How Does the Coronavirus Impact Delivery Truck Accidents?June 30, 2020
Retail stores across the country remain closed as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and many grocery stores and retailers struggle to keep their shelves stocked with basic necessities, such as toilet paper, canned goods, and other pantry staples. Consumers have turned to online retailers to purchase essential and non-essential items. Oftentimes, these items are shipped within a couple of days, and with free shipping. This has made life easier for customers who have come to expect their packages to arrive within days of ordering them. However, the problem with this surge in online shopping is that delivery truck drivers are often overworked and under a great deal of pressure to deliver a truck full of packages under very tight deadlines. Unfortunately, drivers who are overworked, exhausted, or distracted are more likely to cause a serious truck accident.
Delivery truck drivers are considered essential workers during the pandemic. In addition to delivering goods and products to consumers, they deliver important medical tools and equipment to hospitals, long-term care facilities, and other health care facilities across the country. To address the dire need for medical supplies, the Trump administration suspended time limits for drivers carrying essential cargo. Although this drastic measure was intended to be an impactful relief initiative, lifting these restrictions may increase the risk of deadly truck accidents. Exhausted truck drivers are more likely to wander into other lanes, run through stop lights, exceed the speed limit, and drive into oncoming traffic, all of which can have fatal consequences. The lifted hours of service rules apply to truck drivers who are carrying the following types of cargo:
- Medical supplies and equipment used for the testing and treatment of COVID-19
- Masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, disinfectants, and other cleaning supplies needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19
- Food items for restocking emergency food supplies
- Equipment and supplies necessary for setting up temporary housing and quarantine facilities related to COVID-19
Common Causes of Delivery Truck Accidents
Like other large, commercial trucks, delivery trucks can cause devastating injuries when they are involved in a traffic accident, particularly if an accident occurs while they are making a delivery in a residential area where there are children and pedestrians present. The following are common causes of accidents involving delivery trucks:
- Backing up: If a truck driver fails to check behind the truck before backing up, he or she can hit a pedestrian or a cyclist. This can be particularly devastating if the truck hits a child who is walking on the road.
- Distracted driving: A delivery truck driver can easily become distracted while looking at their phone, checking an address, or answering a phone call.
- Failure to engage the emergency brake: If the truck driver fails to engage the emergency brake when delivering a package, the vehicle can roll backwards and hit another vehicle, a pedestrian, or a cyclist.
- Failure to conduct background checks: Before someone is hired as a delivery truck driver, the employer must verify the candidate’s driver’s license and conduct a background check confirming whether the driver has a criminal record. It is illegal to hire a truck driver without conducting a background check.
- Improperly loaded cargo: The delivery truck driver is responsible for ensuring that the cargo is properly loaded and secure. If the cargo shifts, it can be difficult to maintain control of the vehicle. In addition, items that are not secure can fall off the truck, causing other motorists to swerve out of the way.
- Inclement weather: Rain, ice, and snow can cause roads to become very slippery. Heavy fog and extreme sun glare can impact visibility.
- Inexperience: Inexperienced drivers who do not receive adequate training are more likely to cause accidents because they are unable to spot and respond to dangers.
- Lack of proper maintenance: Delivery trucks that are not properly maintained can become unsafe on the road. For example, brake failures and tire blowouts can cause deadly collisions. If a repair facility failed to make a repair, they may be responsible for providing additional compensation in an accident claim.
- Speeding: Delivery truck drivers may exceed the speed limit to keep up with their delivery schedule. An accident involving a truck that was speeding can cause devastating injuries and fatalities to the occupants of the other motor vehicle.
- Sudden stops and turns: If a driver is unfamiliar with the area, he or she may be more likely to make a sudden turn to avoid missing a turn or a driveway.
How can Motorists Avoid a Delivery Truck Accident?
During these unprecedented times, the best way to avoid being hit by a delivery truck is to stay off the road as much as possible. If someone needs to leave their home for groceries, prescriptions, or other essential items, they should try to purchase a week’s worth of groceries and arrange for a longer supply of prescriptions so that they do not need to go out as often. When driving, motorists should use extreme caution, particularly when sharing the road with delivery trucks.
Drivers need to give trucks extra room, as they are subject to dangerous tire blowouts and tip-overs. In addition, truck drivers have large blind spots, so motorists should always try to pass a truck on the left side as quickly as possible. One should never cut in front of a truck, as a fully loaded delivery truck traveling at 60 miles per hour requires a significant amount of road space to come to a complete stop. Cutting in front of a truck can cause a serious rear-end accident. Trucks also make very wide turns, and truck drivers will often swerve into the right lane when making a left turn. A driver should never attempt to drive past a truck when it is about to turn, as the truck driver may not see a vehicle until it is too late.
Who is Responsible for a Delivery Truck Accident?
The following parties may be held liable in a truck accident:
- Truck driver
- Truck driver’s employer
- Truck manufacturer or the manufacturer of truck parts
- Truck maintenance company
- Mechanic who worked on the truck
- Loading company
- Online retailer
What Regulations are in Place to Prevent Delivery Truck Accidents?
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), truck drivers are allowed 14-hour shifts, including 11 hours of consecutive driving, if they had a 10-hour off-duty period prior to the shift. Driving shifts may not exceed 14 hours, even if the shift includes unloading cargo or breaks for meals or naps. To maximize their driving time and deliver the most goods in the least amount of time, many drivers avoid stopping for meals or taking naps during their shift. Although truck drivers are required to track their hours on the road by maintaining log books, it is not uncommon for drivers to falsify their activity in order to drive for longer hours, deliver more goods, and collect a higher pay.
What Damages can Motorists Receive?
Owing to the devastating nature of a truck accident, and the severe injuries they can cause, delivery truck accident lawsuits may include economic damages, including lost wages, medical expenses, and replacement services; and non-economic damages, including pain and suffering, mental anguish, and loss of consortium. Each case is unique, but the following are common damages that victims of delivery truck accidents may receive:
- Medical bills: This includes treatment for injuries, therapy, future medical expenses, and costs related to the accident.
- Lost wages: If the victim is unable to work because of their injuries, they may be eligible for compensation for future lost wages, decreased earning potential, and disability.
- Pain and suffering: The amount the victim receives will depend on the amount of the other damages.
- Property damage: This covers the cost of the damages to the victim’s vehicle, or the cost to replace the vehicle if it was destroyed in the accident.
- Punitive damages: These are assessed to punish the truck driver for outrageous conduct.
Baltimore Truck Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Obtain Maximum Compensation for Victims of Delivery Truck Accidents
If you or a loved one was seriously injured in an accident involving a delivery truck, do not hesitate to contact the Baltimore truck accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. Truck accident injuries tend to be particularly severe as a result of the size of the truck compared to the average passenger vehicle. Our dedicated legal team will determine who is responsible for causing the accident and secure the maximum financial compensation you deserve for your injuries. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.
Conveniently located in Baltimore, Columbia, Glen Burnie and Prince George’s County, we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Queen Anne’s County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Parkville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood and Elkridge.