My law firm handles Maryland truck accident claims. Our lawyers have obtained over 10 seven-figure settlements and verdicts in truck accidents. Our truck accident lawyers have handled so many of these cases and we have been in every county in Maryland. We know the ins and outs. If you have a truck accident case in Maryland, you want to measure twice and cut once when hiring a lawyer. My purpose in writing this page is to explain to you what to expect if you or someone you love has been hurt or killed in a truck accident in Maryland.
A “truck accident” is any vehicle collision involving a commercial truck. This includes big-rig tractor-trailers with 18-wheels, dump trucks, flatbed trucks or any other larger commercial use vehicles. Our firm, Miller & Zois, is one of the leading commercial truck accident firms in Maryland. Our Maryland truck accident lawyers have a long track record of getting large settlements and verdicts for clients injured in a truck accident.
Truck accident cases are a different animal than regular auto tort cases. You know a great car accident lawyer? Great. But that does not help much in a truck accident lawsuit. Collisions involving commercial trucks or tractor-trailers are more serious and usually involve more significant injuries than a regular auto collision. What’s more truck accident lawyer is a separate beast. So many car accident attorneys get themselves in trouble thinking they can handle a truck accident case.
The rules of liability in truck cases are different because commercial trucks are subject to a separate body of law in Maryland (Maryland Commercial Vehicle Law). Truck accident claims also are typically high-value cases. These cases need a lawyer who does not fold up the tent when they get a big offer.
Truck Accident Injuries
Truck accidents can be extremely dangerous because of the immense size and weight of tractor-trailers and other vehicles in the commercial truck category. A typical tractor-trailer combination is over 60 feet long and can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds when fully loaded. This is almost 10 times the size of an average passenger car which weighs about 3,000 pounds.
The amount of force generated during an accident is directly related to the relative mass of the vehicles involved. When a 3,000-pound sedan collides with a 50,000-pound dump truck, the occupants of the sedan are subjected to much greater impact forces. Big trucks are not only much heavier than cars but also much taller and with higher ground clearance. This makes passenger cars vulnerable to going under or getting crushed.
As a result of these factors, accidents involving commercial trucks frequently result in very serious injuries. If you get in an accident with a large commercial truck you (and your passengers) are 2-3 times more likely to be killed or suffer major injury as compared to an accident with another passenger car.
Truck Accident Law
Commercial trucks are subject to a separate body of federal and state laws that can significantly impact liability in truck accident cases. At the federal level, commercial trucks are subject-specific safety regulations promulgated by the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC). These ICC safety regulations are called the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR).
The FMCSR apply to all “interstate trucking” operators and provide general safety standards for the operation of commercial vehicles. Intrastate trucking operators (i.e., trucks that only operate in Maryland) are subject to state law and regulations. Maryland has adopted the FMCSR regulations with only minor changes.
Lawyers handling commercial truck accident cases need to be very familiar with the standards and requirements outlined in the FMCSR and the Maryland commercial trucking regulations. The application of these regulations can significantly impact liability in a truck accident case. For example, non-compliance with certain safety regulations can be used to hold a truck driver liable for an accident.
Common Causes of Truck Accidents
Truck accidents can happen for all the same varied reasons as regular auto accidents. However, some inherent risk factors are common causes of accidents with large commercial trucks that I see over and over. Truck accident attorneys need to understand these factors and how they usually play out in a truck accident case.
- Stopping Distance: the tremendous size and weight of commercial trucks means that they have a much more difficult time stopping. A 50,000-pound tractor-trailer requires 5 times as much braking time and distance as a normal car. The heavier the truck, the more distance it needs for braking. As a result, big trucks are more likely to rear-end collisions caused by failure to brake.
- Jackknifing: jackknifing occurs when a tractor-trailer stops or rapidly decelerates and the cargo trailer pivots around and sideways. A jackknifing trailer is dangerous because the pivoting trailer can smash into vehicles in adjacent lanes of traffic and also cause the truck to flip and roll. Jackknifing is more likely under certain circumstances and can be attributed to driver negligence.
- Wide Turning: another common cause of truck accidents is the fact that large trucks (especially 18-wheel tractor-trailers) have an extremely wide turning radius. A big truck may often require multiple lanes to make a turn and drivers are often not able to see obstacles such as other vehicles or pedestrians. Wide turns are a very common cause of truck accidents.
- Driver Fatigue: the fourth common cause of truck accidents, and probably the most dangerous, is driver fatigue. Commercial truck drivers have financial incentives to complete the trips quickly. As a result, truckers are often behind the wheel for 14-18 hours straight and only average about 5 hours of sleep. Driver fatigue is a very common factor in many truck accident cases and it can be extremely dangerous.
Evidence in Truck Accident Cases
Investigating and gathering evidence for a truck accident case is a much more complex and involved process than in a normal auto case. There are 2 primary reasons for the expanded field of evidence in truck accident cases: (1) the black box; and (2) trucking company records.
Most large tractor-trailer trucks have an onboard information recorder commonly called a “black box.” A black box uses the truck’s electronic network to track and record key data about a trip such as speed, distance, and so forth. The data recorded on a truck’s black box can be critical in a truck accident case. The black box can provide a wealth of information about how and why the accident occurred. The black box can also provide evidence regarding driver fatigue and what steps the driver took to avoid the collision.
The importance of black box data in a truck accident case cannot be understated. Our firm has had won truck accident cases based entirely on the black box evidence. A good truck accident lawyer needs to be familiar with black box data including how to access it and use it as evidence.
Another unique aspect of truck accident cases is that the field of relevant evidence may also include business records from the trucking company. Trucking companies keep extensive records of their drivers. These records can be relevant to issues such as driver fatigue. For example, the trucking company’s trip records may show that the driver had exceeded the maximum number of hours behind the wheel or was otherwise overworked at the time of the accident.
Trucking companies also keep records on a driver’s accident history or safety certification which may be very relevant in a truck accident case. For instance, a driver’s employment records might show that he had a very long accident history or was not current on required safety certifications. There have even been cases where employment records were used to establish that the driver had a drug or alcohol problem. All of these facts can be relevant to both general driver negligence claims and more specifically to claims of negligent entrustment or negligent supervision.
How Much Are Truck Accident Cases Worth?
Truck accident cases are generally more valuable than regular auto accident cases. This is because truck accidents often cause more serious injuries, but also because truck drivers carrying much bigger insurance policies. Personal auto insurance policies may have a coverage of limit of anywhere from $25,000 to $100,000. By contrast, most commercial truck drivers carry policies with a much larger $1 million limit.
Maryland Truck Accident Verdicts and Settlements
Summarized below are verdicts and reported settlements from recent Maryland truck accident cases.
- Turner v Maryland SHA (Baltimore City 2019) $191,515 Verdict: The plaintiff is a passenger on a transit bus that gets rear-ended by a dump truck that fails to stop in time. The dump truck is operated by an employee of the Maryland State Highway Administration. Plaintiff files suit alleging chronic tenosynovitis in her wrist with a 14% impairment of her right arm. The case goes to trial on damage and a jury in the city awards $191k.
- Fitzgerald v Puccini (Baltimore City 2019) $250,000 Verdict: A female plaintiff is driving in the city when the rear tire assembly breaks off from an H&S Bakery truck traveling in the opposite direction and strikes the plaintiff’s vehicle head-on. The plaintiff allegedly suffers from head trauma and sues the H&S driver for failing to operate and maintain the bakery truck in a safe manner. The plaintiff also asserts a claim based on res ipsa loquitur. The defense contends that the truck was maintained in a safe condition and had just undergone a 22-point safety inspection.
- Seman v Brown (Baltimore City 2018) $3,852,192 Verdict: Plaintiff, a middle-aged male, is attempting to repair a flat tire on the shoulder of I-95 in Baltimore City when he is struck and dragged for several hundred feet by defendant’s tractor-trailer. The plaintiff suffers very serious brain injury leaving him with cognitive impairment and requiring life-long medical care. The man sues the driver for general negligence and the trucking company for negligent entrustment. Jury returns a verdict of $3.8 million.
- Ellis v Pollard (Montgomery County 2018) $53,883 Verdict: The plaintiff is driving 55 mph on 95 north near White Marsh when he slows down for traffic ahead and gets rear-ended by the defendant’s UPS tractor-trailer. The plaintiff claims various injuries to his back and neck and sues the defendant alleging negligence for following too closely and failing to stop in time. The case proceeds to trial and a jury in Rockville awards $53k.
Contact Miller & Zois About Truck Accident Cases
I know how to maximize the value of a truck accident case. If you were injured in an accident with a commercial truck, you need experienced truck accident lawyers to handle your case. Call the Maryland truck accident attorneys at Miller & Zois today for a free consultation and case evaluation. You can call me at 800-553-8082 or contact us online.