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Articles Posted in Tractor Trailer Accidents

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truck accidentBecause of the disproportionate size and weight between commercial trucks and passenger vehicles, people in the smaller vehicles tend to suffer more serious injuries in a tractor-trailer accident.

However, as a recent case illustrates, truckers also can be injured – especially when both of the involved vehicles are 18-wheelers.

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tractor trailerLawsuits arising from 18-wheeler accidents can be very complex. One reason for this is that the tractor and trailer may be owned by or insured by different entities. This greatly complicates the path to recovery of a fair settlement or judgment for a person injured in a semi-truck wreck.

In a recent case, a rather unique issue arose. The owner of a certain tractor-trailer requested liability insurance on both the tractor and the trailer, but the insurance agent accidentally left the tractor off of the list of the trucking company’s vehicles when she sent the application to the insurance company.

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Kyle Roby

Attorney Kyle Roby

Attorney and partner Kyle Roby recently settled a truck accident case for $850,000 on behalf of a Kentucky client. We have posted about this case on our main firm web site, and are sharing with our audience here as well.

Here is a summary of the case. For more details, read the main post on our web site. You can read the post here.

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big rigsWhen it comes to claims arising from an 18-wheeler accident, an injured person is often wise to “cast a large net” and name as many defendants as possible. This is because insurance coverage issues and policy limits can restrict the ultimate recovery from a particular defendant, but, if several defendants are named, it is more likely that the plaintiff will be fully compensated for his or her medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Of course, the defendants named in a tractor-trailer wreck case may have a viable defense, and they have a right to seek the dismissal of the case against them on procedural grounds. In such cases, it is up to the courts to decide who stays and who goes.

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distracted driving, phones, carWe live in an increasingly fast-paced society in which people take on multiple activities at once to get more things done. The level of risk that accompanies this habit varies according to the tasks at hand. For instance, if a person decides to drink coffee while reading a book, the worst thing that will probably happen is that the book will get ruined by spilled coffee. But in distracted driving cases, the level of risk goes up substantially.

When a driver attempts to do another task, such as sending a text message, changing music, or applying makeup, the risk of a serious injury or death is high.

Our firm has seen multiple accidents in which people were seriously injured or even died due to distracted drivers. In an Atlanta case that’s gotten national attention, a teenage driver was using SnapChat while driving and became involved in an accident in which a man was left with traumatic brain injuries. Part of the evidence in the case is a SnapChat screen shot that indicates the teen was driving more than 100 miles per hour. You can read about this case in an article on the TechCrunch news web site.

If you’re not familiar with it, SnapChat is a social media application for smart phones that allows users to record video or photos and add more information, drawings and writing over the photos. One of the ways to use SnapChat is to add a filter over the photo that shows more information about where the photo was taken. One option is a filter that shows speed. While that’s fine to use if you’re a passenger, and kinda fun to use if you’re traveling 400 miles per hour on an airplane, it’s a terrible idea to use this feature while driving. We feel like this should go without saying – but obviously, some need to hear it.

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A close up of a tractor trailer as it speeds down a road. The bottom of the truck and two tires are shown.

In lawsuits involving motor vehicle accidents, it is not unusual for there to be multiple defendants. Sometimes, this is because two or more drivers’ negligence may have contributed to the accident. It can also happen when a driver was on the job at the time of the accident. In this tractor-trailer accident case, just getting to the heart of who was responsible was difficult.

Under the doctrine of respondeat superior, an employer can be held liable for the tortious acts of a servant, agent or employee. This includes negligent driving. Discovering all of the possible defendants in a case can be a complex endeavor that may take some time. This is one of the reasons that it is best to contact an attorney as soon as possible after an accident.

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By Kyle Roby, Attorney and Partner
English, Lucas, Priest and Owsley, LLP

big rig accidentsThis winter’s weather challenged everyone who was out driving in it, but especially those driving tractor-trailers. Some big rig accidents occurred during last week’s heavy snow, no doubt, as trucks weigh several tons and are hard to stop even during ideal driving conditions.

The best thing to do during bad weather is stay home, of course, but not everyone has that option. If you’re called into work on a day when it is snowing, your bosses are expecting you to report for duty. Those who work in hospitals, emergency responders and city government officials have no choice. It’s their duty to take care of the rest of us – and we’re certainly all grateful for that.

While truck drivers are limited in how far and how long they can drive in a day by rules created and enforced by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the government agency has rules and regulations as it relates to adverse driving conditions. Adverse conditions means snow, sleet, fog, other adverse weather conditions, a highway covered with snow or ice, or unusual road and traffic conditions, none of which were apparent on the basis of information known to the person dispatching the run at the time it was begun.

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By Kyle Roby, Attorney
English, Lucas, Priest and Owsley, LLP

One of the most commonly ignored truck rules is the requirement to keep records of how long truckers have been behind the wheel on a given day. Federal law requires truckers to rest for a certain amount of time, for safety reasons, and to keep a log of where they traveled and how long they were gone. Those truck rules have been in effect since 1938 – nearly 80 years.

Those rules are pretty easy for truckers and the companies they work for to bend, though. They can easily write down whatever they want, if they’re not honest, or keep two sets of log books, one that’s accurate and one that’s only to show if asked by authorities. We’ve written about this issue before on our blog. See our July 23, 2015 post on this same topic.

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intersection2

By Kyle Roby, Attorney
English, Lucas, Priest and Owsley, LLP

Although the basic law of negligence is the same across the country – namely, that to be successful, the plaintiff must show duty, breach of duty, causation, and damages – there are some nuances of negligence law that are different in various states. Thus, the outcome of a particular case can vary considerably, depending upon the state in which the accident occurred.

For instance, under the law of comparative fault, there can be wide variations in the outcome of a suit based on similar circumstances, depending upon the state where the suit is filed. The state of Tennessee follows what is called the “modified system of comparative fault.”

Beginning with the 1992 case of McIntyre v. Balentine, a plaintiff may recover damages in proportion to a defendant’s percentage of fault in an accident, as long as the defendant’s fault outweighed any fault by the plaintiff. In cases in which the jury finds the parties to be equally at fault (or finds the plaintiff to be more than 50 percent at fault), the plaintiff recovers nothing.

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Yellow school bus

By Kyle Roby, attorney
English, Lucas, Priest and Owsley, LLP

In tractor-trailer wreck lawsuits, one obvious defendant is the truck driver whose negligent driving led to the crash. The trucking company that employed him or her is usually also named as a defendant, under the doctrine of respondeat superior (which holds employers liable for the tortious acts of their employees, if the act was within the scope of the employment relationship).

In some instances, the circumstances of the accident may give rise to possible claims against others with a less obvious connection to the case.

For instance, in the recent case of Commonwealth v. Collins, the state was named as a defendant in a suit arising from a tractor-trailer wreck that also involved a school bus.

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