Trucking companies that employ drivers to operate their vehicles must hire skilled, qualified, and capable drivers. Accidents can lead to injuries and fatalities when trucking companies hire unqualified truck drivers. When that happens, the accident victim—or the accident victim’s family—might bring a claim or file a lawsuit against the responsible driver and the trucking company that employs them.
If you or someone you care about suffered injuries in a truck accident resulting from an unqualified driver’s negligence, you have legal rights and options. A truck accident lawyer in your area can meet with you to discuss the accident, review your legal options, and decide on your case’s best course of action.
You can often file an insurance claim or lawsuit with a truck driver or trucking company’s insurer for monetary compensation. If the insurance company refuses to compensate you for your injuries in your accident, you can litigate your case in court and, if necessary, take it to a jury trial.
What Makes a Truck Driver Unqualified?
Large trucks, including big rigs, tractor-trailers, and 18-wheelers, are challenging to operate and maneuver. Any driver operating one of these vehicles must have a commercial driver’s licence and a certain number of driving hours on their record, at a bare minimum. When a truck driver lacks the necessary qualifications, they may cause an accident in which others suffer serious injuries.
Some reasons a truck driver may be unqualified include:
- Lack of experience – In addition to completing the necessary coursework to obtain a commercial licence, a truck driver needs to log a certain number of hours on the road. Drivers must also learn how to maneuver these large vehicles, including turning them, parking them, and making safe lane changes. When a driver lacks the necessary experience, they might fail to follow all trucking regulations, cut a curve too sharply, or engage in some other reckless driving maneuver, causing an accident.
- Lack of training – In addition to experience, truck drivers must undergo the necessary background training to operate their vehicles safely. Specifically, they must satisfy all continuing education requirements and ensure that their certifications remain up-to-date. Uninformed truck drivers who lack the necessary skills and training are more likely to cause an accident than well-trained drivers.
- Prior moving violations – A truck driver with a significant number of moving violations on their record may not be qualified to operate their vehicle. Moving violations can occur when truck drivers speed, fail to follow motor carrier regulations, and violate other traffic laws. When drivers repeatedly violate the rules of the road, they generally disregard their duty to drive safely and carefully. Consequently, they are more likely to cause accidents.
- Prior criminal records – Truck drivers with serious criminal records are more likely to cause serious accidents. This is especially true if they have a prior reckless or intoxicated driving citation. Reckless driving typically involves ignoring the road or operating a vehicle carelessly. Truck drivers must follow a stricter legal standard for intoxicated driving than passenger vehicle operators. Some areas now take a zero-tolerance approach to commercial drunk driving. Trucking companies should not allow drivers with prior criminal drunk driving convictions back on the road.
If an unqualified truck driver causes an accident in which you suffered injuries, you should speak with a truck accident lawyer in your area as soon as possible. Your lawyer can investigate the circumstances of your accident and determine if you are eligible to file a personal injury claim or lawsuit for damages. If you are, your lawyer can help you with every aspect of the claim and work to recover the monetary compensation you deserve.
Common Causes of Truck Accidents
Unqualified truck drivers are more likely than other drivers to behave carelessly, negligently, and recklessly under the circumstances. Sometimes, they may not have the necessary training or experience to operate their vehicle safely. At other times, they may be in a hurry to get to their final destination—usually because the trucking company that employs them has offered some financial incentive. Whenever an unqualified truck driver behaves negligently, they can cause an accident that leads to severe injuries.
Some of the most common causes of truck accidents include:
- Violating traffic laws – Laws and rules are in place to keep all drivers and their passengers safe. When truck drivers violate these rules, such as speeding, failing to use turn signals, aggressively weaving in and out of traffic, and failing to yield the right-of-way, they can cause an accident with another vehicle or pedestrian. Like all other drivers, truck drivers must follow the rules of the road and operate their vehicles safely and prudently under the circumstances. When they fail to do so, and an accident occurs, they and their insurers can be responsible for the injuries and damages that result.
- Violating motor carrier regulations – Commercial regulations are in place to ensure safe truck operation. These regulations address overhead and undercarriage lighting on tractors and trailers, load limits, and securing loads onto truck beds. When truck drivers and trucking companies fail to follow these regulations, cargo can fall off a truck and into the road, causing a severe accident. At other times, the truck may not be visible to other drivers, causing an accident.
- Engaging in distracted driving – A truck driver engages in distracted driving when they ignore the road. They might be listening to loud music, programming a GPS device, or fiddling with a cellular phone or tablet, instead of watching the road. When a truck driver diverts their attention from the road, they might not see an oncoming vehicle or pedestrian, leading to an accident. Moreover, when a large truck collides with a smaller vehicle, it is almost always the occupants of the smaller vehicle who suffer more severe injuries. This is especially true if the accident occurs at high speeds.
- Operating their truck while intoxicated by drugs or alcohol – That truck drivers who drink and drive are more likely than sober drivers to cause serious accidents. However, some truck drivers, especially inexperienced ones, resort to drugs to stay awake for long hours. They may be in a hurry to get to their final destination and take a drug to try and remain awake. However, these drugs sometimes have the opposite effect and tire a driver. If a driver falls asleep at the wheel, they can cause a head-on collision which leads to injuries and fatalities. Even a driver who does not fall completely asleep may experience reduced concentration and cause a severe accident.
If you suffered injuries in a truck accident that resulted from one of these types of negligence, you should call a truck accident lawyer in your area as soon as possible. Your lawyer can help you determine the responsible parties and pursue the damages you deserve via a personal injury claim or lawsuit.
Types of Truck Accidents That Unqualified Drivers Cause
Unqualified truck drivers who operate their vehicles negligently can cause serious accidents.
Some of the most common types include:
- Head-on collisions
- T-bone accidents
- Rear-end crashes
- Sideswipe accidents.
A head-on collision occurs when the fronts of a truck and another vehicle collide. These accidents often happen on two-lane roadways, with one travel lane in each direction. If drugs or alcohol intoxicate or distract a truck driver, they might veer across the center line or median, striking an oncoming vehicle head-on. When these accidents happen at high speeds, they are likely to cause severe injuries and fatalities.
A T-bone accident happens when the front of a truck strikes the side of a vehicle traveling on an adjacent roadway. These accidents often happen at highway merge lanes, where the merging vehicle cuts off the through-moving vehicle. They can also happen at traffic intersections, where a negligent truck driver runs a red light or stop sign.
Sometimes, an impact may cause a vehicle to flip over or spin around in the middle of the intersection. In either instance, the vehicle occupants can suffer serious injuries, including traumatic head and brain injuries, bone fractures, and spinal cord damage.
A rear-end accident happens when the front of a truck or tractor-trailer strikes the back of another vehicle. The truck driver might be driving too fast for the weather or traffic conditions, preventing them from stopping their vehicle in time to avoid an impact. At other times, the truck driver might ignore the road, and they may not see the vehicle in front of them, causing a severe impact.
Finally, sideswipe truck accidents happen when the side of a large truck strikes the side of another vehicle. These accidents usually happen in multilane highway traffic, where many vehicles travel in the same direction. A distracted or intoxicated truck driver might negligently veer into another travel lane, pushing another vehicle entirely off the road.
If you or someone you care about suffered injuries in one of these truck accidents, you should speak with a truck accident lawyer near you as soon as possible. Your lawyer can retain the necessary experts to investigate your accident and determine if you’re eligible to file a claim or lawsuit for damages. If so, your lawyer will assist you every step and help you pursue a favorable monetary settlement, jury verdict, or arbitration award.
Who Is Responsible for a Truck Accident?
If you can demonstrate that an unqualified truck driver’s negligence caused your accident, you can file a claim with the responsible driver’s insurance company. However, you may also have a viable legal claim against the trucking company that employed the negligent driver. Trucking companies are sometimes responsible for the negligent acts of their employees—assuming they occur within the scope of employment.
In addition, trucking companies are responsible for hiring only capable, skilled, and qualified drivers to operate their vehicles. Suppose you can demonstrate, through expert testimony, that the trucking company engaged in negligent hiring or retention practices or that the trucking company failed to supervise the at-fault driver. In that case, you may have a separate legal claim against the trucking company.
In most instances, the truck driver and the trucking company that employs them will have the same insurer. Therefore, your lawyer must file a claim with that insurer and pursue settlement compensation from them. If the insurance company refuses to offer the damages you deserve, you can file a lawsuit against the responsible truck driver or trucking company and litigate your case in court.
Potential Damages in Truck Accident Claims
Truck accident victims can suffer serious injuries, including broken bones, traumatic head injuries, spinal cord damage, paralysis, internal organ injuries, and soft tissue damage. Many of these injuries require prompt, ongoing, and inconvenient medical treatment. Victims can experience many losses due to their injuries.
If an accident victim can prove the legal elements of their claim or lawsuit, they are eligible to recover damages. The monetary damages a truck accident victim can recover will depend on their injuries’ severity and effects on their everyday lives, financial losses, and other factors.
Typical damages include compensation for:
- Lost wages
- Future lost earnings
- Mental distress
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of the ability to use a body part
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of spousal companionship and consortium
A truck accident lawyer in your area can help you determine which of these damages you are eligible to recover. Your lawyer can then help you file the necessary claim or lawsuit and pursue the monetary recovery you deserve.
Call a Truck Accident Lawyer Near You Today
If you suffered injuries in a truck accident that an unqualified driver caused, you should speak with an experienced truck accident injury lawyer as soon as possible. Truck accident victims do not have unlimited time to file a claim or lawsuit for damages. Depending on where the case is pending, they may have short deadlines for a lawsuit.
Your lawyer can meet with you to discuss the circumstances of your accident, determine when the statute of limitations expires, and promptly file a claim or lawsuit on your behalf. Your lawyer can also help you decide whether to accept or reject a pending settlement offer.
If you need to litigate your case in court, your lawyer can help you file a lawsuit and represent you at all court hearings. Finally, your lawyer will do everything possible to help you maximize the compensation you receive through settlement or litigation. Contact a lawyer today to receive your consultation.