Filing a Trucking Accident Lawsuit
Justin Sheldon—October 3, 2022
Each year, Virginia’s roads and highways see millions of miles traveled. Unfortunately, this can lead to thousands of serious auto accidents.
In 2020, large trucks were involved in 2,356 crashes in Virginia. Though only 15 truck drivers and 1 truck passenger were killed in these crashes, those inside of the smaller vehicles they struck often weren’t so lucky.
Nationwide, more than 7 in every 10 deaths in large truck accidents involve occupants of other vehicles. Truck crashes are also more likely to cause serious or catastrophic injuries than accidents involving other passenger vehicles. These injuries, along with the cost and degree of care needed afterward, can be life-altering.
Breit Biniazan wants you to know your rights after a crash. That’s why we work with you to make sure you understand the factors that may cause a truck accident, who may be responsible, and what damages you can recover if a trucking accident has affected you or someone you love.
- Common Causes of Truck Crashes
- Who is Responsible for Truck Crashes?
- How Long Do You Have to File a Trucking Accident Lawsuit?
- What Damages Are Available?
Common Causes of Truck Crashes
Figuring out what caused a crash makes it easier to find the liable party and hold them accountable. Every crash is different, but there are a few factors that can make a crash more likely.
Commercial truck drivers are required to follow federal hours-of-service regulations—the maximum amount of time drivers are allowed to spend on the road within a 24-hour period.
Under these regulations, drivers must take a break that’s at least 30-minutes every 8 hours. They’re also limited to a maximum of 11 hours of consecutive driving—and only after spending at least 10 hours off duty. Drivers can’t drive beyond the 14th hour after they’ve come on duty, even if they took frequent breaks during this period.
Unfortunately, drivers may still be vulnerable to fatigue, inattention, and sleepiness after spending so much time behind the wheel each day.
Drivers who violate hours-of-service regulations can put themselves and others at serious risk.
Although it’s a driver’s responsibility to abide by hours-of-service regulations, a trucking company may also be liable if there’s evidence that the company encourages drivers to falsify their hours of service or knew of the falsification and chose to look the other way.
Because commercial trucks are larger and take longer to stop than passenger vehicles, a truck driver who removes their eyes from the road for even a second could be risking a crash. This is one reason why federal regulations restrict truck drivers from using any handheld mobile devices while driving.
But talking or texting on a cell phone isn’t the only way for drivers to become distracted. Eating, applying makeup, using the radio, or even talking to a passenger can all cause drivers to pay less attention to the road in front of them, increasing the risk of a crash.
Oversized or Poorly Secured Loads
Drivers are responsible for ensuring their cargo remains secure and doesn’t overload the vehicle.
An improperly-balanced load can make the driver’s job much harder. If a load is lopsided or skewed too far forward or backward, the driver could lose control of the truck and collide with another vehicle. Additionally, an improperly-secured load could come loose and create a roadway hazard.
In all 50 states and the District of Columbia, drivers can be arrested and charged with DUI if they have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 or higher. But for drivers who hold a commercial driver’s license (CDL), the BAC threshold for impaired driving is 0.04.
This lower BAC threshold reflects the greater risk of serious harm if a driver’s reaction times are even mildly impaired by alcohol consumption.
Who is Responsible for Truck Crashes?
Responsibility for an accident depends entirely on the cause of the crash, and more than one person or party may be responsible for the injuries you’ve sustained. Some potential parties that may be responsible include:
The Truck Driver
Any drivers who were involved in the accident may be to blame if it resulted from their:
- Drunk or distracted driving
- Improperly loaded cargo
- Exceeding hours-of-service limits
- Driving too quickly for weather conditions
- Any other driver errors
The Trucking Company
In some cases, both the truck driver and their employer may be liable for damages from an accident. Some examples of when a trucking company may share responsibility include when the company:
- Pressures the driver to work past the regulated hours of service
- Fails to adequately screen, train, or supervise its drivers
- Ignores or covers up its drivers’ safety or regulatory violations
Trucking companies are responsible for ensuring the drivers they employ are abiding by all motor carrier laws and regulations. When a trucking company falls short in this duty, it can be legally responsible for any damages that result.
Manufacturers and Repair Shops
Sometimes an accident occurs not because of the truck driver or trucking company’s error, but because of mechanical failure of one or more truck components. This could include:
- Faulty brakes
- Defective tires
- Weak load straps
- Defects in cab and trailer coupling systems
- Recalled truck components
In these situations, the manufacturer or another third party may be responsible for the truck’s dangerous condition. This category can encompass both design and manufacturing defects.
Determining responsibility for an accident can be challenging. Your truck accident attorney will work to find evidence to support your claim, including dash-cam or surveillance videos, witness statements, police reports, and crash-scene photos.
How Long Do You Have to File a Trucking Accident Lawsuit?
Under Virginia law, injured plaintiffs generally have up to two years from the date of the accident or injury to file a lawsuit against the parties responsible.
However, there are many exceptions to this statute of limitations, and you shouldn’t assume your case can’t be litigated just because more than two years have passed. A trucking accident attorney can assess the facts of your case and help you decide the best path forward.
What Damages Are Available?
If your lawsuit is successful, you may be able to recover compensation. Trucking accident damages fall into two main categories: compensatory and punitive.
Compensatory damages are designed to compensate you for your actual losses. They may include:
- Medical expenses
- Property damage
- Cost of future medical treatment
- Lost wages
- Loss of earning ability
- Rehabilitation or physical therapy costs
- Funeral costs (if the accident resulted in death)
- Any other costs associated with the accident
Punitive damages are intended to punish the at-fault party and prevent similar behavior from recurring in the future.
These damages are reserved for cases in which the defendant’s behavior is especially egregious—such as encouraging drivers to break the law or failing to discipline drivers with serious safety violations. Unlike compensatory damages, an award of punitive damages doesn’t need to be based on costs the victim has incurred.
An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you assess whether you’re entitled to compensation and what damages you should seek.
Contact a Trucking Accident Attorney
When you need quality truck accident representation, Breit Biniazan is here to help. Our dedication and professionalism will ensure that your case is looked after by trained professionals whom you can trust.
We’ll work with you to assess your case, explore your options, and help you decide the options that are best for you. To get a free, confidential case evaluation, contact us online or call our experienced legal team at 855-243-7742 today.
By Justin Sheldon
Justin Sheldon's law career of over ten years began with a sympathy for those who had been injured and a passion for representing those injury victims. With years of experience, ongoing legal education, and various awards winnings, Justin provides the expert and fierce legal representation that Virginia personal injury victims both require and deserve.
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