If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident with a commercial truck, you probably have a lot of questions. The law governing tractor-trailer accidents is complex, so it pays to have good advice as soon as possible after the accident.
Types of Semi-Truck Accidents
Semi-truck accidents can take a number of forms:
- Drunk or drugged driving: Drunk and drugged drivers are a serious menace on the roads. There were 23,714 drunk driving arrests in Maryland in 2013. Drunk and drugged driving is always dangerous, but when the impaired driver is behind the wheel of a large truck, the results can be even more disastrous.
- Blind spots: Commercial trucks have very large blind spots, although the size of the blind spot can be minimized through technology like specialized mirrors and even cameras. A car in a semi-truck’s blind spot may be hit when the truck driver changes lanes or exits the highway.
- Sleep-deprived drivers: Truck drivers are under a lot of pressure to deliver goods fast. One way to minimize delivery times is to violate regulations and laws requiring truck drivers to take periodic rest breaks.
- Equipment failures: Tractor-trailers are massive machines that can cause incredible devastation when an equipment failure causes the driver to lose control of the truck or its load.
- Brake failures: A truck traveling even forty miles per hour requires a massive amount of braking power to stop, especially when the semi-truck is fully loaded. When a commercial truck is travelling fifty or sixty miles per hour and gets into an accident, the damage can be exponentially worse.
- Tire blowouts: A tire blowout can cause a trucker to lose control, causing accidents with surrounding vehicles. Road hazards and improperly inflated and maintained tires can cause these accidents.
- Aggressive driving and road rage incidents: There’s an epidemic of road rage and aggressive driving incidents in the U.S., and commercial truck drivers are not immune from this dangerous trend. Angry drivers can intentionally cause accidents with other vehicles or may lose control of their truck due to excessive speed or quick maneuvers.
- Speeding: Trucks are often bound to follow lower speed limits than other, smaller vehicles. When a tractor-trailer is speeding, its driver puts everyone at risk.
- Failure to obey traffic signals: Traffic signals, stop signs, and other traffic control devices are intended to keep the flow of traffic steady and also to protect drivers. When a truck driver either intentionally ignores or accidentally misses a traffic signal, an accident may occur.
- Jackknife accidents: When a commercial truck driver brakes too quickly or makes a sudden maneuver, the trailer may jackknife, causing the truck to overturn, which may strike other vehicles or cause other drivers to swerve to avoid the large overturning truck.
- Failure to properly secure a load: A load that isn’t properly secured can fall off of a truck, striking other vehicles or causing them to get into accidents with other vehicles in an effort to avoid the spilled load. Failing to secure a load also may cause a load to shift, which can also cause an accident.
- Load shifting: When a truck’s load shifts, the driver will have a difficult time maintaining control of the vehicle, which could jackknife, overturn, or make a sudden lane change.
Time Limits for Bringing Tractor Trailer Accident Claims
The time limit for bringing a commercial truck accident lawsuit is three years for personal injury and three years for property damage (Maryland Courts & Judicial Procedure Code Annotated § 5-101). If you fail to file your claim within those time limits, your claim will be dismissed by the court. This limit is referred to as a “statute of limitations.”
The statute of limitations for lawsuits being brought against the government is different than in other types of cases. A formal claim must be filed with the government within one year of the accident and a lawsuit against the government must be filed within three years.
Comparative Fault in Maryland
“Comparative fault” rules govern cases where the person bringing the lawsuit relating to the accident (the “plaintiff”) was also at fault. Unfortunately, Maryland still employs a very harsh version of comparative fault, called “contributory negligence.” Under Maryland’s contributory negligence rule, a plaintiff cannot recover for his or her injuries if the plaintiff was at fault in any way for the accident. The truck driver must be totally at fault for the accident.
As an example, if the driver of a car is injured in an accident with a commercial truck and the driver of the car is 80 percent at fault in the accident, he or she will not be allowed to recover in the lawsuit. The same holds if the truck driver is 80 percent at fault and the other driver is only 20 percent at fault.
Maryland’s contributory negligence rules are very harsh. If your life has been impacted by a semi-truck accident, you should seek experienced counsel from an attorney familiar with the ins and outs of Maryland law.
Insurance and Commercial Truck Lawsuits
Most semi-truck accident lawsuits settle out of court, and claims are typically paid by an insurance company. But the insurance company’s involvement doesn’t negate the law that applies in court. Insurance companies and their adjusters take Maryland law, including the contributory negligence rules, into consideration when deciding how much a truck accident claim is worth. Just because a case isn’t being argued before a court doesn’t mean you should handle the case on your own. Legal counsel is just as important when dealing with an insurance company as when dealing with the courts.
If you’ve been injured in an accident with a semi-truck, call DuBoff & Associates, Chartered in Silver Spring for a consultation with one of our aggressive, experienced truck accident attorneys. Your rights are at stake and these cases are extremely complex. Don’t fight it alone.