes of Large Truck Accidents
There are numerous causes for large truck accidents. To the certain degree, these correspond with the typical causes for other car accidents such as driver inattention, distracted driving, speeding and so on.
The National Safety Council found that the most common causes of auto accidents to be alcohol (30.8%), speeding (30%) and distracted driving (26%). It is noteworthy alcohol is rarely involved in trucking accidents, which contrasts with the high rate of alcohol involvement in fatal car accidents.
Speeding and distracted driving are likely to play comparable roles in trucking accidents. However, the trucking industry publications suggested otherwise. As might be expected from industry trade groups, these trucking industry groups suggested that the accidents are by and large the fault of the other drivers.
This is the response that you will likely receive if you or a loved one is involved in a large truck accident. “Deny, deny, deny” seems to be the standard response. However, there are a few characteristics of large truck accidents and the large trucking industry that suggest more careful scrutiny.
Unsafe Practices Dictated by Profits
Unlike drivers of passenger vehicles, truck drivers face significant pressure to remain on the road as long as possible under the law. Federal law allows truck drivers to drive excessive hours. The allowance of excessive drive time is not mere happenstance. The long hours came about from aggressive industry lobbying.
The law allows truck drivers to drive 11 hours straight and 77 hours in a seven day period. These 11-hour shifts would wear on anyone. They seem particularly dangerous when speaking of driving large trucks.
Worse yet, it has been found that many truck drivers exceed even the rather dangerous allowable hours under federal law. These excessive hours are clearly driven by profits as it seems unlikely that a truck driver would put in 77+ hours a week for the love of the open road.
The profit motives also pressures drivers to drive at excessive speeds. Interestingly, the trucking industry will deny that speeding is an issue or that it is a common factor in accidents. However, anyone that has ever driven a highway anywhere in the U.S. knows perfectly well that this is pure fantasy. Trucks drive at excessive speeds. They do this routinely and it puts innocent drivers at risk.
Proof of Liability/Fault is Critical to a Truck Accident Claim
As might be expected, truck driving companies and their insurance companies are not particularly keen on admitting fault for accidents. In fact, this seems to be the industry position when reading various industry trade sites.
The typical line seems to be that only 16% of truck accidents are the fault of truck drivers. When faced with the starting position, you can bet that fair compensation is going to take some work.
This means conducting a thorough investigation of the accident so that you can prove that the truck driver was at fault. However, keep in mind, that New Mexico follows a comparative negligence state. This means that the truck driver need not be entirely at fault.
Someone injured or killed in a truck accident can still recover under comparative negligence for the portion attributable to the truck driver. In cases involving serious personal injury and especially wrongful death, the recovery for damages suffered in a truck accident can still be considerable even when offset by the other driver’s partial fault for the accident.
Seek the Guidance of an Experienced Truck Accident Attorney
Any personal injury case can be difficult and complex. This is particularly so in cases of truck accidents where the opening position from the truck company and its insurer is that it was not their fault or responsibility.
A personal injury attorney experienced in trucking accidents will deal with this position of denial aggressively to defend your case.