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By Joe Jones

JoeJonesSemi-trucks and trailers are often referred to in the industry as “Land Locomo­tives.” Their operators have a duty to the public to operate their rigs in a safe manner. Like most events we call “accidents” in life, it is the exception to the rule that results in tragic injuries and/or death, and this holds true for semi-truck drivers.  When truck drivers fail to operate their rigs safely and don’t follow regula­tions and safety rules, it can result in people getting injured, maimed or killed.

We all have seen or have experi­enced a tractor-trailer driver who is a roadway bully by tailing vehicles too closely, hogging the road or driving too fast for road condi­tions.  However, because profes­sionally trained truckers are properly viewed as hard-working and salt-of-the-earth, some traffic inves­ti­gators can be quick to find no fault on the part of semi-truck drivers.  Assump­tions can turn out to be wrong when measured against the facts.  Objective inves­ti­gation matters.

Inves­ti­gating Trucking Accidents

When we inves­tigate a truck crash case, Terrell Hogan attorneys, and the trucking and safety experts who work with us have real-life experience with the trucking industry’s rules of the road and safety require­ments.

Our team examines the driver’s experience, driving record, and how long the driver had been behind the wheel because driver fatigue is the number one contributor to trucking accidents.  While a truck driver may have experience in one type of semi-truck, we ask how much experience did the driver have in this particular truck?  Is he or she familiar with the charac­ter­istics of the truck with a load, without a load, without a trailer, especially with respect to its stopping distance and maneu­ver­ability?

We also inves­tigate the driver’s history of accidents, DUI’s and traffic tickets including texting and cell phone use while driving and the kind of training the driver received. Did the driver receive safety training, and how long had it been since he or she last received it? Did the driver operate a truck that required special licensing, such as hazardous material training? Even though a driver may have received training, the driver’s deposition may reveal a lack of knowledge of the rules of the road and the federal and state safety require­ments.

We also examine whether the driver was going too fast for road condi­tions and if a safe-distance from the leading traffic was maintained so they could avoid a crash. Were they distracted by electronic devices (cell phone, GPS, CB, eating)? In other words, were they operating their trucks in a safe manner under traffic and road condi­tions, and in accor­dance with regula­tions?

Truck Mainte­nance

The safe operation and perfor­mance of a truck is directly tied to its mainte­nance. We inves­tigate whether the truck had been properly maintained and repaired — especially the brakes.  Many trucking “accidents” have been caused by out-of-adjustment brakes or malfunc­tioning brakes. A semi-truck traveling at 55 MPH can take 300 feet to stop in ideal road condi­tions, and if the road condi­tions are not ideal, and the brakes are not in good working order or well-maintained, the stopping distance can be even greater. Maintaining good tires is also extremely important. Stopping and maneu­ver­ability can be greatly affected by tires.

truck driving on country-road/motionAn improperly loaded trailer can contribute to the truck’s operation and roadway perfor­mance.  A shifting load may cause the driver to lose control, or even worse, the load could come off and injure or kill someone.

We also inves­tigate whether mechanical defects contributed to the accident and, if so, did the truck operator or owner know about them?

When inves­ti­gating trucking accidents, we don’t focus solely on the truck driver. There could be multiple defen­dants, including the driver, owner, broker, shipper or insurer.  It’s important to work with a law firm that under­stands the trucking industry, how it operates, and who the respon­sible parties may be.

If you or a loved on has been seriously injured or killed in a trucking accident, consider having Terrell Hogan represent you. It has the resources and litigation experience to represent your interests. Call (904) 722‑2228. Joe Jones is a Florida Regis­tered Paralegal and former Command Judge Advocate for the U.S. Navy.