New Jersey Truck Accident Lawyers
Our New Jersey truck accident lawyers at Ellis Law understand the trauma of suffering an injury in an accident. While New Jersey is geographically smaller than most states, it is the most densely populated state in the country, a thoroughfare for interstate commerce, and a major manufacturing hub. New Jersey roads and highways are frequently trafficked by large commercial trucks, which are the leading cause of serious traffic injuries and fatalities.
While commercial trucks like tractor-trailers, 18-wheelers, and big rigs are an essential part of our country’s economy, they also have the potential to be deadly to others sharing the road. Trucks are larger and heavier than passenger vehicles, take longer to brake, have bigger blind spots, and require a higher level of concentration to operate. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the majority of deadly crashes involve at least one commercial truck and put occupants of other vehicles the most at risk for fatal injuries.
If you or someone you love has been seriously injured in a truck crash, our New Jersey truck accident lawyers have the resources and knowledge of federal trucking regulations to pursue maximum compensation against large corporations and insurance companies.
What Should I Do If I Am Involved in a Truck Accident?
If you are involved in a truck accident, the first thing you should do is seek immediate medical treatment. It is also important to get documentation of any medical treatment received, as well as copies of any police reports, eyewitness statements, and the contact information of all parties involved in the crash.
The next thing to do is contact an experienced truck accident lawyer. The claims process and legal procedure involved after a truck accident is complex and requires the specific knowledge of a truck accident lawyer. Trucking industry laws and regulations, along with many contributors to truck accidents, make these kinds of cases more legally complex than ordinary car accident claims.
An experienced truck accident lawyer understands the specific evidence necessary to prove negligence and liability. Many commercial vehicles are equipped with digital tracking systems that show detailed data about the truck’s speed, acceleration, velocity, steering input, and location at any given time. Your truck accident lawyer will uncover that information, as well as the number of hours the trucker logged prior to the crash. This provides invaluable information to help further your case in pursuit of maximum compensation.
What Are Common Causes of Truck Accidents in New Jersey?
Some truck crashes occur for reasons out of a driver’s control, such as poor road conditions or inclement weather. The majority of truck accidents, however, are avoidable and the result of negligent truck drivers and third parties. Large vehicles like tractor trailers and delivery trucks can cause major damage to passenger cars due to their size and weight. Truck accidents are also caused defective vehicles and the failure of trucking companies to properly train qualified drivers.
The following are some of the most common causes of truck accidents:
- Speeding: Speeding is a top cause of all fatal traffic crashes, including those involving large commercial trucks. These accidents often involve a reckless truck driver with at least one prior speeding conviction. When commercial truck drivers speed, they are much more likely to lose control of their vehicles and the ability to brake in time to avoid a serious crash.
- Changing lanes: Dangerous crashes can result when a commercial truck crosses over lanes or off the road entirely. This often happens when truck drivers are fatigued, distracted, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. When a tall and heavy truck drifts across lanes in traffic, it creates major hazards for drivers of smaller vehicles.
- Loading mistakes: When freight is loaded improperly and falls off a large commercial truck, it puts other drivers and pedestrians at serious risk for an accident with injuries. Big rigs and tractor trailers that are overloaded can become unstable and cause a number of types of serious truck accidents.
- Inadequate truck maintenance: Parties responsible for maintaining large commercial trucks are required to do so on a routine basis. Problems with tires, brakes, engines, transmissions, and steering wheels are all common contributors to some of the worst truck crashes. Faulty parts and defective truck components can also cause accidents with life-threatening injuries.
- Driver performance: Data consistently shows that truck drivers who get behind the wheel while drowsy, impaired, or distracted cause thousands of traffic accidents every year. While the FMCSA has restrictions on the number of hours commercial truckers are permitted to drive, violations of these regulations are a continuous problem in New Jersey.
How Many Truck Accidents Occur in New Jersey Each Year?
Data reported by the Institute for Safer Trucking (IST) and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) reflects an alarming trend of fatal truck crashes in New Jersey and nationwide. According to the NHTSA, there are over 50 fatal truck accidents each year in New Jersey, with that number increasing each year. The majority of these crashes involve at least two vehicles.
Approximately 57 percent of truck accidents occur in rural areas and 25 percent happen on highways. The remaining 13 percent of these accidents are divided between the two categories. Most truck accidents occur between 6:00 pm and 6:00 am during the work week. About 25 percent of fatal crashes involve least one large commercial truck in a work zone.
What Are the Most Common Truck Accident Injuries in New Jersey?
Those involved in a truck crash are vulnerable to a variety of injuries ranging from relatively minor to permanently disabling. The most common types of injuries victims experience as the result of a negligent truck accident include:
- Back and neck injuries
- Burn injuries
- Cuts and lacerations
- Disfigurement or scarring
- Fractures and broken bones
- Head trauma
- Loss of a fetus
- Musculoskeletal damage
- Spinal cord damage and paralysis
- Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)
Anyone who suffers an injury in a truck crash should seek assistance from an experienced attorney. A knowledgeable truck accident lawyer can help pursue compensation for medical bills, property damage, pain and suffering, lost income, and emotional trauma. When a truck crash causes an innocent person to lose their life, a dedicated truck accident lawyer can help the victim’s family members recover just compensation for their financial and emotional losses.
The Truck Accident Claims Process in New Jersey
Truck accident claims are unique from most other kinds of motor vehicle accidents. Severe injuries that can be suffered in a truck crash can impact all aspects of a victim’s life, as well as the lives of their family. Financial compensation for all injuries and damage is an important part of the legal process. It is essential to have an attorney who is fully familiar with the rules and laws involved in truck accident cases handle your claim. Truck accident claims involve several steps.
- Investigating the accident: A truck accident investigation should include examining evidence and other sources of information such as skid marks, debris on the road, damaged guardrails, stop lights and road signs, traffic patterns, eyewitness testimony, photos and video footage, cell phone records, driver logs, and trucking company records.
- Determine who is at fault for the crash: While truck driver negligence is a common factor, there are other entities that can also be held liable for injuries resulting from a truck crash. Truck accident claims may be filed against truck manufacturers, distributors, repair shops, trucking companies, and shipping companies.
- Calculate compensation and damages: Potential compensation may include medical expenses, costs of ongoing care, lost wages, diminished earning capacity, out-of-pocket costs, and pain and suffering.
- File truck accident claims: After determining options for pursuing compensation, a truck accident lawyer will start the claims process in pursuit of a fair resolution. This often involves initiating settlement negotiations with insurers, filing a lawsuit, or a combination of both. An experienced truck accident lawyer will be sure to file all valid claims against all liable parties in order to recover maximum compensation.
- Negotiate a settlement: Many truck accident claims are successfully resolved through negotiations. It is essential for accident victims to work with an experienced attorney who can advocate on their behalf. This is especially important in complex cases where multiple parties share liability for the truck crash.
- Litigate in court: In cases where a truck accident survivor is not offered a fair settlement, a skilled attorney can file a lawsuit and present the case in court. It is important to work with an experienced trial lawyer who knows how to prepare a case and represent their client’s best interests in the courtroom.
Trucking Regulations and Liability
The United States trucking industry is regulated by federal and state laws that set standards that must be followed by all trucking companies and drivers. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the FMCSA are the two primary federal agencies that regulate this area. New Jersey has its own department of transportation to regulate intra-state commercial trucking. Trucking laws and regulations often help determine liability in commercial truck accidents.
When an accident involves a commercial truck driver failing to follow work regulations, the driver and trucking company can be held responsible for injuries and damages suffered by other motorists. Truck drivers and companies are required to follow several laws, including:
- Commercial driver licenses: Drivers of 18-wheelers and other commercial vehicles must follow the state statutes and case law on commercial driver licensing. When a trucker who causes a crash does not have proper licensing, it can greatly influence future claims against the driver and their employer.
- Rest for truck drivers: The number of hours the operator of the commercial truck is permitted to drive without taking time to rest is strictly regulated and referred to as the “hours of service.” Many truck accidents occur when exhausted truck drivers get behind the wheel.
- Weight limits: The maximum weight a truck can haul is based the size of the truck. Overloading a truck is extremely dangerous and can cause a wide range of accidents.
- Quality control: Commercial vehicles are regulated in both manufacturing and repairs to ensure quality control. When a defect in a commercial truck or any component of the vehicle causes an accident, injured victims can pursue claims against the manufacturer, supplier, or mechanic.
- Hazardous Waste: The Office of Hazardous Materials Safety (OHMS) establishes safety regulations for transporting hazardous materials. When truck drivers or trucking companies fail to follow those guidelines and injuries occur as a result, a truck accident lawyer can help pursue claims against the truck driver, their employer, and the company that ships the dangerous materials.
Who Can Be Held Liable After a Truck Accident?
Accidents caused by tractor trailers result in many injuries each year. Truck drivers and the companies they work for are responsible for operating their vehicles with the utmost care and safety and may be held liable for any accidents caused. The following are potential parties that can be held liable for a truck accident:
It is reported that 87 percent of truck accidents can be attributed to driver error or negligence. Truck drivers are trained to operate their vehicles safely and submit to roadside checks when required. Truck drivers are also responsible for maintaining a log of their driving hours to ensure they obtain enough rest to not fall asleep at the wheel. New regulations are now being implemented requiring electronic log devices (ELDs). Drivers are responsible for properly using and maintaining apps and other systems to ensure the ELDs are capturing the required data. Drivers must also be aware of the condition of their vehicles and stop if any equipment is malfunctioning.
An accident involving a large commercial truck is not always the fault of the driver. In many cases, the trucking company may be held responsible for any injuries sustained. The trucking company is responsible for properly maintaining vehicles, obtaining necessary inspections, and ensuring that drivers are properly trained. A trucking company is a business and is therefore under pressure to produce a profit. Sometimes trucking companies compromise safety by cutting corners. Various examples of this type of negligence include the following:
- Negligent hiring: Trucking companies must ensure all employees have clean driving records, proper licensing, no history of substance abuse or criminal activity, and are able to perform all job requirements safely.
- Violating hours of service rules: Because of increased accidents due to drowsy driving, strict legal guidelines were enacted to limit truckers from working too many hours. At the same time, the trucking company might simply put pressure on its drivers to move as quickly as possible, violating these guidelines.
- Failure to properly maintain vehicles: Just like all vehicles, trucks need to be properly maintained for peak performance and to protect against mechanical failures. Trucking companies might compromise on maintenance to save money, and their vehicles could fail at any time. Trucking companies might also pay for substandard parts that are not suitable for vehicles that drive long distances every day of the year. Commercial trucks sustain great amounts of wear and tear, and failure to provide proper maintenance may result in brake failure, burned out headlights or taillights, or tire blowouts. The trucking company should regularly inspect its vehicles to ensure that wear and tear does not cause accidents.
- Failure to train employees properly: The employer must make sure each driver can operate an 18-wheeled vehicle. An under-trained driver may be unprepared to operate commercial trucks, which are difficult to maneuver, have considerable blind spots, and can be difficult to stop. This is especially true when drivers who just received their commercial licenses are put into service without any assistance.
Other Liable Parties
There may also be other parties involved that bear responsibility for the safe operation of a truck. Depending on the circumstances of the accident, the following parties may be held liable for damages resulting from a truck accident:
- Leasing companies: If the truck is owned or maintained by a fleet leasing company, that firm may be held liable for the condition of the vehicle. These companies can be guilty of the same things for which an owner-operator could be guilty.
- Vehicle manufacturers: Manufacturers may be held liable for defective tires, brakes, or headlights that contributed to the cause of the accident. Any vehicle that is not recalled could cause an accident, and the company can be held liable for covering up any defects of which it was aware.
- Loading crews: A loading crew employed by someone other than the trucking company may load cargo into a truck when it pulls up at a loading dock. If they load the truck improperly and this contributes to an accident, the loading crew may be held liable. These companies have a responsibility to the public that they must uphold every time a vehicle is loaded or unloaded.
Additional information, such as the speed of the truck, the precise accident location, and other circumstances, may be captured by video cameras or black boxes installed in the truck. The multiple layers of potential liability in a truck accident.
How Long Does It Take to Resolve a New Jersey Truck Accident Claim?
In general, it takes up to 6 months from the time an attorney is hired until a truck accident claim is settled. Cases that are litigated in court typically take a year or more.
A dedicated truck accident lawyer can help ensure a smoother and more efficient legal process. Individuals and families who have experienced harm as the result of someone else’s negligence need an experienced attorney who will fight to recover maximum compensation. A knowledgeable lawyer will help prove negligence, gather supporting evidence, and work with expert witnesses to ensure the best possible settlement or jury verdict.
New Jersey Truck Accident Lawyers at Ellis Law Obtain Maximum Recovery for Truck Accident Victims
If you or someone you love has been injured in a truck accident, reach out to the New Jersey truck accident lawyers at Ellis Law to make sure your rights and best interests are protected. We are committed to protecting your rights and will hold the negligent parties accountable for your injuries. Call us today at 732-308-0200 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Freehold, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout East Brunswick, Toms River, Middletown, Jersey City, Neptune, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, and Ocean County, as well as Brooklyn and New York, New York.