Accidents involving commercial trucks can cause considerably more damage than a collision between two cars. The maximum weight allowed for a fully loaded tractor-trailer is 90,000 pounds, more than 20 times the weight of the average passenger vehicle. Trucks are harder to control and far more complex to maintain. As a result, large trucks are involved in a larger percentage of fatal automobile accidents than motor vehicle collisions involving small cars.
The experienced Baltimore truck accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton represent individuals who were seriously injured or lost a loved one due to a truck accident. Our dedicated truck accident lawyers work diligently to assist injured victims with the legal challenges that arise in the aftermath of a serious truck accident. We aggressively pursue justice and maximum financial compensation for our clients. Allowing us to help you can provide you and your family more time and energy to focus on your recovery.
What Can Our Lawyers Do for You?
Our truck accident lawyers can help ensure the best possible outcome for injured trucking accident victims by sharing our skill and experience in the following ways:
- We know the law. We have an in-depth understanding of state and federal truck accident laws, including federal regulations regarding Hours of Service (HOS) rules and driver logs.
- We are relentless. We aggressively pursue compensation if you or a member of your family was seriously injured as a result of a truck driver’s or trucking company’s negligence.
- We are meticulous. We build strong cases designed to ensure all liable parties are held fully accountable for the consequences of their actions.
- We are savvy. We know the tactics insurance companies use to minimize the damages they must pay, and how to best combat them.
- We act promptly to preserve critical evidence from the accident scene. We photograph the road conditions and collect copies of drivers’ logs, black box recordings, and other resources that may bolster your claim. Our lawyers have helped clients collect more than $100 million in compensation over the past 20 years.
Truck Accidents are More Complex than Car Accidents
Although car accidents are more common than truck accidents in the state of Maryland, crashes involving large trucks are more than four times more likely to be fatal. Statistically, most of the serious injuries and fatalities involve pedestrians, motorcyclists, bicyclists, and passengers in other vehicles, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). In the state of Maryland, more than half of all truck accidents involve serious injuries. Unfortunately, the number of truck accidents in Maryland is increasing.
Because truck accidents are often more complex, you must be more careful on the road. Large trucks should be operated by licensed drivers who are properly trained. Motorists should avoid large trucks as much as possible, and pedestrians should be on the lookout for large trucks.
Who is to Blame for Trucking Accidents?
Establishing who was at-fault for an accident involving a large truck or other commercial vehicle can be quite complex because multiple parties are responsible for the safe operation of the vehicle, including the following:
- Truck drivers: Truck drivers must check their brakes every day, drive the speed limit, and pull over when the weather is too extreme for driving.
- Trucking companies: Trucking companies might not maintain their vehicles, or drivers may be forced to drive for too long.
- Truck leasing companies: If the vehicle is not owned by the trucking company, the leasing company could be held accountable. The leasing company may not have maintained their vehicles, or they may have knowingly sent damaged vehicles out to their customers.
- Maintenance companies: If the trucking or leasing company outsourced maintenance, maintenance companies may have played a part in the accident. Maintenance companies may avoid major repairs because they are too expensive, or they may use inexpensive parts that fail easily.
- Loading dock crews: If the truck was loaded improperly, contributing to the accident, the crew at the dock can be held accountable. Loading dock crews must use industry standards to load large trucks, and a shifting load could cause a crash.
- Vehicle manufacturers: If a defective part contributed to the accident, these manufacturers may be held accountable. These manufacturers may not issue recalls, or they might hide the fact that they know some of their parts or vehicles do not function properly.
Some of these responsible parties may have deep pockets because they are large companies. Knowing this, their insurers are inclined to retain a staff of very experienced lawyers and adjusters. It is not uncommon for truck accident victims to be approached soon after an accident by an insurance company adjuster who offers a quick cash settlement. We ask that you not speak to the trucking company, manufacturer, insurance company, or their lawyers. You may receive phone calls or letters pressuring you to settle, and you can send all those communications to our office for review.
Types of Truck Accidents
Due to the variety in size, height, weight, and possible loads carried by commercial trucks, there are several types of truck accidents:
- Jackknife Accidents: This occurs when the trailer being pulled by the truck cab loses traction, skids, and winds up at a 90-degree angle to the truck. Jackknifing often occurs when a trailer is empty and is not bearing down on the road as heavily as it would if it were loaded. Even if the accident happens at a slow speed and the driver is not hurt, cars may pile up behind the tractor-trailer and cause secondary crashes. Smaller cars traveling at a high rate of speed can be pushed under the trailer.
- Blind Spot Accidents: These accidents may occur when another vehicle moves into a truck’s blind spot. A truck has wider blind spots than normal vehicles. If you cannot see the truck driver in their side mirror, chances are they cannot see you in their blind spot.
- Rear-End Accidents: Trucks can require up to 40 percent longer to brake, resulting in rear-end collisions.
- Load Spills: If the loading crew fails to properly balance or secure a load, or attempts to overload a truck, the risk of an accident increases greatly.
The state of Maryland provides comprehensive guidelines on the weight, height, and hazardous materials hauled by commercial vehicles. These guidelines are intended to minimize the risk of truck accidents. As mentioned above, negligence on the part of the trucking company, driver, leasing company, or manufacturer could cause these accidents.
Common Causes of Truck Accidents
While distracted driving is a common cause of car accidents, most truck drivers are trained not to text or talk on the phone. At the same time, truck drivers are often motivated to finish their routes faster, to drive at night, to drive with little to no sleep, or to drive while they are sick.
Common causes of truck accidents include the following:
- Improperly secured cargo: Cargo inside the trailer must be secured so that it does not shift while the truck is moving. If the cargo shifts suddenly, it could tip over the trailer or cause a jackknife accident.
- Failure to perform regular maintenance and inspection: Truck drivers must check their brakes before getting back on the road every day, and their vehicles must be inspected regularly. If the trucking company or driver does not put a safe vehicle on the road, accidents could happen at any time.
- Dangerous road conditions: Truck drivers must pull over if the roads are not safe for driving. You may have seen trucks pulled over during a heavy storm, and that is because those drivers do not feel comfortable driving under those conditions. At the same time, potholes, construction sites, and uneven pavement could cause an accident.
- Defective brakes: While the brakes on a vehicle should be checked every day, a defect could cause a crash at any time.
- Tire wear or tire blowouts: Tire blowouts could occur because of overheating, and old tires could break up and cause a crash.
- HOS violations and driver fatigue: Drivers must follow guidelines created by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). If drivers disobey these rules, they could cause crashes because they are driving outside of the safety rules created to protect everyone on the road.
- Speeding: Drivers often need to complete their routes as quickly as possible and result to driving too fast to meet their deadlines.
- Distracted driving: Drivers might text and drive, or they may be distracted by their dispatchers or radios. Some large trucks have vehicle tracking and fleet management systems that can become distracting.
- Drunk driving: Drivers might self-medicate because of the long hours, time spent away from their families, and/or lack of sleep.
The FMCSA issues guidelines regarding a driver’s HOS. As a rule, drivers may not drive more than 14 hours at a time, and they must have a 10-hour rest period before driving again. Drivers are required to keep a log of the number of hours that they drive and rest. Within the past two years, the FMCSA has been requiring truckers to start using electronic log devices (ELDs) to track their hours of service. The goal was to help make the roads safer. However, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), truck accident fatalities increased after the ELD mandate was put in place.
Car drivers also play a part in large truck safety. If you are on the road, the following tips will help prevent accidents involving large trucks:
- Do not cut off large trucks
- Do not follow large trucks too closely
- Do not ride alongside a large truck in the driver’s blind spot
- Leave enough space at stop lights for large trucks to turn
- Do not try to turn with a large truck because they might clip your vehicle
- Do not drive slowly in front of large trucks on hills
- Leave large trucks enough room to change lanes when possible
While most of these tips are self-explanatory, car drivers must understand how difficult large trucks are to control. If you are turning alongside a large truck, they could clip your vehicle. If you drive too slowly in front of a large truck going downhill, you will force the driver to ride their brakes. The brakes could overheat, fail, and the truck could crash.
What Should I Do If I am Hit by a Truck?
If you are hit by a truck, do your best to follow these steps to minimize your injuries and maximize your chances for filing a successful personal injury claim:
- Call 911. Be sure to note exits, mile markers, intersections, and other landmarks.
- Do not move your vehicle unless you are in harm’s way. Document the accident scene before the tow truck arrives. If you are able to do so, take pictures of the accident with your phone and include road conditions and traffic signs.
- Exchange necessary information. Obtain driver’s licenses, vehicle registrations, contact information, and insurance information. Never admit fault or express anger toward other parties. However, if there are witnesses present that were not involved in the accident, ask them for their contact information and see if they are willing to provide a statement about what they saw.
- Seek medical attention. Even if you think you are not hurt, go to the hospital so that any possible injuries can be documented. Some injuries are not apparent until later. Documenting your medical condition from the start can help you build a stronger claim. In the days after the accident, follow up on all medical appointments.
- Contact an attorney. Also, call your insurance company to report the accident. Do not give your insurance company a recorded statement. Simply report the accident and seek the medical attention you need. If you feel you need help filing your claim, ask your lawyer to write the report for you. Insurance companies are in the business of making money, and they will do anything in their power to ensure that you are not compensated.
Recovering Compensation After a Truck Accident
Truck accident cases can be very complex, involving multiple parties and sophisticated lawyers representing trucking companies and other parties that may be negligent. Trucking companies and their insurers are skilled in minimizing their liability to avoid compensating innocent accident victims. It is not unusual for a team of professional investigators to arrive swiftly at an accident scene to gather evidence to build a case against an innocent accident victim. Again, if you are approached by a representative of the trucking company or their insurance carrier, refer all their questions to your attorney.
You have a right to recover damages for:
- Medical expenses
- Future medical care
- Lost wages
- Lost future earning potential
- Wrongful death
If you lost someone in a trucking accident, you may file a wrongful death lawsuit. The deceased’s estate may recover damages for burial costs, legal fees, and lost earning potential. Maryland, however, has very strict rules governing who may file a wrongful death lawsuit.
You may file a wrongful death suit if:
- You are a surviving spouse, child, or parent
- If no such relatives exist, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews may file a claim
- If no such relatives exist, the representative of the deceased’s estate or their legal heir under Maryland law may file a claim
Because you have three years to file a wrongful death claim, you should reach out to a truck accident lawyer as soon as possible.
What is Contributory Negligence?
The contributory negligence rule is used in Maryland to determine who may recover damages after an accident. If the victim of an accident is found to have been involved in the crash in any way, they cannot be compensated. Because Maryland is a contributory negligence state, the trucking company can portray the injured victim as slightly responsible for the accident to prevent them from receiving compensation. Your best bet is to contact an experienced truck accident lawyer as soon as possible regarding your claim.
Baltimore Truck Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Advocate for Truck Accident Victims
If you were injured in a truck accident, the Baltimore truck accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton can help. All of our cases are handled on a contingency fee basis, meaning you pay nothing for our services or expenses until we win your case. In addition to handling truck accidents, our personal injury lawyers help our clients with car accidents, motorcycle accidents, and pedestrian accidents. Call us at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.
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.