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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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Seeking Compensation for a Wrongful Death Caused by a Distracted Truck DriverBy now, most people have heard about the dangers of distracted driving. Unfortunately, despite dozens of public awareness campaigns and increased consequences for distracted drivers, cell phone use and other forms of distracted driving continue to be a major problem. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that accidents caused by distracted driving take the lives of nine people every day in the U.S. If you have lost a loved one in a car crash involving a distracted truck driver, you may be eligible for compensation.

Fatal Traffic Accidents Caused by Truck Driver Negligence

Motorists of all kinds should keep their eyes and attention on the road while driving, but for drivers of semi-trucks and tractor-trailers, careful attention to the road is even more crucial. A fully-loaded 18-wheeler can weigh up to 80,000 lbs and takes 40 percent longer to stop than a medium-sized car. Truck drivers taking their eyes off of the road for even just a few seconds can cause devastating accidents. In January of this year, two adults and a one-year-old child were killed on I-65 when a semi-truck collided with a line of slowing vehicles. The truck driver told police that at the time of the accident, he was looking down to put his coffee cup away. Another fatal truck accident that occurred last April involved a truck driver who was allegedly watching pornography on his cell phone at the time of the crash. The parents of an 18-year-old boy killed in the accident have filed a lawsuit against the company that owned the truck.

Wrongful Deaths Lawsuits

There is no amount of compensation that could ever fully make up for the tragic loss of a loved one. However, a wrongful death claim may help families receive financial compensation that lessens the financial burden caused by loss. A personal representative of the deceased person may bring a wrongful death claim against a party when that party’s negligence, recklessness, or intentional wrongdoing caused the person’s death. Compensation for the deceased person’s medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost income, and funeral and burial expenses may be available. In cases involving especially egregious conduct, the court may also award punitive damages, which is additional compensation intended to punish the wrongdoer.

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Falsified Log Books May Cause Truck Accidents by Sleepy DriversNo one would argue whether being a truck driver is a very tough job. Truck drivers are expected to drive for hours and hours each day and must meet strict delivery deadlines. This can often cause drivers to skip out on necessary sleep in order to meet these expectations. Sleep deprivation can significantly decrease a truck driver’s ability to safely maneuver through traffic. Many fatal truck accidents have been caused by truck drivers who fell asleep at the wheel or were too fatigued to react in time to prevent an accident. If you have been injured in a traffic accident caused by a fatigued truck driver, you may be eligible for compensation.

Laws Dictating Truck Drivers’ Sleep Schedules

In order to prevent accidents caused by sleepy truck drivers, a number of laws have been enacted that require drivers to take rest breaks. For example, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, truck drivers may drive for a maximum of 11 hours after being off duty for 10 consecutive hours. If they were off duty for only eight consecutive hours, then they are permitted to drive for a maximum of 10 hours. Truck drivers must keep a logbook that identifies the hours that they have been on the road and when they have stopped to rest. Unfortunately, some truck drivers falsify these records in order to get their driving assignments completed sooner. An experienced lawyer can analyze the truck driver’s logbook, receipts, delivery logs, and other information to find inconsistencies that show that the driver was lying.

Who Is At Fault for an Accident Caused by a Sleepy Truck Driver?

Determining fault in a truck accident is not always straightforward. Legal liability for a truck accident may fall to the truck driver himself or herself or the trucking company. If the accident was caused by a defective truck part or inadequate truck maintenance, the company responsible for maintaining the truck or the truck part manufacturer may be to blame. In many cases, there may be more than one problem that contributed to the accident. For example, the truck driver himself or herself may have been sleepy and did not react fast enough, but the accident was also worsened because the truck’s braking mechanism was flawed in some way.

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Drug and Alcohol Use Contribute to Many Serious Truck AccidentsThere is no doubt that the trucking industry is a vital part of our American way of life. Just under 70 percent of all goods in the U.S are delivered via semi-trucks. However, these trucks also present a grave danger when they are not operated properly. A fully-loaded semi-truck, tractor-trailer, or eighteen-wheeler can weigh up to a staggering 80,000 lbs. When a large truck is involved in a motor vehicle accident, the damage can be catastrophic. One contributor to major truck accidents is truck driver drug and alcohol use. If you or a loved one were involved in a major truck accident and the truck driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you may be eligible for compensation.

Study Shows Alcohol and Drug Use is High Among Truck Drivers

A study published in “Occupational and Environmental Medicine” analyzed the level of drug and alcohol use among truck drivers across the globe. Half of the truck drivers who participated in the study admitted to using alcohol while on the road, and 30 percent admitted to using amphetamines to stay awake on long hauls. The study also analyzed data gathered from drug and alcohol tests. The U.S. had the highest frequency of positive alcohol tests among all of the truck drivers tested. Approximately 12.5 percent of U.S. truck drivers who were tested for alcohol tested positive.

When Drug and Alcohol Use Causes an Accident

Drugs and alcohol have a significant impact on a truck driver’s ability to drive safely. Alcohol use decreases coordination, reaction time, and concentration – the very skills needed to maneuver through traffic. If you have been injured or a loved one was killed in an accident caused by an intoxicated driver, you may have a valid personal injury or wrongful death claim. Through a personal injury claim, you may be able to hold the negligent party accountable for the damage he or she has done. Furthermore, you may be able to receive compensation for both economic and noneconomic damages. You could be reimbursed for your medical bills, ongoing costs for physical therapy and rehabilitative medicine, lost wages due to time off of work, pain and suffering, and more.

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Safety Tips to Consider When Driving Near TrucksWhether an individual is on the expressway or a city street, it is very probable that he or she will encounter a semi-truck. Although a motorist should always drive in a state of readiness, precaution levels should be further increased when a truck is nearby. Due to their size and weight, a semi-truck accident can lead to catastrophic injuries and fatalities. It is important for a motorist to understand the limitations that a larger vehicle is subjected to. Before getting behind the wheel, a motorist should consider these helpful suggestions:

  1. Avoid Blind Spots: The height and length of a semi-truck can create blind spots for the trucker from every angle. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), if an opposing motorist cannot see the truck driver in the vehicle side mirror, it should be assumed that the truck driver cannot see the vehicle. When driving near a truck, an individual should try their best to remain visible and never linger in a blind spot when trying to pass a truck.    
  2. Allow for Extra Room: Visibility is not the only concern an opposing motorist should think about when driving next to a truck. Considering that it takes much longer for a larger vehicle to stop, spacing should be planned. Drivers should also acknowledge the time and space needed for a truck to switch lanes. Furthermore, individuals should avoid tailgating a semi-truck. In the event of a rear-end collision, a car could slide or get pushed underneath a truck. 
  3. Expect Wide Turns: Often displayed on the back of a semi-truck is a warning that says, “this vehicle makes wide turns”. Opposing vehicles should never try to squeeze or get between a turning truck and the curb. In addition, intersection lines should never be crossed since they help trucks and other large vehicles safely navigate a turn. In many situations, a truck will have to conduct a turn from the middle lane in order to properly fit.
  4. Be Understanding: Semi-trucks are becoming more prevalent in our cites and on our expressways. It is important for fellow motorists to be patient with the setbacks that these vehicles have. Trucks take longer to accelerate and typically use speed limiters to prevent reckless behaviors. If a driver is looking at a long commute, he or she should plan to leave early. Driving aggressive and honking at trucks can lead to accidents occurring.   

Contact a Cook County Personal Injury Attorney

A traffic accident involving a semi-truck can be mentally and physically draining. If you or a loved one has been injured due to a truck driver’s negligence, financial compensation may be owed. With over $2.5 billion in verdicts and settlements in the last five years, the dedicated Orland Park, IL, truck accident lawyers at Schwartz Injury Law can help you seek restitution. To schedule a free consultation, contact our office at 708-226-9000.

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Lane Merging Near Trucks Can Result in an AccidentIllinois is cracking down on the number of people driving in the left lane on highways. It is the law that the left lane should be used for passing only and not for idle driving. However, there are times when cars need to be in the left lane – such as a left exit ramp – and so do trucks.

The best way to avoid a truck accident while merging lanes on the highway is to make sure you are not in the truck driver’s blind spots. Most truck drivers have a sign on the back of their vehicle reading “If you can’t see my mirrors, I can’t see you.” Motorists should keep this in mind every time they drive near trucks to avoid going undetected while passing.

Truck drivers need to also be aware of where their left-sided exit ramp is on the highway and be prepared for smaller vehicles passing on the left before they move over. If the driver does not check their mirrors and turn on their indicator light before moving, they could be putting another driver’s life at risk.

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Joliet Truck Accident Injury Lawyer

The number of commercial truck accidents has climbed substantially over the past few years. Could drug use among commercial truck drivers have been a contributing factor? A recent survey of truck driver applicants by the Trucking Alliance suggests that the answer to that question is, “yes.” 

The Trucking Alliance survey compared the results of urine testing alone versus a combination of urine plus hair testing, and they found a dramatic difference. Urinalysis alone failed to identify nine out of 10 illegal drug users. A combination of urine testing and hair testing was substantially more accurate in weeding out illegal drug users.

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When you think of someone being injured in a semi-truck accident, you probably think of the truck colliding with a car or motorcycle. However, not all trucking accidents and injuries involve vehicle-to-vehicle collisions. Trucks can also seriously injure people as a result of improperly loaded cargo that spills onto a roadway.

Toxic Chemical Exposure from Truck Accident

In April 2019 in a northern suburb of Chicago, a farm tractor pulling two 1,000-gallon tanks of fertilizer leaked significant amounts of anhydrous ammonia into the air. The tanker leak created a suffocating cloud of ammonia gas that looked like fog. Anyone who drove through it instantly felt their lungs burning. Exposure to the toxic gas sent about 40 people to the hospital, seven of whom required treatment in the intensive care unit. Injuries included chemical burns to the lungs, which could leave permanent damage, as well as vision and speech impairments. 

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Orland Park commercial truck accident attorney insurance claimIf someone in your family has been seriously injured in a truck accident, you are part of a dangerous nationwide trend. In March 2019, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued its latest highway crash statistics for the year 2017. From 2016 to 2017, the number of large commercial trucks involved in fatal crashes in the U.S. rose from 4,251 to 4,657, an increase of 10%. Thousands more commercial truck crashes involved serious injuries. These statistics are concerning, because while the amount of semi-truck traffic on America’s roadways has been rising, the number of crashes is rising faster.   

Of course, FMCSA requires interstate commercial trucking companies to carry large amounts of liability insurance. For non-hazardous cargo trucks weighing 10,000 pounds or more, the minimum liability insurance is $750,000. Thus, anyone injured in a truck crash should be able to collect compensation for their injuries from the trucking company’s insurance policy. 

Why Do You Need an Attorney for a Truck Crash Insurance Claim? 

When someone you love is seriously injured or killed in a commercial truck accident, your family is both emotionally and financially vulnerable. When you have mounting medical bills and loss of income, why not accept the offer of a quick insurance settlement? Can you not trust the insurance company to pay you a fair amount of compensation for your injuries?

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Tinley Park truck accident lawyer excessive speedThe National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) points to rising speed limits as a critical factor in the increase in fatal truck accidents. Since 1995, states first increased highway speed limits from 55 to 65 mph, and then to 70 mph. Since January 1, 2014, over 80 percent of Illinois’ interstate highways have had a 70 mph speed limit. Speeds up to 80 mph are allowed on rural interstates in Idaho, Montana, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming, while states like Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and nine others have a 75 mph cut-off. 

When speeding, truck drivers have little room for error. A fully loaded semi traveling at 55 mph will take about 300 feet to stop, but at 65 mph, tractor-trailer trucks can take 525 feet to stop. Tailgating, driver fatigue, or even a minor distraction can lead to a collision with tragic consequences. 

Why High-Speed Truck Accidents Cause More Severe Injuries

The faster a car or truck is going, the greater the force of the crash. In addition, the energy of the crash increases exponentially relative to the speed. Imagine backing into a concrete post at 25 mph. It would not kill you, but your bumper would take a beating. Now imagine this crash at even higher speeds:

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Joliet truck accident lawyerThere is a growing concern in the US regarding the number of fatalities resulting from rear-end semi-truck crashes and the preventability of these collisions. The NHTSA recently released the latest large truck crash statistics. 4,761 people were killed in crashes involving large trucks in 2017, a 9 percent increase from 2016 and a 12 percent increase since 2008. 

Currently, commercial trucks in the U.S. are not required to be equipped with forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking systems. However, this technology is being studied intensively by federal safety agencies such as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The FMCSA’s primary mission is to issue and enforce regulations concerning commercial motor vehicles (CMVs). 

Two federal agencies are currently clashing over this issue. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is responsible for investigating transportation accidents and making recommendations for improving safety. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is in charge of setting motor vehicle and highway safety standards. 

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Joliet semi-truck accident lawyerNational statistics on large truck and bus crashes are alarming. In 2016, 180,000 people were injured and over 4,500 people were killed in crashes involving large trucks and buses. Compared to 2011, these figures increased by over 20 percent, while the number of large trucks and buses on our roadways increased by 14 percent over the same time period. Because of the weight of these vehicles (30,000 to 80,000 pounds) relative to the weight of an average person (175 pounds) or passenger vehicle (3,000 to 6,000 pounds), a truck accident often leads to a catastrophic personal injury or wrongful death.

Negligence in Large Truck Accidents in Will County

There are many ways in which a person can be killed or injured as a result of negligence on the part of a truck owner or operator. In one 2018 incident on I-80 near Joliet, a wheel hub became detached from the rear axle of a semi-trailer and went flying through the windshield of a passenger car. The car’s driver and her unborn son were both killed in the ensuing crash. The truck driver was cited for an “unsafe equipment” violation by the Illinois State Police. If the driver and/or his employer are found to have been negligent in maintaining the vehicle properly, one or both could be held liable for significant damages for the woman’s wrongful death

A particularly dramatic crash on I-80 near Joliet in 2017 involved three tractor-trailer trucks. One FedEx truck was broken down on the shoulder, and a second FedEx truck had also parked on the shoulder to offer assistance. A third semi-truck, driving out of control, veered out of its traffic lane and onto the shoulder, striking both FedEx trucks and causing all three trucks to burst into flames. Both FedEx drivers were killed. The Illinois State Police charged the driver of the third truck with improper lane usage and failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident. 

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Orland Park personal injury attorneyThe aftermath of any motor vehicle accident can be overwhelming. Injured victims must determine how badly they are hurt and then deal with the legal, property, and insurance considerations related to the crash. When the accident involves a commercial truck, however, things can become even more complicated. Not only are injuries much more likely but there are often many additional factors that come into play when a commercial truck is involved. It is important to understand how truck accidents are different from “regular” car accidents so that you are fully prepared in the event of such a crash.

More Severe Injuries

According to federal estimates, the average passenger car, including minivans, and SUVs, weighs just over 4,000 pounds. The average tractor-trailer combination that you see on California roadways measures up to 70 feet long or more and weighs up to 80,000 pounds. The numbers are even more staggering for specially-marked “oversized vehicles.” This means that a commercial truck cruising at highway speeds can weigh up to 20 times or more than the cars around it weigh.

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