Truck accidents cause serious injuries and fatalities in Iowa every year. If you have been injured in a trucking accident, contact Iowa personal injury attorney Shawn Smith about filing a claim for compensation.
Causes of Truck Accidents
Truck drivers must abide by strict regulations regarding equipment maintenance and service hours. However, sometimes truck drivers fail to abide by these regulations or act negligently by failing to use reasonable care. Following are some of the most common causes of trucking accidents:
Fatigued driving is one of the top contributors to trucking accidents. Many truck drivers work long hours and may be asked to work shifts overnight. When a truck driver is switched to a different shift, the risk for a fatigue-related accident increases, even for workers who are switched from a night shift to the day shift.
Truck drivers may become distracted while driving just like anyone else. Many trucking fleets are utilizing software to prevent drivers from using cell phones while driving except to look up directions and receive hours-of-service alerts. Inattentive drivers can cause accidents by taking their eyes off the road for mere seconds.
Despite efforts to reduce drunk driving, it is still a common cause of trucking accidents. Drivers who are under the legal limit but who have a blood alcohol content (BAC) above zero are at a greater risk of being involved in a fatal accident than drivers who have not had anything to drink. Truck drivers can be charged with driving while intoxicated if their BAC level is 0.04 or above.
The federal government limits the time that truckers spend on the road before they must take a break. To make up for lost time, many truck drivers are tempted to increase their speeds. This increases the risk of a serious accident.
Trucking Company Liability
Whether or not a trucking company or other business will be held responsible for an accident will depend on whether a truck driver was an employee or an independent contractor. Independent contractors will usually need to carry their own insurance policies and be responsible for damages for any accidents. A company cannot avoid liability by calling a worker and who is truly an employee an independent contractor. Courts will look at factors such as whether the driver owned the truck or furnished other materials and how the worker was compensated.
If the truck driver is an employee engaged in work activities, the company that owns the truck may be held liable for any damages. Insurance policies for commercial vehicles usually have significantly higher limits than the limits required by state law for regular drivers. Commercial truck insurance policies typically have a limit for damages per person involved in an accident and a limit for the entire accident. Some policies have umbrella coverage which can cover serious accidents when damages are extensive.
Some commercial drivers who are involved in an accident will not be covered by their company's insurance. If the driver was driving a vehicle outside the scope of their assigned work duties or running personal errands, vicarious liability of their employer may not apply.
When a driver fails to abide by their employer's policies by texting while driving or disregarding hours-of-service rules, this will not shield a company from liability. In fact, if the employer knew or should have known that a driver was acting negligently or engaging in prohibited behaviors, this is additional proof that the company could have prevented an accident and should be held liable.
Truck Driver Liability
A truck driver will be held liable for damages related to an accident if they were found at least partially at fault for the accident and were either an independent contractor or were not engaged in work-related activities. Courts look at multiple factors to determine whether or not a driver was traveling for work purposes since a small detour from their travel plans will not indemnify the company they were working for from liability for an accident.
Businesses are not ordinarily responsible for the intentional wrongful conduct of their employees. It is rare for a driver to intentionally cause an accident, but when this occurs, the driver will usually be held liable for any injuries.
Benefits of Hiring an Experienced Attorney
If you have been injured in a trucking accident, it is a good idea to hire an experienced personal injury attorney. It is very difficult to know what your case is worth without a lawyer's advice. If you try to settle a personal injury claim yourself, the insurance company is likely to try to deny you full compensation for your injuries. An attorney can handle all negotiation regarding a potential settlement, which can save you considerable time and stress. You can focus on recovering from the accident while your attorney works on getting you compensation for all damages.
Insurance companies will usually look for any reason that they can to deny your claim. Iowa is a comparative negligence state which means that any award of damages can be reduced by the percentage the plaintiff was at fault for an accident. An attorney can fight for compensation for injured truck accident victims by building a case that demonstrates that the other side was at fault for the accident.
Trucking Accident Attorney in Iowa
If you or a loved one were injured in a trucking accident in Iowa, you need an experienced personal injury attorney to fight for you. Call Shawn Smith today to schedule a consultation. Contact the Smith Law Firm, PC online or call (855) 451-1260.