A jury in California recently awarded over $150 million to a teenage girl who was among the only survivors in a crash involving a big rig and her family’s SUV. Trucking accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm have worked with many victims of large truck accidents and know that injuries resulting from these accidents are often especially catastrophic due to the size and weight of the vehicles.
Big rigs, otherwise known as semi-trucks or tractor-trailers, pose significant risks on American roadways because they carry extremely large, often oversized loads, and drivers are required to meet strict deadlines. In 2004, Congress initiated a highway safety project to educate drivers on how to share the road with large trucks, however, by 2010 large truck accident fatalities had increased by 9%.
Every year more than 4,000 people are killed and 10,000 are injured in crashes involving large trucks in the U.S., according to the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. Of these deaths, over 70% are drivers or passengers in smaller vehicles that were involved in crashes with semis. Despite this, one in every five trucks that are placed out of service due to safety violations continues to drive on American roadways.
When Long Hours on the Road turns Fatal
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When big trucks are involved in serious accidents, several parties can be held accountable and named as defendants in personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits. In the above-mentioned suit, both the driver and the trucking company he worked for, Bhandai Bros. Trucking, were found jointly liable for the tragic accident.
Four years ago in the early morning hours, the teenager and her family was driving north to Oregon when the driver, the girl’s father, noticed debris in the road. He attempted to swerve onto the shoulder to avoid the debris, however, a big rig was parked on the same freeway shoulder. The driver failed to turn on any emergency reflectors or lights on when he pulled over, ignoring freeways signs stating that motorists could stop there only in emergencies.
Their SUV hit the semi, becoming stuck underneath the tractor-trailer. The girl was nine-years old at the time, and her older brother, the only other survivor, was 11. The other family members – a mother, father, and older brother – remained trapped in the SUV as it burst into flames. The two young children were forced to watch their family perish in the flames on the side of the road.
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The truck driver claimed that he pulled onto the shoulder that morning to take medication for a migraine, which he believes constituted an emergency. The girl’s lawsuit, however, argues that the driver pulled over merely to sleep. Federal law does limit the number of hours trucks can be on the road for a continuous amount of time. These are referred to as “hours of service” laws, and were originally established in 1939 to prevent devastating accidents caused by driver fatigue.
Currently, truck drivers can drive for a maximum of 11 continuous hours, after which they are required to take at least a ten hour rest period. In any seven day period, the driver can be on the road for no more than 77 hours, however, if the driver is off the road for 2.5 days or longer their hours can revert back to zero.
Although they are bound by federal law to abide by these rules, too many truck drivers violate them to increase paychecks and meet strict delivery deadlines. Truck accident lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm have seen too many catastrophic results of these violations, and have represented many clients injured by negligent drivers and defective trucks. Victims can file claims against the driver, trucking company, or vehicle product manufacturer to receive compensation for hospital bills, property damage, and lost wages. We accept clients from all 50 states, and provide free, no-obligation legal consultations to potential clients injured in roadway crashes.