Pittsburgh Truck Accident Lawyers
Large commercial trucks are a significant part of America’s economy and they are how millions of goods are transported in our society. With nearly 12.5 million commercial trucks and buses registered in the country, the trucking industry accounts for about 5% of our overall gross domestic product (GDP).
In Pittsburgh, there is a high chance of getting involved with an accident with a big rig. This is because we are at the location of many interstate highways and major roads such as i-79; i-376; rt. 60, and more.
While large trucks transport goods and services, provide jobs for thousands of workers, and are a built-in part of everyday operations and comforts for most Americans, these trucks can also be very dangerous. At the law office of Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C., we recognize that truck accidents are not only devastating, but also that the claims process following an accident can be highly complex and difficult to navigate. Our lawyers have extensive experience successfully pursuing these types of cases, and we are committed to helping you recover full and fair compensation for your injuries.
Causes of Truck Accidents in Pittsburgh
One of the primary roles of our law firm is investigating your case to determine fault for the crash. This is critical; you will need to identify the at-fault party in order to bring forth a claim for damages against the right party (or parties). Some of the top causes of truck accidents include:
- Driver substance abuse. Amongst truck drivers, rates of substance abuse are high, which is a major concern considering these drivers are tasked with operating vehicles that weigh up to 80,000 pounds. Substance abuse issues include the improper use of alcohol, prescription drugs, and illegal drugs. If a driver operates their vehicle after using an impairing substance, they may be unable to drive safely, leading to a crash.
- Driver fatigue. The risks associated with drowsy driving are alarming—thousands of crashes and hundreds of deaths occur each year in fatigue-related traffic accidents. According to federal statistics, driver fatigue is a factor in roughly 13 percent of large truck accidents in the U.S. each year. The National Highway Traffic Safety Admin. (NHTSA) estimates that drowsy driving was responsible for 72,000 crashes, 44,000 injuries, and 800 deaths in 2013. However, these numbers are underestimated and up to 6,000 fatal crashes each year may be caused by drowsy drivers in general.
- Overloaded trailers. Another problem that can lead to truck crashes is overloaded, or improperly loaded, trailers. Cargo may be overloaded in an attempt to get more things to a single location in a single load, saving the trucking company time and money. Or, cargo may be improperly loaded or secured as a result of lack of training, or just haste and carelessness. Either way, exceeding load limits, improperly loading, or failing to secure cargo is dangerous and could lead to a crash.
- Tire blowouts. Sometimes, the truck driver isn’t to blame for a crash; instead, the accident is a result of a tire blowout or another form of vehicle or vehicle part defect. When a tire blowout causes an accident, an investigation that seeks to determine a) whether or not the tire was defective, b) whether or not the trucking company maintained the vehicle/tires in a reasonable manner, and c) who should be held liable for the blowout and resulting damages is necessary.
- Truck driver negligence. Finally, sometimes a crash occurs as a result of truck driver negligence – the failure to exercise the required degree of care. Driving too fast for conditions, distracted driving, failing to yield, or driving aggressively are all types of negligence that can cause crashes.
The above list of causes of a truck accident is not exhaustive. If another factor caused or contributed to the crash, our lawyers will dig deep to identify it and hold the responsible party liable.
Types of Truck Accidents
Not all truck accidents are alike and partnering with a lawyer who has worked on truck accident claims like yours in the past can improve your chances of a successful claim. Some of the most common types of truck accidents include:
- Squeeze play crashes. A passenger car should never attempt to pass a truck on the right – if it does, a squeeze play crash could result. This crash type happens when a truck moves to the left in order to make a right-hand turn and a passenger car tries to pass on the right, not understanding the truck’s intent. When the truck starts to turn, the smaller vehicle is “squeezed” between the truck and the curb.
- Jackknife accidents. If brakes are applied suddenly or a turn is taken too fast, there is a chance that a jackknife accident could occur. This crash type is characterized by the trailer swinging around, ultimately stopping at a position that forms a 90-degree angle with the truck cab.
- Underride/override accidents. Underride/override accidents are some of the most tragic of truck accident types. An underride crash happens when a passenger vehicle is following a truck too closely – if the truck stops suddenly, the smaller vehicle rides under the rear of the trailer. An override accident is the opposite – the truck rides over a small vehicle in front of it. Both are typically fatal accidents.
- Blind spot collisions. Finally, trucks have large blind spots, and drivers should be careful about driving in them. A crash may occur if a smaller car is within a truck driver’s blind spot and, not realizing the vehicle is there, the truck driver changes lanes, makes a turn, or performs another maneuver that results in a crash.
On the subject of blind spots, a truck’s blind spots include:
- Up to 20 feet in front of the truck
- Large portions of the areas directly to the left and right of the truck
- Up to 200 feet behind the truck
That’s why experts generally recommend getting out of a truck’s blind spot as quickly as possible. The best way to avoid a crash is to avoid staying too close to a commercial truck for too long. If you find yourself trapped next to a truck due to traffic, consider dropping back until you can safely move into another lane or out of their blind spot.
What are hours-of-service regulations for truck drivers?
In order to prevent truck drivers from becoming fatigued while on the job, federal regulations have been established that dictate how long they can be behind the wheel throughout the course of a single work week. Per the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the hours-of-service standards for truck drivers are as follows:
- A driver can only drive a maximum of 11 hours after first having taken 10 consecutive hours off duty
- A driver cannot drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after a period of 10 consecutive hours off duty
- A driver cannot drive for more than eight consecutive hours without taking a break of at least 30 minutes
- A driver cannot drive for than 60 hours during a 7-day work week (70 hours during an 8-day work week)
In the context of this statute, once a work week has ended, a driver must take 34 consecutive hours off duty before commencing another one.
What to Do If You Are in an Accident with a Commercial Truck
If you’ve been involved in one of these crashes and are able to walk away, consider yourself fortunate. Provided you are able, here are five things you should do immediately after a crash with a commercial truck:
- Call the Police
Never trust that you and the commercial truck driver can work out liability without the involvement of external parties. Your first step should always be to officially document the accident by calling the authorities.
- Seek Immediate Medical Treatment
You might be so injured that you are taken from the scene by ambulance. If people at the scene ask about calling 911, and you aren’t sure, err on the side of caution and let them make the call.
- Document the Scene
If you are able, document the accident scene before you leave. If you aren’t, ask someone else to do this. You’ll want numerous photos of the vehicles and the surrounding roadway, including traffic signals and signs. Also, get the names and contact information of other drivers and any witnesses.
Write down the DOT number that is listed on the side of the commercial truck. This might help locate any electronic data recorder (EDR) that is assigned to the truck. Finally, take detailed notes about your recollection of the accident before too much time passes.
- Avoid Signing Anything or Giving Statements
It’s never in your best interests to sign any release forms handed to you by the trucking company or an insurance carrier. Take the form and hold onto it, but don’t sign it. Also, avoid discussing the accident or giving any recorded statements to these parties as they’ll likely try to get information that can be used against you later.
- Contact an Attorney
Since commercial truck accidents are much different and more complex than passenger vehicle crashes, it’s a good idea to speak with an attorney that specializes in these cases so that you can protect your rights.
Our Experienced Truck Accident Lawyers Are Here to Help You Recover the Compensation Award You Deserve
If you have been severely injured in a truck accident, or if you have lost a family member in a truck crash in Pennsylvania, our truck accident team can help. We will work hard to build your case and improve your chances of recovering compensation for the full value of your losses, including the value of your pain, suffering, emotional distress, medical bills, property damage costs, lost wages, loss of quality of life, loss of consortium, and more.
Truck accident companies and their insurers have high-priced and experienced lawyers working for them – when you hire our law firm, you can take comfort knowing that the playing field is leveled, and we are fighting hard to protect your best interests. We provide free consultations, and we take motor vehicle accident cases on a contingency fee basis – which means no out of pocket risk to you.
To schedule a free consultation with our Pennsylvania truck accident lawyers, please send us an online message, visit our Pittsburgh office in person, or call us at (412) 391-9860 or toll-free at (866) 466-5789. We look forward to serving you!