New Jersey Truck Accident Attorney
A truck accident can take a devastating toll on a victim’s life. Injuries inflict physical and emotional pain. Medical bills and missing work causes financial hardship. A truck accident that tragically takes someone’s life causes widespread suffering.
No one deserves to suffer harm because of the careless or wrongful actions of a trucker or a trucking company.
If a New Jersey truck accident harms you or a loved one, then you may have the right to take legal action seeking compensation for your injuries and losses. The New Jersey personal injury lawyers from Jacoby & Meyers, LLP can help you in the aftermath of a truck accident.
Contact a New Jersey truck accident attorney today at the office most convenient to you in Edison or Newark for a free case evaluation to determine the best course of action for your situation.
Jacoby & Meyers, LLP’s Results in Truck Accident Claims
The skilled lawyers at Jacoby & Meyers, LLP have advocated for accident victims for over four decades. Their experience in negotiating, settling, and litigating personal injury claims, including those involving truck accidents, has led to millions of dollars in settlements and verdicts for their clients.
In a recent truck accident case, for example, our client suffered injuries as the occupant of a car that was stopped at a traffic light, waiting for a green light. A truck making an improper wide turn hit the front passenger side of the vehicle. The truck fled the scene and the driver of the car followed the trucker to the next stoplight and recorded license plates and other crucial information.
Our client refused treatment at the scene of the accident but felt neck and back pain later the same day, so he went to the emergency room. Ultimately, our client needed neck surgery and had to have a spinal cord stimulator inserted to relieve his lower back pain. We were able to secure a $2.5 million settlement for our client’s injuries.
This is only one example of a truck accident case outcome and does not guarantee a specific financial outcome in any case. Each case has distinctive facts that determine its value; however, the experienced truck accident attorneys at Jacoby & Meyers, LLP always diligently pursue the best outcome possible for our clients’ truck accident cases.
Trucks Risk Certain Types of Accidents
Trucks get involved in, or cause, a wide range of collisions. Some types of accidents, however, involve trucks exclusively or more often than others, and others result in catastrophic injuries more often when they involve trucks. Contact Jacoby & Meyers, LLP if you have sustained injuries in any of the following types of truck accidents on New Jersey roads.
Semi-trucks can weigh up to 80,000 pounds fully loaded. In a crash at highway speeds, a vehicle that heavy can cause massive damage. In a head-on collision between a truck and a passenger, occupants of the passenger vehicle frequently sustain catastrophic and fatal injuries. These accidents happen when truck drivers lose control of their rigs and cross over a centerline or highway median. Speeding, using controlled substances, getting distracted, and (most of all) extreme trucker fatigue all contribute to head-on truck collisions.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) estimates that it takes a tractor-trailer the length of two football fields to come to a complete stop when traveling 65 miles per hour. Poor road conditions, heavy load weight, and faster-than-safe speed all increase a truck’s stopping length. Truck drivers who follow other vehicles too closely, especially in high-traffic settings, frequently lack the reaction time and stopping distance necessary to avoid a catastrophic rear-end collision.
Semi-trucks have two components: the tractor truck, and the trailer. The two connect with a hitch that allows for the trailer to pivot, making turning possible. If a truck driver slams on his brakes or improperly uses his engine brake, however, this pivot point can cause problems. The trailer can push against the tractor truck, overwhelming it and causing the entire rig to fold like the blade and body of a pocket knew. A jackknifed truck continues moving down the road sideways and utterly out of control until it rolls over, collides with a vehicle or road feature, or comes to a stop through friction. No matter what happens, a jackknifed tractor trailer represents an extreme danger to others on and around the road.
Semi-trucks don’t roll over as often as smaller commercial trucks. Yet, regardless of size, trucks are typically top-heavy. A truck that travels too fast around a sharp curve, or that jackknifes, or that turns sharply, risks having its center of gravity shift too quickly. This can lead to a deadly rollover accident in which the trucker and other motorists may die or sustain serious injuries, other vehicles may get crushed by the truck, and cargo may spill dangerously onto the road.
An underride collision is a rear-end or side impact between a large truck and a much smaller vehicle. When the truck and vehicle collide, the vehicle gets stuck under the rear or side of the trailer. The car rides under the trailer, or more specifically, gets dragged or crushed. Underride collisions typically result in death or catastrophic injury for those in the smaller vehicle.
Trucking companies and their employees have an obligation to load cargo securely and safely so it doesn’t shift, spill, leak, or fall off during transport. Truck drivers, even if they do not supervise the loading of their trucks, also have a responsibility to confirm load security before heading out onto the road. A mistake, laziness, or any other cause of insecure cargo can lead to dangerous accidents. If cargo comes loose, especially in open-bed trucks, it can wind up all over the road putting those nearby at risk for accident and injury. When hazardous materials spill, those nearby also face a risk of explosion and/or toxic chemical exposure.
Truck Driver Error Causes Many Truck Accidents
A variety of different scenarios can lead to a truck accident, but most are preventable and most result from truckers making mistakes behind the wheel. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), responsible for regulating the trucking industry, identifies the following dangerous truck driver behaviors as the biggest culprits that lead to truck accidents:
Federal law has prohibited truck drivers from using cell phones for far longer than laws applying to passenger car drivers. So, cell phone use, at least in theory, should not represent the same danger for those who share the road with truckers as it does when sharing the road with other passenger drivers. Nevertheless, truck driver distraction still represents a major hazard on New Jersey roads. Anything that takes a trucker’s eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, or mind away from driving constitutes a dangerous distraction.
Some examples of distracting behaviors that can lead to a deadly truck accident include programming a GPS, adjusting a radio or CB, eating, drinking, reaching for an item on the floor, daydreaming, and watching events outside of the vehicle. Many of these distractions are not illegal, which means truckers are more likely to engage in them, potentially causing an accident and injuries.
Truck drivers work a difficult job with a demanding schedule that often includes long stretches of driving at times of day that conflict with their bodies’ natural sleep cycle. The FMCSA requires drivers to take breaks as they transport the goods we need throughout New Jersey and the United States, but even with breaks, hard-working truckers can suffer from extreme and dangerous fatigue.
In research about the relationship between sleep and driver impairment, the FMCSA found that drivers who go without sleep for 18 hours experience impairment to the same extent as a person who is intoxicated at a 0.08 breath alcohol level. Drowsy or fatigued drivers risk nodding off or completely falling asleep at the wheel putting everyone else on the road at risk for a disastrous truck accident.
The FMCSA requires anyone who holds a commercial drivers’ license (CDL) to submit to random drug and alcohol screenings, so you might assume that truckers rarely drive under the influence. Many truckers do follow the law and uphold the higher standard they must follow; CDL holders cannot drive with a breath or blood alcohol level of 0.04 or greater. Yet, many truck drivers also abuse drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with the demands of their jobs.
Additionally, some drivers have health conditions that require them to take prescription medication that has dangerous side effects, especially if mixed with alcohol. Truck drivers who abuse controlled substances or do not use prescription medication in accordance with a doctor’s orders put others on the road at risk for injury or death.
The FMSCA estimates almost one-third of all fatal truck accidents involve drivers who were speeding. Trucks weigh 20 to 30 times more than the average passenger vehicle when fully loaded. This weight, coupled with the high speeds involved, creates a force so powerful upon the impact accident victims rarely escape without catastrophic injury. Truckers who speed lose critical control of their trucks, and cannot react in time to avoid traffic or hazardous road conditions. Many large trucks have mechanisms called governors that prevent drivers from traveling at more than a certain speed, but that feature is not always enough to prevent dangerous accidents, especially when truckers travel too fast for weather conditions.
New Jersey Truck Accident Frequently Asked Questions FAQs
Truck accidents cause thousands of deaths and many more injuries each year across the United States. If you were injured in a truck accident, an experienced attorney can help you understand the legal process for pursuing compensation and the options available to you. Here are the answers to some common questions we get asked by our truck accident clients and prospective clients.
What makes commercial trucks so dangerous?
Much of the danger involved with commercial trucks is due to their massive size. Consider these facts:
- When fully loaded, a tractor-trailer can weigh up to 20-30 times more than the average passenger car.
- Tractor-trailers have a higher ground clearance, which causes a risk of smaller vehicles slipping underneath them during an accident. This is known as an underride.
- They are a tall, narrow vehicle with a high center of gravity, which makes them prone to rolling over during emergency driving maneuvers or when traveling around a sharp curve at speed.
- Loaded tractor-trailers require 20-40 percent more distance to come to a safe stop than passenger cars do. This distance can become even larger if on wet or icy roads.
Additionally, there is the danger of driver fatigue, which is a common issue in the trucking industry. While the federal government has attempted to prevent driver fatigue by instituting hours of service rules, mandatory breaks, and electronic logging devices to track the number of hours a driver has worked, drivers reportedly violate these regulations.
Are all commercial trucks considered tractor-trailers?
No. There several different types of commercial trucks on U.S. roadways include:
- Tractor-trailers, also known as semi-trucks
- Box trucks
- Refrigerated trucks
- Dump trucks
- Logging trucks
- Flatbed trucks
- Oil tankers
- Cement and concrete trucks
How common are accidents involving commercial trucks?
Accidents involving commercial trucks result in the deaths of over 4,000 people a year. The majority of those fatalities are the occupants of passenger cars. There are more than 110,000 injury crashes each year in the U.S. that involve commercial trucks.
How are truck accident cases different from cases involving other types of motor vehicles?
Lots of ways. The damage done by truck accidents tends to be more severe than that seen in passenger vehicle accidents due to the destructive force of large, heavy trucks in a collision. Truck accidents get complicated, quickly, because many different parties often have legal interests in commercial trucks, and accidents often cut a wide swath of destruction that impacts multiple victims.
Another difference is that commercial truck drivers must follow a slew of regulations that can affect the determination of who has legal liability for the truck accident, including regular drug and alcohol screenings, hours of service requirements, proof of regular maintenance on the vehicle, and physical examinations to determine if the driver is medically fit to drive.
Who regulates the commercial trucking industry?
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) describes itself as “the lead federal government agency responsible for regulating and providing safety oversight of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs).”
Who might be legally liable in a truck accident case?
Broadly speaking, anyone whose dangerous decisions or careless actions lead to an otherwise preventable truck accident can owe legal liability to its victims. This may include:
- The truck driver;
- The truck driver’s employer;
- The company that loaded cargo into the truck;
- The contractor responsible for maintaining the truck;
- The manufacturer of the truck or its parts, if those parts failed and caused the accident; and
- Other drivers on the road whose actions caused the accident;
This is just a sampling of the parties who may have a legal liability for a truck accident. Speak with an experienced New Jersey truck accident injury attorney to determine who may have a legal liability to you for your truck accident injuries.
The truck in my accident experienced a tire blowout. Who is liable?
Tire blowouts are relatively common in the trucking industry and often result from faster-than-normal deterioration of truck tire material due to heat and friction. Other common causes of tire blowouts include lack of regular maintenance, overweight loads, a slow leak or an under-inflated tire, defective tires, inclement weather, or road defects.
Commercial trucks must receive regular maintenance, and truck drivers must inspect their vehicles before transporting a load to ensure the vehicle’s good condition. Generally, anyone responsible for maintaining or inspecting a truck’s tires may have liability for an accident caused tire blowout. However, a tire that blows out because of an inherent defect in its design or its materials may place liability on the tire’s manufacturer or distributor.
What would make the trucking company liable for my accident?
In New Jersey, employers have legal responsibility for the actions of their employees in the normal course of their employment. Beyond that, like anyone else, employers have duties of care to the public-at-large, which include acting reasonably in employing drivers by conducting background checks and ensuring a driver receives proper training.
In some cases—though not all—the truck itself belongs to the employer, not the employee, and the employer pays for the insurance on it. Additionally, trucking companies can face liability for encouraging drivers to bend rules and driving more hours than permitted or to rush to their deliveries at an unsafe pace.
What evidence can support a truck accident case?
Many items of information typical of a truck accident could serve as important evidence in proving someone’s liability to you, such as:
- Photos and reports from the accident scene;
- The identities of everyone involved in the accident, from the vehicle driver and passengers to bystanders and anyone who has a legal interest in the truck and its cargo;
- Your medical records;
- Proof of expenses you have incurred, such as receipts or bills;
- Your pay stubs (to prove the amount of income you may have lost); and
- The trucker’s driving records, including electronic hours of service logs.
No one expects you to gather all of this information on your own. However, you can help your case by not throwing any relevant records away and giving them to your attorney as you receive them.
Will my PIP policy provide compensation for the expenses caused by my truck accident?
Yes, your PIP should provide benefits to pay your medical and disability-related expenses up to the limit of your policy. At that point, depending on whether you selected a standard insurance policy with unlimited right to sue, or you suffered a serious injury and have a basic insurance policy or a standard policy with limited right to sue, you may have the right to pursue compensation for additional expenses—including pain and suffering—through a personal injury lawsuit.
A serious injury in New Jersey results in:
- Loss of a limb, including an arm, leg, hand, foot, fingers or toes;
- Significant scarring or disfigurement;
- Permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability;
- A broken bone; and
- Loss of a fetus.
New Jersey insurance coverage rules can get confusing, so if you have questions about the extent of your PIP coverage and your legal rights to seek compensation, speak with an attorney right away.
What is a DQF and how does it pertain to my truck accident?
DQF is the Driver Qualification File. This is a file that the federal government requires trucking companies to keep for all of their drivers. The file contains detailed reports of a trucker’s driving history, medical records, and other information that may prove useful to your case. An experienced New Jersey truck accident attorney will typically want to review the DQF as part of the investigation into a truck accident.
The trucking company’s insurance carrier just offered me a settlement. Should I take it?
You should not agree to a settlement offer without first speaking to an experienced truck accident attorney. Insurance companies will often seek to minimize their liability for truck accident claims. One of the ways they do this is by offering an injured person a quick settlement at a time when the person is often in pain, vulnerable, and not yet represented by an attorney.
These quick settlements rarely take the full picture of your injuries into account—including your long-term prognosis, any future medical treatments you may require, or the impact that your injuries will have on your life. They aren’t meant to. They’re meant to buy you off as quickly and as cheaply as possible.
A settlement agreement is a contract. You release the insurance company and the person it insures from liability in exchange for a payment. If you accept a settlement that is not large enough to cover your expenses and help you cope with the impacts that your injuries have on your life, you will not have the ability to go back and ask for more money later.
Do not give up your valuable legal rights without consulting with an experienced New Jersey truck accident injury attorney.
The trucking company’s insurance carrier wants a statement from me. What should I do?
Avoid making any type of statement to anyone’s insurance company without first speaking with an experienced truck accident attorney. Insurance companies use those statements to find ways to minimize the amount of money they pay you. Precise wording matters. Talk to an attorney first.
My loved one died and I sustained injuries in a truck accident caused by the truck driver. Should I pursue a wrongful death case or a personal injury case?
Every situation has its own unique facts and circumstances, but generally speaking, the answer to this question is you do both. Injured truck accident victims have legal rights to compensation for the harm they personally suffered, as well as legal rights to seek compensation for their loved one’s wrongful death. Both types of cases entitle you to seek money damages for distinct kinds of harm you and your loved one suffered. Speak with an attorney to understand the distinction between these two types of cases.
Why do I need an attorney for my truck accident case?
First, because you cannot hope to recover adequate compensation on your own. That is just a fact.
Second, because truck accidents, especially, often feature factual and legal complexities that a less-experienced lawyer (much less a non-lawyer) can find difficult to untangle. Trucking cases frequently involve widespread damage, multiple parties, and knotty trucking regulations. Trucking companies and their insurance providers often hire expensive corporate defense attorneys. They may even flirt with filing for bankruptcy to avoid paying you what you deserve.
Experienced truck accident attorneys understand the ropes of these cases and have the resources and know-how to navigate their clients through to the most successful outcome available.
Some of the services truck accident attorneys frequently provide include:
- Careful examination of the facts and circumstances of the truck accident to identify all parties with liability and the financial resources available to pay damages.
- Quick action to secure potential evidence in a case, including the trucker’s driving records and the truck’s black box information.
- A determination of the value of the case based on the expenses a client has incurred and the impacts injuries have had and will have on the client’s life.
- Skilled negotiation with the at-fault party’s insurance carrier in pursuit of a fair settlement offer.
- Preparation for litigation, including the timely filing of all court-required documents, attendance at all pre-trial conferences, the collection of evidence, and deposing witnesses.
- Representation in court, including opening and closing arguments, the presentation of the case, and cross examination of the defendant and/or witnesses.
- Assistance with collecting any settlement or award.
- Continued representation if the defense files an appeal.
If you have questions about your legal rights to compensation after a New Jersey truck accident, contact an experienced local truck accident attorney today.
Recouping Losses After a New Jersey Truck Accident
If you have sustained serious injuries in a New Jersey truck accident, then you may have the right to take legal action against anyone whose decisions or actions contributed to the crash.
In that legal action, you may have the ability to recover compensation for:
- Medical treatment costs including ambulance and emergency services, hospital stay, surgery, diagnostic imaging, prescription medication, followup visits, and travel expenses to and from the hospital
- Future medical treatment costs when a truck accident causes severe injuries requiring extensive recovery or multiple surgeries, or permanent disability or condition requiring long-term care, likely in a nursing home
- Rehabilitation costs for visiting specialists who help accident victims regain lost function or cope with permanent disabilities, such as physical therapists, occupational therapists, and psychologists
- Lost wages from missing work because of the truck accident, treatment, and healing
- Lost future wages when a truck accident victim cannot return to their job or seek future employment because of their injuries
- Non-economic losses such as physical pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of consortium with a spouse, or others that apply to a specific situation
Every truck accident has its own unique facts and circumstances, so there is never a guarantee that a particular case will entitle an accident victim to all (or even any) of the types of compensation above. Also, because of the wide variation in injuries and losses that result from New Jersey struck accidents, and the diversity of parties who may have liability for them, the amount of money an accident victim may have the right to recover differs case-to-case. The best way to learn about your rights to receive compensation after a New Jersey truck accident is to work with an experienced truck accident injury attorney.
Contact an Experienced New Jersey Truck Accident Attorney Today
Truck accidents wreak havoc in the lives of New Jersey residents and visitors every day. No one should face the aftermath of a catastrophic, and preventable, truck crash alone. All accident victims deserve experienced, dedicated, compassionate legal representation to help them recover the compensation they deserve for their injuries and losses.
“I highly recommend hiring Jacoby & Meyers should you ever find yourself injured in an accident, and an individual or company needs to be held accountable for their negligence.” -C.J.
If you live in New Jersey and have suffered severe injuries in a truck accident, you can start an online chat with one of our live representatives, contact Jacoby & Meyers, LLP online, or call the New Jersey office most convenient for you (we have offices in Edison and Newark) at (877) 505-2368 for a free case evaluation. Do not wait. Your legal rights may depend on you taking quick action—and we’re ready to discuss your truck accident and injuries with you.