When a 3,000 pound passenger vehicle collides with a fully loaded tractor-trailer that can weigh 80,000 pounds, the resulting collision often leads to catastrophic injuries or death. The huge disparity in size and weight between a passenger vehicle and a commercial truck as well as the laws of physics during an accident usually mean devastating results for occupants of a passenger vehicle. One in every eight motor vehicle fatalities involves a collision with a tractor-trailer. Big rig commercial trucking accidents account for over 400,000 accidents resulting in 4,200 fatalities and 90,000 injuries nationally though tractor-trailers constitute only 3% of registered vehicles on our roadways. An 80,000 pound commercial truck traveling at the speed of 70 miles per hour delivers the same impact as a passenger vehicle moving at a speed of 360 miles per hour. The result is that an accident involving a 18-wheeler is four times more likely to result in a fatality accident. The driver of a passenger vehicle almost always loses in such encounters suffering 75% of all fatalities and deaths in collisions involving tractor-trailers.
Kansas City Tractor-trailer accidents are much more complex than accidents involving other motor vehicles because the trucking industry is subject to extensive federal and state regulations. Federal regulations referred to as Hours of Service rules (HOS) stipulate the amount of time a commercial truck driver may operate his vehicle without a rest period as well as the duration of such rest periods. Many tractor-trailer operators routinely violate these HOS rules with the tacit or open encouragement of the trucking company. Driver fatigue is the leading cause of commercial trucking accidents, which often result from violations of HOS rules. A trucking accident lawsuit requires extensive knowledge of trucking regulations and industry practices.
One of the biggest challenges in a Kansas City trucking accident is preservation of evidence. Federal regulations require that tractor-trailer operators maintain logbooks that document rest periods and hours of operation. These logbooks are so routinely altered and fabricated that they are sometimes referred to as “lie books” in the trucking industry. An experienced tractor-trailer accident lawyer will use industry experts who know the tricks used to distort logbooks to expose HOS violations. Most trucks also have on-board data recorders called “black boxes.” These data recorders store a wealth of information that may be relevant to a trucking collision including such things as sudden braking, speed control issues, clutch application and shifting, following distance, HOS violations and may even have global positioning information or valuable email correspondence between the driver and trucking company.
Unfortunately, black box data is often conveniently lost or erased following a tractor-trailer accident in Kansas City. The preservation of this data is critical in trucking accident lawsuits so an experienced big-rig lawyer will send special notice to the trucking company called a “spoliation letter.” This letter will put the trucking company on notice that the tractor-trailer is the subject of a personal injury lawsuit and that the condition of the truck must be preserved including preservation of the black box data. This critical evidence will then be analyzed by trucking and accident reconstruction experts to determine the cause of the trucking accident. While obtaining prompt legal advice is important following any motor vehicle accident, it is even more imperative in commercial trucking accidents so that evidence is preserved. A trucking company will typically have investigators on-call, who will descend on the scene of a trucking accident.
Tractor-trailer accidents often result from a number of common causes including the following:
- Fatigue from HOS Violations
- Time Schedules That Are Unrealistic
- Improperly Loaded Vehicles
- Vehicle Maintenance Issues (e.g. tire and brake issues)
- Drivers under the Influence of Drugs or Alcohol
- Lack of Proper Driver Training or Supervision
- Driver Inattention (e.g. texting or talking on a cell phone)
- Excessive Speed
If you or someone you love has been injured or killed in a tractor-trailer accident in Kansas City, you may seek compensation for your injuries including medical and funeral expenses, lost wages, diminished earning capacity, loss of consortium (loss of support and services of a spouse or sometimes child), pain and suffering, mental anguish and replacement value or repair costs of your vehicle. It is imperative if you are involved in a commercial trucking accident to immediately seek legal advice so that evidence such as black box data and the condition of the vehicle is preserved. There is absolutely no federal law that prohibits erasing black box data so any delay can mean critical evidence of a driver or trucking company’s fault may be lost forever.
An experienced Kansas City truck accident attorney will carefully investigate your accident, which may even include dispatching experts to the scene of the trucking accident. Your truck accident attorney in Kansas City will also take steps to ensure that critical evidence is preserved so that your right to compensation is not compromised.
If you or someone you love has suffered serious injuries or wrongful death caused by a heavy machinery accident, an experienced heavy machinery attorney can help you and your family obtain the legal compensation that you deserve.
Michael R. Lawless, P.A., Attorney at Law provides a free consultation, including evenings and weekends by appointment, at our Lenexa, Kansas or Grandview, Missouri offices. Our office in Lenexa is off of I-35 from 87th or 95th in Old Town at 93rd and Pflumm. Our Grandview office is conveniently located at the main street exit off of 71 Highway, next to Captain D’s. Call Kansas City truck accident attorney Michael Lawless today at 1-800-734-3771, 913-681-5566 or 816-966-0099.