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Why Is Truck Accident Reconstruction Useful in a Personal Injury Claim?

Posted on: February 25, 2022

Truck accidents involving large commercial vehicles can be much more devastating and have many more variables than smaller car accidents. The property damage and injuries can be catastrophic, there could be high repair and medical expenses, fatalities may be involved, the truck driver might be employed by a trucking company; the list goes on and on.

When serious personal injuries are incurred, a claimant’s case can be strengthened with a truck accident reconstruction. The objective analysis provided can help determine the reason why the accident happened and increase the likelihood of a survivor holding a trucking company and the truck driver responsible.

Categories of Serious Commercial Truck Accidents

The most obvious difference between passenger vehicle and commercial motor vehicle (CMV) accidents is the size of vehicles involved. An average CMV weighs around 80,000 pounds, which is about 25 times more than a typical automobile. Therefore, when both are traveling at the same speed, the CMV has 25 times more kinetic energy.

The common kinds of CMV accidents are frightening to even think about, and if you are lucky enough to never have witnessed or been involved in one, you have likely seen some versions of them on television and in movies. A common one is the jackknife, when the tractor in the back folds backwards and inwards, just like a pocketknife. When a truck’s axles lock up and lose traction, the tractor can skid; the trailer can then push the tractor, causing it to spin, move forward, and even pass the tractor. This can be caused by icy roads, defective brakes, and human error.

Similar to jackknifing, trailer swing is when the trailer’s rear wheels lose traction or lock, causing the trailer to swing out on one side as the tractor keeps moving forward. This is also seen on icy roads, and when road conditions are uneven.

Fishtailing is seen when rear tractor wheels lose their traction on low-friction surfaces such as rain, ice, snow, gravel, and sand, and leads to oversteer. The trailer’s rear end skids to one side, and the driver has to counter-steer to correct it. This reduces engine power and can result in a dangerous skid; fishtailing CMVs sometimes spin completely out of control.

Hydroplaning can occur when vehicle tires ride on layers of water and lose traction; although tire grooves are designed to disperse water out from under tires, too much water prevents them from working in this way. The tires can skate on water with little or no direct road contact, causing drivers to lose control.

How Does a Truck Accident Reconstruction Work?

With truck accident reconstructions, you would usually be working with a truck accident lawyer who might reach out to an accident reconstruction expert. This investigator would look at all the factors that may have contributed to the accident. They might start by analyzing the police report, which would include the date, time, and location of the collision. The report should include the makes and models of the vehicles and might also have statements from the drivers, passengers, and any witnesses who may have been at the scene.

If photos of the scene were taken, this information will also be examined. Truck accident reconstruction also involves returning to the scene and looking over the evidence. One thing investigators look for is skid marks. These are used to determine speeds, but with large trucks, investigators will also want to know which truck axle made the skid marks, if the load’s weight was distributed the right way, and if the brakes were used before the collision. Most importantly, skid marks can show how fast the truck driver was going when the accident occurred.

A truck accident reconstruction expert will also check to see if the truck’s brakes were properly balanced, because without the right amount of air pressure, they could lock up. This is a regular maintenance task that should be completed by the trucking company or truck owner. Investigators also examine mechanical lag to determine the amount of time that elapsed between applying the brakes and the wheels locking up. Establishing the truck’s weight at the time of the accident is also important. That is because when trucks are overweight, it can increase the chances of getting into accidents.

Other Factors that Can Determine Negligence

These experts also take the weather conditions, state of the road, and directions that the vehicles were going in at the time of the accident. They will also want to examine the CMV and look at things such as tire tread wear and other possible safety violations. By studying this information and other factors such as position histories of the vehicles; human factors; principal directions of force; and when the vehicles sped up, slowed down, and stopped, truck accident reconstruction experts can determine who or what was at fault for causing the accident.

Another area of investigation will be the truck’s blind spots.  Investigators will try to learn what the CMV driver’s view was at the time of the accident; they often create mappings of the driver’s visibility. This might involve having the expert sit in the truck’s cab and having an assistant walk around it. Another avenue to explore is how recently the truck was inspected. Many truckers and trucking companies neglect to perform their required inspections and neglect to maintain their vehicles. It is also a good idea to get information pertaining to cargo loading and configuration.

Sleep deprivation and fatigue also cause CMV accidents, so a truck accident reconstruction expert can investigate driving logs, vehicle GPS histories, cell phone records, fleet dispatcher records, and electronic logging devices to see if there is any evidence pointing to negligence. The driver’s pre-accident behavior and motions of the vehicle can corroborate these findings.

How Is This Information Used to Prove Negligence?

The investigators might also perform experiments that use different vehicle speeds and angles, and eventually match up the simulation with the recovered physical evidence. It is essential to gather the evidence in a timely manner, and some of these investigations require additional personnel because of state and federal regulations that apply to CMVs. This might include a vehicle inspector, a heavy truck mechanical expert, a cargo loading expert, a driver fatigue expert, and others.

All of this data gets entered into special programs that are designed to simulate motor vehicle accidents. The truck accident reconstruction expert may also present scaled drawings and produce an animated presentation that shows their opinion about how the accident occurred. Many times, these are shown to judges and juries; the presentations can be very persuasive and may show clear liability without much room for question.

If a truck driver works for a trucking company and was acting within the scope of their regular employment when an accident occurs, they are usually not held financially liable for the damages. Even when they are clearly at fault, liability usually lies in the hands of their employers. Some of the reasons why these companies are held responsible include hours of service violations, poor hiring practices, and subpar truck maintenance.

Exceptions include cases when drivers purposefully cause accidents, are driving under the influence, are speeding excessively, and when drivers are independent contractors who carry their own insurance. However, every situation is different, so consulting with a knowledgeable truck accident lawyer can provide answers to these kinds of questions.

Freehold Truck Accident Lawyers at Ellis Law Help Determine Negligence in Motor Vehicle Collisions

It is important to use every available resource to help establish liability in a personal injury case, and the experienced Freehold truck accident lawyers at Ellis Law understand the importance of a team approach. Our experienced legal will help investigate the cause of the accident and fight to secure the compensation for which you are entitled. For a free, confidential consultation, call us at 732-308-0200 or complete our online form. We are located in Freehold, New Jersey, and help clients throughout East Brunswick, Toms River, Middletown, Jersey City, Neptune, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, Monmouth County, Marlboro, and Ocean County, as well as Brooklyn, New York, and New York City.