Big rigs and other commercial delivery trucks are a regular sight when taking the I-64 to downtown Richmond or just enjoying a drive on Monument Ave. Trucks and their drivers are a vital part of the economy and necessary for keeping local shelves stocked. They can present a serious danger if the vehicles aren’t maintained, however. When a faulty or poorly repaired part leads to an accident and you get hurt, you have the legal right to pursue compensation for your damages.

How Poor Maintenance Causes Virginia Truck Accidents

Federal regulations require that specific commercial truck components are inspected at regular intervals. Emergency doors and lighting must be checked at least every 90 days, for instance, while an overall comprehensive vehicle inspection is required annually. Any commercial motor vehicle found to be unsafe in these inspections isn’t legally allowed to be Mechanic Inspecting a Semi-Truck's Tires After a Drive Through Virginiaon the road. If that vehicle is driven anyway, the trucking company or driver may be liable for your costs in an accident.

More regular inspections of various parts are required by law as well. Drivers are supposed to perform a detailed examination at the start of a trip and then again after each and every day’s drive. During these trip inspections, the driver should specifically look over parts like brakes, coupling devices, lights, tires, wipers, and the horn.

Unfortunately, truck drivers frequently aren’t paid for the time spent on vehicle inspections, which can create a disincentive for truckers to ensure each daily assessment is actually done properly. Even if the driver catches a mechanical issue in need of repair, there is no guarantee the requested maintenance will actually occur in a timely manner. Unfortunately, that creates conditions ripe for serious injuries in a wreck.

Common Truck Maintenance Issues That Lead to Accidents in Virginia

  • Brakes. Excessively worn or broken brakes may cause rear-end collisions if the truck driver can’t stop in time to avoid a wreck.
  • Cargo. If the goods being transported aren’t fully secured or were improperly loaded, the truck can potentially tip over on the highway or jack knife at high speed.
  • Hitch or coupling devices. The chances of a major accident shoot up significantly if the trailers containing cargo aren’t properly secured to the cab.
  • Lights and reflective strips. When other drivers on the road can’t adequately see the truck at night, a collision is bound to happen sooner or later.
  • Power steering. Without a functioning steering system a driver may loss control of the truck entirely, with no way to turn or swerve out of the way.
  • Turn signals. While it’s merely annoying when another car’s signals aren’t functioning (or the driver is just failing to use them), this problem can become deadly when dealing with an 18-wheeler hauling several tons of cargo while driving at high speed.
  • Tires. If tires aren’t rotated and replaced on a regular schedule they get worn down, which can lead to dangerous tire blowouts on the highway.
  • Underride guards. These guards are meant to prevent drivers in smaller vehicles from getting stuck under the back or sides of the big rig if the trucker needs to slam on the brakes suddenly. Accidents involving broken or missing underride guards are frequently fatal and may require a wrongful death lawsuit against the negligent party who caused the crash.
  • Wipers. This small but critical truck part presents an extremely simple fix to prevent unnecessary collisions in rainy or snowy weather.

How to Find Out What Maintenance Issue Caused Your Truck Accident

Obviously, the truck driver is unlikely to just say out loud at the scene that the accident was caused by broken brakes or worn tires that should have been replaced. However, you need to find out what specifically caused the accident to pursue compensation, and that’s where an experienced attorney comes into the picture.

A lawyer can investigate the collision by acquiring driver logs, employment info, maintenance data, daily inspection reports, video footage, and other evidence. Carriers are legally required to keep documents like driver inspection logs for a set amount of time but are free to shred them after that point, which is one reason why it is crucial to talk to an attorney quickly.

Besides helping you file a personal injury lawsuit within the statute of limitations imposed by Virginia law, an attorney is crucial to acquiring all the evidence necessary to argue your case in court before its eventually destroyed by the trucking company.

Exactly where an act of negligence occurred along the chain of accountability will determine who is specifically liable and presents a good source of potential compensation. For instance, it’s possible the driver didn’t perform a daily inspection, or that the issue was reported, but the carrier simply didn’t order a repair. In cases where the problem was found and the repair ordered, the maintenance crew may have ignored the broken part and allowed the truck back out on the road before making a fix. Finally, the carrier also could have employed improperly trained mechanics who performed a substandard job that led to the collision.

Depending on what specifically caused the accident, your attorney’s investigation could reveal that the liable party is the:

  • Driver
  • Loading crew
  • Mechanic or maintenance team
  • Part manufacturer
  • Shipper
  • Trucking company

Protect Your Legal Rights After a Truck Crash With a Skilled Personal Injury Attorney

Finding out who is liable for the accident is just the first part of achieving a financial recovery. It isn’t uncommon for catastrophic injuries to occur in truck crashes like bone fractures, paralysis, traumatic brain injury, soft tissue damage, disfigurement, or amputations. That’s why you need someone with experience in these kinds of cases to negotiate for a full and fair settlement from the trucking company’s insurer, or to take the case to court.

With the help of a lawyer, you can ensure all of your damages are properly considered in your compensation. Non-economic damages like quality of life lost due to pain and suffering or permanent disability should be included, but you may also have monetary damages like lost wages, medical bills, and physical therapy costs.

Were you or a loved one harmed by a negligent big rig driver or trucking company? Get answers to your truck accident questions by talking with the Mottley Law Firm. Use our online contact form or get in touch to schedule a consultation by calling (804) 409-0876.

 

Kevin W. Mottley
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Richmond, VA trial lawyer dedicated to handling brain injuries, car accidents and other serious injury claims