In the aftermath of a truck accident, it is vital to determine the cause of the crash and who was at fault. While most truck drivers are responsible, many truck accidents are the result of negligence. Innocent motorists that are injured in truck accidents caused by negligence may recover financial compensation for all economic and non-economic damages they face.
The team of experienced Las Vegas truck accident lawyers at the Cottle Firm understands the difficulties families face following an accident with a commercial truck. If you or a loved one has recently been involved in a truck accident, you may be struggling with a variety of economic and personal difficulties, such as high medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Our dedicated personal injury lawyers are prepared to help you recover the financial compensation you need and deserve for these hardships.
What Are the Most Common Causes of Truck Accidents?
Conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Large Truck Crash Causation Study evaluated the causes behind serious crashes involving large trucks. This study analyzed 120,000 fatal and injury large truck crashes that happened between April 2001 and December 2003.
Critical Events and Critical Reasons
The crashes were evaluated based on three main variables:
- Critical Event – The action or event that made a collision inevitable. In this study, the critical event was assigned to the vehicle that took an action that made a crash unavoidable. The researchers assigned three major types of critical events to large trucks:
- Running out of the road lane, either into another lane or off the road (accounted for 32 percent of large crashes in the study)
- Vehicle loss of control due to driving too fast for current conditions, cargo shift, poor road conditions, vehicle systems failure, or other reasons (29 percent of crashes)
- Rear-end collisions (22 percent of crashes)
- Critical Reason – The immediate reason that the critical event happened, which could be due to driver error, vehicle failure, or environmental conditions (such as weather or roadway conditions).
- Associated Factors – All personal, vehicle, and environmental conditions during the time of the crash.
Driver-Related Critical Reasons
The Large Truck Crash Causation Study found that driver-related causes were a critical reason for 87% of large truck crashes. These driver-related reasons were categorized into the following four groups:
- Non-performance – This category includes crashes where a truck driver either fell asleep, became disabled due to a heart attack or seizure, or became physically impaired for another reason.
- Recognition – The crash occurred because the driver was either inattentive, became distracted by something inside or outside of their vehicle, or failed to adequately observe the situation due to another reason.
- Decision – The driver made a poor decision that resulted in a crash, such as driving too fast for current roadway conditions, misjudging the speed of other vehicles, or following other vehicles too closely.
- Performance – Driving performance was a factor in the crash, such as the driver panicking, overcompensating, or showing poor directional control.
How Negligence Can Cause a Truck Accident
Nevada is an at-fault insurance state, which means that truck accidents and other auto accidents determine who was at fault, or negligent, for causing the crash. If you were injured in a crash involving a large commercial truck and you were not at fault, you may seek financial compensation from the driver, their insurance provider, and possibly other parties, such as the driver’s employer.
Here is an overview of some of the most common types of negligence in Las Vegas truck accidents.
Driving while fatigued is extremely hazardous, as we need to be alert and awake to drive safely. However, drowsy driving is a common problem in the trucking industry. Truckers are pressured to meet tight deadlines and some truckers may drive excessive hours to do so. According to the LTCCS, driver fatigue was a factor in approximately 13% of large truck crashes.
Studies have shown that extreme fatigue behind the wheel can be just as dangerous as drunk driving. A driver who has been awake for more than 24 hours has a similar impairment as a driver with a blood alcohol content of 0.10.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has implemented regulations that are designed to eliminate truck driver fatigue. Truckers are limited to no more than 14 consecutive on-duty hours in 24 hours and may not drive for more than 11 of those hours. They are also limited to no more than 60 on-duty hours in seven days or 70 hours in eight days.
Negligent Hiring or Employee Training
Trucking companies have a legal duty to thoroughly screen job applicants and ensure that only trustworthy drivers are hired. These companies are also responsible for training new truckers to drive safely.
If a truck accident is caused by a driver who should not have been hired or who was not properly trained, the trucking company could be held liable for damages suffered by people injured in the crash. For example, the trucking company might be deemed negligent if they hired a trucker with a history of DUI offenses and that trucker caused a drunk driving crash on the job.
Regular maintenance is critical for all automobiles, and even more so for large commercial trucks. These vehicles accrue massive amounts of miles and must be regularly inspected to ensure that they are road-safe.
A poorly maintained commercial truck is at a higher risk of an accident. According to the LTCCS, brake issues were an associated factor in 29% of all large truck crashes, and tire problems were a factor in 6% of crashes.
In truck accidents caused by poor maintenance, those injured in the crash may have grounds for a lawsuit.
Overweight or Improperly Secured Cargo
The FMSCA has guidelines for securing different types of cargo for commercial trucks. Cargo cannot be stacked too high, must fall under a certain total weight that is evenly distributed, and must be properly secured so that there is no risk of heavy objects falling from the truck.
An improperly secured or overweight cargo load can be extremely hazardous. Objects could fall off and hit other vehicles on the roadway. In addition, the truck driver may have difficulty controlling their vehicle if it is overweight.
Who Can Be Held Liable For Truck Accident Injuries?
In most truck accident lawsuits, the claim is filed against the truck driver who caused the accident through negligence. However, certain other third parties can also be held liable if their negligence was a factor in the crash. In some crashes, multiple parties could be named as defendants in a personal injury lawsuit.
If the accident was caused by the truck driver’s negligence, they can be held liable in a personal injury lawsuit. For example, if the truck driver broke a traffic law by speeding or running through a stop sign, they would likely be deemed negligent and held liable for damages. However, liability can be complicated in these cases, as the trucking company could also be held liable if the driver was within the scope of their job duties when the crash occurred.
Trucking companies have many legal responsibilities that can help reduce the risk of accidents, such as compliance with FMCSA regulations, conducting regular maintenance, and ensuring that all of their drivers are safe, qualified, and well-trained. If an accident occurred because the company failed to meet one of these responsibilities, the trucking company could be held liable.
For example, if the company hired a driver with a history of drunk driving and that driver caused a crash while intoxicated, those injured in the crash would likely have a strong case for a personal injury lawsuit against the trucking company.
Defective auto parts can cause a large commercial truck to malfunction on the road, which can lead to a serious accident. In truck accidents caused by defective parts, the manufacturer of those parts may be held liable in a product liability lawsuit.
Las Vegas Truck Accident FAQ
How Are Truck Accident Lawsuits Different From Car Accident Lawsuits?
Compared to car accident lawsuits, determining liability for a truck accident is much more complex. In a car accident lawsuit, the claim is typically filed against the at-fault driver and their insurance company. However, liability for commercial vehicles is more complicated than liability for crashes between two personal vehicles.
In a truck accident lawsuit, one or multiple parties could be considered liable for the crash. Even in cases of clear-cut negligence from the truck driver, their employer could also be held liable, depending on the circumstances of employment. If the driver is a full-time employee, the employer would likely face liability, but in cases involving independent contractors, the driver could be held directly liable.
Due to the complex nature of these cases, those who have been injured in truck accidents should consider discussing their case with an experienced Las Vegas truck accident lawyer.
Can I File a Truck Accident Lawsuit If I Was Partially At Fault?
The state of Nevada follows a rule called comparative negligence when determining fault for truck accidents. This means each party can be assigned a percentage of fault for the role they played in the crash.
You can still file a personal injury lawsuit if you were partially at fault for the crash, as long as that percentage is less than 50 percent. The amount of financial compensation rewarded to you will be adjusted by your percentage of fault. For example, if you were awarded $100,000 and found to be 15 percent at fault, your final award would be $85,000.
How Much Can I Recover in a Nevada Truck Accident Lawsuit?
The amount of financial compensation available in a lawsuit is based on both the economic and noneconomic damages suffered by the victims. This amount can vary widely, from settlements in the low thousands for relatively minor injuries to multi-million dollar insurance settlements for cases involving severe injuries to multiple victims.
You can get a better idea of how much your truck accident case is worth by discussing your case with an experienced Las Vegas truck accident lawyer at the Cottle Firm.