MARYLAND TRUCK ACCIDENT CASES

Everything You Need to Know About Maryland Truck Accident Cases

The average tractor trailer weighs 40,000 lbs. The average car weighs 5,000 lbs.

This page will look at Maryland auto accident cases involving commercial trucks, also known as tractor-trailer trucks or big rigs. Semi-trucks can weigh as much as 18,000 pounds. So, when they crash into smaller vehicles, they can cause significant damage. When these accidents occur drivers and passengers typically sustain serious injuries or even death. Personal injury claims involving commercial trucks generally are unique. Recovering compensation requires an understanding of the complexity of these claims.

What Makes Truck Accident Cases Unique?

Some truck accidents that involve pickup trucks, sport utility vehicles (SUV), or small trucks can be handled just like any other car accident. However, 18-wheeler commercial vehicles and tractor-trailer accidents are very different. When it comes to personal injury law, truck accidents can be differentiated from other accidents involving standard passenger vehicles for several reasons.

Financial Impact

Commercial trucking wrecks have the potential to result in serious if not fatal injuries. This means that victims and families commonly incur substantial economic and non-economic damages. While standard passenger vehicle accidents may also include large financial damages, the likelihood is substantially higher in accidents involving commercial trucks. In fatal truck accidents, 97% of fatalities are the people in passenger vehicles, not at fault drivers.

Trucking Regulations

Truck cases involve a tightly regulated industry. Commercial trucks and tractor-trailers are subject to numerous local, state, and federal laws. They are also subject to a range of federal trucking regulations. Attorneys must have an understanding of these regulations to identify when someone has violated them. Maryland has specific laws that were created to help victims.  Maryland’s commercial vehicle state law details regulations that can be very impactful to the outcome of a case.

Black Boxes

Most big rig trucks maintain black box devices that measure various parameters to assist in determining how the truck accident occurred. Black boxes are onboard information recorders that are capable of capturing operational data through a truck’s electronic network. These boxes can be vital to proving the validity of a victim’s case and are not seen in typical passenger vehicle accidents.

When a big truck drives without a trailer it is called “bobtailing”

Trucks do not handle well when bobtailing and are more prone to accidents

Preservation of Evidence

Black boxes also lead to another important consideration, the preservation of evidence. Drivers and trucking companies have an incentive to destroy evidence that does not support their version of the facts. Black boxes are on board most trucks and capture relevant information. Meaning, that they provide a unique advantage to victims of trucking accidents. Parties in a truck accident case have a duty to retain evidence that could be relevant to the crash. To preserve this evidence, a victim must work with an attorney to put the defendants on notice of a potential claim. Given the incentive to alter evidence,  this may seem problematic and time-sensitive. However, in Maryland, the court views the destruction or alteration of evidence as wrongdoing by that party. When this occurs, Maryland courts assume that the destroyed evidence contained information most favorable to the victim. By doing this, courts provide an advantage to victims and help lead to the most equitable results.

Company Negligence

Unlike traditional passenger vehicle accidents, trucking accidents most often involve an employer.Therefore victims may also consider whether the employer may be partly responsible. In this instance, a victim would likely pursue a claim for negligent entrustment or negligent supervision. These causes of action focus on the employer’s responsibility to the victim. For example, if the company failed to properly screen or train the driver, the employer could be held liable. Likewise, a victim could bring a claim for negligent maintenance. This legal theory relates to a company or driver who failed to properly maintain their truck.

Common Causes of Truck Accidents

It goes without saying that every accident is different. Trucking accidents can have many potential causes. Some of these can stem from less-controllable outside factors, including the erratic driving of another vehicle, poor weather, and poor roadway conditions. Others, however, commonly arise from four main risks that are not present with passenger cars.

Stopping

Due to the size and significant weight, big rigs have a difficult time slowing down. If a truck weighs more, it requires a longer distance to stop and avoid an accident. When truck drivers fail to realize the length needed to prevent an accident, the risk of a rear-end truck collision increases.

Jackknifing

Another common cause of truck accidents is jackknifing. Jackknifing is when an eighteen-wheel trucks’ axle brakes lock up, causing it to skid. The truck’s two separate parts fold in on itself at the point of separation, forming a 90-degree angle with the vehicle. If this occurs, the trailer may flip over and roll. Jackknifing can occur at speeds as low as five miles per hour. Slippery roads, high speeds, or sharp turns can all cause a truck accident from jackknifing. A jackknife accident can cause severe personal injuries and happens more often than one would think. In fact, nearly five percent of all truck accidents are jackknife collisions.

Turning

Large commercial vehicles often need to make very wide turns. To do so, they require the driver to use more than one lane of traffic when turning. To turn, drivers must keep the rear wheels from hitting parked vehicles or the sidewalk. During this process, it is difficult to see because trucks have a partially obstructed view. The lack of ability to see doesn’t provide an adequate look at lanes and oncoming traffic. When a driver cannot view the full road a collision with an unsuspecting passenger is more likely.

Driver Fatigue

One of the most common causes of truck accidents is driver fatigue. The Federal Highway Administration’s Driver Fatigue and Alertness Study describe that fatigue exacerbates all the problems that cause truck accidents. Often, these truck drivers are overworked and over-exhausted from driving all day and night. Creating a situation where a driver cannot concentrate or potentially fall asleep at the wheel. This study showed that the average truck driver only gets 4.8 hours of sleep. The skill and knowledge required to drive a commercial vehicle don’t leave room for a lapse in concentration.

Big trucks require 40% more stopping distance than a normal car.