Kentucky Truck Accidents
If you or someone you love has been injured or killed in a truck accident in Kentucky, your life has undoubtedly undergone a change—possibly a drastic one―for the worse. If you are suffering from the loss of a family member or a serious or catastrophic injury caused by a large commercial truck, you have come to the right place to learn about these often-devastating crashes and the unique concerns of those who have suffered damages resulting from them. Keep reading to learn more.
The Dangers Posed by Commercial Trucks on Kentucky’s Highways
Being in a passenger car on a busy highway can be intimidating when you are surrounded by large trucks. Commercial trucks, especially semi trucks (also referred to as big-rigs or 18-wheelers), as well as delivery trucks owned by various courier services, such as UPS, DHL, FedEx, and others, can pose a real hazard to others on the road.
The slightest misstep on the part of a commercial truck driver, one that might result in nothing more than a fender-bender if driving a car, can cause a serious accident with fatalities and catastrophic injuries because of the size and weight of a large truck relative to a passenger vehicle.
Add to the size and weight of these trucks the fact that in the trucking industry, time is money. Drivers of both semi trucks and delivery trucks are often under pressure to deliver goods under a tight schedule. The sooner they deliver one load, the sooner they can the pick up another, and the more money they can make. Drivers may push themselves to driver longer and faster than safety (and the law) allows. They may overload trucks, fail to secure cargo, and even skip important maintenance and inspection requirements in the name of saving time, delivering more goods more quickly, and making more money. A majority of truck accidents are the result of driver error.
Why Trucks Are Especially Accident-Prone
In addition to the dangers posed by drivers who are dealing with time pressure, large commercial trucks are inherently more dangerous than smaller vehicles on the road for a number of reasons
- Trucks are slow to stop when the brakes are applied because of their weight.
- Trucks have large blind spots, which restrict the driver’s view of the road surrounding the truck.
- Trucks are more difficult than smaller vehicles to maneuver, which can make for awkward turns and lane changes with the potential for hitting another vehicle or an obstacle in the road and causing an accident.
- The weight of a truck is so much greater than that of a car and has the potential for doing much more damage when an accident does occur.
How Common Are Truck Accidents?
Very, very common, as these statistics show:
- Around 500,000 truck accidents occur in the U.S. annually.
- Crashes involving large trucks resulted in 4,067 fatalities in 2015, an increase of 4.1 percent from the previous year. Over 73 percent of those who died in accidents involving trucks were occupants of other vehicles.
- The story doesn’t end with these fatalities, however. Approximately 130,000 people are injured in accidents involving trucks every year. Many of these injuries are catastrophic.
Types of Injuries Caused by Truck Accidents
The injuries caused by truck crashes are often severe and life-changing. They include, among others:
- Spinal cord injuries (SCI) with full or partial paralysis, including paraplegia and quadriplegia (tetraplegia)
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
- Internal organ damage
- Internal bleeding
- Facial injuries
- Dental injuries
- Nerve damage
- Burn injuries
- Sprains and strains
- Neck and back injuries
- Lacerations and scarring
- Soft tissue injuries
- Chronic pain
- Psychological trauma
Causes of Truck Accidents
As previously indicated, most truck accidents are the result of some error on the part of the truck’s driver, often related to:
- Driver distraction
- Driver impairment by alcohol or drugs
- Fatigue resulting from excessive hours of driving
- Making unsafe turns
- Failing to properly signal turns, stops, or lane changes
- Making lane changes without checking blind spots
- Driving recklessly, aggressively, or carelessly
- Taking curves at an excessive speed
- Allowing the truck’s wheels to go off the pavement and onto the road’s shoulder
- Failing to observe traffic laws, signals, or signs
- Driving above the posted speed limit or failing to adjust speed to road or weather conditions
- Overloading a truck or failing to secure cargo
- Driving without appropriate experience or training in handling large commercial trucks
Specific Types of Truck Accidents and Their Causes
- Jackknife accidents, specific to tractor-trailer rigs, are those in which the trailer slides up into the tractor at an angle like that of a partly-opened pocket knife, and are often the result of the sudden application of brakes, especially at a high speed, or because of worn out tire treads or mechanical problems.
- Rollovers may occur when the driver or a large commercial truck takes a curve too fast, as a result of the cab and trailer jackknifing, when a truck has been improperly loaded or secured causing cargo shifts, or when a driver simply lacks experience in handling such a large, heavy rig.
- Cargo-related accidents are caused by a semi truck that has been improperly loaded, either in excess of 80,000 pounds—the legal weight limit for a semi truck—or one in which the cargo has not been distributed evenly or secured properly to prevent shifting, which may cause the driver to lose control of the truck.
- Blind spot accidents occur when a driver of a large truck fails to make the extra effort to check all four blind spots to determine whether there are other vehicles present before executing a lane change or turn.
- Underride accidents are often deadly collisions in which a car drives underneath the rear end or side of the trailer of a big rig. This can happen when the truck stops abruptly without ample warning or is crossing traffic lanes at night. The roof of the car is often ripped off and passengers are frequently killed. Underrides can be prevented by stopping the truck slowly, signaling stops well in advance, and installing adequate underride guards, along with lights or reflective tape around the trailer to make it more visible to other drivers.
Federal and State Regulation of the Trucking Industry
Trucks that operate across state lines—which is most large commercial trucks like big-rigs and delivery trucks—are subject to federal regulation by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, as well as state regulations, which apply to trucks operating within the State of Kentucky. Federal regulations govern many aspects of the industry, including:
- Hours of service, which is the number of hours a driver is allowed to be on the road without rest. Drivers are required to maintain accurate logs of their hour of service and rest time.
- The maximum weight a truck is permitted to carry, which varies according to the truck’s size. For example, a fully-loaded semi truck’s weight cannot exceed 80,000 pounds.
- Securing of cargo
- Safe transport of hazardous materials
- Periodic inspection of trucks
- Licensing and training of commercial truck drivers
- Driver use of controlled substances
- Physical examination of truck drivers
- Inspection requirements
- Liability insurance requirements
- Various aspects of quality control in truck manufacturing, for example, federal laws concerning a truck’s air brake system
Who Pays for Truck Accident Injuries?
Because they are capable of causing such serious damage when accidents occur, trucks are required by law to carry large liability insurance policies. As in the case of any other Kentucky motor vehicle accident, you will begin by making a claim to your own no-fault insurance carrier. For damages that are not covered by your personal injury protection policy (PIP), you will need to institute a claim against the trucking company, the driver (whether an employee or self-employed), and/or any other party that may have contributed to causing the accident—such as:
- A company that leased out the truck
- A maintenance contractor or mechanic who performed a repair improperly
- The company responsible for loading the truck
- The manufacturer or designer of a defective component of the truck
- An inspector who failed to detect a problem during a required inspection
- A government jurisdiction or its contractor that failed to maintain a road in a safe condition
There may also be other parties that have contributed to your accident. It is in your best interest to hire a Kentucky personal injury lawyer who is thoroughly familiar with all state and federal regulations that might affect your truck accident case.
What You Need to Prove
When you have suffered damages due to injuries or fatalities in an accident with a commercial truck, you may be able to recover monetary compensation for your economic and non-economic or quality-of-life losses, but in order to have a valid claim, you will need to prove:
- That the truck driver, trucking, company, or other responsible party owed you a duty of care.
- That the duty of care was breached.
- That the breach was the direct, or “proximate” cause of the crash.
- That the crash caused your injuries or the death of your family member.
- That as a result, you suffered substantial and demonstrable damages to your financial situation, your physical and emotional health and well-being, and your overall quality of life.
It is important to have quality legal representation if you hope to achieve a fair settlement that compensates you for the full range of losses you have suffered.
Get Experienced Legal Representation Now
Trucking companies and their insurance companies usually have deep pockets and the ability to pay large claims, but that doesn’t mean they will do the right thing without a fight. They are businesses that exist to make profits, and accident claim payouts dig into those profits, negatively affecting their bottom line. They typically have the resources and the will to fight vigorously against paying claims, and they frequently employ seasoned legal teams to try to limit their losses. To maximize the likelihood of a fair settlement, you will need an equally experienced and sophisticated attorney who is thoroughly versed both in trucking regulations and in personal injury law. Having the right lawyer will level the playing field and ensure that your interests are well represented in order to achieve a fair settlement that compensates you for all of your economic and non-economic damages stemming from the crash.
Hire a highly experienced Kentucky truck accident attorney today. The attorneys at the Bowling Green law firm of Lowder and McGill, PLLC have the experience and knowledge to help you in recovering a fair amount of money for your losses. We have solid experience in truck accident injuries and a record of high dollar value recoveries in catastrophic accident cases. Our attorneys are thoroughly familiar with:
- State and federal trucking regulations
- Federal court practice
- Trucking technology
- Mandatory insurance requirements for trucks
- Multi-state discovery practice
- Tactics used by insurance companies to avoid paying claims and minimize the damage to their bottom line
It is important to begin the claim process by contacting our truck accident lawyers as soon after the accident as possible. Large trucking companies often have teams of mitigation specialists ready to go to work immediately following an accident to protect their interests, often by attempting to obscure evidence of their liability or to spin the evidence in their favor. They may also contact you and attempt to get a recorded statement or have you sign authorizations or a release. Never give a statement or sign anything unless specifically instructed to do so by your attorney, or you could severely damage your case.
At the Lowder & McGill personal injury law firm, your attorney will launch an investigation right away, while the evidence is fresh and witnesses are available, typically calling upon traffic safety engineers and accident reconstruction experts to assist in preparing your case and documenting the defendant’s liability. Any delay could prove costly, as evidence may disappear and witnesses may forget details, move away, or become otherwise unavailable. Furthermore, Kentucky law limits the amount of time in which you are allowed to file a lawsuit. Missing a filing deadline could mean losing your right to recover money for your damages, so it important to get the legal process started as soon as possible.
The Legal Help You Need Following a Kentucky Truck Accident
To learn more about how we can help you and your family when you are reeling from losses in the aftermath of a serious Kentucky truck accident, call Lowder & McGill, PLLC to schedule a free consultation with our highly experienced, knowledgeable, and dedicated truck accident attorneys. We are a client-centered law firm, focused on your needs. We provide personalized service to every client we sign on and are committed to putting in whatever amount of time is needed to obtain an outcome that is fair and sufficient to allow you to move on and pick up the pieces of your life after a serious accident. We are often able to settle truck accident cases out of court, but as aggressive and effective trial lawyers, but we are always ready and willing to take your case before a jury if that is what is needed to get you the money you deserve.
We accept truck accident cases on a contingency fee arrangement. You pay nothing upfront, have no out-of-pocket expenses during the time it takes to process your case, and owe us nothing at all until your recovery check arrives at our office.