Truck accident attorneys serving St. Louis and surrounding areas in Missouri, Kansas, and Illinois
Often, truck accidents lead to serious injuries and are due to distracted driving and truck driver fatigue. The sheer size of big rigs makes them particularly dangerous in a truck crash. If you were injured in a truck or 18-wheeler accident, contact an attorney at Brown & Crouppen Law Firm of St. Louis for a free case evaluation. Our truck accident lawyers are dedicated to helping those who were injured by truck drivers. Often, these accidents lead to serious injuries due to distracted driving and truck driver fatigue. Our attorneys help victims fight against trucking companies to help you receive the compensation you deserve.
Since 1979, we’ve provided legal representation for those who have suffered injuries as a result of trucking accidents (including semis and commercial trucks), and have helped our clients recover over $1 Billion in compensation. Our law firm operates on a contingency-basis, meaning that we don’t get paid unless you get paid. Request a free case evaluation by phone, chat, or tell us about your case online.
Truck companies don’t want you to know that commercial insurance policies typically have limits between $750,000 and $1,000,000. Further, more than one insurance policy may cover the truck, the driver, and the cargo. In fact, the average settlement amount for truck accidents is over $40,000 (based on settlement data between 2015-2021).
Many of our highly experienced personal injury attorneys started their careers working on behalf of trucking companies. They understand how the system works and how truck accident claims are processed. They know how trucking companies and their insurance providers give low initial settlement offers, and they know where to look for additional insurance coverage that can provide compensation for your medical bills and other expenses.
At the law firm of Brown & Crouppen, our truck accident attorneys work hard to take care of you, make the legal process easy, and ultimately get results.
Recover Compensation with a Truck Accident Claim
A lawyer knows how to show the type and extent of injuries people suffer in a trucking accident.After an accident, the physical injuries are the easiest to see, but injuries are not limited to the physical body. Other damages can include:
- Emotional distress
- Psychological injuries
- Mental anguish.
- Lost wages
- Medical expenses
- Loss of companionship
Non-physical injuries can linger long after the body has healed. Like anything else in the law, their existence must be proven. A lawyer knows what evidence to gather and which experts to consult to prove the full extent of the damage done by the trucking company.
Remember—those big insurance companies already have lawyers. You need one, too.
A truck accident attorney knows how to preserve and present evidence. The evidence in semis accidents can be very different from in an accident between two passenger vehicles. Trucks, truckers, and trucking companies keep a wealth of documentation about their business practices. This can include dash cams, dispatch logs, phone records, and the vehicles themselves.
- We address the liability, or negligence, issues in the accident. We know what it takes to prove who was at fault for the accident.
- The evidence in truck accident cases can be very different from a car accident between two passenger vehicles. Our truck accident attorneys know what evidence to collect. A lawyer can send letters demanding the trucking company and other parties preserve this evidence. A lawyer also knows the legal consequences for a trucking or insurance company that fails to do so. Finally, a lawyer knows how to get that evidence before a jury.
- We also know how to show the types and extent of the injuries victims of trucking accidents suffer. Personal injuries aren’t just physical. They can be emotional, mental, and economic injuries, as well. Lost wages, medical expenses, and the loss of a loved one’s companionship can all be injuries, too. Common personal injury claims in truck collisions include broken bones, concussions, whiplash, catastrophic and traumatic brain injuries, and wrongful death.
- Our lawyers know which documentation to gather, which experts to consult, and which evidence — such as black box records, accident scene reports, medical reports, and medical bills —to present to a jury.
- Our lawyers know how to fight the insurance companies and trucking companies. It is not unusual for more than one insurance company to be involved in an injury claim after a tractor-trailer accident. We have the experience to handle the complicated claims process.
- Most importantly, we work for you and your loved ones— not the trucking company. Our law firm is dedicated to fighting for justice, and we have the track record to back it up with more than $1 billion won in personal injury cases.
Truck Driver Regulations
Commercial truck drivers and vehicles are regulated by both state and federal laws. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is the federal agency that enforces the rules and regulations governing the operation of commercial motor vehicles that cross state lines. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is an agency in the U.S. DOT that regulates the trucking industry in the United States.
Failure to comply with regulations and guidelines below is often the cause of truck accidents.
Hours of Service
The FMCSA regulates the number of hours commercial drivers may drive and work per day and week. These rules also encompass other restrictions, such as taking mandatory rest breaks.
The FMCSA and DOT refer to these rules as the Hours of Service rules. The idea is to regulate the number of hours drivers drive to minimize drowsiness and driver fatigue.
All commercial drivers are required to know and abide by the DOT HOS rules that apply to them in order to stay compliant. Many drivers are also required to record their Hours of Service with an electronic logging device (ELD). These rules apply to most drivers who drive a commercial motor vehicle. Rules vary based on whether the vehicle is carrying property or passengers.
Components of the Hours of Service Rule:
The 14-hour rule – A property-carrying driver may not drive more than 14 consecutive hours after starting their shift duty. The driver cannot resume driving unless they have taken 10 consecutive hours off-duty. In contrast, the limit is 15 cumulative hours for passenger-carrying vehicles.
The 11-hour rule – A property-carrying driver can drive a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty within the 14-hour period. Passenger-carrying drivers can drive up to 10 hours after eight consecutive hours off duty.
The 30-minute break rule – Drivers cannot log DOT driving hours or drive time if eight hours have passed since the last off-duty period of 30 consecutive minutes, i.e., drivers must take a 30 consecutive minute break at least every eight hours. The 30-minute break rule restricts drivers from driving only; they may perform non-driving tasks after eight hours without taking a break.
The 60-hour and 70-hour limit – A driver may not drive after 60 hours on duty in 7 consecutive days (for carriers that do not operate every day of the week), or 70 hours on duty in 8 consecutive days, (for carriers that do operate every day of the week). The 7/8 consecutive day period can be restarted if the driver takes 34 or more consecutive hours off duty.
Every commercial motor vehicle, like 18-wheelers and semi-trucks, must be inspected every 12 months by a qualified inspector who has training or certification to inspect and maintain commercial motor vehicles. The term commercial motor vehicle includes each vehicle in a combination vehicle, i.e., a tractor semitrailer, full trailer combination, the tractor, semitrailer, and the full trailer (including any equipped converter dolly) must each be inspected.
Over the road commercial truck drivers are required to carry a CDL, or Commercial Driver’s License. To obtain a CDL, drivers must meet several important criteria. They must:
- Have a valid, non-commercial driver’s license;
- Be at least 18 years old, or at least 21 to drive across state lines or carry hazardous materials;
- Have a minimum of one to two years of driving experience;
- Have no active suspensions; and
- Have a valid medical examiner’s certificate.
All commercial truck drivers are required to present for a physical before a qualified Medical Examiner. If the Medical Examiner determines that the driver examined is physically qualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle in accordance with the physical qualification standards, the Medical Examiner will complete and provide the driver with a Medical Examiner’s Certificate (MEC). While a DOT physical exam is valid for up to 24 months, the medical examiner may also issue a medical examiner’s certificate for less than 24 months when it is desirable to monitor a condition, such as high blood pressure. The Medical Examiner will keep a copy of the certificate on file for at least 3 years.
Common reasons why a driver may be disqualified from passing a medical examination include carrying a diagnosis of cardiovascular or respiratory disease, high blood pressure, epilepsy, diabetes, a nervous or psychiatric disease, poor eyesight that cannot be corrected with glasses or contacts, loss of limb, and alcohol dependence. However, the FMCSA may grant exemptions for drivers if they can prove that they are able to safely operate a commercial vehicle.
Common Causes of Truck Accidents
Every year, over 40,000 injuries occur in the United States as a result of large truck accidents. Motor vehicle crashes are complex events that can involve multiple vehicles of varying sizes and speeds. Usually, they involve two or more vehicles. Elements that influence the occurrence of a crash may take place hours, days, or months before the crash including driver training and experience, vehicle design and manufacture, highway condition and traffic signaling, and weather conditions. Other elements may take place immediately before a crash, such as a decision to turn in traffic, a tire blowout, weather, or intoxicating substances.
Fatigue, drinking alcohol, and speeding are major factors in motor vehicle crashes overall. Although their presence does not always result in a crash, these three factors, as well as other driver, vehicle, and environmental factors, can increase the risk that a crash will occur.
LARGE COMMERCIAL TRUCKS — TOO BIG, TOO FAST
- The statistics are frightening: Every year in the United States, commercial truck accidents cause over 5,000 wrongful deaths and 80,000 injuries.
- The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which regulates commercial vehicles, defines a “large truck” as a truck with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) greater than 10,000 pounds.
- A fully loaded, over-the-road semi-truck can weigh up to 80,000 pounds without needing any extra permits.
- The average passenger car only weighs about 4,000 pounds, , while a pickup will top out at 6000 pounds
- Big box trucks weigh between 16,000 to 24,000 pounds.
- An empty semi weighs about 35,000 pounds.
- A fully loaded tractor-trailer can weigh up to 80,000 pounds.
- The majority of the injuries and fatalities in truck accident cases are the passengers in the car, not the truck drivers themselves.
- Tractor-trailers can legally drive as fast as 70 miles per hour in many places. And many truckers speed to deliver their trailers on time.
SPEEDING & PRESSURE ON TRUCK DRIVERS
In some cases, trucking companies place high pressure on their drivers to make their deliveries on-time, causing drivers to be more inclined to speed. This can increase the likelihood of a trucking accident, and also lead to more severe and catastrophic injuries.
TIRED TRUCK DRIVERS
Driver fatigue is a significant factor in many semi-truck accidents. Lack of sleep is the underlying cause of many serious injuries and even wrongful deaths. Experienced truck accident lawyers, like the team at Brown & Crouppen, understand the factors behind these kinds of injury cases.
The FMCSA limit on driving commercial trucks is 11 hours in a 14-hour period, followed by at least 10 hours off, but many truck drivers face tremendous pressure to deliver their cargo on time and may exceed the allowed driving time to meet a deadline. Driver fatigue leads to driver error, which results in a serious truck crash.
Driver fatigue isn’t the only factor in truck accident claims. Other common causes of truck collisions include blind spots, cell phone usage, disregard of speed limits, and other driver errors.
Additional Causes of Commercial Truck Crashes
Another cause of crashes with semi-trucks occurs when the commercial driver shoulders their semi along the side of a roadway intended for only emergency stops. If the truck driver fails to provide other drivers with adequate warning, then the result could be fatal.
Federal regulation 49 C.F.R. §392.22 lays out the rules for trucks shouldering:
- When stopping on the shoulder of a highway for a reason other than a traffic stop, the truck driver must immediately turn on the trailer’s hazard warning signal flashers.
- The parked truck driver must keep the vehicle’s flashers on until placing a warning device on the traffic side of the road.
- The driver must place warning devices as soon as possible, but no later than 10 minutes after stopping on the shoulder.
- Approved warning devices for big rigs parked on the shoulder include three bi-directional emergency reflective triangles, red flags, fuses and liquid-burning flares.
- Stopped truckers must place warning devices:
- On the traffic side four paces from the truck in the direction of oncoming traffic;
- At 40 paces from the big rig in the center of the shoulder in the direction of oncoming traffic; and
- At 40 paces in the direction away from oncoming traffic.
- If stopped on a shoulder within 500 feet of a hill, curve, or other obstruction, the driver must place a warning device in the direction of the obstruction, a distance of 100 to 500 feet from the stopped truck.
- The driver must not use emergency warning devices that produce flames if the vehicle is leaking gasoline or any other flammable or combustible liquid or gas, unless the signal is far enough away to prevent a fire or explosion.
Big rigs may stop on the shoulder of a highway if the driver carries out the above-mentioned protocols for warning other vehicles of the truck’s presence on the side of the road and if doing so is otherwise safe. Moreover, the truck driver must keep the warning devices in place during truck repairs, until the commercial vehicle can leave the shoulder.
Types of 18-Wheeler & Truck Accidents
Did you know that semi-trucks and other large commercial vehicles make up nearly 13% of all motor vehicle traffic in the United States? Not surprisingly, most truck and 18-wheeler accident deaths and injuries involve the occupants of smaller passenger vehicles. Newton’s third law of motion tells us that for every action of force, there is a reaction force equal in strength and opposite in direction.
Because of their sheer size, semi-trucks create catastrophic force when they collide with other vehicles and create equally catastrophic consequences, particularly to smaller vehicles. Some of the most common types of truck and 18-wheeler accidents include:
18-Wheeler Jackknife Accidents
The collision term “jackknife” refers to a truck accident where a truck with two separate parts (a cab and a trailer) folds in on itself at the point of separation. The cab and trailer swivel where they are linked together, forming a 90-degree angle “V” shape, similar to the way a jackknife will fold in on itself.
According to the National Center for Statistics and Analysis, jackknife accidents account for 10% of all trucking-related deaths. When a semi-truck jackknifes, its driver loses nearly all control of their rig. Severe injuries and deaths usually occur when the momentum of the crash propels the 18-wheeler across the highway and into the path of other vehicles carrying innocent passengers.
Truck Rollover Accidents
Semis have high centers of gravity which can cause them to roll over when a driver loses control. Because an 18-wheeler or tractor-trailer is many times heavier than a typical personal use vehicle, the occupants of any smaller cars, pickups, or SUVs are more likely to sustain severe and even fatal injuries if they come into the path of a rolling rig. Rollover accidents may occur because a trucker failed to adjust speed to curves in the road, improperly loaded cargo, poorly maintained brakes, or distracted driving.
Federal regulations mandate that trucking companies regularly inspect and maintain their vehicles, including the tires. However, when a driver or trucking company fails to inspect the tires regularly and maintain or replace them as needed, then tire blowouts can occur. A tire blowout can force a tractor-trailer or other big rig out of its lane and into the path of other vehicles, injuring or even killing innocent motorists.
Most drivers have seen the signs on the back of semis warning other drivers of the rig’s blind spots. Motorists expect to give commercial trucks extra care on the road, understanding that they have the blind spots and expect that the truck drivers also expend extra care when making turns or merging into other lanes given their blind spots. However, if a truck driver fails to take proper precaution when merging and turning, the truck driver may crush, strike, or run over other motorists. Unfortunately, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA), nearly one-third of all crashes between cars and trucks occur when the smaller vehicle is in a rig’s blind spot.
Because of their massive size, commercial vehicles need significantly more room to stop than a typical passenger vehicle. Rear-end collisions occur when a truck driver was following another vehicle too closely for conditions, traveling at an excessive speed, distracted or fatigued, or failed to ensure brakes were in good working order.
Rear-end crashes also occur in work zones with stop-and-start traffic or when an 18-wheeler doesn’t have time to stop and avoid an earlier accident.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Who can be held liable for commercial trucking accidents?
If you or a loved one has been injured in a collision with a commercial truck, there may be several parties that could be held liable for the damages. An experienced personal injury attorney knows how to investigate the relationship between the driver and the trucking company, whether the tractor and the trailer are owned/controlled by separate entities, and investigate other potential parties.
How much is my commercial truck accident case worth?
The value of a commercial truck injury case is dependent on the nature of severity of the injury and whether any fault can be apportioned to you. More damages to the body (i.e., a broken neck versus a broken toe) equals more money damages, as you will require more care and modifications to your life as a result of your injury. There isn’t any set guideline for how much a truck accident is worth, but a personal injury attorney experienced in trucking collisions will be able to provide guidance on how much is just compensation.
How long do I have to file a truck accident lawsuit?
The statute of limitations for filing against a commercial truck driver is dependent on what kind of claim you are filing and where you are filing your claim. For example, if you are filing a personal injury claim in Missouri against a truck driver, you currently have 5 years to file your claim. However, you have two years to file in Illinois. Because over the road truck drivers are often driving in states where they do not live or states where their employer isn’t domiciled, then there may be issues concerning where the case belongs (i.e., in state court versus federal court). An experienced personal injury attorney can evaluate the facts and provide guidance on where the case needs to be filed and what’s the appropriate statute of limitations.
What should I do after a semi-truck accident?
Seek treatment immediately. Even slow-moving semi-trucks hit with significant force behind them due to their mass. Cars are designed to absorb forces from car crashes (to a certain extent), but the human body is not. Even if you do not appear to be injured, it is possible to suffer a traumatic brain injury. Seek medical treatment and keep a friend or family member nearby for the next few days to observe changes in mood or behavior.
Request A Free Truck Accident Case Evaluation From Brown & Crouppen Law Firm
If you or a loved one has suffered injuries from a truck accident in St. Louis or surrounding areas in Missouri, get help from a truck accident lawyer at Brown & Crouppen Law Firm. Getting started is easy. You can call us at 800-536-4357 for a free consultation, or tell us about your case with our free case evaluation form. And remember, there’s no upfront cost to you — if you don’t get paid, we don’t get paid.