Truck accidents can cause massive devastation. Injuries are typically severe, and often fatal. Multi-car pileups are not uncommon in accidents involving large commercial trucks (frequently called big rigs, semis, tractor-trailers, and18-wheelers). And when a large commercial truck is involved in an accident with a passenger vehicle, occupants of the passenger vehicle usually take the brunt of it.
Truck accident victims and their families can find their lives forever changed. Injuries from 18-wheeler accidents can be severe and debilitating, and medical costs alone can easily exceed six or even seven figures. This, on top of weeks or months being out of work during their recovery time, if they are ever able to return to work at all.
If you have been injured in a trucking accident in Biloxi, Mississippi, or on the Gulf Coast, the experienced truck accident attorneys of Reeves & Mestayer are here to help you and your family hold the trucking company and other responsible parties accountable for the harm they have caused you.
Common Causes of Truck Accidents
Trucking is a multi-billion-dollar industry that accounts for approximately 7% of the overall U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). While the goods delivered by big rig trucks are extremely important to the lifeblood of our economy, many in the industry do not take the steps necessary to ensure the safety of truck drivers and those who share the roadways with them.
Unfortunately, trucking companies often place unrealistic deadlines on drivers, forcing them to make a choice between delivering their loads on time or adhering to legal requirements. This puts them in a difficult spot in which they feel like they have no choice but to cut corners in order to do their jobs. Sadly, this all-too-often results in disastrous consequences.
Some of the most common reasons trucking accidents occur include:
- Fatigued/drowsy driving: Truckers put in long hours over-the-road, and many of these hours are during evenings and overnights when it is dark outside. After so many hours in a day or a week, it is only natural to start getting sleepy behind the wheel. Driver fatigue is among the leading causes of truck accidents. Because of the dangers drowsy driving poses to others on the road, the trucking industry needs to do more to help ensure that their drivers get adequate rest, and that those with sleep disorders are properly treated.
- Speeding/reckless driving: When truckers are trying to meet deadlines in order to get paid, they sometimes choose to drive at unsafe speeds or even drive recklessly. Excessive speeding and other forms of reckless driving vastly increase the chances of a vehicle accident.
- Chemical impairment: In order to cope with the stress, truckers sometimes turn to alcohol or drugs. Other times, they may use certain types of drugs (commonly known as “uppers”) to help them stay awake longer. Driving while intoxicated is always a poor decision that puts everyone on the road in greater danger.
- Poorly loaded trucks: In order to keep tight schedules, tractor-trailers are sometimes loaded in a hurry. This can result in trucks that are overloaded (i.e., weight exceeds allowed limits) or unevenly loaded, which is a common reason why large trucks sometimes tip on their side or roll over.
- Negligent truck maintenance: Big rig trucks typically log thousands of miles on the road each month. If they are not maintained properly, mechanical breakdowns can occur. When this happens in the wrong place at the wrong time, it can result in a trucking accident.
- Vehicle defects: Faulty vehicles or vehicle parts are another common contributor to large truck accidents. For example, if there is a brake line leak, it can severely impair the vehicle’s ability to stop safely when the driver encounters adverse road conditions. Other common vehicle defects that can cause an accident include computer system malfunctions and tire blowouts.
Investigating Your Truck Accident
Truck accident cases are much more complex than cases involving only passenger vehicles, and they require experienced and aggressive truck accident lawyers such as those at Reeves & Mestayer to ensure a full recovery. State and federal trucking regulations play a large role in truck accident cases. Much of the evidence that we use comes from the extensive records that truck drivers and trucking companies are required to keep in order to prove compliance with these complex laws.
We will also investigate to determine if a defective truck or defective roadway played a role in your accident. Only through a thorough investigation can we find all of the underlying causes of your accident and injuries, so that we can hold all of the responsible parties accountable and pursue all avenues of compensation that are available to you.
What Do You Need to Prove in a Personal Injury Case?
Under Mississippi law, the plaintiff is required to prove the following in a personal injury lawsuit:
- An accident occurred.
- The accident occurred as a result of the actions of the party at fault.
- You suffered financial and non-financial losses due to the accident.
Proving Liability in a Truck Accident
The liability of party at fault can be proved with the help of the following documents and information:
- The truck driver’s personnel file
- The truck company’s screening and hiring process
- The truck’s black box data
- The truck’s maintenance and inspection records
- Fuel receipts
- Toll booth receipts
- Hours of service logs
- Cell phone records
- Bill of lading
- Police reports
- Surveillance footage, if available
- Dashcam recordings
If you hire an experienced personal injury lawyer, they can conduct a detailed investigation into the circumstances that led to the truck accident and gather the information they need to prove the liability of the parties at fault.
What to Do if You are in an Accident with a Commercial Vehicle
Avoiding Accidents with a Big Rig
Avoid the Blind Spots
Large trucks have more and larger blind spots than a passenger vehicle. These are called “no zones,” and there is one located on all four sides of the truck. True to the name, you’d be best served to stay out of these areas because the truck driver can’t see you.
For a typical tractor-trailer, there is a 20-foot blind spot in front of the truck, and a 30-foot one behind it. There is also a blind spot of one lane to the left/rear of the driver’s mirror and a blind spot of two lanes to the right/rear of the passenger mirror. If you are traveling or passing, keep clear of these areas as much as possible.
Dealing With Insurance Adjusters Following a Truck Accident
Think Before You Answer the Phone
Before you even answer the phone, you should know what’s waiting for you on the other side. You’ll have to talk to an insurance adjuster who is determined to get as much information out of you as possible. In particular, they want to get information that will damage your claim and limit the amount of compensation they have to pay you.
Decide How Much Information You Want to Give
It’s important to know what you’re willing to tell the insurance adjuster and what you want to keep secret. Remember, the more you talk to them, the more freedom they have to find holes in your story or try to place blame on you. Decide what you want to tell them about the accident and your health before you say a thing to them.
Keep it Brief
You don’t want to get caught up in a long conversation with an insurance adjuster. This creates a situation where you will almost certainly give them information that they can use against you. If you must talk to them, give them only the information you’ve prepared in advance, and then end the call quickly.
Remember That They Are Trained Negotiators
Insurance adjusters will bombard you with kindness, concern, and empathy. They do this to put you at ease and put you in a position where you’re likely to give more information than you intend. They want to act apologetic, so you’ll say “it’s okay” or insist that you feel fine. Do not let any of this get to you and remember that they are not on your side. They are on their company’s side, and their goal is to offer you as little as possible while getting you to sign a liability waiver.
Resist the Urge to Settle Immediately
Insurance adjusters are excellent at pressuring accident victims to accept embarrassingly low injury settlements. They might present the amount as if it’s a huge gift or insist that you’re likely to get far less if you hire an attorney. They often put a time limit on their offer, telling you that if you don’t accept it during that call or within the next 24 hours, it’s off the table.
Trucking Accident Responsibility
In accidents where the truck driver was at fault, the trucking company or another company responsible for hiring the driver is typically held responsible for the accident. Trucking companies must follow strict hiring and monitoring practices. They also have a duty to maintain and repair their trucks and keep extensive maintenance records. Responsible parties in a trucking accident can include one or more of the following:
- Truck driver
- Trucking company
- Freight shipper
- Freight broker
- Third party logistics provider (3PL)
- Truck, parts, or equipment manufacturer
- Truck, parts or equipment seller
- Contractor responsible for repairs and maintenance
- Weigh station personnel
- Government department or agency responsible for design, construction, and/or maintenance of defective roadway
- Another driver
Contact an Experienced Trucking Accident Lawyer
If you or a loved one has been injured in a commercial truck accident in Biloxi, Mississippi, Reeves & Mestayer, PLLC is here to help. Please call us today at 228-374-5151 or toll free 1-855-558-2977 or contact us online to schedule your free initial consultation so we can start fighting for your rights and help you obtain the compensation you deserve.
We also handle truck accidents in Pascagoula.