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Las Vegas Truck Accident Attorney

Truck accidents have a much higher potential for catastrophic injury than typical passenger vehicle collisions. Large trucks are significantly bigger in size, and therefore heavier, than other vehicles. As a result, they can crush or obliterate smaller vehicles in a crash, seriously injuring passengers, or worse. Despite federal, state, and local trucking laws, trucking companies and drivers often cause these tragic impacts. Negligent, careless, or reckless practices cause hundreds of truck crashes in Nevada every year. If you find yourself in this unfortunate situation in Las Vegas, come see our truck accident attorneys at Claggett & Sykes Law Firm for legal assistance.

Facts About Trucking in Nevada

Large trucks move more than 150 million tons of freight through Nevada every year travelling  1,717 million miles throughout the state in 2015, according to the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT). “Large trucks” are tractor-trailers with three or more axles that weigh more than 25,000 pounds. Most large truck travel occurs on state-maintained roads rather than NDOT-maintained ones. Trucks traveled 1,197 million miles on state-maintained roadways in 2015, compared with just 520 million miles on non-state maintained roads.

NDOT has a plan in place that will increase the number of freight vehicles on the roadway – thus increasing the risk of trucking accidents. The Nevada Freight Plan aims to make future freight easier within the state to increase Nevada’s economic competitiveness. The plan includes construction projects and infrastructure changes to further integrate freight transportation via truck and other means. The federal transportation funding law will appropriate almost $60 million to qualifying freight projects. Projects include changes to the I-11 corridor, trucking parking lots, and the integration of technologies such as automated trucks.

The NDOT forecasts a growth in the rate of freight moving in and out of Nevada. Freight demand in industries such as transportation, trade, and freight logistics will lead to “rapid growth in Nevada’s metros.” Freight-demand increases in resource-based industries will have slower growth. Nevada aims to become a major freight hub in the Western U.S. for transportation of consumer goods through the implementation of its Freight Plan. This means more large trucks on the road – and more opportunities for truck accidents.

Truck Accident Statistics in Nevada

The already substantial number of large trucks traveling through the Silver State has resulted in many related crashes every year. There were 15 large trucks involved in fatal crashes in Nevada in 2014, out of 405 fatal accidents total, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The majority (14) of the total number of deaths was other vehicle occupants. Nevada saw 27 total accidents involving large trucks in 2015, and increase from 17 the previous year.

There were 438,000 large truck accidents total throughout the country in 2014, causing 3,903 deaths and approximately 111,000 injuries. The majority of those deceased (73%) occupied other vehicles. In 2% of national fatal trucking accidents, the truck driver had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.08% or higher. In most states, Nevada included, the legal BAC limit for commercial drivers is just 0.04%. That means these drivers were operating large trucks with at least twice the legal limit.

Intoxicated truckers cannot safely operate these large vehicles. They may follow too closely, drift across lanes, ignore traffic signals, fail to brake properly, speed, or careen off the roadway. Large-truck drivers have the highest number of previously recorded crashes compared with drivers of other vehicles (14.9%). More than 16% of truckers involved in fatal collisions had prior speeding convictions. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) works to reduce the number of truck accidents by regulating things such as drunk driving, hiring, training, and driving practices.

Federal Regulation of Trucking Accidents

Large trucks are different from passenger vehicles in that they abide by federal and state operation laws. The FMCSA enacted federal trucking laws to make it easier for interstate truck drivers to follow the rules. The FMCSA and other federal organizations regulate every aspect of the trucking industry, from fleet maintenance to truck driver hiring practices. If an individual or entity breaks any of these rules, resulting in an accident, the driver or company may be liable for damages. Here are a few of the most important laws, according to Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations:

  1. Drug and alcohol laws. Drivers must submit to drug and alcohol testing prior to hiring, during random tests, and after accidents. Trucking companies must consider a potential driver’s alcohol testing history and records from previous employers before hiring the individual.
  2. Hours of service (HOS) regulations. Truck drivers cannot exceed 14 hours of on-duty driving after coming on duty. They cannot drive more than 60 hours in a seven-day period, or 70 hours eight days in a row. Drivers can drive 11 consecutive hours only after 10 consecutive off-duty hours. Drivers must take at least one 30-minute break during eight-hour shift periods.
  3. Drivers must carry valid commercial (class C) driver’s licenses to operate large trucks. Employers have a duty to prohibit drivers with suspended, canceled, or revoked commercial driver’s licenses from operating a vehicle. They must transfer the individual to a non-driving position, suspend, or lay off the driver until the suspension ends.
  4. Motor carriers must keep up “systematic inspection, repair, and maintenance” of all fleet vehicles. There are no particular specifications for what this entails, as long as the company engages in these practices to a degree that will ensure the safety of the vehicle in terms of maintenance and repair. The motor carrier is responsible for inspecting leased vehicles within its control.
  5. Electronic logging devices (ELDs). ELDs are now mandatory inside large trucks, where drivers will keep a record of their HOS logs, vehicle inspections, and other important information. The goal of ELDs is to keep truck drivers honest and hold them accountable for broken rules and resultant collisions. A look at a driver’s ELD could provide evidence of negligence, such as broken HOS rules.

Nevada is a negligence per se state. “Negligence per se” is a claim of negligence based on the fact that the defendant broke the law. It is typically easy for the plaintiff to prove negligence in a truck accident case that resulted from a broken federal or state regulation. The plaintiff must simply show that, had the defendant followed the laws, the accident would not have happened. The judge or jury will more often than not rule in the plaintiff’s favor if there is proof the defendant broke the law, and that this caused the crash.

Types of Truck Accidents

There are specific types of accidents that occur most often when large trucks are involved. The structures of these vehicles tend to crash in certain ways. For example, a “jackknife” accident is something that occurs solely with large trucks: The bed of the tractor-trailer swings out sideways, forming a jackknife-type angle with the cab. A driver cannot steer, stop, or control a truck in jackknife position. Drivers can prevent this type of crash with proper braking techniques. Other common types of truck accidents include:

  • Head-on collisions. Head-on collisions accounted for 45% of all two-vehicle fatal truck accidents in 2014, according to the NHTSA. A large truck can cause a head-on collision when it travels into a lane with oncoming traffic. This can happen if the driver falls asleep behind the wheel, misreads traffic signs, or drives drunk.
  • Rollover. A truck rollover can happen when the driver goes too fast for conditions, takes a turn too sharply, or yanks the wheel to overcorrect the truck. Trucks can topple and rollover on top of smaller vehicles, crushing them and seriously injuring occupants. Dangerous roadway conditions such as wet or icy roads can contribute to rollovers.
  • Rear-end collisions. Large trucks don’t have the best stopping power. For this reason, truck drivers must maintain safe following distances from vehicles in front of them at all times. A trucker can rear-end a vehicle if he or she is speeding, following too closely, or not paying attention. Other drivers may also cause these crashes by cutting off large trucks and slamming on their brakes.

No matter what type of truck accident you were involved in, you may be eligible for financial recovery. In the past, truck accident victims had limited claim options. Trucking companies often avoided liability by leasing their trucks and hiring independent contractors instead of employees. Today, however, the FMCSA holds motor carrier companies legally responsible for accidents involving their fleet vehicles. Victims may be able to receive compensation through the company’s insurer or with a personal injury lawsuit.

How to Deal with Trucking Insurance Companies

After a truck accident in Las Vegas, you will likely have to deal with the trucking company’s vehicle insurer. An insurance claims adjuster from the company may contact you as soon as the day of the collision. The insurance company wants to get to the bottom of who caused the accident, the extent of damages, and how much a settlement will cost. Do not agree to a fast settlement over the phone or give a recorded statement. The company can use your statement against you in court. You may also have to communicate with your own car insurance company. Speak with an attorney when in doubt about conversations with insurers.

The lawyers at Claggett & Sykes Law Firm have extensive experience handling truck accident cases in Las Vegas and throughout Nevada. We’ve gone to verdict more than 130 times – far more than most other law firms in the region. We understand the specific elements of truck crash cases, and we can help you understand your rights and responsibilities. We can explain the state and federal laws that may apply to your claim and help you handle negotiations with insurance companies for a fair settlement offer. If a settlement doesn’t resolve your claim, we have the resources to take the case to court in pursuit of an amount that adequately covers your losses.

To speak with a an accident lawyer in Las Vegas today, call (702) 333-7777 or contact us online.