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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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Truck Accidents Involving Drug Use Often Lead to LawsuitsFew would argue that being a long-range truck driver is a challenging job both mentally and physically. Spending hours and hours on the road can be lonely and tedious. Additionally, truck drivers often have very erratic sleep schedules. These issues can lead some truck drivers to use drugs or alcohol to cope. When a truck driver is impaired by drugs and causes a traffic accident, it is likely that the driver or the company that the driver works for will be held legally responsible for the damages caused. However, proving that a truck driver’s drug use led to an accident is often challenging. If you or a loved one were hurt in a truck accident and you suspect drug use played a role in the crash, contact an experienced personal injury attorney for help.

Drivers May Consume Stimulants to Stay Awake

Because fatigued truck drivers who are too sleepy to drive safely pose a major threat to other motorists and themselves, federal law regulates how many consecutive hours drivers can be on the road. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requires truck drivers to stop for rest periods after a certain amount of time driving. For example, if a driver has been off duty for 10 hours, he or she is limited to a maximum of 11 hours driving. If the time off duty was only eight hours, the driver is limited to 10 hours of driving. Unfortunately, these rules do not totally prevent truck drivers from becoming dangerously fatigued. Drivers may consume stimulants like cocaine or amphetamines in an attempt to stay awake and alert. Unfortunately, these drugs do more harm than good and can lead drivers to make critical driving errors.

Marijuana Use Among Truck Drivers

In one survey published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine, approximately 20 percent of truck drivers admitted to using marijuana behind the wheel. Although many states have legalized the use of marijuana for medical or recreational purposes, it is still explicitly against the law to drive under the influence of marijuana. Employers often use random drug testing as a means of deterring drivers from consuming marijuana or other mind-altering substances, but this is not always enough to prevent drug use behind the wheel. Marijuana can cause reduced reaction time, disorientation, sleepiness, and other physical and psychological effects that make safe driving nearly impossible.

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Can I Collect Compensation After a Truck Accident Caused by Defective Equipment?Truck accidents can cause catastrophic damage to both property and human life. In 2017, almost 5,000 trucks and buses were involved in fatal auto accidents in the U.S. Truck accident liability could fall to a number of different parties. Some truck accidents are caused by truck drivers themselves. The driver may have been driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, driving while extremely fatigued or have been violating traffic laws. However, truck accident liability does not always fall to the driver. The trucking company, the company responsible for truck maintenance, or another party may be responsible for a serious truck accident. In some cases, a truck accident is caused by faulty equipment or auto parts. If malfunctioning equipment was the root of the accident, the company that manufactured, designed, or distributed the equipment may be liable for damages caused by the accident.

Defective Truck Parts May Be Responsible for Your Accident

In 2014, General Motors issued massive recalls after it was revealed that faulty ignition switches could cause some vehicles’ engines to suddenly shut off without warning. More than 124 deaths and hundreds of injuries were linked to the defective ignition switches. General Motors was eventually forced to pay approximately $870 million in personal injury and wrongful death claims.

Defective auto parts like the faulty ignition switches are more common than many people think. Problems with the truck’s tires, braking system, hydraulics, steering mechanism, or another defect can cause the truck to dangerously malfunction. Defective securing equipment such as faulty tie-downs, chains, clamps, latches, D-rings, or other equipment used to secure cargo can also cause catastrophic truck accidents. Falling cargo can strike another vehicle or fall onto the road and create a deadly obstacle. Cargo that is not properly secured can shift inside of a trailer and cause the truck to become dangerously unbalanced or even tip over. Proving that a truck accident was the result of defective truck equipment is often challenging and will require help from an experienced truck accident lawyer.

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