TRUCK ACCIDENTS – WHO CAN BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE?
Nancy: Today on North Carolina Law TV, David Daggett, Injury and Disability Lawyer from the Daggett Shuler Law out of Winston, Salem talks to us about big truck accidents.
David: And now I want to say this right out front. Most truck drivers are good drivers. They’re professionals and they do their job very well. Dealing with a trucking company the insurance companies that insure tractor trailers or the big corporations can be a lot more complicated and it can get pretty tricky. You’re not going to be dealing with a local insurance company. You’re going to be dealing with a nationwide trucking company, a major corporation, or very sophisticated insurance companies if that’s what they do.
Nancy: That’s all next on this episode of North Carolina Law TV.
Nancy: Big trucks are a common enough site on roads and highways across the country delivering goods from coast to coast, they’re a crucial part of our economy. But these big rigs are also involved in a large number of road accidents every year. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2012 nearly 4000 people were killed and over 100,000 people were injured in car crashes involving large tricks in the United States.
Many people are probably familiar with the highly publicized big truck crash involving Tracy Morgan, an actor/comedienne famous for his roles on Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock. On June 7th a Wal-Mart truck crashed into a limo varying Morgan and several friends. Morgan and several of the passengers were critically injured and one of the men in the car was killed. After the crash concerns about semi-truck accidents have come to the forefront of public debate.
David Daggett is here today to talk to us about big truck accidents, how you can avoid them, and if you’ve been in an accident what steps you can take to ensure the best possible outcome. David, thanks for being with us here today.
David: Thanks for having me on.
Nancy: Absolutely. At the time of the Morgan Crash the truck driver had been awake for more than 24 hours and was close to hitting the 14-hour maximum during his drive time. Are there any rules to prevent accidents like this from happening?
David: Yes. There’s a whole manual, you know, the truck driver’s manual is much thicker than what we have to learn to get our driver’s license. So the qualifications to even drive a truck are much thicker than ours and there’s regulations for sleep, for how many hours you can drive within a 24-hour period of time, all sorts of regulations for the tires, the truck to keep everything in good working order. And the reason for that is and now I want to say this right out, most truck drivers are good drivers. They’re professionals and they do their job very well.
Nancy: And highly trained.
David: And highly trained. Now, a tractor trailer can weigh 80,000 pounds or more. That’s huge. Most people don’t realize it 80,000 pounds that is very, very dangerous if you don’t follow the rules of the road. That’s why the manual is out there because with 80,000 pounds if something goes wrong it’s devastating. And the Tracy Morgan example is just a recent example in the news. And the nice thing about an example like that is an issue that you really don’t think about very much comes to the forefront and the safety issues people are more aware of and more cognizant of.
Nancy: Right. So it’s been happening and the statistics aren’t new but this just opens our eyes to it.
David: It opens our eyes to it. And they’re very, very dangerous when the rules of the road aren’t followed. So truck drivers need to follow the rules, they need to get their sleep, they can only drive a certain amount of time, they need to follow those rules because, you know, if you’re tired obviously any impairing substance or the truck not in good mechanical condition the results can be absolutely devastating. A car has no chance against 80,000 pounds. No chance.
Nancy: No, not at all. Going at however miles per hour, right? At any speed. So, there are rules in place for how much they can drive, how many hours of sleep they need to have, how long they need to be on the road. And if they follow those rules that’s really helpful. But what you’re saying is if the rules aren’t followed and if there’s pressure to get somewhere then that’s when people start to get at risk?
David: That’s when the risk go up and that’s when bad things happen. In addition to that there’s all sorts of checks that have to be done on the vehicle. There’s daily pre-ride checks you have to don on your vehicle, there’s standard inspections that have to be done that are much more frequent and much more rigorous than they are with passenger cars and again it’s because you’re dealing with something that if it’s not done right can be so dangerous.
David: Catastrophic. So now also is drivers I think there’s some responsibility on people driving cars, too.
Nancy: So, that’s what I’m thinking. What can people do because we are not there to help them follow those rules but as a driver what can a driver do to help keep them safer?
David: Well you need to give truck a little more room, a little or space, they can’t stop as quickly as a car can stop so a little more room is helpful. Of course they’ve got blind spots in their mirrors where they can’t see you so be helpful, you know. If you can see their mirror usually they can see you. If you get in a spot where you can’t see the mirror they can’t see you. So there’s also the blindspot on the side if you get, you know, underneath where they’re actually looking over you, I mean you get to see the mirror but they can’t see you. So you just have to be more careful.
Nancy: So you want to be seen by the truck driver so that they know you’re there.
David: Absolutely. Most truck drivers are on the lookout for us. Well, be seen so that they can see us.
Nancy: That’s important then, give them space, help them know that you’re there so that they can make appropriate turns and…
David: Help them do their job.
Nancy: Do their job, absolutely. So if you’ve been involved in an accident with a truck what are some of the steps that are important for you to take?
David: Well, first of all, you want to make sure you take care of yourself. Get whatever medical treatment you need, get that taken care of, I mean there’s some urgent things that you may need to do. But then you need to take care of business because you may have medical expenses that are very large, lost wages, you know, other things that impact you and your family and your responsibilities you need to take care of business to get that taken care of.
Dealing with a trucking company, the insurance companies that insure tractor trailers, or the big corporations can be a lot more complicated and it can get pretty tricky.
Nancy: More complicated than like auto insurance.
David: More complicated than auto insurance simply because the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act, the book I keep referring to, is much thicker, has many more rules, so you need somebody that’s experienced in dealing with those rules should the unfortunate circumstance arise.
Nancy: It does. It does. That’s really helpful because even though it doesn’t happen as much as an auto accident which maybe someone your family or a friend might have had experienced so you kind of know how that plays out, with the big truck it’s a bigger machine and so a more catastrophic event can occur from it and there’s a lot of other things to think about.
David: Well, it’s typically going to be worse.
Nancy: Right. Sure.
David: The results are typically going to be worse and it’s probably going to be more complicated.
Nancy: Right. And so that’s when you really need that help.
David: Yeah. You’re not going to be dealing with a local insurance adjustor or that sort of thing. You’re going to be dealing with a nationwide trucking company, a major corporation, or very sophisticated insurance companies if that’s what they do. You need some sophistication and some knowledge on your side because there’s a lot of rules, regulations, things you need to know to properly assert your claim so that you’re taken care of for those losses you’re incurred.
Nancy: And so having someone that knows what those rules are is really helpful and that would be a personal injury lawyer…
David: Who has got experience.
David: And knows the rules of the road and the rules as they apply to tractor trailers.
Nancy: Well that’s really helpful. I appreciate you coming in and sharing that with us and knowing what the rules are and how we can help ourselves prevent being in those accidents and what we can do if we end up being there.
Nancy: So, thanks for being with us. If you or someone you know was injured in a big truck accident, you can call David’s office at (336) 724-1234 to discuss your case. Until next time, this is Nancy Hollett for North Carolina Law TV.