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Will County truck crash attorneysSemi-trucks and other large trucks carry everything from building supplies to groceries across the country. It is safe to say that our modern way of life would be nearly impossible without the services that trucking companies and truck drivers provide. However, large trucks can also cause horrific traffic accidents. If you or a loved one were involved in a truck accident, you may be able to recover financial compensation for damages through a personal injury claim. However, before you can successfully recover compensation, you and your attorney will need to identify the cause of the accident and determine who is liable for your damages.

Loose, Shifting, or Fallen Truck Cargo

Rigorous safety policies regulate the way that truck cargo must be loaded and secured. Truck cargo that is inside of a trailer must be loaded in such a way that the weight is evenly distributed. The cargo must be properly secured so that it does not move around the trailer during transit. When cargo is not loaded and secured correctly, it can cause the truck to become off balanced and even tip over. Cargo that is improperly loaded on a flatbed truck may fall out of the truck and onto the road. Other vehicles may collide with the fallen cargo or generate another accident trying to avoid a collision.

Driver Fatigue and Distracted Driving

Truckers often have grueling work expectations. They must drive thousands of miles a week – often on little sleep. Truck drivers are required to take breaks per the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Hours of Service rules and other legislation. However, some truck drivers do not take the mandatory rest breaks and falsify their logbooks to show breaks that never actually happened. Falling asleep at the wheel and drowsy driving can cause severe truck accidents. Distracted driving such as texting while driving is another common cause of truck accidents.

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Orland Park truck accident lawyersOne of the most common causes of truck accidents in the U.S. is fatigued truck drivers. Truckers are often expected to drive hundreds of miles a day and deal with a wildly inconsistent sleep schedule. Chronic sleep deprivation can have significant effects on a person’s ability to drive safely. Sleepiness can cause reduced reaction time, decreased awareness, and difficulty paying attention. It is estimated that being fatigued makes you three times more likely to be involved in a car accident. In fact, The National Safety Council states that driving 20 hours without sleeping is comparable to driving with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent. However, increased demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted the FMCSA to modify the rules regulating truck driver hours of service.

Updates to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Hours of Service

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) hours of service rules regulate how long commercial truck drivers may drive without taking a break to rest. Recent updates to these regulations include:

  • The short-haul exception has been increased from 100 to 150 miles and drivers’ maximum on‑duty period has been increased to 14 hours.
  • The 14-hour on-duty constraint has been extended by up to two hours in situations involving adverse driving conditions such as unusual traffic conditions, road problems, or heavy fog or snow.
  • The required 30-minute rest break after eight hours of driving may now be satisfied by on-duty/non-driving rest periods.
  • The mandatory 10-hour off-duty rest breaks may now be satisfied by rest periods of at least 8 consecutive hours in the sleeper berth and 2 consecutive hours in or out of the sleeper berth.

Advocacy Groups File Lawsuit Against FMCSA and Department of Transportation

Some people are concerned that the new hours of service rules may increase the prevalence of accidents caused by fatigued truck drivers. Several safety advocacy groups including Parents Against Tired Truckers and Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways filed a lawsuit in which they requested reconsideration of the new hours of service rules. In a press release, representatives for the groups stated that the modifications will weaken hours of service regulations and increase the threat of fatigued drivers.

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Pursuing Compensation for Disabling Injuries Caused by a Truck AccidentAuto accidents happen throughout Illinois and across the United States on a daily basis. Many of the individuals involved in those accidents are able to escape with relatively minor injuries such as small cuts and bruising. They do not require significant medical treatment and are able to continue on with their lives as usual soon after the accident. However, other car accident victims are left with severe, life-altering injuries. They must endure months or years of medical treatment and are never again able to live their lives the way they could before the accident. Because commercial trucks are so massive, collisions involving semi-trucks, flatbed trucks, and other large trucks often lead to these types of catastrophic injuries.

Truck Accident Injuries Can Leave a Person Permanently Disabled

Nearly 5,000 people died in large truck accidents in the U.S. in 2017. Because the risk of death is so great, many people who wake up in the hospital after being involved in a horrific truck accident are simply grateful to be alive. However, many of these victims soon realize that the road to recovery will be long and painful. Some victims must learn to cope after losing a hand, foot, arm, or leg in an amputation. Others are left with spinal injuries that cause partial or full paralysis. They may need multiple surgeries, months of inpatient hospitalization, and expensive physical therapy. They may also need to learn how to use a wheelchair or other assistive devices and modify their home to accommodate the device.

The physical effects of a catastrophic truck accident can be devastating, but the emotional and mental consequences are often even worse. Traumatic brain injuries can cause cognitive impairment, loss of motor function, and even personality changes. Being involved in a life-threatening accident can also lead to severe anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

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Could Your Truck Accident Have Been Caused by Inadequate Truck Maintenance?In previous blogs, we have discussed the numerous problems within the trucking industry that lead to accidents. Many truck drivers are expected to work extremely long hours away from their families and tolerate erratic sleep schedules. Drivers may even turn to drugs and alcohol to help them cope with difficult working conditions. Truck accidents can be caused by driver inattention, alcohol and drug use, traffic violations, and more. However, it is important to note that a truck driver is not always the at-fault party in a trucking accident. A number of catastrophic truck accidents are the result of the truck being improperly maintained. Truck companies who do not keep up with truck maintenance may be liable for accidents caused by a malfunctioning truck.

Maintenance Failures Put Lives at Risk

Auto accidents involving commercial trucks such as tractor-trailers and semi-trucks often cause significantly more damage than auto accidents involving only cars. Truck accidents can cause devastating injuries that result in permanent disability or death. For these reasons, it is essential for truck companies to ensure that their vehicles are regularly inspected and properly maintained. Some of the most common maintenance failures that lead to truck accidents include:

  1. Brake Problems: A fully loaded 18-wheeler can weigh up to 80,000 lbs. Even in good weather, a loaded truck can take 200 yards to come to a complete stop. Large trucks typically rely on airbrakes to stop the massive vehicles. When there are issues with brake shoes, air valves, or another part of the braking system, the truck may take even longer to stop. According to the Large Truck Crash Causation Study conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), problems with the truck’s braking system were a factor in just under 30 percent of truck crashes.
  2. Steering System Failure: Large trucks may have hydraulic steering systems or electric steering systems. When the power steering fails on a truck, the driver will have an extremely difficult time maneuvering the vehicle. This means that the driver will have a much harder time reacting to dangerous situations and avoiding a collision.
  3. Tire Blowouts: Truck tires must be regularly inspected for signs of wear and should be rotated and/or replaced when necessary. Tires that are overinflated, underinflated, or worn down can be a major hazard. Tire blowouts can cause a truck driver to lose control of the vehicle and collide into traffic. In some cases, a truck accident is caused by a defective tire. This means that the company that manufactured or designed the tire may be the at-fault party.
  4. Broken Suspension: The collection of parts that cushion the driver and truck cargo from bumps is called the suspension system. The suspension includes shocks, springs, wheels, linkages and joints, and the steering system. Damaged suspension components can lead to catastrophic truck crashes.

Contact an Illinois Truck Accident Lawyer

A truck accident can be caused by almost countless factors. For help determining fault for your truck accident and pursuing compensation for your damages, contact Schwartz Injury Law. Call us at 815-723-7300 today and schedule a free consultation with a knowledgeable Joliet personal injury attorney from our firm.

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Can I Collect Compensation Even If I Was Partially Responsible for a Truck Accident?Imagine the following scenario: A man is driving down the freeway traveling about 10 miles per hour over the speed limit. Suddenly, a large metal container falls off of a flatbed truck and onto the road in front of him. He slams on the brakes but still ends up colliding with the container. His car is totaled and he suffers a head injury and two broken bones in the truck accident. He wants to recover compensation for his damages but assumes that he cannot bring a successful injury claim because he was speeding at the time of the accident. However, according to Illinois’ modified comparative negligence law, he may still be entitled to compensation.

Modified Comparative Negligence in an Auto Accident Case

Rarely are injury lawsuits black and white, and determining who is at fault for a truck accident is almost never straightforward. It is possible that several different factors led to your accident, including your own actions. In the previous example, it could be argued that the driver’s speeding exacerbated the damages caused in the accident. Perhaps if the driver was driving the speed limit, his injuries and the damage to his car would not have been as severe.

Fortunately, in Illinois, you are still permitted to bring an injury claim against a negligent party as long as you are not more than 50 percent responsible for the accident. If your contributory fault, meaning your portion of the blame, is found to be 50 percent or less of the proximate cause of your injuries, you may still recover compensation. However, the amount of compensation you recover will be reduced in proportion to your portion of fault. 

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