Truck Accident Lawyer in Virginia Beach, Portsmouth, & Chesapeake
When you get behind the wheel of your car, you don’t expect to get into an accident. Yet every year, thousands of Virginians are injured in crashes – including wrecks involving commercial trucks. In 2020 alone, there were 4,296 accidents involving commercial motor vehicles in Virginia – including 93 fatal crashes and 1,605 accidents that caused injuries.
If you have been injured in a truck accident in Virginia Beach or the surrounding areas, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. This may include money for property damage, medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other losses. A skilled truck accident attorney can help you file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver, the trucking company, and their insurer.
The Jeff Brooke Team represents injury victims throughout southeastern Virginia, including Virginia Beach, Portsmouth, & Chesapeake. Our legal team has the skill, legal knowledge, and courtroom experience to help our clients get the best possible outcome for their case. Reach out to our law firm today to schedule a free initial consultation with a Virginia Beach truck accident lawyer.
Can I File a Lawsuit After a Truck Accident?
If you have been hurt in any type of collision with a commercial truck, you may be able to file an accident claim against the trucker, their trucking company (employer), and their insurance company. Truck accidents involve many complex, technical, and legal issues. Due to their mobile nature, commercial trucks are often owned by out-of-state entities. Knowing who to file suit against, and in which jurisdiction is important to a successful case against a trucking company.
Another issue that is critical to understanding trucking accidents is being able to prove the exact speed and location of the vehicle at the time the accident occurs. Commercial trucks have a “black box” similar to what you find in an airplane that contains this information. The Jeff Brooke Team has legal investigators who know how to obtain and read the information contained on a truck’s “black box” in order to help determine who was at fault in a trucking accident.
Like other types of personal injury lawsuits, truck accident cases are typically based on a theory of negligence or carelessness. A person may be considered negligent if they fail to use the level of care that a reasonable person would in a similar situation. Because both truckers and trucking companies are subject to federal and state regulations on everything from how many hours a driver can be on the road before taking a break to how frequently commercial trucks must be inspected, there are a range of different ways that an injury victim (plaintiff) can hold an at-fault party (defendant) liable for their injuries.
These same laws also make truck accident cases far more complex than the average motor vehicle accident. For this reason, it is critical to work with a personal injury law firm that has significant experience handling truck accident cases. An experienced truck accident attorney will help you level the playing field when taking on commercial truck drivers, trucking companies, and massive insurance companies.
What Are the Common Causes of Truck Accidents?
Truck accidents frequently cause severe injuries and fatalities to occupants of passenger vehicles. If you understand the common causes of truck accidents, you protect yourself and your passengers.
Just as with any other type of accident, drivers cannot always prevent a crash from occurring. However, if you know how truck crashes are most likely to happen, you can be on the lookout for the warning signs that may indicate that a commercial vehicle is out of control.
Are Truck Accidents Always the Truck Driver’s Fault?
According to 2017 crash statistics from the Virginia Department of Transportation, the blame for roughly half of all Virginia truck crashes belongs to the truck driver. Other national studies put responsibility on the truck driver a higher percentage of the time.
Common truck driver conduct that causes accidents includes:
- Improper driving maneuvers
- Distracted driving
- Drug or alcohol use
While you cannot control a truck driver’s conduct, you can be alert for a truck driving erratically, which can signal a driver issue. When you spot the signs, stay as far away from the truck as you reasonably can.
Spotting Common Causes of Truck Accidents
For accidents that are not due to truck driver conduct, a number of common causes exist. Passenger vehicle drivers simply are not aware of truck maneuverability issues that cause accidents. Examples of common issues that cause truck crashes include:
Blind Spot Accidents
The blind spots around trucks are significant. Many car drivers simply do not realize or appreciate the danger of being in a truck’s massive blind areas. Acquaint yourself with truck blind spots to avoid this serious type of accident.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), large trucks, buses, and other commercial vehicles have what is known as a “no zone,” or huge blind spots. If you cannot see the driver in the truck’s side mirror, you should assume that the driver also cannot see you. Stay out of these blind spots by slowing down or moving ahead of the truck to stay visible.
Wide Turn Accidents
Big trucks need a wide berth when turning. Wide turn accidents — also called “swinging turn” accidents — are common. If you are near a truck that is getting ready to turn, stay a safe distance away.
Similarly, when you stop in an intersection, don’t “block the box” or stop in front of the line. Trucks, buses, and other oversized commercial vehicles need that space to be able to turn safely.
If you are driving along — especially on an interstate or divided highway — and you see a big rig slam on its brakes ahead of you, lookout. When a tractor-trailer suddenly brakes hard and fast, the trailer often skids outward to a 90-degree angle from the cab. A jackknifed trailer can collide with passenger vehicles all around it.
The best way to avoid being hurt in a jackknife accident is to give trucks plenty of room. Remember that tractor trailers and semi-trucks can’t stop as quickly as the average passenger vehicle due to their size and weight. Giving trucks a wide berth is the best way to avoid being hurt in a truck accident.
If a tractor-trailer stops suddenly, an underride accident is another risk. Smaller vehicles behind the truck actually can go underneath the trailer. Underride accidents are frequently fatal. Always stay a safe distance behind when following a large truck.
Overweight or Improper Loads
A truck with an overweight or unwieldy load is much harder to maneuver than normal. Accidents often occur when a load shift or the truck driver cannot properly handle the truck due to the load. While you often cannot see what’s inside a trailer, if you see a big truck with a load that looks lopsided or overweight, stay as far away as you can.
Poor Weather Conditions
Many truck crashes occur in fog, rain, snow, ice, and high winds. Adverse weather conditions affect the truck driver’s ability to control the truck and trailer. Multiple-vehicle accidents involving trucks frequently occur in bad weather. Use extra caution in all these conditions.
Other Truck Crash Causes
Truck accidents often result from reckless or negligent drivers in passenger cars. In addition to being careful about your own driving, be alert to other passenger cars around you. They can put you in danger if you are near any big trucks.
Be on the lookout for signs that there’s a dangerous driver near you. Watch for drivers who show signs of:
- Inattention or distracted driving (like talking on a cell phone or texting)
- Improper lane changes
- Following too closely (tailgating) or failing to signal lane changes
- Aggressive driving or road rage
- Failure to keep a safe distance from other vehicles and trucks
- Frequent lane changes
- Erratic driving
If you spot another vehicle that shows signs of careless, inattentive, or erratic driving behavior, the safest strategy is to get as far away as possible. You may need to slow down to get out of the danger zone. An extra minute or two driving time is well worth making sure you and your passengers remain safe for the rest of your trip.
Why Understanding Common Causes of Truck Accidents Really Matters
Everyone should understand the common causes of truck accidents. Drivers and passengers in smaller vehicles always suffer the most severe injuries in truck accidents. Often, the truck driver walks away or receives only minor injuries. It is in your best interest to be able to spot a potential problem with a truck in traffic.
A passenger car driver often can avoid a truck crash by anticipating issues. Your vehicle is easier to maneuver than the truck. Often, you can avoid problem areas simply by slowing your speed and getting a safe distance away from the truck or other erratic driver.
Driving defensively is always the best way to keep yourself, your family, your friends, and others safe when you drive. Anticipating potential situations that could lead to a truck accident is one of the most important parts of good defensive driving.
What Compensation Can I Recover in a Truck Accident Lawsuit?
If you are hurt in a trucking accident in Virginia Beach, then you may be able to file a personal injury claim against the truck driver, trucking company, and their insurance carrier. Through this type of lawsuit, you can recover financial compensation for all of your losses. Depending on the facts of your case, this may include money for economic damages, noneconomic damages, and punitive damages.
Economic damages compensate an accident victim for their direct financial losses. They are typically proved by introducing bills, invoices, estimates, and other documentation. Examples of economic damages include:
- Property damage
- Lost wages
- Reduced earning capacity
- Medical bills
- Future medical expenses
Noneconomic damages are also meant to compensate an injury victim for their losses. However, these damages cover intangible losses that can be harder to prove. A skilled Virginia Beach truck accident attorney will use their experience and knowledge of similar cases to fight for compensation for non-economic damages, such as:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment of life
Finally, punitive damages are not meant to compensate a victim, but to punish a wrongdoer. They are awarded in cases where the negligent parties acted intentionally or recklessly. For example, if a commercial truck driver causes an accident when driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, then they may be held liable for punitive damages.
After fatal truck accidents, the survivors may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit. The damages in a wrongful death claim are slightly different, as they are meant to compensate the survivors for their losses. Compensation may include money for direct financial losses (such as funeral expenses), emotional distress, and loss of companionship and care.
The best way to get maximum compensation for your injuries is to hire legal representation. Your attorney will investigate the facts of your case, research Virginia law, and negotiate a fair settlement for your losses. If the insurance company won’t give you the money that you deserve, then your lawyer will take the case to court to ask a jury to find in your favor.
Basics of Truck Accident Liability in Virginia
Our Hampton Roads and Tidewater regions in southeastern Virginia bustle with commercial activity. With all that activity come numerous trucks on our Interstates, roads, and streets. Unfortunately, lots of truck traffic means that truck accidents happen. Determining who is responsible for compensating injured victims in those accidents is always complicated. Truck accident liability is much more complex than car accident liability in Virginia.
Why Truck Accident Liability Is Different From Car Accident Liability
Truck accidents cause more severe injuries than car accidents. The bigger size and heavier weight are contributing factors, but there are other reasons as well. In a previous blog post, we explored many of the reasons why truck accidents are so dangerous.
Accidents involving trucks are also very different in terms of legal and factual complexity. A truck accident can be caused by numerous factors — or even by a combination of factors — relating to the truck driver, truck or other equipment, and even the cargo. Sorting through those details is part of the complex investigation that must be conducted after a truck accident to determine who is responsible for paying injured victims.
State and Federal Regulations Apply to Trucking
Complex state and federal regulations apply to trucking activities, including operation of trucks on the road. Many of the regulations are based on safety considerations. Violations of those regulations can constitute negligence and create liability for a truck accident.
For example, truckers are required to maintain a log book documenting their own driving activities, as well as repair and information about the trucking equipment and cargo. In a truck accident, the driver’s log book becomes an essential piece of evidence, which can uncover causes of the accident.
Many large trucks include a “black box” that is similar to the black box on an airplane. A black box can reveal the exact speed and location of the truck at the time of the accident, as well as other information. After an accident, recovering the black box from the truck and analyzing the available information is critical. That requires experts who know how to recover and decipher the information.
Reconstructing a truck accident, gathering evidence from multiple sources, and determining compliance or lack of compliance with the myriad of state and federal safety regulations is just one complex aspect of investigating a truck accident.
Insurance Coverage Issues in Truck Accidents
In Virginia, liability for an accident is based on negligence. In a car accident, the insurance coverage issues are usually straightforward: The at-fault driver’s insurance company is responsible for compensating injured victims. Insurance coverage issues become much more complicated in a truck accident. There often will be more than one insurance company involved.
Potential sources for insurance coverage include the driver (if he or she operates independently), the company that employs the driver, the company that owns the truck and trailer, and the company that is responsible for making repairs and doing maintenance, as well as the company that owns the cargo and hired the truck to transport cargo, in some cases. Available sources for compensation in a truck accident can include some or all of these entities or people.
Identifying the potentially responsible parties and insurance companies is often a challenge in a truck accident. Once they are identified, ascertaining their legal business location and insurance carrier can also be difficult. Following through on all those details is absolutely essential in making sure that an injured victim receives the maximum possible recovery.
Truck Accident Causes
Driver negligence generally causes a car accident, but it is only one of a number of possible causes in a truck accident. Unlike a car accident, there are multiple potential causes and sources of liability for negligence in a truck accident. While truck driver inattention or other failure causes many truck accidents, an accident can also be caused by:
- Violations of trucking regulations, such as improperly secured cargo or an overweight truck
- Driver violation of regulations, such as hours-of-service requirements
- Negligent hiring and training, if the company employing the driver did not ensure that the driver met all legal requirements
- Maintenance or repair issues relating to the truck itself
The existence of so many different potential causes for a truck accident presents complexity that simply does not exist in a car accident. Getting to the root cause (or even causes) is one of the most challenging parts of analyzing the circumstances of a trucking accident.
What To Do If You Are Injured in a Truck Accident
The first step that anyone should do after a motor vehicle accident – including a truck accident – is to seek medical attention immediately. Even if you don’t think that you were seriously injured, getting medical treatment is critical to getting the right diagnosis and treatment. These medical records can also be used to establish a link between your accident and injuries.
If you are seriously injured in a truck accident, or if you’ve lost a loved one in a truck accident, consulting with a knowledgeable, experienced personal injury attorney is absolutely essential. Only a lawyer who understands the complexity of the legal and factual issues that a truck accident presents can thoroughly investigate and analyze the circumstances of your accident and ensure that you recover the maximum compensation you deserve.
Truck accident investigation requires not only knowing the requirements of federal regulations, but also knowing how to uncover the relevant evidence in the driver’s log, black box, and elsewhere. Experts are often necessary to comb through accident details and analyze information to document the basis of liability.
Even ascertaining potentially liable companies and individuals requires investigation in a truck accident. After those determinations are made, additional work often must be done to ensure that a legal action is filed in the proper jurisdiction.
If you suffer serious injuries in a truck accident, the most important priority is getting the medical treatment you need. It also is important to contact an attorney as soon as you are able to do so, so your attorney can begin to collect information and investigate the accident.
Above all, do not talk with any insurance companies or adjusters who contact you on behalf of the truck driver or any company that may be liable for your injuries. The insurance company’s only goal will be to settle your claim for the smallest possible amount.
If you discuss the accident with an insurance adjuster, you could harm your claim or end up receiving much less compensation than you deserve. Remember: insurance adjusters work for the insurance companies. They do not have your best interests at heart. Your attorney should handle all the discussions with the insurance companies, while you concentrate on recovering from your injuries.
Similarly, you should not talk to any representative for the truck company before talking to a lawyer. The corporation is interested in reducing its liability – not in making sure that you get the most possible compensation. Truck accident victims should always decline to speak to the trucking company or insurer, and instead direct the negligent parties to their attorney.
Truck Crashes Are Often Deadly — and Here’s Why
In southeastern Virginia, just like everywhere else, the interstate highways are always packed with big rigs. Truck accidents are a frequent occurrence — and are most dangerous and deadly to occupants of passenger vehicles. As a truck accident lawyer in Virginia Beach, Jeff Brooke knows the struggles and heartbreak of families who’ve had a loved one seriously injured or killed in a truck crash. By sharing some important — and even shocking — statistics and facts about why Virginia truck accidents are so deadly, Attorney Brooke hopes everyone will exercise greater caution when driving alongside large trucks on Virginia highways.
Passenger Vehicle Occupants Are at Greater Risk Than Truck Occupants
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) compiles statistics and other information about highway crashes involving trucks, using data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) of the U.S. Department of Transportation. IIHS reports that one in every ten highway deaths occurs in a crash involving a large truck. Most deaths in those crashes are occupants of passenger vehicles.
In 2014, the year used in the most recent IIHS study, large trucks were involved in 24%, or almost one quarter, of passenger vehicle deaths in multiple vehicle accidents. Truck occupants accounted for only 16% of deaths in truck accidents. In significant contrast, 68% of deaths were passenger vehicle occupants. The remaining fatalities included motorcyclists, bicyclists, or pedestrians. In fatal two-vehicle accidents involving a passenger vehicle and a large truck, 97% of deaths were occupants of the passenger vehicle.
Trucks Are Dangerous For More Reasons Than You Think
IIHS analysis reveals that there are multiple reasons why car passengers are vulnerable to injury and death in an accident involving a truck. The obvious reason trucks are dangerous on highways is the fact that large trucks often weigh 20 to 30 times more than passenger vehicles. Truckers also drive many more miles than most passenger car drivers, which increases the probability of an accident. But there’s a lot more to the story.
Truck Height and Ground Clearance
Trucks are taller than passenger vehicles and have greater ground clearance, which often results in underride crashes, which are accidents in which a passenger vehicle goes partially or totally under a truck or trailer. Research shows that rear and side underride guards could prevent these accidents.
Recently, IIHS released the results of crash tests showing that side underride guards have potential to save lives. IIHS also has been testing rear underride guards for several years. In the past few years, IIHS and others have been advocating laws and regulations mandating use of rear and side underride guards on large trucks. In 2015, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced it was considering more stringent standards — like those already in effect in Canada — but to date no standards have been adopted. Some trailer manufacturers are voluntarily making changes and improvements to address serious and fatal underride accidents.
Braking Distance for Trucks
Braking capability is also sometimes a factor in truck accidents. A loaded tractor trailer takes a distance 20 to 40 percent farther to stop than a car. The difference is even greater when brakes are poorly maintained or roads are wet or snow-covered and slippery.
Large trucks also often roll over during braking and crashes. A requirement for electronic stability control in new truck tractors goes into effect this year and is expected to reduce the number of truck crashes. Implementation of the requirement begins this month.
Truck Driver Fatigue
Truck driver fatigue also causes accidents. IIHS found that truck drivers who have been behind the wheel for more than eight hours are two times more likely to have an accident. A different study also found that drivers violating driving-hour restrictions are more likely to be found at fault for a crash.
Federal law regulates the number of hours a trucker can drive without a break, but surveys reveal that many truck drivers violate the regulations and work longer than permitted by law. Drivers reporting hour violations also are more likely to report falling asleep behind the wheel. In December 2017, electronic logging devices will be required under federal law for drivers required to keep logs and should help with compliance in trucker driving-hour restrictions.
Trucker Drug and Alcohol Use
Alcohol and drug use is less of a problem among truck drivers than passenger vehicle drivers, but alcohol or drug use is a factor in some crashes. Drug use is more frequent than alcohol among truck drivers.
Federal regulations require testing of commercial drivers for drugs and alcohol after crashes and on a random basis. Drug testing is also required before employment.
The Message Is Clear: Driving Alongside Trucks Requires Extra Care and Vigilance
The staggering statistics and information about truck crashes tell a compelling story: You and your passengers are much more likely to be seriously injured if you get involved in an accident with a truck than if you collide with another passenger vehicle. Keeping that in mind — especially when you drive on Virginia interstates where large trucks are plentiful — will help keep you and your family safe.
Trucking accidents involve complex legal issues
Do I Need a Lawyer for a Truck Accident Case?
Yes. While it may be possible to represent yourself in a minor car accident claim that only involves property damage, trying to negotiate a settlement on your own in a truck accident case is never a great idea. The truck companies and insurers have teams of adjusters and lawyers on their side working to ensure that you get paid as little as possible.
Studies show that people who are represented by counsel recover as much as 40% more in truck accident claims and other personal injury cases. If you have been hurt in a crash with a big rig or semi-truck, reach out to the Jeff Brooke Team today for a free consultation. We’ll fight for your right to full compensation.
Can I Afford to Hire a Truck Accident Lawyer?
Yes. Truck accident attorneys handle cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that you pay nothing up front, and only pay an attorney’s fee if your lawyer recovers money for you in a settlement or verdict at trial. In this way, you can afford legal representation even if you don’t have the cash on hand to pay an hourly fee.
The Jeff Brooke Team understands that injury victims are often financially stressed due to medical bills, lost wages, and other issues. We will fight for your right to maximum compensation – and will never charge a fee unless we recover money for you. Reach out today to talk to a truck accident lawyer in Virginia Beach about your case.
How Long Do I Have to File a Lawsuit for My Truck Accident?
In Virginia, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims (including truck crashes) is 2 years. With a few exceptions, this means that you have 2 years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit. If you don’t file a claim within that time period, then you won’t be able to seek compensation for your injuries.
An experienced truck accident lawyer can help ensure that your claim is filed on time so that you get the money that you deserve. In Virginia Beach and throughout southeastern Virginia, call the Jeff Brooke Team to schedule a free initial consultation about your commercial truck accident case.
Contact A Truck Accident Lawyer Today!
“Given the size and speed of today’s commercial vehicles, the likelihood of sustaining a serious injury if you have been involved in a trucking wreck is very high.” The Jeff Brooke Team is dedicated to helping you and your family get on the road to recovery if you have sustained a serious or catastrophic injury as a result of a trucking accident.
With law offices in Virginia Beach, Chesapeake and Portsmouth, our firm is devoted to providing the highest level of personal service, and professional legal counsel to those who have been injured in an accident. We are dedicated to helping those who have suffered serious and catastrophic injuries as a result of someone else’s negligent, and careless actions.
Contact our office to arrange a free consultation to discuss your case with an experienced personal injury lawyer. You can reach us by phone at (866) 915-2996, by e-mail or by filling out our online contact form.