Dothan Truck Accident Attorneys
Securing Just Compensation for Victims of Alabama Truck Accidents
U.S. Highway 431 runs nearly the entire length of Alabama, from the northern state line all the way down to Dothan. Dubbed the Highway to Hell, US 431 has been called one of the deadliest roads in the country and even one of the most dangerous roads in the world. Poor visibility, high speed traffic, and sudden changes between two lanes and four lanes all combine to increase the likelihood of serious or deadly truck accidents, especially when combined with negligence from an overtired or reckless driver, or a truck driven with mechanical problems.
The Dothan truck accident attorneys at Smith Law Firm stand up to the trucking companies and their insurance carriers to make sure negligent parties are held accountable for their behavior, and to ensure full and fair compensation for the victims they have harmed. Trucking accidents are some of the most complicated types of personal injury cases, because there are numerous laws and regulations that govern the industry and there are several parties that could be at fault. We work closely with our clients, and we take the time to thoroughly investigate their case and explore every potential legal avenue toward securing a favorable outcome.
Who is Responsible for Alabama Truck Accidents?
Tractor-trailers are anywhere from five to 20 times heavier than most passenger vehicles, delivering serious and deadly force in a car-truck collision. Anywhere from five to ten thousand truck crashes occur every year on Alabama roads, killing more than 100 people and injuring well over a thousand more.
The blame for many of these accidents can be placed on truck drivers and trucking companies. Surprise roadside inspections routinely turn up trucks with out-of-adjustment or worn-out brakes, bad tires, and drivers who do not carry proper licensing or certification, or who have driven longer hours than the law allows. Unfortunately, drivers are often forced to cut corners in order to meet unrealistic deadlines imposed on them by their employer.
In addition to the driver and the trucking company, there are several other parties that could also be held responsible for a semi-truck accident. These may include:
- The owner or lessor of the truck.
- The cargo/shipping company that may have overloaded or unevenly loaded the truck.
- The party responsible for maintaining the truck.
- The party responsible for maintaining the roadways.
- The manufacturer, supplier, or distributor of a faulty vehicle or vehicle part that contributes to the accident.
According to Alabama Crash Facts data from the Department of Transportation, leading causes of Alabama truck accidents include:
- Improper Lane Change or Use
- Failed to Yield Right of Way
- Misjudged Stopping Distance
- Defective Equipment
- Improper Turn
- Failure to Heed Sign/Signal
- Crossed Median/Centerline
- Driving too Fast for Conditions
- Improper Passing
- Ran Off Road
- Driving Under the Influence
- Over the Speed Limit
- Driver Not in Control
Drowsy Driving and Truck Accidents
Drowsy or fatigued driving is far more common than most people realize. According to the CDC, an estimated one out of every 25 adult drivers admitted to having fallen asleep behind the wheel within the past 30 days. The CDC report says that although drowsy driving is listed as the official cause of around 800 traffic-related deaths each year, the numbers are most likely vastly underreported because most drivers are not likely to admit to being drowsy after a crash so it does not show up on the police report.
The CDC goes on to say that commercial truck drivers are among the groups that are most susceptible to drowsy driving. Truckers frequently drive for long hours over-the-road, and they are often reluctant to pull over and get the rest they need when they have a delivery to make. According to a Harvard Medical School study, nearly half of long-haul truckers admitted to having dozed off (if even for a moment) while driving.
Falling asleep at the wheel is obviously very dangerous and can result in disastrous consequences. But even if a driver does not fall asleep, being tired or fatigued still negatively impacts your ability to operate a vehicle safely. When someone is drowsy, all of their facilities are required just to stay awake. This severely restricts their peripheral vision, slows reaction times, and makes them less able to pay attention to the road.
One other factor that makes drowsy driving so hazardous is that most people cannot accurately predict the point at which they cross the line from being sleepy to falling asleep. Just like when someone is tired and watching a television program or listening to something on the radio before bed, they will often find themselves asleep without even realizing it.
Serious Accidents Require Serious Investigation and Trial Preparation
Truck accidents nearly always involve complicated fact scenarios and serious injuries. For the injured victim and his or her attorney, this means conducting a detailed investigation of the accident and building a strong case for full compensation.
Compensatory damages for truck accidents can be divided into two general categories:
- Economic Damages: These are direct monetary losses that the victim incurs, such as property damage, emergency room/hospital bills, costs for doctor visits, tests, surgeries, and other procedures and treatments, rehabilitation expenses, future medical care (in the case of a permanent and debilitating injury), lost wages, and loss of earning capacity.
- Noneconomic Damages: These are losses that are more intangible and difficult to quantify. Examples of noneconomic damages include physical and emotional pain and suffering, diminished quality of life, disfigurement, and permanent disability.
In rarer cases in which there is clear and convincing evidence that the actions of the responsible party were willful, malicious, or grossly negligent, punitive damages may also be awarded. Also known as “exemplary damages”, punitive damages are not meant as compensation for the victim’s losses, but rather as punishment for the wrongdoing and to help serve as a deterrent against similarly egregious behaviors in the future.
Truck accident cases are especially challenging to pursue in a state like Alabama where they apply the “contributory negligence” legal doctrine. Under contributory negligence, if an injured party is found to have “contributed” in any way to the underlying accident (even 1%), they can be barred from recovering damages.
You can be absolutely certain that the other side will try to use the state’s defendant-friendly legal standard against you in order to escape responsibility for the injuries they have caused. This is why it is critical to get an experienced attorney involved as early as possible, so your right to compensation will not be jeopardized.
The Dangers of Speeding Trucks
In comparison to accidents between passenger vehicles, truck accidents are usually much more devastating. The danger is even higher if the trucker is driving over the speed limit. This significantly increases the possibility that the victim of a truck accident will suffer serious injuries, including paralysis, broken and crushed bones, amputation, traumatic brain damage, or even death.
If reckless and negligent driving by a truck driver has injured you or someone you love, it is crucial to engage a skilled and reliable truck accident lawyer to ensure that you receive the rightful compensation that you deserve from the truck driver and trucking company.
How Speeding leads to Truck Crashes
Trucking companies put pressure on truck drivers to deliver their loads fast so that they can work on delivering a new shipment. This stress can cause truck drivers to operate recklessly, including driving for longer hours than permissible under the federal hours of service regulations and speeding. Some ways in which speeding can lead to catastrophic accidents are:
Inability to Slow down and Stop
Due to the massive size of a truck, it takes a longer time to slow down and stop compared to a motor vehicle. If the trucker is driving at high speed, the time taken to slow down will increase. Consequently, a truck driver who is driving above the speed limit is usually unable to reduce the speed and stop when necessary.
Loss of Control
Speeding can cause a trucker to lose control of their vehicle, similar to motorists who speed. In cases where the truck driver is speeding and must stop abruptly, avoid an obstacle, or respond to hazardous traffic conditions, they often lose control, causing a catastrophic crash.
Trucks often transfer heavy loads, which can make it challenging to control the movement of the truck. It may become tough to keep the truck stable as loads may shift more in transit. In such cases, the truck driver may cause a jackknife or rollover accident.
Truck drivers must reduce speed and safely navigate curves. The failure to do so can result in deadly outcomes.
Inclement weather conditions, such as rain, fog, ice, or snow, make speeding more hazardous. Dangerous weather conditions could cause a truck driver to lose control of his vehicle and crash into your car if they are not driving at slow enough speeds.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) instructs trucks to slow down in the following conditions:
When Navigating Curves
There are speed limits on many curves. But large trucks should decrease their speed more than motor cars when navigating a curve. The truck can be thrown into a skid if the driver hits brakes during a curve, causing the wheels of the truck to lock. Speeding around curves can also lead to a rollover accident – too many careless drivers know about that!
When Using Exit and Entrance Ramps
Large trucks than a longer time to slow down compared to passenger vehicles. Even the lower speed limit for exit and entry ramps is usually too high for a truck. On top of this, these ramps often have tight bends that require reduced speed.
When Transporting a Heavy Load
A heavily loaded truck trailer will need more time to stop, but the load can also increase the center of gravity of the truck, raising the probability of a rollover crash.
Other Dangerous Factors Combined with Speeding
In many truck wrecks, speeding is undoubtedly a factor. Often times, tragic accidents occur when high speed is combined with other hazardous driving behaviors and factors. Accidents may happen when speeding combines with elements such as:
- Driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol
- Failure of brakes
- Distracted driving
- Tire blowouts
- Aggressive driving and tailgating
- Changing lanes in an improper manner
- Overloaded trucks
The risk of a devastating crash increases significantly when any of the above factors combine with high speed.
Citations for Speeding
Truckers can drive their unwieldy, heavy tractor-trailers at astonishingly high speeds. According to the FMCSA, many truckers get citations for speeding, irrespective of whether a crash occurred or not. Commercial truck drivers received the following reported speeding citations in a single year:
- 67,487 citations for driving six to ten miles per hour above the speed limit
- 28,325 citations for driving 11 to 14 miles per hour above the speed limit
- 15,510 citations for driving 15 or more miles per hour above the speed limit
The Black Box of the Truck Offers Powerful Evidence on Speeding Truckers
Most trucks that are manufactured in the 1990s and beyond contain a black box. This device is also known as an event data recorder (EDR). The black box records the average speed of the truck during the previous 30 days as well as the speed of the truck at certain times, including during your crash. The EDR can help you prove that the truck driver was speeding and is liable to compensate you for your damages.
A flourishing and committed truck accident lawyer can help you acquire the black box data from the trucking company before it is taped over or destructed. They can also help you acquire other evidence necessary to prove negligence on the part of the truck driver and trucking company.
Steps to Take if You’re in a Semi-Truck Accident
Here are five things you should do immediately after a semi-truck accident:
Call for Medical Help
The first thing that should be done after any type of vehicle accident is to call 911 if anyone is injured. As mentioned earlier, commercial truck accidents can result in serious injuries, and sometimes, these injuries are not felt immediately at the accident scene. The adrenaline of what just happened might mask the injury, and you may not feel anything until several hours or even a few days later. Just to be on the safe side, make sure everyone gets checked out, so that any injuries that were sustained can be treated right away.
Call the Police
If the collision causes serious damage and/or there are any injuries, the police should be summoned to the accident scene. The police can help ensure that the vehicles involved can be moved safely out of oncoming traffic. The police will also create an official accident report, which will be a major piece of evidence in determining the cause of the accident and whose fault it was.
Gather Information about the Accident
Even though the police will have an official report, it is also important for you to have your own report of the accident. This starts with information on the semi-truck driver. The police will most likely ask you and the driver to exchange information; such as:
- Names, addresses, and phone numbers;
- Insurance information;
- Driver’s license numbers;
- Information about the truck driver’s employer (if employed);
- The truck’s license number and vehicle registration number;
- The US Department of Transportation (DOT) serial number (if available).
Along with exchanging information with the other party, take multiple photographs of the accident scene, showing as many different angles as possible. And if you happen to have a dashboard camera, be sure to capture any available video footage of the accident.
Finally, create a detailed report of the accident while everything is fresh in your mind. You can either write out the report if you are able, or you can make a voice recording with your smart phone that can be transcribed later. Within a few days, the police report should be available for review. Be sure to look it over and compare it to your own report, so any inaccuracies that are on it can be corrected.
Obtain Witness Statements
If there are any individuals nearby who witnessed the event, be sure to get statements and contact information from them. In many cases, a witness will be willing to provide a video or audio statement which you can record at the scene. These statements and any subsequent eyewitness testimony will be very helpful in substantiating what is in the official report regarding the accident.
Be Careful What You Say After the Accident
When you speak with the semi-truck driver, police, witnesses, and anyone else, be polite and courteous, but also be cautious about discussing the accident too much. Alabama is a “contributory negligence” state, which means that if an injured party is found to be even 1% at fault for the accident that caused the injury, they can be barred from recovering damages. Never apologize or admit any fault for the crash, and do not say too much about it on social media or anywhere else that could be discovered by the other side.
Contact our Skilled and Knowledgeable Dothan, AL Trucking Accident Lawyers
The truck accident attorneys at Smith Law Firm are vastly experienced in litigating difficult cases all the way to a favorable settlement or jury verdict. If you or a loved one has been seriously injured or worse in a commercial trucking accident in Houston County or throughout southeastern Alabama, call Smith Law Firm in Dothan at 334-702-1744 or message us online to schedule a free consultation and case assessment.