Our Honolulu personal injury attorneys at Leavitt Yamane & Soldner know from experience that accidents involving heavy commercial trucks or tractor trailers can result in serious or fatal injuries to people in passenger cars or riding motorcycles, motor scooters, or bicycles on our Hawaii roads.
Big trucks weigh tens of thousands of pounds. That weight makes these trucks hard to stop and harder to control. It also creates a severe impact in a collision.
If you have been injured in an accident caused by a commercial truck driver or if you have lost a family member in of one these horrific crashes, you should seek help from a firm that knows the unique ins and outs of these cases. Truck accident cases are generally more complicated than car accident cases. They involve extensive investigation that should begin immediately after the crash, involving review of commercial driver logs and truck maintenance records. They often require dealing with multiple insurance companies to seek compensation. This is why it takes the kind of skill, experience, and resources that a firm like Leavitt Yamane & Soldner can provide to recover the full amount you deserve.
There were six commercial truck accident fatalities in Hawaii in 2012, according to the latest data available from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
• An accident in which a utility truck, driven with the boom in the “up” position, snagged a utility line, which caused the truck to fall over and slide into a Big Island woman’s vehicle. She died and two of her passengers were injured.
• A Hawaii Island teen, who died in a pedestrian accident, when he was struck in a crosswalk by a semi-trailer truck while crossing the intersection of Highway 19 and Paauilo Makai Road.
More recently, a 55-year-old county worker was killed in June 2014 as he stood next to a trailer attached to a county pickup truck and a semi-truck heading west on Kaumualii Highway struck the trailer. Serious truck accidents occur in many different ways.
The six fatal truck accidents in 2012 constituted 3.4 percent of all fatal vehicle accidents in the islands that year. Nationwide, crashes involving large trucks resulted in 3,964 deaths and 95,000 people injured in 2013. Of those who died or were injured in truck crashes in 2013, most were occupants of other vehicles – not the truck. Another 10 percent of people killed and three percent of people injured were either pedestrians, cyclists, or otherwise not in any vehicle.
Among the common factors cited in tractor trailer accidents are:
• Aggressive driving, which includes such unsafe driving behaviors as speeding, tailgating (following too closely), cutting other vehicles off, and unsafe lane changes. Any of these actions may result in loss of control of the truck and a crash. Too often, truckers put meeting deadlines ahead of safety and drive aggressively, disregarding reduced speed limits for trucks.
• Distracted driving, particularly texting while driving and other use of cellphones. Research commissioned by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) shows the odds of being involved in a crash, near crash, or unintentional lane deviation are 23 times greater for truck drivers who text while driving than for those who do not. The FMCSA has published rules that restrict texting and the use of handheld mobile phones by truck drivers while operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV).
• Fatigued or drowsy driving. Truck drivers’ long work hours cause sleep deprivation, disruption of normal sleep/rest cycles, and fatigue, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says. Institute research has found that truck drivers behind the wheel for more than eight hours are twice as likely to crash. Truckers also work under federal Hours of Service regulations that limit how long they may drive without mandated rest periods. Still, some companies pressure their drivers to ignore these regulations to meet unreasonable delivery deadlines.
• Impaired driving, involves both drunk driving and drugged driving. Because truckers are subject to testing and may lose their commercial license, drunk driving accidents among truck drivers are relatively rare compared to drunk driving among passenger vehicle drivers.
• Improper maintenance. The IIHS says tractor trailers with defective equipment were twice as likely to be involved in crashes as trucks without defects. Brake defects were the most common problem, followed by faulty steering equipment. A 2010 study found that almost 55 percent of trucks in post-crash inspections had at least one mechanical violation and almost 30 percent had at least one condition serious enough to have taken the vehicle immediately out of service.
Another problem with truck crashes is the danger of underride, which is caused by the height of commercial trucks. In an underride crash, a passenger vehicle slides partially or wholly under a truck or trailer, increasing the likelihood of death or serious injury to the shorter vehicle’s occupants. Rear underride guards, which are required on trucks of appropriate size, are supposed to stop this from happening, but IIHS research indicates that even guards that meet federal safety standards can fail in relatively low speed crashes.
When Leavitt Yamane & Soldner investigates your truck accident case, we will review the police report for information about the crash. But that report alone won’t provide all of the answers. We also will likely need to hire investigators and consult with accident reconstruction experts to get to the true cause of your crash.
We look at all possibilities in a truck accident. If you have been injured in such a wreck, you are not limited to sue only the trucker who hit you. The trucking company may also be legally responsible for its driver’s negligence. In some cases, the company may be directly to blame for the crash, such as for overworking drivers or being negligent in hiring, training, or supervising drivers and other personnel. The manufacturer of the truck and its parts may also be held responsible if an accident was caused by faulty brakes or steering, a tire blowout, or another defective part or automotive system.
Truck accident cases can be extremely complex and may involve taking action against companies that are based on the mainland or in different countries.
Keep in mind: Within hours of the accident, the trucking company will have a team of insurance adjusters and lawyers working to protect their financial interests. In fact, a trucking company representative may arrive at the accident scene while the police are still collecting information. That is why it is crucial to have an experienced legal team working on your case as soon as possible to protect your rights.
The injuries that a victim suffers in a truck accident tend to be severe or catastrophic. This is especially true if you were a motorcycle, moped, or bicycle rider who was struck on one of our roads.
At Leavitt Yamane & Soldner, we have experience handling even the most complex injuries, including those involving traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury. We consult with highly qualified medical experts. By working closely with these professionals, we can assess the full extent of compensation you will need to provide for care and treatment in the future.
The law firm of Leavitt Yamane & Soldner employs a team approach to handling truck accident cases. This means that a partner from our firm will be directly involved in your case and we will draw upon the skills and resources available throughout our firm. We are committed to one goal: Securing compensation that will allow you to move forward with your life. We offer a free review of your case and we won’t charge for our legal services unless we obtain compensation for you.