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If you have ever been involved in a truck accident, you will agree that it is undoubtedly one of the most unpleasant and life altering experiences ever. Aside from the fact that it is extremely stressful, frightening, and shocking, you may also wonder whether you or anyone else is injured, or whether you should call the police. In addition to this uncertainty and the state of shock, you also need to thoroughly check yourself for any signs of bodily injuries.
In North Carolina, Truck Accident law is a subset of Personal Injury law the deals with bodily injuries and property damages resulting from a Semi Truck accident. Unlike a car accident, Truck accidents involving 18 wheelers, semis, tractor trailers and other big rigs can be extremely traumatic and often deadly. One can only imagine how difficult it must be to stop 80,000 pounds of sheer metal moving at 70 mph. That is why North Carolina law imposes much higher standards of care and licensing requirements on commercial drivers and trucking companies as opposed to other types of drivers. Though these rules are fairly strict, they certainly help ensure safety of other motorists on the road, and make truck drivers more culpable in an event of an accident.
The North Carolina Governor’s Highway Safety Program issues important guidelines for commercial trucking companies, including:
Carrying the mandatory minimum insurance coverage of between $50,000 and $750,000 — depending on the weight of the vehicle — to cover personal injury and property damages
Random Drug Tests
Submitting to vehicle inspections
Minimum Age of Operator
Complying with weight and load restrictions, and
Complying with mandatory breaks recorded by the Electronic Log Book
After a serious collision involving a truck or commercial vehicle, it is important to preserve evidence and understand your legal rights. The following list outlines some of the most important factors to consider preserving after a truck accident:
Speed of the semi at the time of the wreck (Scan the truck ECU)
Maintenance issues with the 18-wheeler (Request Maintenance Records)
Sudden brake application by tractor-trailer operator (Watch for Police Report Tire Tracks)
Emails exchanges between at-fault trucker and the trucking company (Subpoena Email Correspondence)
Driver seat position prior to crash (Take detailed Pictures After the Accident)
Whether the truck driver exceeded regulated hours on the road (Subpoena E-log book records)
The truck’s route before the crash (Request the Bill of Lading and Truck Routes)
If a truck driver’s negligence caused the crash, the accident victim may bring a personal injury claim against the careless truck driver, most often under a negligence theory of law. Negligence can be defined as failure to exercise the care that a reasonably prudent person would exercise in like or similar circumstances. North Carolina generally follows the traditional common law rules of Negligence.
In North Carolina, to establish a case of negligence, the plaintiff must prove:
(3) causation, (cause-in-fact and proximate cause) and
First, a defendant owes a duty to conform to a specific standard of conduct for the protection of foreseeable plaintiffs. Breach occurs when the defendant fails to conform to that standard of conduct. Moreover, the defendant’s breach must be the cause-in-fact and proximate cause of the plaintiff’s harm. To prove cause-in-fact, the plaintiff must show the harm would not have occurred “but for” the defendant’s actions. To establish the defendant’s breach was the proximate cause of plaintiff’s harm, the plaintiff must show the result of the defendant’s conduct was foreseeable. Finally, damages include the plaintiff’s past and future medical expenses, lost income, property damages, and pain and suffering.
For example, negligence in Truck Accidents can include various aspects like speeding, following too closely, failure to stop, failure to yield, inattentiveness, running through a red light, texting and driving, failing to yield a right of way, failing to stop at a stop sign, aggressive driving, reckless driving or simple carelessness at any given moment.
Lastly, a violation of statute can be regarded as Negligence Per Se. Under this doctrine, an act is automatically considered to be negligent because it violates a statute (or regulation). However, these situations are limited to those when the statute in question creates a specific duty and prescribes a course of conduct for the protection of others.
Next, while you may be able to prove that the other party was negligent and caused you to suffer numerous injuries, you may still be barred from recovery, because of Contributory Negligence. North Carolina, unfortunately, is one of the few remaining states that still follows this rule. Under North Carolina Contributory Negligence Doctrine, if you were found to be even 1% at fault in an accident, you may be completely barred from any recover whatsoever.
The responsibility in Commercial Vehicle Accidents is not limited to recovery from the Insurance Company of the at fault party. In addition to a third party insurance claim, in North Carolina you may also be able to recover from the driver's employer under the doctrine of Respondeat Superior. The idea behind Respondeat Superior, which translated from Latin literally means "let the master respond," is that someone who tasks another with a job or other duty shares some responsibility for the outcome of that specific task, particularly if someone end up being hurt. In other words, employer ends up being vicariously liable for the injuries of its employee. However, an employee who is driving a Commercial Vehicle must be doing so within the "scope of his employment," and must not have deviated from the scope of his on job responsibility.
Being able to prove both of the above-stated theories of recovery require professional and competent legal counsel at the outset of your injury. Our lawyers can evaluate your case free of charge and let you know what your options are. Attempting to handle this matter by yourself can only hurt your chances in obtaining the maximum compensation that you rightfully deserve. Even in cases in which the truck driver was clearly at-fault, insurance carriers always vigorously defend injury claims by seeking to minimize the injury or by asserting that the injury was not caused by the truck accident, because of some pre-existing condition.
Whether you sustained light, soft-tissue injuries or injuries of catastrophic nature, we are passionate to stand up and fight for you to get what you rightfully deserve. In fact, even if your injuries were light in nature, you still need to get evaluated by a physician, because adrenaline has a tendency to mask injuries.
At BIAZZO LAW, through zealous advocacy and unparalleled commitment, we will walk you through each step of the process, and ensure that you get fair and adequate compensation for your losses.
Please do not wait, call us today for a FREE consultation.