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Maryland Tractor-Trailer Accident Attorneys

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 traveling fifty or sixty miles per hour and gets into an accident, the damage can be exponentially worse.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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 Truck 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.

What To Do If You’re Involved in a Truck Accident

Being in an accident is always a traumatic experience. When you are involved in an accident with a commercial truck there is a whole new group of questions to consider. In most situations, the truck company is responsible for the harms and losses its truck driver causes under the theory of Respondeat Superior. In Maryland, commercial trucks must carry a mandatory minimum of $1 Million for bodily injury/liability coverage. It is extremely important to contact an experienced truck accident attorney to assist you with your accident.

If you are in an accident with a truck, there are a few steps you must take to ensure the safety of yourself and the other parties involved.

Take a deep breath and call 911.

An accident is a stressful and traumatic experience, which is why it is best to take a deep breath and try to focus on your next steps. Always call 911 so that a police officer can help with documenting the accident and gathering information for a full police report. Regardless of the severity of the accident, it is important to let the authorities fill out a proper report of the accident.

Document the Accident

Most people these days have a cell phone with a camera. Use your cell phone to take pictures of the accident so that you have evidence of the damage that was done. When contacting a lawyer, photos of the accident will help with smoothing out the details of your case.

Seek Medical Attention

If you are injured in a truck accident, you need to seek medical attention for your injuries. Even if you feel slight discomfort it could be a deeper medical issue. When involved in an accident or any experience of this magnitude, your body will release adrenaline and endorphins to help cope with the situation. A slight discomfort you may be feeling at the time of the accident could be a major medical issue. Make sure you go to the emergency room, your primary care doctor, or a walk-in clinic.

Call an Experienced Accident Attorney

With a commercial truck accident there are more legal issues that can arise compared to a normal car accident. Not only could the driver of the truck be liable for the accident, the company that driver works for could also be held accountable in some situations. It is important you seek the advice from an experienced lawyer to help communicate with the insurance agencies. Your most important concern is your health. You should focus on getting better and let an attorney handle the details of the case.

Commercial Truck Accident Statistics

Commercial truck accident statistics can be disheartening because of the sheer number of them. Each year, thousands of people struggle with deaths and serious injuries as a result of these accidents. Commercial trucks including large trucks often driven by a single driver are 20 to 30 times heavier, and they are significantly taller than passenger vehicles, creating a high risk of damage.

Some key statistics about commercial truck accidents include the following, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Highway Loss Data Institute.

  • In 2016, 97 percent of the people who died in commercial truck accidents in vehicles were people located in the passenger vehicle, not in the truck vehicle.
  • In 2016, there were 2,112 deaths in total related to large truck and commercial trucking-related incidents.
  • In the same year, about 11 percent of all vehicle accidents – including commercial and personal vehicles – included large trucks.
  • About 73 percent of all of the deaths that occurred in 2016 resulting from commercial trucks involved tractor-trailer vehicles.
  • About 21 percent of all truck-related deaths in 2016 involved single-unit trucks, such as box commercial trucks and trailers.
  • The same year, 11 percent of all passenger vehicle deaths were involved in multiple-vehicle crashes.
  • In instances in which the truck occupant died, 76 percent of the time, it occurred when one commercial truck impacted another commercial truck in that year.

These commercial truck accident statistics involve all types of trucks, driven for commercial related needs. They involved all sectors of commercial activity.

Percentage of Accidents Caused by Trucks

The percentage of accidents caused by trucks depends on a variety of factors. In 2016, a total of 3,986 people died in large truck-related crashes, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Highway Loss Data Institute. According to this information, which is the most recent information, the following percentages apply:

  • Of those instances, 17 percent of the deaths were of truck occupants, such as drivers or passengers
  • 66 percent of them were the occupants of other vehicles, including drivers and passengers of other vehicles
  • Additionally, 16 percent of those instances were deaths attributed to motorcyclists, pedestrians, or bicyclists

Another interesting fact is that these deaths are not dropping, but are, in fact, increasing. The same organization reports that the number of deaths caused by trucks was 27 percent higher than accidents caused by trucks in 2009. Additionally, the number of truck occupants of those trucks, such as drivers and passengers, was 47 percent higher than in 2009. The data also shows that, in 1975, the number of deaths of passengers in other vehicles was 2,757, which accounted for 64% of all truck deaths that year.

The agency attributes these high numbers as a result of trucks that are as much as 30 times heavier than the passenger vehicles they strike. They are additionally much taller than the vehicles. This puts trucks at a higher likelihood of causing not only accidents but more serious accidents. Large trucks include semis and other professionally driven vehicles.

Comparative Fault in Truck Accident Cases

“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.

Maryland Truck Accident Settlements

Commercial truck accidents can create long-term and significant loss to other drivers or property owners. For this reason, settlements can be large in some situations. However, every settlement is dependent on the individual factors contributing to the victim’s losses. A truck accident settlement for minor vehicle damage may amount to a few thousand dollars. If the victim suffers brain damage or loss of life, it can amount to millions of dollars.

Though every accident is different, common components defining how much of a settlement individuals will have included the following:

  • The amount of medical losses the individual suffers from all forms of medical treatment required due to the accident
  • The severity of losses, such as the type of permanent losses the victim suffers due to the accident, such as the loss of function or mobility, loss of a limb, or even the loss of life
  • Losses related to income due to medical care or long-term inability to work
  • The extent to which the commercial truck driver is responsible or at fault for the losses; whether or not the victim was at fault
  • Long-term needs
  • Pain and suffering compensation

Because of the complexity of each case, it is important for those involved in commercial truck accidents to ensure all losses are accounted for including both current and long-term losses the driver will suffer as a result of the accident. A driver unable to work again could receive a settlement based on his or her expected earnings over their lifetime, for example.

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.

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