The United States Department of Transportation Traffic Safety Administration announced in October 2018 that 2017 highway fatality numbers decreased from 2016, but still claimed over 34,247 lives, and combination trucks involved in fatal crashes increased by 5.8 percent. Most accidents happen on busy roadways like I-40 near Knoxville Tennessee and much of the time the truck accident is caused by a passenger vehicle, while approximately 16% of the time the fault falls with the driver of the truck.
Common violations causing accidents in either situation reveal driver error to be the number one cause of accidents involving trucks through: speeding, tailgating, driving while intoxicated, driving while tired or recklessly driving; and other common reasons when accidents occur include driver illness, highway maintenance, bad weather conditions causing limited visibility, mechanical failure, and unsafe load or weight distribution that may lead to jack knife situations and rollovers.
The trucking industry is looking for ways to increase profits by cutting costs, and ignoring regulations in order to make tighter deadlines and lower overall operating budgets. Overtired drivers and poor mechanical maintenance may lower short term costs, but a tragic accident can cost lives and exhorbitant amounts of money through legal claims, causing businesses to fail in the wake of wrongful death and severe physical injury.
State and federal laws.
Tennessee Statute TCA § 55-7-203(b)(3) restricts commercial vehicles weight to no more than 80,000 pounds and they must be no wider than 8 feet and no taller than 13 ½ feet. The size and weight of a truck increase the possibility of death, and severe injury because trucks often weigh 20-30 times as much as passenger vehicles and are taller with greater ground clearance magnifying dangers involved in collisions. A typical tractor-trailer or other large truck can weigh as much as 80,000 compared to passenger vehicles weighing about 3,000 or 4,000 pounds.
A truck’s braking capability is often a factor in accidents because a loaded tractor-trailer needs about 20-40% more distance to stop than a passenger car, and the distance is increased when roadways are wet and slippery, or brakes have not been maintained. These factors can significantly increase damages to an injured party of a truck accident. Size discrepancy is more damaging to passenger vehicles no matter who is at fault.
TCA § 55-50-403 ensures employees have current CDL licenses, and valid medical cards stating drivers are medically fit to drive a tractor trailer. Trucking companies are required by law to perform background checks on their drivers, but sometimes these background checks are flawed or not done at all. A truck driver or company that violates state law may be liable for injuries they cause.
Tennessee follows federal guidelines for all commercial motor vehicles subject to regulations of the United States Department of Transportation, 49 C.F.R. part 387, regarding insurance in an amount equivalent to the minimum levels of financial responsibility set forth in the regulations.
Researching trucking company and driver’s is key to evidence collection.
Some trucking companies’ have unethical practices that force their drivers to falsify logbooks, drive with defective equipment, and drive long hours and that is where the importance of the federal and state regulating agencies come into play.
Actions after a truck accident in Knoxville.
If you are in an accident with a tractor trailer in Knoxville Tennessee, you should:
- Check on the condition of the people involved in the accident;
- Call the police or emergency responders if needed;
- Get a written accident report;
- Remain at the accident scene;
- Exchange driver and insurance information;
- Get witness contact information;
- Call your insurance company to set up a claim;
- Seek out medical treatment if necessary;
- Take pictures of the scene, and the vehicle damages;
- Get a Tennessee State Trooper report for Commercial Vehicle Trucks.
- It is important to obtain this information as quickly as possible before it is lost or destroyed by the trucking company.
Seek legal counsel.
An experienced legal professional in Knoxville Tennessee may assist with a claim for full and fair compensation through a settlement. This may require an expert accident reconstructionist and review of the trucking company’s documentation to determine how and why the accident occurred.