When driving on the highway next to a large truck, you assume that the driver behind the wheel is trained, skilled, and has adequate driving experience. If the driver makes a bad call and causes an accident, you are often left wondering how many unqualified drivers we have on the road.
Unfit drivers put everyone’s lives at risk, and we all have a right to be concerned. If you have sustained injuries due to an accident caused by an unqualified truck driver, get to know what a truck accident attorney can do for you.
Dangers of Unqualified Truck Drivers
Truck accidents lead to the loss of too many lives. The injuries from truck accidents can be very devastating, given the weight of these vehicles. In addition to truck drivers being unqualified to drive, they may lack the required safety training to ensure that their lives and others on the road are protected.
Companies that hire unqualified drivers are also to blame. For example, Federal regulations require truck drivers to take regular breaks on the road. A company that employs an unqualified driver may not see the importance of passing this information on to the driver. Also, companies that hire unqualified drivers may not see the need to subject the drivers to regular drug and alcohol tests.
Why Companies Employ Unqualified Drivers?
Truck owners and truck companies are responsible for carrying out background checks on truck drivers before hiring them. For example, they should ensure that the drivers have a valid commercial driving license and a good driving record. While this may be the standard procedure, several factors may prevent companies from being strict when hiring truck drivers.
One factor contributing to the rampant hiring of unqualified drivers is the national shortage of truck drivers. According to the American Transportation Research Institute, the truck driver shortage is the biggest problem facing trucking companies. The second reason is that companies may not be willing to pay the standard rate to hire a qualified truck driver.
Other Forms of Employer Negligence
In addition to hiring an unqualified driver, trucking companies may also be guilty of other forms of negligence, such as:
- Not adequately training the drivers
- Not educating their drivers on safe working methods and training them in defensive driving.
- Not doing background checks. Employers must carry out extensive background checks on the drivers before hiring them. This helps discover previous reckless driving cases and past drug or alcohol-related driving offenses.
- Encouraging non-compliance. The law requires employers to make sure drivers get enough breaks and rest time to rule out causes of fatigue. Some employers may encourage non-compliance by offering them bonuses for fast delivery. Doing this may encourage over-speeding, aggressive, and careless driving.
Rules All Truck Drivers Should Follow
It takes a lot of skill to drive an 18-wheeler. In most states, individuals who wish to get a commercial driver’s license must:
- Show proof of insurance
- Have a valid Class D license
- Submit to regular screening by the Transport Security Administration
- Have a valid Social Security card
While some exemptions may apply to these rules, these are the main CDL requirements. It is important to note that these requirements are in addition to the road tests, coursework, and physical examinations the driver is expected to complete and pass.
Who Is Considered Unqualified to Drive a Truck?
An unqualified driver lacks the required training or one with a criminal record that may prevent them from qualifying for a CDL.
Other factors that could disqualify a truck driver include, but are not limited to:
- Drivers who fail the vision test
- Drivers who do not pass physical examinations
- Drivers who do not know how brakes work
- Drivers who do not know the procedure of inspecting a truck.
Who Can I Hold Responsible When an Unqualified Truck Driver Causes an Accident?
If you or someone close to you is in an accident caused by an unqualified driver, you should file a lawsuit against the responsible parties. While you can blame the truck driver for errors caused by their lack of training, other parties may also share the blame.
First, you can hold the truck owner or the trucking company responsible for hiring an unqualified driver. You can blame them for not carrying out routine checks on their drivers and not conducting daily truck inspections. You can also blame the trucking company management for failing to provide supervision for the drivers.
Why Should Drivers Inspect Trucks?
Truck drivers must check the conditions of their trucks before the start of their journey, at specified intervals during the journey, and once they have completed their trip.
When inspecting the condition of the truck, drivers should look out for:
- Faulty brakes
- Worn out tires
- The condition of the horns
- Any issues with steering
- Other operational issues.
The driver does not hold full responsibility for ensuring that the trucks are in good condition. Trucking companies legally must keep their trucks in good condition by carrying out regular maintenance, and doing repairs, if and when required.
Types of Truck Accidents
The following are the common accidents unqualified truck drivers cause:
- Jackknife accidents. Jackknifed truck accidents are some of the most gruesome accidents on the road. The driver’s failure to take caution when braking may cause the tractor and trailer to misalign. In such cases, the driver loses control of their vehicle, crashing with other vehicles.
- Head-on-collisions. Tired or drunk drivers often cause head-on-collisions.
- Rear-end accidents. Trucks do not stop as quickly as cars do. During bad weather conditions, such as after heavy storms, trucks will require more distance to come to a complete stop. When an unqualified driver is behind the wheel, they may not be aware of stopping distances and are more likely to cause multiple fatalities.
Common Injuries from Truck Accidents
Any moving vehicle on the road can cause accidents. But when large trucks are involved, the injuries sustained from such accidents are more gruesome.
Victims of truck accidents commonly suffer:
- Spinal cord injuries. A truck accident may throw you around, causing a spinal injury. This type of injury will affect you for the rest of your life, as you may become paralyzed.
- Traumatic Brain Injury. Strong impacts can lead to brain injuries and other injuries to the head, which can have lifelong impacts.
- Burn injuries. If a truck is carrying hazardous materials or the accident causes a fire outbreak, accident victims can suffer long-lasting trauma from burns. They may require repeated skin grafts and may scar them for life. In addition to such procedures being overly expensive, they also negatively impact the victims’ self-esteem.
- Soft tissue injuries. Soft tissue injuries are not easily detectable since they are not as apparent as other injuries to the body. It is, however, essential to note that torn ligaments and stretched muscles can cause severe pain for months.
- Broken bones. Depending on the impact, truck accidents can cause broken hands and legs. You may require multiple surgeries to heal, and in the worst cases, surgeons may need to amputate, leaving you incapacitated for life.
Damages in a Truck Accident
Truck accidents involve two types of damages:
- Economic damages cover all financial injuries that can be easily assigned a monetary value.
Such losses include, but are not limited to:
- Lost wages
- Lost future earnings
- medical bills
Economic damages are easy to calculate and prove as they only require receipts.
- Non-economic losses. You cannot easily attach a monetary value to these more abstract losses.
Examples of losses under this category are:
- Pain and suffering
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Loss of consortium.
Proving non-economic losses is often complicated. With the help of a truck accident attorney, victims have to submit testimony from their doctor or psychiatrist.
How to Recover Financial Damages After a Truck Accident?
If you have sustained injuries in a truck accident, you have the right to ensure that your injuries do not cause a financial strain on yourself and your family members. Time lost from work can be a severe financial burden, especially when you do not know how long it will take for you to recover.
Trucking companies are required to have higher liability insurance than standard vehicles. You need to know who you can hold liable before filing a personal injury claim for injuries sustained in a truck accident. Depending on your case, you can hold a negligent truck driver, an unqualified truck driver, or a negligent employer liable. This is usually a complicated process. Therefore, let a truck accident attorney help you.
How to Protect Your Rights After a Truck Accident?
Your main objective after your truck accident is to focus on your recovery process. That said, you must also proactively protect your rights.
Follow these steps immediately after your accident:
- Before anything else, call the police or have someone call them.
- Seek medical assistance.
- Once you are stable, collect as much evidence as you can. Take pictures of the vehicles, your injuries, and any road or weather conditions that may have contributed to the accident.
- Take the contact information of any witnesses at the accident scene.
- Get the contact and the insurance information of all drivers involved in the accident. If you are not in a position to do this, tell someone at the accident scene to take down the information for you.
- When questioned by law enforcement officers, do not take responsibility for the accident, even if you feel you are partial to being blamed. Doing so could put your claim at risk.
- Also, do not blindly answer questions from insurance adjusters. Make sure you speak to your attorney so that they can advise you on which questions to answer and which ones to skip.
Truck Accident Attorney Fees
Victims of truck accidents or individuals who have lost a family member from a truck accident are often worried about the legal fees associated with filing a personal injury claim. Let’s face it, when you are already incurring a lot of medical expenses or have lost the breadwinner of the family following a truck accident, finances are tight. It may seem impossible to hire an excellent lawyer to help you get compensation for your injuries.
When working with a truck accident attorney, however, you will not have to stress yourself about attorney fees. Most truck accident lawyers work on a contingency basis. This means you will not pay them unless they secure the compensation you deserve.