Understanding Complex Truck Accidents in North Carolina
In a collision between an 18-wheeler and automobile, the truck always wins.
It doesn’t take a weatherman to know its raining. The same is true of large truck accidents. More than one in 10 of all road fatalities results from a vehicle colliding with a truck that weighs more than 10,000 pounds. Nationally this converts into more than 4,000 deaths per year, with nearly 100,000 victims injured. Between 150 and 200 of those truck accident fatalities take place on the highways and byways of North Carolina.
If you or your loved ones is ever involved in a collision with a tractor trailer or commercial truck, you should not take your legal advice from the insurance adjusters who are being paid to defend the truck driver. Their only goal is to defeat your claims entirely, or minimize their injury claim payments if they are compelled to pay. Truck accident victims should call an experienced truck accident attorney before doing anything else. Legal consultations with personal injury lawyers are available immediately and free of charge. Here at the Nagle & Associates, we have worked on truck accident cases for decades, and we stand ready to provide immediate answers and your best plan of legal action.
Causes of Big Truck Accidents:
We’ve all felt the road rumbling beneath our tires as an 18-wheeler passes us on our left, the massive displacement of air blowing our car off the road and onto the narrow shoulder. Or we’ve felt that spurt of fear when a massive truck fills our rear-view mirror, approaching way too fast or jumping over from the slow lane, and then tailgating us in an anxious rush to reach its destination. I-95, I-40, I-85, I-77, I-26 – all of these North Carolina freeways are jammed with truckers all day long, many just travelling through the state, and others to their final in-state delivery destinations.
Then the unthinkable… A trucker on a Friday night careens out of control because his senses are impaired by lack of sleep, long hours, use of alcohol or drugs, or because he is distracted of simply not paying proper attention. Commercial truck drivers are just people, of course, and even though rare few drive while intoxicated, the same cannot be said for the distractions of the modern age: texting, messaging, googling, fiddling with the GPS, or talking on a mobile. Even the best truck drivers sometimes succumb to these digital interference’s.
Of course, the driver himself or herself is not always the sole one to blame where a large truck goes sideways. Like all equipment, trucks have parts and mechanisms and systems and these can malfunction due to bad design, poor service, or age. Brake failure, bad tires, engine problems, faulty brake lights – these can and do happen, maybe more often than we’d like to think. And then there’s the plain old driver carelessness that endangers others on the road, whether it’s an overloaded cargo hold or speeding or simply driving recklessly in poor weather. We’ve all seen the big rig jack-knifed on the highway, traffic backed up for miles, emergency lights twirling near a crushed automobile.
The aftermath of a big rig accident is daunting. Truck, cars, debris – these might be everywhere. Yet, as with any accident, the rule of “safety first” dictates that you remove yourself and your passengers from harm’s way before doing anything else. Once that is accomplished, when and where you can, turn to the practical tasks of protecting your legal rights and interests, among them:
- Taking photographs (and videos if able) of the accident scene, the truck and vehicles involved, the road conditions, and any other aspect that will enable experts to reconstruct the accident scene later.
- Obtaining the essential details of the other driver, including driver’s license, license plate number, make and model of truck, and insurance specifics. Police typically handle securing this information, so make sure they are on the scene and confirm that this information is collected by the investigating officer.
- Cooperating with and obtaining contact information from all emergency and law enforcement responders: EMS, firemen, police, tow truck drivers and anyone else on the scene in an official capacity.
- Securing names and contact details from all witnesses who may help establish the truck driver’s fault and your lack of contributory negligence.
Commercial Truck Laws:
Given the inherent dangers of allowing large, commercial trucks on the road with the rest of us, a large body of federal, state and local laws govern truck safety. One of the key benefits of hiring an experienced North Carolina truck accident lawyer is having an experienced attorney apply the facts to determine each and every violation of state and federal laws that led to the subject collision. All state traffic statutes and all federal statutes and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations must be carefully considered in every case. Most importantly, at the federal level, the agency tasked with commercial truck oversight is called the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). It administers laws relating to driver training, hours at the wheel, impairment from drugs or alcohol, truck and tractor maintenance, and weight limits for both truck and load. Always look at these regulations carefully as we typically find multiple violations of safety laws. With an aggressive and thorough approach to the legal analysis, lawyers increase the strength of your legal claims and thereby increase the settlement value of your personal injury claims.
Insurance and Responsible Parties:
Insurance is another aspect. It is common knowledge that trucking companies often engage in elaborate machinations designed to protect their cash and assets from liability for truck accidents. Corporations are created to protect the owners’ personal assets, and these corporations are often abandoned when a serious collision occurs. Similarly, some trucking companies minimize their insurance coverage to maximize profits, leaving less than adequate funding for the victim of a catastrophic truck accident.
It is vital that the crash victim identify all parties who share legal liability, and all insurance policies that cover the crash event. In many cases, we locate multiple insurance policies that may cover the driver, the trucking company, or the shippers who contracted for the transport of their cargo. Also, by checking all VINs and registrations, we sometimes find that an owner-operator carries his own insurance on the tractor, and that he pulls a trailer that has its own independent registration and insurance. This doubles the available coverage for truck accident victims. With Nagle & Associates long history working in the insurance field, we stand ready to access all available insurance policies, and we quickly grasp and sort through the nuances of individual, entity/corporate, and insurance company liability.
Often big rig truck accidents are catastrophic. Because of the radical contrasting tonnage of big trucks, vehicles are easily crushed with very serious injuries to the occupants. Unlike the ordinary rear-ender or low-speed intersection collision, identifying and valuing the many categories of loss and money damages can be challenging, including some or all of the following:
- Payment of past, current, and future medical expenses, including negotiating down medical liens at the time of settlement (to maximize the net money received by the truck accident victim).
- Lost wages (past, present and future), including lost earning capacity for disabilities and physical/mental impairments, as well as potential business losses (lost profits, lost good will, etc.) for entrepreneurs.
- Loss of quality of life for serious, life-altering injures such as paraplegia, quadriplegia, burns, or brain damage, demonstrated powerfully through day-in-the-life films and supported by medical experts and vocational rehabilitation experts.
- Pain and suffering, mental and emotional distress, including cost of chronic pain relief, psychiatric treatment, and therapy.
- Payment for lost work-life expectancy in cases where the crash victim is back to work, but injuries and disability merit vocational rehab expert determination that early retirement will be medically necessary long before the healthy employee would leave their employment.
- And in the case of fatalities – in wrongful death cases – loss of economic contributions and companionship to the surviving family.
All of these losses require high-quality, competent experts to testify in their respective fields of study, which is where Nagle & Associates also excels, as it has worked with the best for decades.
Contributory Negligence in Truck Accident Cases:
The first thing the truck driver’s insurance adjuster will do in the state of North Carolina is try to place fault on you. That’s because North Carolina is one of the few remaining states that embraces the archaic rule of pure contributory negligence. This rule denies the injured person any claim for money damages if he or she is even a modicum at fault. For this reason alone, the best advice we can give you is to NEVER talk to an insurance adjuster in any personal injury case, much less a potentially complicated truck accident claim.
As a former insurance defense lawyer and former insurance claims adjuster, Carl Nagle knows the tricks that insurance adjusters will pull when they call, as their number one objective is to get you talking (you’ve maybe heard the old adage, “loose lips sink ships”), hoping you’ll ramble on and admit to details which may suggest your own fault. With a seasoned, attuned lawyer in the middle, this cannot happen.
At Nagle & Associates, we have been representing North Carolina truck accident victims for over 20 years. Our law firm only handles motor vehicle accident claims, and we have had tremendous success in our cases against careless truck drivers and trucking companies. With our experience we can hone in on the cause of the accident, collect and preserve essential crash evidence, help sort your medical situation, work with your doctors and other medical experts to prove the true nature and extent of all injuries, and present the most compelling case to maximize your settlement or recovery. Call us anytime for a free consultation and start getting your life back on track today.