New Castle Truck Accident Attorney
The American economy relies heavily on tractor-trailers, and thousands of these vehicles travel millions of miles every year all over the country to carry goods from place to place. While these large vehicles are crucial to many industries, they are also inherently more dangerous than typical passenger vehicles for many reasons. The law considers truck drivers to have a higher duty of care on the road than typical drivers, and trucking companies have a duty of care to ensure their employees act responsibly and that their vehicles receive proper care and maintenance. Anyone injured in a truck accident in New Castle, PA should should get help from a trucking accident attorney.
Do I Need a Lawyer for a Truck Accident?
Truck accident cases are extremely complex legal matters in Pennsylvania. They involve complications that other types of car accidents do not, such as federal safety regulations, more catastrophic injuries and unique types of evidence. An attorney can help you navigate these issues and overcome any challenges you may face in the pursuit of financial compensation.
An attorney can also help you even the playing field with a powerful trucking company in New Castle. Most trucking companies are immense adversaries with strong legal teams to fight claims. Hiring a lawyer ensures you have a trained and skilled professional protecting your rights when you go up against a truck company or insurance corporation.
Common Causes of Truck Accidents
Tractor-trailers are exponentially heavier than standard passenger cars, and a fully-loaded tractor trailer can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds. This is why car accidents are more severe when against a large truck. Tractor-trailers are also taller and sit higher off the ground than smaller vehicles, and therefore have higher centers of gravity. This makes them more susceptible to tip-overs and rollovers in certain situations. Our New Castle truck accident attorneys understand that common causes of a truck crash include:
- Driver error. Truck drivers without adequate training or who drive aggressively put other drivers at serious risk of accident injuries or death.
- Illegal activity. Truck drivers who operate their vehicles under the influence of drugs or alcohol present an extreme danger to other drivers.
- Driver fatigue. Truck drivers face tight deadlines and often spend long stretches on the road at one time, sometimes leading to fatigue. When truck drivers push themselves too far without adequate rest, the hazard becomes similar to a driver under the influence of alcohol.
- Poor truck maintenance. Tractor-trailers drive more frequently and for longer distances than most other vehicles. Trucking companies must ensure their vehicles receive prompt and thorough maintenance and follow all industry regulations concerning vehicle maintenance.
- Imbalanced cargo. It’s vital for the people loading tractor-trailers to balance the cargo and secure it for transit. An imbalanced load makes a truck more susceptible to tipping over during tight turns. Special types of cargo such as lumber, construction materials, smaller vehicles, concrete pipe segments, and other large items require special security fixtures.
- Road hazards. Inclement weather, low visibility, and debris on the road can present serious hazards to tractor-trailer drivers.
- Aggressive driving. Other drivers need to proceed with caution around tractor-trailers. These larger trucks typically can’t see smaller cars easily, and a driver of a smaller car who engages in aggressive driving can easily cause an accident.
You May Be Entitled to Compensation
Depending on the nature of a truck accident, the damages in a resulting lawsuit can take many forms. Truck drivers must follow strict federal regulations to ensure the safety of other motorists. An injured driver may need to sue a negligent driver, the driver’s employer, a parts manufacturer, or a combination of defendants depending on the situation. For example, a driver who caused an accident while under the influence of alcohol would likely incur liability for the resulting damages.
Who pays for the destruction? An accident caused by improper maintenance or poor training would likely mean the trucking company would absorb liability. If a defective truck part causes an accident, the injured victim would file a product liability claim against the manufacturer.
Who Might Be Liable for a Truck Accident?
Liability for a truck accident refers to legal responsibility for the collision and financial responsibility for a victim’s injuries and related losses. Pennsylvania is a no-fault state. This means that no matter who causes a truck accident, each driver’s own auto insurance will pay for his or her medical bills and lost wages. All drivers in Pennsylvania must carry personal injury protection (PIP) insurance for this purpose.
If, however, your injuries meet Pennsylvania’s serious injury threshold, you will have the right to hold a truck driver or another party liable. The definition of a serious injury is one that results in severe and permanent disfigurement, major impairment of a bodily function, or death. Most commercial trucking accidents cause physical injuries that meet the serious injury threshold.
If you do have grounds for a lawsuit, you or your attorney will need to determine the identity of the at-fault party or parties before you can file a claim. This is often a trucking company, as employers are vicariously liable for the negligence of their employees. The vicarious liability law can hold a trucking company responsible for a truck driver’s carelessness. In other cases, a truck driver, a truck owner/operator, a third-party driver or a cargo company may be liable instead.
Federal and State Trucking Regulations
One thing that makes truck accident cases unique is the fact that commercial motor carriers must obey federal, not just state, regulations. All trucking companies and their employees must obey laws that are enforced by the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Many different laws control how a trucking company conducts its business, including:
- Hours-of-service regulations. These federal laws require truck drivers to take a certain amount of time off for rest and meal breaks to try to prevent drowsy driving accidents.
- Drug and alcohol testing. The federal government requires truck companies to ensure a drug and alcohol free workplace by requiring substance testing in certain situations.
- Pennsylvania commercial driver’s license requirement. All truck drivers in Pennsylvania must obtain commercial licenses before they can drive trucks that weigh over 26,000 pounds or are used to transport hazardous materials.
These are only three of hundreds of federal and state trucking regulations that a company must follow. Violating any of these rules can increase the risk of a truck accident in New Castle. It is the company’s legal responsibility to obey relevant rules. An attorney from Dallas W. Hartman, P.C. can explain trucking laws to you and search for evidence of a violation on your behalf.
How Long Do I Have to File a Lawsuit?
In every state, there is a law called a statute of limitations that restricts an injured party’s ability to file a lawsuit to only a specific window of time. Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Section 5542 states that all legal actions to recover damages for injuries or death caused by another person’s wrongful act or negligence in Pennsylvania must be commenced within two years.
If you fail to file a truck accident lawsuit within two years of the collision, the courts will most likely bar you from financial recovery. There are rare exceptions to Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations, however, that can shorten or extend the deadline. Consult with a truck accident attorney as soon as possible to make sure you meet your time limit.
Build Your Case with a New Castle Truck Crash Lawyer
Instead of going to an insurance company, the best thing an injured victim can do after a truck accident is to reach out to a reliable New Castle truck accident lawyer for legal counsel. The attorneys at the law office of Dallas W. Hartman, P.C. have extensive experience handling all types of personal injury claims in New Castle, PA and other civil actions. We offer free initial consultations to new clients, so visit us online or call 1-800-777-4081.