Large trucks are made to bring goods across the country, and as a result, they are specifically designed to carry large amounts of cargo on the nation’s highways. However, at the beginning and end of a truck driver’s journey, he or she will at some point have to drive on smaller surface streets.

Going to SchoolDriving on small city streets can present difficulties for many truck drivers, whose rigs may be upwards of 70 feet long and may consist of several trailers being towed by a single truck. For example, many city intersections are much smaller than truck drivers are used to navigating, and they may require special maneuvers to safely negotiate them. In addition, the presence of pedestrians and bicyclists presents additional hazards that truck drivers must take precautions to avoid.

Despite the additional difficulties of driving on smaller roads, truck drivers remain responsible for safely operating their vehicles and may be held liable when they cause an accident on city streets. Of course, some accidents may be unavoidable even with the exercise of due caution, and truck drivers are not likely to be responsible for these. However, when a truck driver’s negligence or inexperience results in an accident, the truck driver – and potentially their employer – may be held liable for any injuries that result.

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Being involved in any kind of traffic accident can take its toll on an accident victim. Between the physical recovery and the emotional distress most accident victims endure, the recovery process can take months or even years. Add to this the likely prospect of mounting medical bills and time away from work, and the recovery process becomes one of not just physical and emotional wellbeing but also financial stability.

Cloudy HighwayIn Maryland, those who have been involved in a serious truck accident may be able to seek financial compensation for the injuries they have endured through a Maryland truck accident lawsuit. Depending on the circumstances of the accident and the severity of the accident victim’s injuries, recovery packages may include amounts for past and future medical expenses, lost wages, and any pain and suffering that the accident victim endured as a result of the accident.

Before an accident victim is entitled to receive compensation, however, they must establish that the named defendant or defendants were legally responsible for causing the accident as well as the accident victim’s injuries. A dedicated personal injury attorney should be consulted prior to filing any truck accident case, not just to ensure that all procedural rules are followed but also to assist the accident victim in preparing a strong case for recovery.

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The research is clear; left turns are generally dangerous for all motorists — and pedestrians. According to a study by New York City’s transportation planners, left-hand turns were three times as likely to cause a deadly crash involving a pedestrian as right-hand turns. Drivers turning left accounted for 19 percent of serious pedestrian and bicyclist injuries in New York City.

No Left TurnAccording to a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA), turning left is one of the most common pre-crash events, occurring in 22 percent of crashes, as opposed to 1.2 percent for right turns. About 61 percent of crashes that occur while crossing an intersection or turning involve left turns, as opposed to 3.1 percent involving right turns. The NHTSA also found that 36 percent of fatal accidents involving a motorcycle involved a left-hand turn in front of a motorcycle. Traffic engineers also claim that left-hand turns can cause congestion, further increasing the risk of accidents.

Vehicles turning left have to turn against the flow of oncoming cars, which some say is dangerous and builds up traffic. In fact, the parcel delivery company UPS instructs its drivers to almost never take left-hand turns, which the company claims saves millions of gallons on gas each year due to decreased time waiting in traffic. The company’s software determines the most efficient route for each truck, and generally that route avoids left turns. One UPS employee explained that when a motorist makes left turns, their car has to idle longer, which burns fuel.

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Late last month, an accident between a pick-up truck and a bus resulted in 13 fatalities. According to a news report covering the tragic accident, the driver of the pick-up truck may have been texting in the moments leading up to the fatal accident.

Truck WindowEvidently, about 15 minutes prior to the accident, another motorist who was driving behind the pick-up truck noticed that the truck was swerving, crossing in and out of the oncoming lane of traffic. The motorist called the sheriff’s department in two neighboring counties, telling authorities that the driver should be stopped due to his dangerous driving. However, authorities did not respond in time.

The pick-up truck eventually veered into oncoming traffic, directly into the path of a church bus with 14 occupants inside. The driver of the bus was unable to avoid the truck, and the two vehicles collided head-on. Twelve of the passengers aboard the bus were pronounced dead at the scene, and another was pronounced dead a short time later at the hospital.

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Earlier this month, a Virginia appellate court issued a written opinion in a wrongful death case that was brought by the wife of a man who was killed when he was struck by a train. The case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss how the “last clear chance doctrine” may allow recovery for a plaintiff whose own negligence placed him in a dangerous situation. Ultimately, the court held that a defendant who is able to avoid an accident but fails to do so may be held liable in some circumstances.

Train TracksThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff’s husband was walking along a set of railroad tracks, listening to music on his phone, when a passing train struck him. The man was instantly killed. His wife, the plaintiff, filed a wrongful death case against the company that operated the train, as well as against the train’s engineer and conductor. The plaintiff claimed that the defendants saw that her husband was dangerously close to the tracks, and they should have brought the train to a stop before it struck him.

The defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff’s husband’s own negligence prevented the lawsuit from moving forward. Normally, in Virginia personal injury cases, under the doctrine of contributory negligence, if an accident victim is even partially at fault for the accident resulting in their injuries, the accident victim will not be permitted to recover damages. However, the plaintiff argued that under the last clear chance doctrine, the defendants should be held liable for failing to avoid the accident.

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Drunk driving has long been a concern among lawmakers and motorists when it comes to those who operate large trucks for a living. While the majority of truck drivers obey the laws requiring they remain free from the effects of drugs or alcohol while behind the wheel, the reality is that too many truck drivers break the rules when it is convenient for them do so.

Head of HairFor example, some truck drivers use illegal stimulant drugs so that they can remain alert and travel longer distances per day. This is important for many truck drivers, who are compensated on a per-mile basis. However, while stimulant use may temporarily increase a driver’s alertness, it can also have unanticipated consequences, including difficulties maintaining concentration, sudden fatigue, and an altered sense of which risks are acceptable to take while behind the wheel.

Maryland lawmakers understand the dangers drunk truck drivers pose and have enacted strict penalties for any truck driver found to be operating a vehicle while intoxicated. Rather than the .08 blood-alcohol limit applicable to most motorists, commercial truck drivers are subject to the lower limit of .04 blood-alcohol content. This can be as little as one or two drinks in a period of two hours.

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Large trucks are complex machines with many interacting systems. When any one of a truck’s systems breaks down, the driver of the truck may lose control of the vehicle, increasing the risk of causing an accident. In some cases, a driver’s own conduct may overburden a particular system, causing it to give in under the excess pressure. It is for this reason that truck accidents are rarely as cut-and-dry as they seem in the immediate aftermath of the accident.

Fire TruckIn fact, many truck accidents have multiple causes that only become apparent after an in-depth investigation is conducted. In some cases, it is the combination of several smaller errors or break-downs that allow for a situation where an accident can occur. For example, it is incredibly important for truck drivers to operate their vehicle in a safe manner. However, it is also important for drivers to ensure that all equipment is in proper working condition. Otherwise, even the stress from normal operation can have tragic results.

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Whenever anyone is injured in a serious or fatal truck accident, the injured party or their family may be eligible for monetary compensation upon a showing that the semi-truck driver’s negligence was the cause of the accident and of their injuries. In some cases, the trucking company can also be named as a party to the lawsuit.

OverpassThese truck accident lawsuits require an injured party prove four main elements:

  1. That the truck driver owed the accident victim a duty of care;
  2. That the truck driver violated that duty of care by some action or failure to take a required action;
  3. That the truck driver’s violation of the duty he owed to the plaintiff caused the plaintiff’s injuries; and
  4. That the plaintiff suffered some identifiable injury.

The first and last element are generally easily met. However, the second and third elements may involve significant litigation in some cases, especially where the semi-truck driver claims that he was not at fault for the accident and that it was some other event that caused the accident victim’s injuries.

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Truck drivers operate some of the most dangerous vehicles on the road, and as a result they have a heightened duty to those with whom they share the road. One of truck drivers’ most obvious duties is to safely operate their vehicles while on public roads. This includes remaining free from the effects of drugs or alcohol, getting enough rest to be fully aware while driving, and also paying full attention to their surroundings.

TruckWhen a truck driver fails to live up to this standard, the likelihood of causing an accident greatly increases. When an accident does occur, the accident victim may be entitled to monetary compensation for their injuries from the truck driver and potentially the driver’s employer.

Trucking companies are not liable in every truck accident case; however, they can often be named as additional defendants when the accident victim can show that there was some negligence on the employer’s part, or the truck driver was acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident. This may also be appropriate when the truck supplied by the employer had a dangerous defect, or the employer failed to conduct an adequate background check of the employee prior to hiring him.

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After any accident, an injured motorist and any passengers are entitled to file a personal injury lawsuit against the party they believe to be at fault for causing the accident. In many cases involving private citizens named as defendants, the process is a fairly straightforward one, requiring only that the motorcyclist prove that the defendant’s negligence caused their injuries. However, when the at-fault party is a government employee or contractor, there may be issues of immunity that must be overcome.

MailboxAs a general rule, government agencies and their employees are entitled to immunity from personal injury lawsuits arising out of any actions related to the performance of a government function. While this seems like an extremely broad grant of immunity, the reality is that there are many exceptions to the general rule. For example, if a government employee is acting recklessly or is in violation of the law at the time of the accident, immunity will not likely attach.

Even if government immunity is not likely given the circumstances of the accident, it is advisable that anyone injured by a government employee contact a dedicated personal injury attorney prior to filing a case. For example, plaintiffs filing lawsuits against government agencies and their employees generally must comply with additional procedural requirements or risk that their case is prematurely dismissed.

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