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Though truckers drive vehicles that are much larger than most other vehicles on the road, truckers are just like other drivers on the road. Some truckers drive with attentiveness; other truckers regularly do not pay attention to the road. Unfortunately, a trucker who drives without attentiveness just one time can cause a severe accident. Often, the cause of a truck accident is because the trucker was texting.
If you or your loved one has been injured by a trucker because he or she was texting while driving, you may be entitled to compensation. An attorney who is experienced with handling such cases can guide you through the necessary steps for gaining compensation for your truck accident-related injuries. Call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 for a free consultation with one of our truck accident lawyers today.
Truckers Are Not Allowed to Text While Driving
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has made it clear that it does not tolerate commercial truck drivers texting while driving. According to its research on the subject, it found that a driver who operates a commercial motor vehicle while texting was 23.2 times more likely to get into an accident than a driver who does not.
What Is Texting?
Though the concept of texting may seem pretty clear, it is not limited legally to merely typing a message on your phone. Texting can also mean reading text from an electronic device. Furthermore, do not think that texting is simply sending messages through your phone app. It can also mean reading email or accessing a webpage. Texting is not necessarily sending a message to someone. Any time you are reading or typing a message on your phone, you are texting for all legal purposes.
Fines and Penalties for Truckers Who Text
Because texting while driving can be so dangerous, texting can lead to stiff penalties for commercial drivers such as truckers. A commercial driver who is caught texting may face up to a $2,750 fine. Employers who are found to have a driver who is caught texting may face up to a $11,000 fine.
Truckers who are caught multiple times texting while driving may be disqualified, or lose their ability to drive a truck.
How a Negligence Claim Works Against a Trucker
Most personal injury claims are based upon the legal theory of negligence. Negligence simply means that the defendant acted below the standard of care expected of him or her at the time of the accident, which caused the accident. There are four elements that a plaintiff must show in order to have a successful negligence claim: Duty, Breach of Duty, Proximate Cause, and Injury.
Duty, in the negligence context, must be a legal one, not a moral one. Because texting while driving is illegal for truckers, there is a legal duty for truckers to not text while driving.
A breach of duty simply means that the duty was broken. Therefore, if a trucker texts while driving, he or she has broken that duty.
Proximate cause is another way of saying that the behavior of the defendant caused the accident. Therefore, if a trucker’s texting caused the accident, there was proximate cause. On the other hand, even if the trucker was texting, he or she would not be the proximate cause of an accident if the other driver involved in the accident was at fault; suddenly losing control of his or her vehicle due to a malfunction, for example, leading to the passenger car driver crashing into the 18-wheeler truck.
Injury is also vital in a negligence claim. There cannot be a personal injury lawsuit without an injury since a personal injury lawsuit’s purpose is to compensate a plaintiff for his or her injuries.
How to Prove that a Trucker Was Distracted When He or She Caused the Crash
There are several means of proving that a trucker was texting or was distracted in some other manner prior to the crash. Below is a list of some of the more common tools to use to accomplish this goal.
Though allowing a police report would be hearsay in a courtroom setting, it is nevertheless helpful if you are filing a claim with the trucker’s insurance company.
In some cases, you may be able to find out that the trucker had a citation for texting while driving. Many states have made texting while driving illegal. If your trucker has a citation for driving while texting, this may be very helpful evidence in your claim with the trucker’s insurance company.
Cellphone records are another way to find out whether a trucker was texting. Every time a text message is sent, the cell phone service provider has a record of it. It would not be difficult to find out whether a trucker was texting or not at the time of an accident by looking at the record.
Sometimes, witnesses may notice that a trucker is on the phone while driving. If you have a witness who saw the trucker texting at the time of the accident, the witness may be a valuable asset in your claim.
Some trucking companies require a camera to be placed inside the trucker’s cab. If the footage inside the cab shows the trucker texting right before the accident, you would have concrete proof that the texting was the cause of the accident.
Though a trucker may not admit to his or her boss that he or she was texting, many do fold under the pressure of their conscience when talking to the police. If a trucker admits to the police that he or she did text before the accident, this would be indicated in a police report.
Common Injuries in Distracted Truck Driving Accidents
Both the truck driver and the driver of a car involved in a truck crash or road incident may be injured in any of innumerable ways. Here are just a few of the most common injuries suffered by victims and truckers alike in accidents caused by distracted truck drivers.
- Back injuries
- Broken bones
- Neck injuries
How Trucking Companies May Try to Avoid Settling with You
Trucking companies have spent decades trying to lessen their liabilities. So unless your accident is so clear cut that they feel that they would lose at trial, expect them to push back on your claim. It is not uncommon for trucking companies to even blame the victim of the accident rather than accept responsibility for their texting-while-driving truck driver employee.
Even if their employee was caught texting, the trucking company may argue that the victim of the accident himself or herself was distracted and that if he or she had not been distracted, there would not have been an accident. This is a common tactic if the driver happened to be in the trucker’s blind side at the time of the accident. The trucking company will argue that the driver was being careless for being in the trucker’s blind spot.
In some situations, some trucking companies may refuse to settle with you by stating that the trucker was outside the scope of his or her duty at the time of the accident. According to the scope of employment legal argument, if an employee was outside the scope of his or her duty at the time of the accident, the employee would not be liable for the accident. For instance, if a trucker was using his truck to simply run a personal errand and was not even on duty that day, the trucking company may not be on the hook for any accident that the trucker causes that day.
Note that just because a trucker may use the truck for a personal errand does not mean that the employer is not liable for any accident the trucker causes while on a personal errand. For instance, if the trucker was stopping to get lunch at the time of the accident, the trucking company will most likely still be responsible.
Should I Hire a Lawyer?
Hiring a lawyer may be wise in a trucking accident claim for two important reasons. One is that the injuries in a trucking accident may be severe. Semi-trucks tend to weigh thousands of pounds. It is possible that a wreck involving a semi-truck could lead to injuries that cannot be brushed off in a week or even a month. In fact, injuries from a trucking accident may lead to permanent loss of movement or consciousness.
The money to pay the accompanying medical bills is often out of the reach of ordinary Americans. If you feel that you will need a large compensation for your injuries, you may want to hire an experienced personal injury lawyer since an experienced personal injury lawyer will know how to calculate the value of your claim. Remember that insurance companies will try to lowball claimants. An experienced lawyer on your side can fend off the distasteful tactics of insurance companies.
The second reason why you may wish to hire an attorney is due to the complexity of a truck accident claim. A trucking accident is not a simple fender bender where you can exchange insurance information and be on your way. A large number of parties may be involved in a trucking accident since the trucker is likely employed by a trucking company. If the trucking company has many attorneys working for it, having a knowledgeable attorney on your side will be a huge help when you’re trying to prove a claim against them or their driver.
Statute of Limitations
Remember that if you decide to sue a trucking company, you have only a limited amount of time to do so. The longer you wait, the more likely evidence associated with the accident will be lost or forgotten; so, you should be decisive about filing a lawsuit if you feel that a settlement will be a lost cause.
CONTACT A TRUCK ACCIDENT LAWYER for a confidential discussion about your case
The experienced attorneys at Zinda Law Group may be able to help you with your dealings with an insurance company after a truck accident. After an accident, you shouldn’t have to worry about affording legal representation, which is why we work on a contingency fee basis. You don’t owe us anything unless we win your case. That is our No Win, No Fee Guarantee.
Meetings with attorneys are available by appointment only.