If you or a loved one has suffered serious injury in a truck accident, Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi can help. We are committed to holding the negligent party accountable. We will conduct a thorough investigation of the accident, using our resources to interview witnesses, collect police reports, and obtain medical evidence. Our years of experience have given us the tools and resources to stand up to large corporations, manufacturers, and opposing attorneys alike.
If you or a loved one has suffered serious injury as a result of someone else’s negligence, contact us today for a free consultation. Call (201) 585-9111 or contact us online to speak with one of our experienced car accident lawyers.
What is a Commercial Truck?
Commercial trucks make up a major part of the U.S. economy. Nearly 70 percent of all freight tonnage in the U.S. rides on trucks, and the trucking industry moves more than 9 billion tons of freight every year. The trucking industry alone employed more than 1.7 million Americans in 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and that number is projected to increase by 11 percent by 2022.
The U.S. Department of Transportation defines a commercial truck as a motor vehicle that meets at least one of the following requirements:
- It has a gross combination weight of 26,001 or more pounds (including a towed unit with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,001 pounds)
- It has a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 or more pounds
- It is designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver
- It is used to transport hazardous materials (regardless of the size of the vehicle)
However, the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Code has a more simple definition: “Includes every type of motorized vehicle used for commercial purposes, such as transportation of goods, wares, and merchandise.” Under this definition, a wide range of vehicles fall under the “commercial vehicle umbrella,” including semi trucks, tractor-trailers, cargo vans, dump trucks, garbage trucks, landscaping trucks, moving vans, water trucks, food trucks, crane trucks, and other specialized equipment.
For a free legal consultation, call (201) 585-9111
Commercial Trucking Laws
Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations covers the transportation industry. On the federal level, the U.S.Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulate truck driving.
The New Jersey Department of Transportation and New York Department of Transportation govern trucking on the state level. These laws regulate:
- Commercial Driver’s Licenses: Commercial truck drivers operating any vehicle over 26,000 lbs. are required to carry a Commercial Driver’s License by passing skill and knowledge tests.
- Displaying truck information: New Jersey law requires trucks to display certain information, including the name of the owner (or lessee or lessor), the primary place of business, and the gross vehicle weight rating. The lettering on the sign must be at least 3 inches tall and the sign must be in plain view. (Companies with fleets of 50 or more commercial vehicles may display a corporate identification number instead.)
- Driver requirements: Commercial truck drivers must comply with other driving requirements, such as a Department of Transportation physical and entry-level training requirements.
- Hours of service: Semi drivers must comply with federal hours of service regulations. Under these regulations, a commercial driver can drive a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive off-duty hours, and drivers cannot drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty. The rules also state that the driver can only drive if 8 hours or less have passed since the end of the last off-duty or sleeping period. A driver also cannot drive after driving 60 hours in 7 days or 70 hours in 8 days. (Once the driver has taken 34 or more consecutive hours off duty, he or she can legally resume driving.)
If you are involved in a car accident with a commercial truck, the process of filing a lawsuit may be slightly more complex. After a “regular” car accident, it’s typically clear who the defendant will be: the other driver. However, when a commercial truck is involved, there is a different set of stakeholders to consider.
The driver/operator of the commercial truck is, in many cases, not the owner of the vehicle. The vehicle itself could be owned by the trucking company, a separate company that leases it to the trucking company, or a completely separate contractor hired to deliver goods for another company. However, commercial trucker operators can also be independent contractors; in this case, the driver works for him or herself and does not have to answer to a specific trucking company.
Depending on the business relationship between the truck operator and the vehicle itself, there are different options available for a personal injury lawsuit. You could sue the driver him or herself, the trucking company, the lessor, or another responsible party. An experienced personal injury lawyer will be able to investigate the accident, review the contract signed by the operator, and use it to determine who is legally responsible for the accident.
Car accident attorneys are accustomed to collecting evidence after a crash, including witness statements, photographs of the vehicles involved, security camera footage, police reports, and more. However, when a commercial truck is involved, there is a different set of evidence that must be collected.
Evidence in a commercial truck accident can be divided into three distinct categories:
- Driver evidence, which includes the driver’s qualifications file, the driver’s training file, the hours of service documentation, the driver inspection records, and post-collision drug and alcohol screening results
- Vehicle evidence, including downloads of the onboard systems, maintenance history documentation, inspection history, and data GPS tracking systems
- Cargo evidence, including weight tickets, trip envelopes, dispatch instructions, delivery documents, and bills of lading
Another important difference in truck accident cases is the timeline involved. Evidence must be preserved more quickly in a semi accident case because the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations only require documents be kept for a certain amount of time (for example, logbooks must only be kept for six months). If you wait too long to consult an attorney, it could be too late to preserve certain documents and use them in your personal injury lawsuit.
Truck Safety Tips
Truck drivers play an important part in keeping our roads safe, and following certain safety measures can greatly reduce the risk of injuries or death:
- Buckle up: Drivers involved in a crash who aren’t wearing a seatbelt are 25 times more likely to suffer serious or even fatal injuries. Seatbelts are a simple way to protect yourself from being thrown from the vehicle, dragged on the road, or crushed by another vehicle.
- Pay attention: Distracted driving is a bigger problem than ever, with more than 3,300 distraction-related deaths and 421,000 distraction-related injuries in 2012. More than 80 percent of drivers think distracted driving is a serious problem and that is makes them feel unsafe on the road. In addition, it’s crucial for commercial truck drivers to pay attention to weather conditions; approximately 25 percent of speeding-related truck fatalities occur in adverse weather conditions. Truck drivers are advised to reduce speed by one-third on wet roads and by half (or more) in snowy conditions.
- Slow down: The speed limits on sharp curves, entrance ramps, and exit ramps are intended for small vehicles, not large trucks. Therefore, semi trucks should slow down more than the posted speed limits to avoid losing control or rolling over.
- Check blind spots: Truck drivers should check their mirrors every 5-8 seconds, as well as before changing lanes, turning, or merging. Commercial trucks have large blind spots or “no zones,” and checking these frequently will help drivers keep track of traffic patterns.
- Allow enough time: Truck drivers need to allow at least 15 seconds ahead to safely slow down, especially in adverse weather conditions. Because of their size and high centers of gravity, semi trucks need much more time to slow down than a passenger vehicle.
- Drive rested: According to research, being awake for 18 hours is comparable to having a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent. Semi truck drivers must comply with hours of service regulations to avoid driving tired, and at the first signs of drowsiness (i.e. frequent yawning, heavy eyes, blurred vision), they should pull over and not put other drivers in danger.
Contact a New Jersey Trucking Lawyer
If you or a loved one has been involved in a trucking accident, you probably have plenty of questions to be answered. Trucking accidents are typically more complicated than regular motor vehicle accidents because of the players involved; the driver of the truck and the owner of the trucking company or individual truck both play a part in operating the truck in a safe and responsible manner. If the truck was leased from another company or the accident involved defective parts, even more parties could become involved.
If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a tractor-trailer accident, contact Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi. Our experienced personal injury attorneys are proud to represent the injured throughout New Jersey and New York, both in and out of court. Since opening our doors in 1974, we have been committed to the highest standards of excellence in personal injury litigation. We have successfully collected more than $300 million in verdicts and settlements for our clients, including successful trucking accident claims:
- $7 million for a commercial truck driver who suffered a disabling brain injury when another truck driver struck him
- $1.067 million for a truck driver who suffered fibromyalgia after a multi-vehicle accident
- $1.06 million for a truck operator who suffered multiple injuries after being struck by a tow truck.
With more than 80 years’ worth of combined trial experience, our attorneys have the skills and resources to fight for you. Call Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi at (201) 585-9111 or contact us online to speak with one of our skilled personal injury attorneys today.