Melrose Law handles trucking accidents in Asheville and throughout Western North Carolina. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident involving a commercial truck or business truck, we can help you recover the compensation that you deserve.
Mark Melrose has helped hundreds of clients successfully recover damages over the past thirty years. Melrose Law has the experience and resources to put the pressure on these insurance companies for tractor-trailers to get claims settled quickly.
The commercial big rig trucking industry is regulated by highly complex state and federal laws that control almost every aspect of operations, from how long a driver can be on the road to how heavy the rig can be. When these laws are broken and an accident occurs, the trucker and trucking company can be held liable. Lawyers who have never handled truck accidents can easily miss the small details that can mean the difference between a great result, and a poor result.
At Melrose Law, our deep understanding of these laws and regulations gives our clients an advantage in these complex cases. We are committed to holding all negligent parties accountable for your injuries or loss and getting you the compensation you need.
When a truck accident occurs, there are a multitude of potentially responsible parties, from the person who loaded the rig to the person driving the truck. Each party has his or her own insurance company aggressively protecting his or her rights and helping him or her avoid having to pay your claim. The legal team at Melrose Law is not afraid to go up against these insurance companies to get you the compensation you are entitled to receive.
Given the size of these commercial trucks, accidents involving trucks often involve serious injury or death. When a big rig is involved in a wreck, the insurance company for the tractor-trailer will employ a team of investigators and lawyers to try to protect their interests and avoid paying the injured person or the family of the victim of a deadly accident the compensation that they deserve. You need a local experienced Western North Carolina attorney to protect you and your rights.
We put our knowledge of trucking regulations and laws to work for you as we complete a thorough investigation into the cause of your accident and identify all potential defendants. We will explore every possible avenue of recovery and aggressively protect your rights and interests. If the driver cannot be found or is uninsured or under-insured, we will help you pursue a claim through your uninsured/under-insured motorist (UM) coverage.
The Most Common Factors for Truck Accidents
Of the truck accidents that were considered the fault of the commercial truck with the most common cited reasons being the following:
- Over the lane-lane or off the road
- Loss of control of the truck
- Following too closely to traffic
- Failure to yield
When turning to the actions of the truck drivers that were a factor in these crashes, the three largest factors were prescription drug use, traveling too fast for the conditions of the road, and unfamiliarity with the road.
A full quarter of the multi-vehicle truck collisions citied brake failure or misalignment as a contributing factor to the collision.
Other factors worth noting were over the counter drug use, illegal drug use, alcohol use, external distractions, and fatigue. 11% of truck collisions were caused by what the FMCSA labels “non-performance,” in that the truck driver fell asleep, or was otherwise disabled or impaired before impact.
A full chart of the most common factors as presented to Congress is included here:
It is imperative that a lawyer become involved early in the investigation of a trucking accident so that the lawyer can investigate the potential personal factors occurring in the truck driver’s life, and see whether excessive fatigue or drug use was a factor in the collision.
Police officers perform investigations of collisions to determine criminal fault, they are not responsible for collecting data that may be of key importance for a civil lawsuit.
While it is accurate that, statistically, fewer commercial truck drivers are involved as at-fault drivers in a motor vehicle collision than single family vehicles, nearly 25% of the reported truck accidents included a fatality, with 28% of the accidents had an incapacitating injury. Truck accidents are far more serious on average than other types of motor vehicle collisions, and commercial truck drivers are held to a higher standard of behavior as a result.
The types of traumatic injuries that can occur in a truck collision include traumatic brain injuries, broken bones, fractures, rotator cuff tears, back and neck injuries, and the emotional trauma of being involved in a serious injury. Melrose Law is here to help you deal with the legal issues of being struck by a commercial truck while you focus on getting healthy again.
Proving a North Carolina Truck Accident Case: Negligence
In just about any personal injury case in North Carolina, including truck accident cases, the injured party or their surviving family members must prove three things to be successful in recovering from the at-fault party.
- That the at-fault party had a legal duty to the injured person.
- That the at-fault party breached that legal duty
- The breach of the legal duty caused injury.
A legal duty is broadly defined as another person or company’s obligation not to harm someone. In a truck accident case, the truck driver, owner, and other people associated with loading and maintaining the truck have a duty to keep the truck in a safe condition for driving, and to drive in a safe manner on the road.
A truck driver has a duty to drive at a safe speed for the conditions, pay attention to traffic around him, and yield to other traffic when lawfully required. They also have a duty to understand how their truck load will handle corners and avoid overturning.
Trucking companies have a duty to correctly load their trucks to avoid them overturning and to maintain the truck’s equipment, especially the brakes. Bad commercial truck brakes are often a factor in truck collisions where the truck is at fault.
Breach of the Legal Duty
Since it is patently obvious that a truck driver has a duty to drive safely on the road and not collide with other vehicles, the second part of the three-part test, breach, is usually the most contested question in a truck accident lawsuit.
An injured party must prove that the truck driver or truck owner or individuals who loaded or maintained the truck breached their duty to the other motorists on the road by their actions or inactions.
This can be as simple as establishing that the truck driver was speeding, or that the truck driver had a duty to yield to traffic on the road but failed to do so. Proving that a truck’s cargo was improperly loaded is often more difficult, and usually requires expert testimony from trucking experts to prove that the trucking defendants breached their legal duty.
Sometimes you can prove the breach through a police officer’s investigation, but even when the allegations are as simple as a rear-end collision, trucking companies often contest liability in serious injury cases. This is where an accident reconstructionist or other expert hired by the injured person’s lawyer can help prove the breach of the legal duty.
Once an injured person or their family proves that a truck driver or trucking company acted in an unsafe manner, you have to prove that the breach of the legal duty by the at-fault party is what caused the accident, and the injuries.
Let’s use the example of the improperly loaded cargo: if cargo was loaded incorrectly, but shifting cargo was not a factor in the collision, then the failure to load the cargo correctly would not qualify as legal causation of the collision.
However, usually the causation of the wreck is fairly clear: if the truck’s brakes failed and they ran into the back of your vehicle, there’s no question that the failure to maintain the brakes was the cause of the collision.
An injured person must also prove that the truck accident caused their injuries. In most cases, there is little question that the injuries were caused by being violently struck by a large commercial truck. The rare circumstances where injury causation questions arise is where there were preexisting health conditions, such as back and neck pain, and there is a debate as to whether the wreck caused all of the neck and back pain that continued after the accident.
We will hire medical and accident experts to help prove both medical and accident causation out of our own operating account to make sure that our injured clients get the best results possible.
Investigating Truck Accidents
Trucking accidents are on average far more serious than the average collision between two family vehicles and require an additional amount of effort and investigation to help get the injured party the compensation that they deserve. At Melrose law, we have 30+ years of experience investigating serious truck accidents. While there are unique factors in every claim, we often employ the following investigatory methods to help prove that the truck driver was at fault for the collision
- Obtain photographs and videos of the incident. Investigating officers will often take pictures of the scene. Sometimes witnesses or the involved drivers will take photographs or video as well. We will move quickly to make sure that video is preserved, so that we can get a better understanding of exactly how the collision occurred.
- Interview witnesses to the accident. Memories fade quickly, even of extremely traumatic events. The team at Melrose Law will reach out to the witnesses of the accident to get their best recollection of events while it is still fresh in their memories. We can get witnesses to sign witness statements or affidavits to preserve their testimony.
- Get information off the commercial truck’s “black box.” Commercial trucks are required to have what is called a “black box” in their vehicle. It is essentially a computer that records information about how the truck was traveling directly before and at the time of the accident, including speed data, and exactly when the driver stepped on the truck’s brakes. We send letters to the truck owner and their insurance company to preserve the information on the black box, which can be instrumental to proving that the truck driver was at-fault for the collision.
- Retain expert witnesses for accident reconstruction and medical testimony. When the case calls for expert testimony, we hire nationally respected expert witnesses to help prove your case, including the three elements of negligence: duty, breach, and causation. We are dedicated to getting the best results for our clients and will pay for the most qualified experts necessary to get a favorable result for our clients.
Don’t trust your trucking accident claim to an inexperienced law firm who does not routinely handle trucking cases. Call Melrose Law today for a free case consultation and we will let you know if we can help you protect your interests.