As someone who resides, works in, or travels through Prince George’s County on a regular basis, you don’t likely need any reminding of just how busy our roadways are.
One common vehicle we all encounter when traveling, especially on interstates, is tractor-trailers.
What types of crashes do these motor vehicles cause, and how is liability determined when these crashes occur and someone gets hurt? These are just some of the many details that a College Park truck accident lawyer will address below.
Be sure to reach out to our law firm for a free consultation to learn more about your rights if you’ve been hurt in a tractor-trailer crash. This could make all the difference as to whether you secure a settlement for your losses.
Types of Tractor-Trailer Crashes
Truck wrecks that occur in Maryland can take on many different forms. The most common types include:
- Jackknife accidents: These involve the tractor and its trailer becoming misaligned and assuming a “V” formation. These crashes often occur in the wintertime when a semi-truck unexpectedly hits ice on the roadway; however, they can also occur if a big rig fails to anticipate slowing traffic ahead and brakes suddenly.
- Rear-end crashes: These commonly occur at intersections when passenger car operators brake instead of continuing through the intersection, whether that’s to go straight or make a turn. These crashes can also occur if a motorist suddenly stops without warning, a pedestrian darts out unexpectedly into oncoming traffic, or a driver cuts in close in front of the truck. In any of these cases, there may not be enough time and distance for a trucker to reach a full stop and avoid a collision.
- Rollover accidents: These incidents, also known as overturn crashes, often occur on interstate exit ramps or when truckers are making turns when traveling too quickly, especially if the load-weight is improperly distributed in the vehicle. However, these collisions can also occur if a truck is traveling quickly, is struck at an angle, and the operator either loses control or there’s enough force to cause it to topple over.
- Head-on collisions: Wrong-way accidents are the most common examples of these. Truck wrecks like these typically occur when a tractor-trailer operator loses control of their vehicle, whether it’s because they fall asleep at the wheel, are intoxicated from drugs or alcohol, are distracted, or there’s a mechanical failure.
- T-Bone accidents: Crashes like these occur at intersections, such as when a tractor-trailer operator runs a stoplight or sign, colliding in a perpendicular fashion into another vehicle that’s proceeding straight through an intersection, or striking another vehicle mid-turn.
- Sideswipe collisions: Wrecks like these commonly happen when a trucker cannot see nearby motorists traveling in their blind spot and enter their active lane of traffic.
- Underride or override accidents: These crashes often occur at intersections concurrently with rear-end, T-bone, sideswipe, and other types of collisions. These wrecks are particularly dangerous; they cause passenger cars to become stuck under a trailer. This often shears off the roof of those vehicles and can result in a trapped car being carried some distance before the truck’s operator realizes they’re underneath.
While this is certainly not a comprehensive list of all the different types of truck crashes that can occur, the above-mentioned accidents are certainly ones that tend to result in the most catastrophic injuries.
Understanding Fault for Tractor-Trailer Crashes
If you’ve been hurt in a truck crash, then it only makes sense that you would want to know how to hold the responsible party accountable for the harm you’ve suffered.
Fault is an important component in all this.
Maryland is both an at-fault insurance state and a pure contributory negligence state. What does that mean?
At-fault refers to your ability to hold someone who causes an accident liable for damages. However, our state’s pure contributory negligence standard prohibits crash victims from recovering compensation if they share in the responsibility for causing the crash.
Let’s examine this system more closely by analyzing a tangible example of a truck crash.
You pull in front of a trucker on the interstate because you want to get off on the next exit. The tractor-trailer operator rear-ends you because they’re unable to brake in time to avoid a crash. If an investigation shows that the trucker was likely traveling at or below the posted speed limit and you cut in too tight for them to stop, you could be deemed partially or fully at fault for what happened and, thus, be ineligible to file an insurance claim or secure a financial settlement for your losses.
On the other hand, if you cut in far enough ahead of the 18-wheeler for them to slow their truck, given the speed they were traveling, and its operator delayed in applying their brakes, or there was a manufacturing defect that caused them not to be as responsive as they should have been, it’s likely that the trucker or the parts manufacturer would be deemed at-fault for what happened.
Elements of Fault in Collision Cases
The responsibility to prove fault belongs to those bringing legal action following the truck wrecks — the victims. To do this, you must be able to show:
- The trucker or some other defendant owed you a duty of care
- That party didn’t uphold that responsibility they owed you (they breached their duty of care)
- You suffered harm due to the prospective defendant’s violation of their duty
- That harm left you with damages or losses
Provided you can establish these elements of fault, you likely meet the required grounds to file a claim or lawsuit in our state.
Proving Liability in Semi-Truck Accident Cases
Liability refers to who is legally responsible for an adverse event. Both an insurance adjuster and a College Park truck accident lawyer will typically review the following information to make their own respective liability determinations when claims or lawsuits are filed:
- Police reports
- Photographs and video showing property damage, injuries, and the crash scene
- Medical records
- Witness accounts
- Electronic data recorder (EDR) or “black box” data
- Electronic logging device data, the contemporary replacement for a printed log book
In some cases, liability is unclear, which is when attorneys like ours may bring in crash scene reconstructionists to identify the cause of the crash.
Additionally, lawyers often solicit the services of medical experts to determine whether the wreck could have directly caused the injuries you’re claiming. These third parties’ assessments can prove invaluable when it comes to building a strong case or negotiating settlements with insurers.
What Is the Statute of Limitations Applicable in Maryland Trucking Accident Cases
Md. Cts. & Jud. Proc. Code § 5-101 specifies how victims have three years to file an insurance claim or lawsuit in their case. However, certain exceptions apply, such as:
- If the injury was identified at a later point in time
- If the victim was a minor when they suffered their injury
Our state’s wrongful death statute, codified as § 3-904(g)(1), also specifies how wrongful death claims must typically be filed within that 3-year post-mortem timeline.
How Attorneys Help the Injured
With the wide range of truck accidents that exist, proving fault for these crashes can be particularly complicated. You only have one chance to preserve evidence that will aid you in building a strong case, one that proves the at-fault party’s liability for the crash.
Don’t take your chances and jeopardize your right to pursue a claim and compensation!
Let an experienced College Park truck accident lawyer aid you with fault determination and ensure you file suit within our state’s statute of limitations. Schedule a free consultation with an attorney at GDH Law now to discuss your potential case.