Truck accidents are more complex than car crash cases.
Not only do truck crash injuries tend to be more severe, but the process of claiming compensation is complicated by additional factors and the involvement of commercial trucking companies.
New Jersey has thousands of these big rig crashes every year. Often, occupants of smaller vehicles become the unfortunate victims of serious injury or death.
If you or a loved one has suffered in a semi crash or other trucking accident in NJ, The Grossman Law Firm is ready to help. We are top-rated personal injury attorneys in New Jersey with personal compassion for those hurt in big rig accidents.
Why Truck Accidents are Complex
When truck accident victims and their families seek compensation for their damages, they often find the process extremely complicated — here are a few reasons why.
Determining Who is Liable in a Truck Accident
Multiple parties may be responsible in a single truck accident case, including:
- The truck driver — Lacking credentials to operate a large truck, distracted driving, driving too fast for conditions, driving while intoxicated, failing to obey rules of the road.
- The car driver — Following a truck too closely, speeding, distracted driving, unsafe lane change, failing to obey rules of the road.
- The trucking company — Failing to maintain their vehicles’ safety, hiring unqualified drivers, violating hours-of-service rules that are designed to prevent driver fatigue. Even without these violations, the company could still be held responsible for the conduct of an employee, under the legal principle of respondeat superior or vicarious liability.
- The cargo-loading contractor — Overloading the trailer, failing to properly secure the freight.
- The truck parts manufacturer/supplier — Distributing defective parts like tires and brakes.
- Public works agencies — A government entity may be held liable if they have failed to keep a road reasonably safe for vehicles.
Unlike car accidents where the fault is usually easy to determine, establishing fault in a truck crash requires thorough investigation and may require following multiple trails. It’s important to determine all liable parties in claiming maximum damages.
Investigating the Truck Accident
Investigating a truck wreck requires technical know-how on how a big rig crash could happen. The investigator has to be familiar with truck mechanisms, crash types, and the factors that could lead to such crashes.
They should also know what evidence to look for and where — from the truck’s ‘black box’ data to the driver’s work logs to the trucking company’s maintenance records.
Ideally, evidence collection starts right at the scene. Commercial trucking companies are usually quick to send their team to the accident site to gather evidence and obtain statements from everyone involved. This is why you need to call a specialized truck accident lawyer as soon as you can.
Your truck accident attorney should protect you from making damaging statements, and start preserving evidence right away.
Certain Trucking Laws Could Affect Your Case
Besides regular traffic rules, trucks are subject to industry-specific laws at the federal and state level. If a truck driver or trucking company is found to have violated these laws leading up to your accident, their violation may bolster your compensation claim.
These are examples of the federal rules that truck drivers and carrier companies have to comply with:
- A Class A commercial driving license (CDL) is required before a driver can operate a large truck.
- If a trucker has to transport hazardous materials, they need specialized endorsements on top of their license.
- Truck drivers must pass various drug screenings by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
- Truck drivers must abide by hours-of-service rules, which limit their shifts and provide rest breaks to prevent driving fatigue.
- A trucking company must regularly maintain its vehicles and pass federal inspections. There is an emphasis on trucks’ safety equipment such as brakes, signal and warning lights, underride bars, a mirror system, and vision assistance, cargo securement, and visibility stickers.
- Cargo must be loaded and secured according to specific federal guidelines.
You’ll want your lawyer to be experienced in trucking laws, including ones at the state level. Look for an attorney who has demonstrated their effective handling of truck accident cases like yours.
New Jersey’s Contributory Negligence Rule
Contributory negligence, sometimes called comparative negligence, is a legal concept where the fault in an accident is divided among negligent parties.
An injured driver may have a percentage of fault if it is found that they were negligent and contributed to the crash. In this case, their compensation may be reduced according to their share of fault. For example, if you were found to be 10 percent at fault, your award will be reduced by 10 percent.
Under New Jersey’s contributory negligence rule, a claimant’s negligence cannot be greater than the defendants’. In other words, if you are claiming damages, your share of the fault must not be more than 50 percent. If you were found to be more than 50 percent at fault in the accident, you may lose your right to receive compensation.
The comparative fault rule can be used by trucking companies to minimize their liability or avoid responsibility entirely. They are typically represented by experienced insurance adjusters and well-resourced legal teams who may assert that their share of fault is minimal, or that you were more at fault than they were.
About Truck Accidents in New Jersey
The most recent truck accident statistics reveal a high number of truck accidents in NJ. According to a report from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), New Jersey had a total of 3,923 large-truck crashes in 2020 alone. Of these, 51 were fatal, resulting in the deaths of 52 people.
Meanwhile, 1,599 of the crashes resulted in injuries to 2,234 people.
Unfortunately, it’s hardly surprising that NJ has thousands of truck wrecks each year. Being the most densely populated state in the nation, NJ has an unparalleled volume of tractor-trailer trucks transporting goods intra-state and interstate. These massive vehicles share limited space with cars on aging infrastructure in need of updating and constant repair. The results can be disastrous on New Jersey’s congested roads, tunnels, bridges, and highways.
A section of the New Jersey Turnpike has been termed “the most dangerous two miles in America” by New Jersey Homeland Security officials due in part to the high volume of traffic.
On top of these, unsafe trucks and reckless drivers are still able to ply our highways, sharing the road with unsuspecting motorists. Every year, the FMCSA finds truckers to penalize and carrier fleets to shut down due to their violations of commercial trucking safety laws. Still, many negligent trucking firms slip through the cracks, taking safety shortcuts that lead to trucking disasters.
Common Causes of Truck Accidents
- Unqualified driver — Because large vehicles are more difficult to maneuver, truck drivers are required to have specific training and a certain amount of experience. Untrained or inexperienced drivers are frequently at the center of truck wrecks.
- Driving too fast — 18-wheelers and other large trucks require more time and space to stop. A trucker must gauge a safe driving speed, taking into account not just the posted speed limit but also the surrounding traffic and the condition of the road.
- Driver error — Common examples are incorrectly applying brakes, making an unsafe lane change, making an unsafe turn, failure to yield, and overcorrecting.
- Distracted driving — A truck driver’s reaction time is crucial to avoid a potential collision. When a large truck is involved, even a split-second of driver inattention could escalate into a wreck.
- Driver fatigue — Covering 600+ miles a day can fatigue any driver. Hours-of-service rules and mandatory rest breaks are designed to prevent drowsy drivers at the wheel, but truckers may feel pressured to push themselves due to strict schedules.
- Mechanical failure — Malfunctioning brakes, blown tires, and non-working warning lights are some common yet highly dangerous conditions for trucks. These are often related to the lack of vehicle inspection, maintenance, and repair.
- Overloading/Improperly loaded cargo — When a truck is overloaded, or if its cargo load is not properly secured, it has an increased risk of losing balance and rolling over.
- Dangerous road conditions — Inclement weather, low visibility, and slick pavements are some environmental factors that increase the risk of collisions. There are also physical highway features that become hazards, such as poorly designed curves, unfixed potholes, and scattered debris that could cause a truck to lose traction.
Unique Types of Semi-Truck Accidents
Most motorists are aware of rear-end collisions, head-on crashes, T-bone collisions, and sideswipes. When it comes to tractor-trailers or semi-trucks, other types of crashes can present additional dangers to anyone involved:
- Jack-knifing — This is a motion where the trailer of the truck swings to the side and towards the tractor, similar to a jackknife folding into itself. It happens when a truck brakes suddenly, causing the tractor to abruptly stop while the momentum of the trailer continues. When a truck jackknifes, it can slide down the highway and crash into other vehicles, or create a huge obstruction on the road, leading other vehicles to crash into it.
- Truck rollover — The large size of a truck gives it a high center of gravity, meaning its weight is distributed higher above the ground. This makes it more prone to tipping and rolling over. The risk is also increased by overloading or improperly secured cargo, which could shift the truck’s weight and destabilize its balance. Truck rollovers have been known to entrap occupants and result in severe injuries.
- Underride accident — When a car collides with a much larger truck, the car could skid underneath the truck itself. This could potentially put the truck’s weight on the car, crushing the smaller vehicle underneath. It could even shear off the top parts of the car. Catastrophic injuries are very likely for car occupants in this type of collision.
Why Hire a Truck Accident Lawyer?
Given the challenges you’ll likely encounter in your truck accident claim, it is more than worth it to hire an attorney who specifically handles truck crash cases.
At The Grossman Law Firm, our injury and wrongful death lawyers are particularly experienced in New Jersey semi-truck wrecks.
Our legal services include:
- Thoroughly investigating your accident, accessing evidence such as accident reports, the truck’s event data recorder (‘black box’), camera footage, driver’s work logs, driver’s background records, the trucking company’s safety records, and more.
- Recreating the accident scene with the help of experts, to establish the trigger and factors of the crash
- Determining all liability factors in a truck crash
- Determining liable parties and legal remedies to claim maximum compensation
- Establishing the full extent of your damages, which may include present injuries, lost income, future expenses, and non-economic damages
- Negotiating on your behalf opposite powerful trucking companies and insurance carriers, with in-depth familiarity with insurance tactics and strategies.
Don’t delay contacting a lawyer. The Statute of Limitations in New Jersey gives you only two years from the date of your injury to file a lawsuit.
Even if you are not considering suing right now, unexpected delays and deadlocks in your insurance claim could put you in a tight spot later on.
At the very least, consult with an attorney right away to know your legal options, what to expect, and how to protect your rights from unfair defense tactics.
Hire a New Jersey Truck Accident Lawyer
With decades of experience in personal injury law, the Grossman Law Firm has successfully represented many clients in both central and northern New Jersey who have suffered because of the negligence of others.
As our client, you will receive professional, compassionate, and aggressive representation, backed by the support of our legal team who know how to take on the state’s most powerful insurance carriers. We pride ourselves on our responsiveness to our clients and make sure that every client is treated as an individual and never treated as just another file.
You won’t have to pay us any lawyer fees unless and until we obtain your rightful compensation on your behalf. Your consultation is also free. Contact us at (732) 625-9494 today.