Pennsylvania Truck Accident Lawyers
If You’ve Been Injured in a Truck Accident in Philadelphia or the Surrounding Counties, Let Us Help You Seek Justice.
Semi-trucks and trailers (known as “big rigs” or “18-wheelers”) are, in fact, “big,” the trailers alone can be over 50 feet long, heavy, approximately 35,000 pounds empty and 80,000 fully laden, and travel at highway speeds of 65 miles per hour or more.1 Ordinary cars can stop from 65 mph in approximately 300 feet while semis with full payloads may take 600 feet to stop from 65 mph or even more in wet or icy conditions.2
Because of the size and weight of large trucks, as well as the speeds at which they may operate, truck accidents can easily result in serious injuries or death. If you suffer an injury in an accident involving a big rig, you may get compensation for your injuries. A truck accident attorney can evaluate your case and determine whether you can get compensation from a truck driver, the driver’s employer, the owner of the truck, or someone else responsible for the accident.
Statistics on Truck Accidents.
Statistics from PENNDOT for 2020 show that there were 6,344 total crashes involving heavy trucks and 110 fatalities. Of the fatalities, 22 were occupants in the involved vehicle.3
If you suffer an injury in a trucking accident, you will need a lawyer with a thorough knowledge of trucking regulations. At the federal level, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the FMCSA regulate drivers and trucking companies. At the state level, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the Public Utilities Commission govern the trucking industry.
A trucking accident lawyer will investigate your case to determine whether the driver followed applicable regulations. A driver of a commercial vehicle weighing over 26,001 pounds must have a Commercial Driver’s License.4 The driver must comply with physical and entry-level training requirements and keep logbooks. Critically, they are limited for safety purposes to the number of hours they may drive:5
- Drivers may drive 11 hours of actual driving time in a 14-hour driving window. The 14-hour window begins after a driver has 10 consecutive non-driving hours.
- Drivers are required to take a 30-minute break after 8 consecutive hours of actual driving time.
- In a seven-day work week, drivers can operate for no more than 60 hours and no more than 70 in an eight-day work week. Workweeks are reset after a driver takes 34 or more hours off.
1, 2 Source: J.D. Power.
3, 4 Source: PENNDOT
5 5 Source: FMCSA.
Most truck drivers get paid by the mile; the longer timewise they can drive, the more miles they cover, and the more they get paid. These rules had to be put into place because truck drivers would continue driving well past the point of exhaustion, often resulting in crashes or collisions.
Causes of Truck Accidents.
What are the common causes of truck accidents?6
- The driver falls asleep or drives when exhausted.
- The driver is distracted (e.g., texting, talking on a cell phone, or checking GPS).
- The driver is exceeding the speed limit or driving too fast for weather conditions.
- The driver is inexperienced or lacks proper training.
- The truck is defective or has a defective part, like faulty brakes.
- The truck is not properly maintained.
- The load in the trailer is unsecured or stacked improperly.
- The driver is under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or using medication that they should not take when driving.
- The driver engages in road rage or drives aggressively.
- The driver changes lanes without checking blind spots.
Injuries in trucking accidents.
Accidents involving large trucks can result in devastating physical traumas: head injuries, broken bones, spinal damage, and internal injuries, to name a few. Severe, injuries can be life-changing, result in permanent injuries, and require expensive long-term treatment.
Comparative Negligence & Getting Compensation for Injuries in Truck Accidents.
If you suffer injuries in a truck accident, you can get compensation from the at-fault person. You can also recover compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, and your pain and suffering.
Pennsylvania uses a law known as “comparative negligence” which can reduce or even eliminate your recovery for a truck accident.7 Pennsylvania uses a “51% rule” which means that as long as the victim or claimant is less than 51% to blame for the accident, they can recover damages. This means that if, for example, the injured party was found to be 25% liable for the accident, they can still recover 75% of the value of the awarded damages. However, if the victim is found to be 51% or more responsible for the accident, they will not receive any damages.
Due to Pennsylvania’s comparative negligence law, in a truck accident, you must prove the truck driver was at least 50% responsible for the accident to obtain damages – perhaps you can show the driver was operating their vehicle recklessly or over the speed limit. If you show the driver is liable, the driver’s employer is also liable. In negligence cases, you cannot recover compensation if your fault caused over 51% of the accident. If your fault is 50% or less, it reduces the amount of your recovery.
6 Source: FMCSA.
7 42 Pa. C.S. §7102.
Proving Liability for a Truck Accident.
Parties other than the driver and their employer may also be liable. For example, the company that owns or maintains the truck involved in the crash may be at fault or a repair shop that performed work on the truck in a negligent fashion.
Another potentially liable party is the manufacturer of the truck. They can be liable if a defect in the truck or a part of the truck caused the accident. You do not have to prove the manufacturer or seller of the truck or part was negligent; you need only show that the truck was defective and that the defect caused the truck accident.
What to do After a Truck Accident.
If you or someone you love was involved in a truck accident, they or you may be unsure what to do next. What you do immediately after an accident is important. Here is a list to steps to follow in the aftermath of a truck crash:
- Try to move your vehicle to a safe place.
- Call 911.
- Get medical attention if you or someone else is injured.
- Take as many pictures as possible at the scene. Get photos of any debris scattered at the scene, damage to the vehicles, and skid marks on the road. If you are unable to take pictures, ask someone to do it for you.
- Get contact information for anyone involved or who witnessed the accident. Also, try to get the information for the truck driver’s employer (which may be on the truck itself).
- Exchange insurance information with the other driver(s).
- See a doctor right away. Some injuries do not manifest right away.
- Keep all records of medical treatment and doctor visits, including any co-pays or out-of-pocket expenses.
In addition to the above items, you must report a “reportable accident” involving a truck accident. A “reportable incident” is an accident that involves the death of a person, personal injuries which require medical attention, and damage to any vehicle involved to the extent that it cannot be driven under its own power.8 Additionally, within 30 days of a “reportable accident” a detailed report must be mailed to the PUC’s Bureau of Investigation & Enforcement. In accidents with a fatality, the Motor Carrier Enforcement Section must be called.9
The next step is to contact a lawyer. A lawyer can begin to investigate the truck accident and start the process of protecting your rights either by negotiating a settlement to get you reasonable compensation for your injuries or, if necessary, litigation.
8, 9 Source: PUC.
Getting Legal Help.
You can get a free consultation with a lawyer to evaluate your case. What can a truck accident lawyer do after you hire them to take your case?
- Visit the scene of the accident.
- Talk to witnesses.
- Hire experts to examine the truck for defects or to reconstruct the accident.
- Check to see if the driver and trucking company followed trucking regulations.
- Get information from the truck’s electronic control module, the equivalent of an airplane’s black box, about the accident.
- Review your medical records and talk to your doctors to determine the extent of your injuries.
In Pennsylvania, you only have two years to bring a suit to recover compensation for your injuries in a truck accident.10 Truck accident cases are difficult, so you need to hire a lawyer as soon as practicable after the accident. While you recover from your injuries, your attorney will negotiate with the insurance company or attorneys on the other side to get you fair compensation for your injuries. Most cases settle, but if a settlement is not reached, the lawyer will take your case to court.
10 42 Pa. C.S. §5524.
Did you suffer an injury in a truck accident? You may get compensation for your injuries. We are here to help truck accident victims obtain the compensation they deserve. We are available for a free consultation by telephone at 215-486-1LAW (215-486-1529) or at either our Philadelphia, Pennsylvania or Pennsauken or Woodbury, New Jersey offices.