Truck accident deaths account for more than 10 percent of traffic fatalities on America’s roadways and most of those deadly collisions are preventable, said Fred Pritzker, a leading truck crash lawyer with decades of experience representing victims.
Even more devastating is the news that large truck casualties are on the rise, sharply higher from one year to the next, Pritzker said. For families who have suffered the loss of a loved one to the hazards of commercial trucking, it’s difficult to see the carnage continue as the freight industry expands and pushes for less regulation and approval for heavier, longer rigs. Freight shipments themselves are at record high levels, rising 8 percent from the end of 2015 through early 2018.
“Most truck drivers are conscientious, but truck transportation as a whole has become dangerous to other motorists,’’ said Pritzker, founder of Pritzker Hageman P.A., a national personal injury law firm. “We’re here to hold unsafe truck drivers and trucking companies accountable.’’
Truck accident attorney Eric Hageman leads large truck litigation at Pritzker Hageman. He has recovered millions of dollars for the firm’s clients in truck crash lawsuits. If you or a loved one has been injured by a commercial vehicle, it’s important to choose an experienced lawyer to investigate and gather evidence soon after the crash.
For one thing, trucking companies are allowed to destroy critical evidence after an accident if your lawyer does not send them a special document called a “spoliation letter.’’ And in many crashes involving 18-wheelers, lawyers must apply both federal and state laws.
“The trucking company or their insurance company will be in a hurry to contact you,’’ Hageman said. “Don’t talk to them. More than anything, we stress that you not sign any papers until you have consulted with a lawyer of your own.’’
Pritzker and Hageman have seen it happen over and over where an unrepresented family or individual will agree to an unfair semi-truck crash settlement. “Without a lawyer, you can end up with only a small fraction of the money you deserve,’’ Pritzker said.
Police reports on truck accidents can also undermine a case if a lawyer is not present to set the record straight. The reports weigh heavily on the outcome of an injury lawsuit or a wrongful death lawsuit. But even well-intended officers make mistakes and it’s critical for the facts to be reviewed by a lawyer. Truck accident lawyers with accident reconstruction expertise can determine if the police report describing your crash is incomplete, inaccurate or biased in favor of the truck driver.
“Police reports can be flat-out wrong,’’ Hageman said. “But we’re fortunate to have judges and juries who consider all the facts and get it right.’’
Truck crash lawyers in demand
Federal Highway Administration statistics are due for an update, but the latest available information comparing 2015 to 2016 showed a 6 percent increase in the number of large trucks involved in fatal crashes. Deaths from these incidents rose to 4,564, up 5 percent in one year’s time and the highest since 2007. The number of large trucks and buses in fatal crashes has increased by 29 percent from its low of 3,432 in 2009.
Meanwhile, statistics show an even greater percentage increase in the number of injury crashes involving commercial vehicles. The number of truck crashes causing injury in 2015 was 97,000. The injury crashes jumped to 119,000 in 2016. That’s an average of 326 truck crashes per day causing injuries across the U.S.
Ten states with the highest average of fatal large truck and bus crashes in the past three years of federal record-keeping represented 51 percent of fatal crashes involving at least one large truck or bus. Those states are:
- New York
- North Carolina
Truck crashes are strongly correlated to occur during workday hours and more than half of all tractor-trailer accidents occur in rural areas. Excessive speed and distracted driving are two of the leading causes, but drowsiness, improper turns, inattention, illegal loads, follow too closely, failure to yield and improper lane use also provide grounds for semi-truck crash lawsuits.
A full 12 percent of all road fatalities in the United States happen in crashes involving a commercial truck or bus. Big rigs can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. By contrast, the average passenger vehicle weighs in at about 4,000 pounds. With a weight difference like that, it’s easy to see how a truck can cause major damage to a car and its occupants. Of all the truck accident deaths in 2016, 73 percent involved tractor-trailers.