Pandemic-related supply chain problems will probably get worse instead of better. The truck driver shortage, which was 78,000 workers in 2022, might double by 2031. As a result, many remaining drivers are not experienced and are under extreme pressure to deliver their loads as quickly as possible, no matter what it takes. This combination sets the stage for serious injury.
A fully loaded large truck weighs over 80,000 pounds. Even veteran drivers have trouble controlling these massive machines. Inexperienced drivers can usually drive well on clear days and empty roads, but these conditions are not very common in Ohio. Making matters worse, in some cases, federal officials now allow 18-year-olds with little or no practical experience to be truck drivers.
Moreover, in the name of speedy delivery, federal regulators have waived or watered down many HOS (hours of service) rules. These reductions allow truckers to stay on the road long after the point they are dangerously fatigued. As outlined below, driving while dangerously drowsy is as hazardous as driving while intoxicated.
When federal regulators fail to protect people, the Batavia, OH, truck accident lawyers at Kruger & Hodges stand up for victims. Shipping and transportation companies hire lawyers to protect their profits. Victims partner with attorneys to obtain maximum compensation for their serious injuries. Personal injury attorneys usually succeed in their missions. Victims with attorneys receive three times more settlement money than victims without lawyers.
Truck Accidents and Operator Errors
Driver error, mostly aggressive driving, and impaired driving, causes over 98% of the truck wrecks in Ohio. These vehicles are so large and so difficult to operate, especially at high speeds, that these drivers have very little margin for error. A slight driving mistake usually causes a serious injury.
Extreme fatigue, which was mentioned above, is a good example. Most noncommercial operators can make it home safely after a long day at the office. Most commercial drivers cannot safely operate their motor vehicles under these conditions. Driving after 18 consecutive awake hours is like driving with a .05 BAC level. This amount of alcohol is above the legal limit for commercial drivers in Ohio.
Note that we said “awake hours,” not “working hours.” Due to the aforementioned HOS rollbacks, many state and federal regulators consider any non-driving activity, such as pumping gas or filling out a report, non-work activity. These work-ish breaks do not give drivers sufficient rest.
Sometimes, operator impairment errors overlap. For example, many truckers use amphetamines to counteract the effects of fatigue. These pills often help people feel more awake. But these pills do nothing to address the underlying effects of fatigue, such as poor judgment. If anything, amphetamines make this problem worse. These drugs usually make users edgy and suspicious.
Additionally, when amphetamines wear off, these users typically crash fast and hard, leaving them much worse off than before, often at the worst possible moment.
Aggressive driving, mostly speeding, is an issue as well. Most truck drivers work with very narrow profit margins. A missed on-time delivery bonus could easily be the difference between making money and losing money on a particular trip.
Speed multiplies stopping distance, which is already high due to vehicle weight. So, if a driver sees a hazard, the driver usually cannot safely stop the truck until the vehicle is past the hazard and serious injury has occurred.
Speed also multiplies the already unbelievable amount of force in a truck crash, according to Newton’s Second Law of Gravity.
Commercial Operator Duty of Care
Since large trucks multiply the effects of driver errors, truck drivers normally have a duty of utmost care in Ohio.
The duty of reasonable care, which applies to most noncommercial operators in Ohio, is basically reactive. Motorists must avoid accidents if possible. The duty of utmost care is proactive. Commercial drivers must anticipate and avoid accidents if possible.
The law often reflects this difference. Frequently, the passenger vehicle’s posted speed limit is considerably higher than the large truck’s posted speed limit.
Recommended following distance is another example. Most noncommercial drivers should leave about two seconds between themselves and the vehicles in front of them. The recommended large truck following distance is usually about seven seconds. Environmental and other factors increase the necessary following distance even more.
On a related note, wet roads, blowing snow, and other bad weather conditions do not cause accidents in Ohio. These events only contribute to truck crashes. Driver negligence, usually speeding or operator impairment, substantially causes them.
The bigger they are, the harder they fall. Due to the higher duty of care, it is easier for a Batavia, OH, truck accident lawyer to prove negligence or a lack of care. More on the “prove” part below.
Truckers are individually and legally responsible for the wrecks they cause. The shipping, transportation, or other company that owned the large truck or its cargo is usually financially responsible for damages. The respondeat superior doctrine has two basic elements:
Employee: Owner-operators, independent contractors, and even unpaid volunteers are all employees for negligence purposes in Ohio. In each case, the cargo’s or truck’s owner has some control over the driver, such as the route traveled or the cargo carried. That slight degree of control establishes an employer-employee relationship, at least for negligence purposes.
Scope of Employment: Most truck drivers make unscheduled stops and detours. Other truck drivers are substitute drivers, especially because the truck driver shortage is so acute. In the old days, wrecks in these situations were outside the scope of employment. Today’s Ohio law is different. Any act that benefits the employer in any way, regardless of the mission or the driver’s status, is within the scope of employment.
Compensation in a truck wreck case usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. The shipping or other company financially responsible for damages is usually an out-of-state holding company, so these claims are quite complex.
HOS and other safety regulations reduce the number of truck wrecks. But only a Batavia, OH, truck wreck lawyer can obtain fair compensation for crash victims.
Evidence in Truck Crash Claims
Theoretical responsibility is not enough. A Batavia, OH truck accident lawyer must prove negligence, as outlined above, by a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not. The trio of medical bills, witness statements, and the police accident report is often sufficient evidence.
In some cases, the evidence is lacking in one or more of these areas. Witness statements are a good example.
Some witnesses are not legally competent to testify, perhaps because they have a personal or business relationship with a participant. Other witnesses are not credible, usually because they did not clearly see the entire accident.
The victim is usually the most compelling witness in a truck accident case. But if the victim died, this critical testimony is often unavailable.
Electronic evidence, such as a large truck’s Event Data Recorder, often fills in the gaps, particularly if an attorney partners with an accident reconstruction professional. EDRs are onboard computers that measure and store information like:
Steering angle, and
Our legal team puts these bits of evidence together like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and creates a compelling picture for the jury.
EDRs and other computers are basically eyewitnesses who are never incorrect or biased. Therefore, this evidence is often bulletproof in court.
Unless a lawyer acts quickly, this critical proof could be unavailable. Durable EDRs normally survive even the worst accidents, but insurance companies usually destroy wrecked vehicles in these situations. If that happens, any physical evidence, including the EDR, disappears.
To prevent such “accidental” loss of evidence, a Batavia, OH, truck accident lawyer sends a spoliation letter to an insurance company. This letter creates a legal duty to preserve any possible physical evidence, including the EDR, for future inspection.
Settling a Case
Determining the settlement value might be the most important part of the settlement phase. If an attorney cannot determine a settlement value, which is based on the legal and factual issues in the case as well as a few other factors, a fair settlement is impossible.
Insurance companies usually care nothing about what is right or fair. A Batavia, OH, truck accident lawyer must stand up for what is right and fair.
Usually, the settlement value is a combination of the economic and noneconomic losses in a case.
The economic losses are relatively easy to determine. An attorney must take care to account for future medical bills, lost income, and other such losses. Unless these items are included in the settlement, the victim may be financially responsible for them in the future.
To determine noneconomic losses, such as emotional distress, most lawyers multiply the economic losses by two, three, or four, mostly depending on the evidence in the case. Other factors include the victim’s motivation to settle quickly and the insurance company’s motivation to keep the matter quiet.
The settlement value is the starting point for settlement negotiations. These negotiations usually involve some give and take. A good lawyer knows when to stand firm and when to compromise, thus ensuring maximum compensation in a minimum amount of time.
Work With a Hard-Hitting Clermont County Lawyer
Injury victims are entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer in London, contact Kruger & Hodges, Attorneys at Law, by going online or calling 513-894-3333. Virtual, home, after-hours, and hospital visits are available.