Nearly half a million truck accidents occur in the United States annually, and many of them result in devastating harm. This is hardly surprising, considering that the average passenger car weighs about 3,500 pounds, a tiny fraction of what a big rig weighs. Overloaded trucks can exacerbate this imbalance. If you have been hurt or lost a loved one because a tractor-trailer was carrying an overweight load, you may be entitled to damages. Many of our clients also come from Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Nassau and Suffolk Counties.
To learn more about your unique situation, contact our firm today. We can help you better understand your options during a free consultation.
Currently, the maximum total weight for a commercial vehicle cannot exceed 80,000 pounds, although the industry has sought in recent years to increase this limit. As the costs of fuel and regulation have increased, trucking companies want to carry larger loads to keep the costs of transportation competitive with alternative methods, such as rail. But there is a downside to heavier weights.
When a truck is overloaded or improperly loaded, it can cause safety problems, such as:
- Weight shifting away from the front tires, affecting the driver’s ability to handle it
- Increasing the stopping distance of the truck when brakes are applied
- Increasing the speed of the vehicle on downhill grades, making it more difficult to stop
- Raising the truck’s center of gravity, making it more likely the truck will roll over
- Increasing the force involved in a collision
- Overstressing the vehicle’s tires, increasing the likelihood of a blowout.
Because of the risks posed by big rigs, federal laws regulate a vast range of matters involving commercial vehicles, including maximum weights. State laws can further limit truck loads on their roads. The principal reason for these restrictions is safety. If a trucker or trucking company causes an accident due to overloading in violation of any of these federal or state regulations, they may be liable for negligence.
This is the typical variety of personal injury claim, which requires showing the four elements of duty, breach of duty, causation, and damages. Courts have generally accepted that all vehicle operators owe a duty of reasonable care to all other users of the road. The duty of care encompasses obedience to all traffic laws and, in the case of trucking companies, compliance with all state and federal safety regulations. A breach may consist of any violation, such as when a trucker overloads a big rig or when his employer has a policy of routinely exceeding weight limits. This conduct poses an unnecessary hazard to other people on the highway.
A victim of an accident involving an overloaded truck also would have to show that it resulted directly from the excessive weight rather than some other intervening cause. While the violation of federal or state regulations does not need to be the only reason that the crash happened, it must be at least a substantial factor in the chain of events. Any damages that can be identified with reasonable certainty may be recovered by a victim who can establish the elements of negligence. These can extend from objective costs, like medical bills or lost income, to more subjective forms of harm, such as pain and suffering.
Truck accident cases may be more complex than the typical car crash claim because of the numerous regulations involved and the fact that you may be dealing with a large company that has sophisticated legal counsel. There are strict time limitations on when a personal injury lawsuit may be filed, and important evidence also can be lost by delay. Even if you think you may be partially at fault for the accident, you may be able to recover damages as long as you were not entirely responsible. Thus, after a crash near Queens, it is important to consult a truck accident lawyer as soon as possible to find out if you have a claim and take the first steps in pursuing it if you do. At the Cassisi Law Firm, we have helped many victims of negligence.
Call us at 718-441-5050, or use our online form to set up your free consultation.