Commercial Vehicle Accident Lawyers in Tucson, Arizona
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Tucson commercial vehicle accident lawyers advocate for victims who, through no fault of their own, have suffered tremendously from the negligence of commercial vehicle drivers. One driver’s failure to take proper care during a long haul or routine commute can impact a victim for years or for life. One employer’s failure to implement proper safety measures can lead to disaster.
Commercial drivers and their employers should be held liable for their negligence toward motorists. This article will discuss how a personal injury lawyer in Tucson can help you if you have been involved in such an accident, how such accidents can occur, and what your case will look like if you bring your personal injury claim to negotiation or court. If after reading it you have specific questions because a commercial driver hurt you, call a Zinda Law Group attorney at (800) 863-5312 for your free consultation.
What can an Injury lawyer near me do to help my case?
Arizona has a two-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims, meaning that from the day the car accident occurs, you have two years to bring your claim. If you are unable to file your complaint within that two-year window, you have missed your opportunity to recover against the person who caused your injury.
A Tucson injury lawyer can help you not only meet that window in the statute of limitations but also know which court to file in and what kind of claim to file. From there, the attorney can help investigate whom he or she needs to talk to, gather the evidence to prove the elements of your claim, and negotiate a settlement.
Gathering the Right Witnesses
Immediately following the accident, you might be disoriented and afraid; your ability to gather information at the scene of the crashed may have been compromised by a serious injury or emotional response. When you or someone else at the site calls the police to the accident, that police files a crash report that becomes publicly available a few days later. Get a copy because the report will contain the names, contact information, and insurance companies of the drivers and passengers involved in the crash.
If you were able to gather information at the accident scene, perhaps you already have that information and can check it against the report. You might also have pictures that you took with your phone and the names and contact information of people who saw the crash and can attest that you did not cause it.
A personal injury attorney can communicate with the people who saw the accident, the commercial vehicle driver’s employer, the commercial vehicle driver, and other witnesses to find out who will make a good witness for you. The lawyer can then schedule depositions with these parties to find weaknesses in the defendant’s case and determine the best strategy for negotiating a settlement.
Gathering the Right Evidence
In addition to finding the right people to establish the facts of your case, you will also need to provide evidence of your injuries. If you noticed any unusual pain after the crash, you probably began seeing your doctor. Even if you have not meticulously kept documentation of your doctor’s visits and treatments, your attorney can request that your medical provider send those documents to the law firm and put those records on file.
Evidence of your economic damages includes all documentation that shows you suffered a financial harm as a result of the accident. It includes wages that you missed out on from the time you were unable to work, medical diagnoses, treatment, follow up visits, referrals, surgeries, X-rays, MRIs, etc.
Negotiate a Settlement
Hopefully, you are getting a sense of how important the facts of your case are. As your attorney begins to interview witnesses to continue gathering the facts of your case, it will become clearer whether you can prove that the commercial vehicle driver was negligent; this information helps the parties decide on an appropriate settlement amount based on their chances of success at trial. If there are still questions of fact after the evidence-gathering stage—that is, if some of the facts are disputed or unclear—and the plaintiff and defendant cannot agree on a settlement amount, there could be a jury trial.
The driver’s lawyer, employer, employer’s lawyer, insurance company, and any other adverse parties will try to avoid compensating you the proper amount by poking holes in your story and showing that the driver or employer was not negligent. Your lawyer will try to do the same to the adverse parties. If your case turns out to be weaker than you or your attorney originally anticipated, the attorney will know when to settle rather than go to trial.
The amount you receive in settlement is based on the amount of economic and noneconomic damages you incurred. We already discussed the possible economic damages to which a personal injury victim might be entitled, but there are also noneconomic damages; noneconomic damages are to cover the victim’s pain and suffering from the injury. In very rare cases, courts will award punitive damages to punish the tortfeasor and deter people from such conduct in the future.
What causes commercial vehicle accidents?
When we discuss commercial vehicles in the context of personal injury law, we are typically referring to semi-trucks. Wrecks that involve semi-trucks are often even more dangerous because of the weight of the truck; however, some of the causes of commercial vehicle accidents can happen with other motor vehicles as well. Consider the effects of inclement weather, driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol, or failing to follow rules of the road, signs, and traffic signals.
The causes of accidents that are unique to commercial vehicle/semi-truck accidents include (but are not limited to):
- driving an overweight truck,
- driving an improperly loaded truck,
- failing to maintain the commercial vehicle, and
- failing to inspect the vehicle regularly.
Federal laws dictate how long drivers may work without a sleep break, but driving while fatigued is also especially common among commercial vehicle drivers. Someone who drives while fatigued risks nodding off, drifting from his or her lane, experiencing tunnel vision, and reacting more slowly to changing road conditions, other drivers, and pedestrians.
Negligence in commercial vehicle accident cases
Car crashes usually result from some form of negligence. Perhaps someone failed to follow the traffic rules by driving through a red light or driving too fast in a construction zone or in poor weather conditions, as we discussed above. Any driver can be involved in such crashes, but accidents can be intensified by the negligence of commercial vehicle drivers.
Commercial vehicle accidents also often involve the employer of the commercial vehicle driver. If you file a claim of negligence against the employer of the driver who hit you, you must prove four things:
- The commercial vehicle driver owed you a duty of care.
- The commercial vehicle driver breached that duty of care.
- You sustained an injury for which you can receive compensation.
- The injury you sustained was directly and proximately caused by the commercial vehicle driver.
Standard of the Duty of Care
The duty of care described in negligence cases is usually that of a reasonable person. That is, the amount of care that you exercise while driving is typically the level of care that a reasonable person would take: following the rules of the road, staying aware of changing road conditions, attempting to prevent foreseeable harm, etc. Professionals in certain industries are held to the standard of the duty of care that the average professional in that industry would take.
Even employers can be held to a standard of care regarding their hiring procedures. Also, if employers do not adopt commonplace safety practices for their industry, they might fail to meet the correct standard of care. Specifically, trucking companies must adopt safe procedures for their employees in maintaining, inspecting, and loading trucks and in making sure employees are getting enough sleep.
It is one thing for a person or company to simply not take the right amount of care, but for there to be a legal claim in negligence, the failure to maintain the standard of care must have caused harm. The injury must be the kind for which you can receive compensation.
If you notice a commercial vehicle dangerously cutting off other drivers or driving too fast, yet you did not make contact with that truck because you took measures to avoid that vehicle as you continued to travel toward your destination, you did not suffer an injury for which you can receive compensation; merely fearing danger is not a compensable injury. Alternatively, if you suffered whiplash when a commercial vehicle driver hit your vehicle because she failed to timely apply her brakes, you probably have a compensable injury. You must also be able to show that your injury is the commercial driver’s fault because he or she actually caused your injury.
The Doctrine of Respondeat Superior
The thing that makes negligence cases slightly different in commercial vehicle accidents is the doctrine of respondeat superior. This law holds employers liable for the torts their employees commit within the scope of their employment. Examples of this in the trucking industry include negligent hiring processes and failure to enforce restrictions on employees’ driving hours, causing employees to drive while fatigued.
What are the requirements for commercial drivers?
Commercial drivers need a commercial driver’s license (CDL) instead of a standard driver’s license to be able to drive semi-trucks, buses, and other commercial motor vehicles. There are several steps and requirements for those who want to obtain their CDL; some of the requirements are federal, and others are state-specific. There are different classes of CDLs for different kinds of vehicles, and drivers must obtain the correct class of license in order to be qualified to drive their commercial vehicles in the state of Arizona.
- Class A CDLs are for drivers of vehicles towing more than 10,000 pounds, including tractor-trailers, tank vehicles, livestock carriers, flatbeds, and truck and trailer combinations.
- Class B CDLs are for drivers of vehicles towing less than 10,000 pounds, including tractor-trailers, dump trucks, straight trucks, large passenger buses, and segmented buses.
- Class C CDLs are for drivers of vehicles designed to transport hazardous materials or over sixteen passengers.
The federal requirements for obtaining a CDL apply to all commercial drivers across the United States. Those seeking a CDL for interstate hauling must be at least 21 years old, and those who will only drive within their state must be at least 18 years old.
Applicants must also pass a background check to ensure that certain offenses are not on their record. Those federal offenses relate to driving convictions such as:
- using the commercial vehicle to traffic persons
- using the commercial truck to distribute or dispense a controlled substance
- causing a fatality through the negligent operation of a commercial vehicle
- having an alcohol concentration of greater than 0.04 when operating a commercial vehicle
In addition to federal requirements, applicants in Arizona must meet Arizona’s CDL requirements. For example, applicants must show proof of their residence in Arizona and can do this by providing pieces of mail that show a valid address, such as a credit card bill or standard driver’s license. Also, applicants should be United States citizens or legal permanent residents and should be able to prove this by providing a valid passport, birth certificate, or certificate of naturalization.
Arizona applicants must be able to pass the appropriate knowledge and skills tests. First, they must pass a knowledge test to get their commercial learner’s permit; the test covers safety information specific to driving commercial vehicles. After the applicant successfully completes the knowledge test and gets a commercial learner’s permit, he or she must pass a skills test driving the type of vehicle that the driver plans to operate while using their CDL.
Drivers need to also meet certain physical requirements to obtain a CDL. In addition, they must complete a physical examination every 24 months to keep their CDL.
Our Tucson commercial vehicle accident lawyers want to hear about your accident
Although we have explored some of the requirements that drivers must meet in order to drive commercial vehicles, sometimes qualified drivers make mistakes or employers negligently hire someone who is not qualified. A Zinda Law Group personal injury lawyer in Tucson can help you investigate whether the driver’s employer was negligent in hiring the driver or the trucking company that the driver works for, and whether respondeat superior applies in your case. Alternatively, if the driver was negligent because he or she drove too fast for the weather conditions or failed to comply with the rules of the road, your attorney can help you illustrate those facts to negotiate a settlement.
Car crash victims often must take on the burden of addressing their injuries as quickly as possible so that they can return to work as quickly as possible. After the victims return to work, they might still be limited by the injuries they incurred in the crash. On top of that, now the victims have a potential lawsuit that they must decide whether to file.
Our Tucson injury lawyers understand that you simply want to return to your life as it was before the crash, and we can work to help you achieve that goal as realistically as possible. If you were injured in an accident involving a commercial vehicle in or near Tucson, you can benefit from a free consultation with a caring Zinda Law Group personal injury lawyer at (800) 863-5312. Our clients receive a No Win, No Fee Guarantee, meaning that they do not need to pay us unless we win their case for them.
Meetings with attorneys are available by appointment only.