Motor vehicle accidents involving large trucks can happen anywhere, but they’re particularly common in West Virginia. According to 2019 data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 11.3 percent of fatal crashes in West Virginia involved large trucks (e.g. semi-trucks, tractor-trailers).
The Prim Law team is dedicated to helping accident victims get compensation for the devastating consequences of a crash with a commercial truck. We’re ready to listen to your story and help you pursue compensation from the liable party, whether it’s the truck driver, the transportation company, a maintenance facility, or multiple individuals and companies.
If you’ve been involved in an accident with a large truck in West Virginia, reach out to our team today at 304-201-2425 or schedule a free consultation online.
Large trucks are dangerous to other vehicles
Most crashes involving large trucks are far more dangerous to pedestrians and occupants of other vehicles than the driver of the truck. NHTSA statistics from 2019 on crashes throughout the U.S. show that 82 percent of fatalities were occupants of other vehicles or pedestrians, and only 18 percent of fatalities were large truck occupants. Likewise, 72 percent of injuries were pedestrians or occupants of other vehicles.
In 2019, there were 43 fatalities in West Virginia involving crashed with large trucks. Of those, 31 were occupants of other vehicles (not the large truck) or nonoccupants (e.g., pedestrians).
Truck drivers must follow certain safety standards
Because commercial trucks are so much larger and heavier than other vehicles on the road, they can inflict serious damage. Many accidents involving large trucks include severe property damage, catastrophic injuries, and/or deaths. As such, large truck drivers are subject to additional safety rules designed to help reduce the risk to others on the road.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is the U.S. government agency that manages rules and regulations for commercial motor vehicles. Here are some of the safety laws the commercial truck drivers must follow:
- Must not operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) when impaired by fatigue or illness.
- Must not operate a CMV under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Must inspect and ensure the CMV’s parts and accessories (e.g., brakes, tires, lights, mirrors, coupling devices, etc.) are in good working order.
- Must inspect and ensure the CMV’s cargo is properly distributed and secured.
- Must not text or use a handheld cell phone while driving.
- Must have at least 10 consecutive off-duty hours before driving.
- May not drive more than 8 hours without taking a break of at least 30 consecutive minutes.
- May not drive more than 11 total hours during the 14-hour period following 10 consecutive hours off-duty.
- May not drive after 60 on-duty hours in seven consecutive days or 70 on-duty hours in eight consecutive days (depending on whether the carrier operates every day of the week or not).
There are other specific rules about when and how long a driver may operate a CMV without breaks or off-duty rests. Overall, the goal of these rules is to ensure that drivers of large trucks are adequately rested to minimize the risk of accidents caused by distraction, negligence, or fatigue.
Can you file a personal injury lawsuit after a commercial trucking accident?
If you are involved in a motor vehicle accident with a commercial truck, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the liable party or parties. Surviving members of a victim of a fatal accident may be able to file a wrongful death suit.
The key to figuring out whether you can (or should) sue is understanding West Virginia’s comparative fault laws. Under state law, every party involved in an accident is assigned some percentage of fault (although the percentage can be as low as 0).
Your percentage of fault affects how much compensation you can receive. For example, if you are 20 percent liable, you may only receive 80 percent of the total damages awarded by a judge. Parties who are more than 50 percent liable for an accident may not sue for damages.
What sort of compensation can you sue for?
In West Virginia, there are two basic types of damages you can sue for: economic and non-economic. Economic damages are related to the real, quantitative costs of the accident:
- Medical bills
- Lost income and/or a reduction in earning capacity
- Cost of household services that the victim can’t perform anymore
While it’s fairly easy to understand the value of economic damages, it’s harder to calculate compensation for non-economic damages. A judge usually determines how much value to assign to these types of damages:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment
- Loss of consortium (loss of sexual/physical affection)
In West Virginia, there is a cap of $250,000 for non-economic damages, but that cap is sometimes raised to $500,000 in situations with catastrophic injuries. If one or more of the liable parties acted recklessly, the judge may assign punitive damages to them as well.
What is the statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit?
According to West Virginia law, the statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death or personal injury lawsuit is two years. This means you must initiate a wrongful death lawsuit within two years of the date of the accident. If you are injured in an accident but those injuries don’t appear right away, the statute of limitations may apply to the date when you “discovered” your injuries rather than the date of the accident.
Should you hire an attorney for a trucking accident suit?
Personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits involving commercial trucks can be extremely complicated. There may be several liable parties in addition to the truck driver. The maintenance provider, transportation company, or truck parts manufacturer may hold some liability for the accident.
While you are not required to hire an attorney to file a lawsuit, you may benefit from doing so. It can be hard to understand all the paperwork and evidence requirements of a personal injury lawsuit. Many individuals feel overwhelmed or intimidated when trying to negotiate a settlement with insurance representatives or trucking company attorneys.
If you choose to hire an experienced personal injury lawyer, you can leave all the communication to them. An attorney will also help you understand what sort of damages you can sue for and how to gather evidence for your case.
How long do cases last?
Every case and lawsuit is different. Generally, it takes several months to resolve a case because both sides need time to gather evidence and negotiate. Cases that go to court may end up taking over a year or even longer, especially if there are appeals.
What are the main causes of trucking accidents?
Like all motor vehicle accidents, truck crashes can have a variety of causes:
- Speeding: Going too fast can make it difficult to stop or change lanes without hitting other vehicles or infrastructure (e.g. signs, bridge supports). Speeding is especially dangerous for large trucks because it lengthens the time it takes for them to stop or swerve to avoid collisions.
- Negligence: Many accidents are caused by truck drivers who aren’t paying attention to the road or other vehicles because they are texting, eating, or using a cell phone. Negligence can also mean that drivers fail to inspect their vehicles and loads, which can lead to malfunctions that cause collisions.
- Mechanical problems: Commercial trucks have thousands of parts, and a failure in any one of them can lead to a crash. Malfunctions can be caused by improper maintenance, defective parts, or design problems that lead to issues with braking, steering, and cargo detachment.
In some cases, there may be more than one cause and/or more than one liable party. For example, if a truck rear-ends a car because it was going too fast and the brakes failed, both the driver and the manufacturer of the brakes may be liable.
Prim Law can help with your trucking accident claim
Commercial trucks make up a lot of the traffic on West Virginia roads and highways, but their drivers don’t always comply with safety laws. This can lead to serious accidents that cause catastrophic injuries or even deaths. Drivers and passengers in non-commercial vehicles are far more likely to sustain these injuries than truck drivers.
If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident with a semi-truck, tractor-trailer, or another large commercial vehicle, the initial settlement offer from the liable party may not be enough to cover lost wages, medical bills, and emotional suffering. Filing a personal injury lawsuit can give you the chance to pursue fair compensation for the liable party’s negligence.
At Prim Law, we have years of experience helping West Virginia accident victims and their families pursue justice. We understand the local and federal laws that commercial truck drivers are supposed to follow and what can happen when they don’t. We’ll listen to your story and help you figure out your legal options. Schedule a free consultation online, or call our office in Hurricane at 304-201-2425.