Depending on the weight of the cargo, semi trucks can weigh between 20 and 30 times more than the average passenger vehicle. This massive weight and size can cause devastating damage when a collision occurs. For this reason, owners/operators and trucking companies must place the utmost importance on maintaining trucks and ensuring that they are in proper working order at all times while on the road.
Even seemingly minor problems with an 18-wheeler’s equipment can lead to severe injuries or death, especially if the truck is traveling at high speeds on the interstate. In fact, truck companies must follow federally mandated regulations concerning equipment maintenance. If they fail to comply with these regulations, they might be liable for any accidents caused by a mechanical breakdown.
Sustaining a serious injury brings an ample amount of physical, mental, and financial stress to victims and their families. Victims typically aren’t able to work for a period of time as medical bills keep stacking up. If you sustained an injury in a truck accident as a result of improper truck maintenance, a Nebraska trucking accident lawyer from the Robert Pahlke Law Group can help you seek compensation for your injuries. Call us at (308) 633-4444 to schedule your free consultation today.
Truck Maintenance Regulations
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) governs almost every aspect of driving, maintaining, and repairing large commercial vehicles. Established in 2000, the FMSCA develops, enacts, and enforces rules and regulations for the trucking industry to further its mission “to reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks and buses.” Examples of issues that FMSCA mandates address include inspections, repair, maintenance, and more. The agency even has specific rules about things like lubrication, driver vehicle inspection reports, and required qualifications of brake inspectors.
FMCSA regulations help keep roads safe and prevent truck accidents by imposing strict requirements on truck drivers, trucking companies, and owner/operators. For example, each vehicle must have 30 consecutive days of inspection and repair records. Truck drivers must inspect their vehicles before driving to ensure the trucks are safe to operate. If a driver discovers deficiencies, he or she must certify that these problems are repaired before heading out on the road. If a driver has mechanical issues while on the highway that poses a safety risk, he or she must directly proceed to the nearest place where the truck can be repaired.
Maintenance Failures That Might Cause a Truck Accident
When trucking companies, owner/operators, and drivers don’t do their part to properly maintain a truck, accidents are likely. Here are some examples of maintenance failures that may lead to a collision:
- Worn tires lead to blowouts, which might cause a driver to lose control of a truck. Tires must be changed when the treads are low, aired to the right levels, and rotated. Tire blowouts remain the leading cause of truck rollovers.
- Worn brake pads that need replacing might lead to the complete loss of braking function. Brake failure is one of the leading causes of truck rollover accidents, which often result in multi-car pile-ups in high traffic areas. Those who provide maintenance must also regularly check air brake systems, which are common on big rigs.
- Faulty or burned out headlights, tail lights, and turn signals make it difficult for those who share the road to see a truck, which might lead to a crash.
- Old and worn axles that aren’t strong enough to hold the proper amount of weight might break on the highway and cause a devastating accident.
- Mandatory reflectors that don’t work make it nearly impossible for other motorists to see trucks at night, especially in rural areas. This may lead to a preventable high-speed collision, especially if a truck has to pull over to the side of the road.
- Insecure cargo might spill out onto the road when trucking companies and drivers don’t use proper methods to secure their freight. Load spillage puts motorists that share the road in great danger and may cause a multi-car accident.
Types of Injuries that Victims Might Experience During a Truck Accident
When cars, pickup trucks, and other smaller passenger vehicles collide with semi trucks, the property damage is often extensive, injuries are more severe, and the likelihood of fatality greatly increases in comparison to the average traffic crash on Nebraska’s highways. When a mechanical breakdown occurs and leads to an accident, victims might experience the following injuries:
- Multiple fractures and broken bones
- Deep lacerations that might leave permanent scars, even after surgery
- Neck injuries, such as whiplash
- Spinal cord injuries that might result in partial or temporary paralysis
- Back injuries, such as broken vertebrae and bulged discs
- Internal bleeding and organ damage from blunt force trauma or from airbag deployment
- Burns from fires or explosions during the collision
- Crushed limbs that require multiple surgeries or amputation
Seeking Compensation for Damages After a Nebraska Truck Accident
If you were injured in a truck accident because the owner/operator or responsible trucking company didn’t properly maintain its equipment, you might be able to recover compensation for losses related to your injury. An experienced Nebraska trucking accident attorney can help you pursue compensation for your injuries. If a court rules in your favor, it might award you the following damages:
- Medical expenses, including ambulance services, emergency room visits, hospital stays, surgeries, medication, and more
- Future medical costs for injuries that require long-term health care or extended recovery
- Rehabilitation costs, such as physical therapy and assistive devices—such as crutches, artificial limbs, wheelchairs, etc.
- Lost wages when an injury and/or hospitalization causes a victim to miss work
- Lost future wages when a catastrophic injury prevents a victim from returning to his or her job
- Non-economic damages that apply to a particular case, such as pain and suffering, scarring and disfigurement, loss of consortium, and more
If you lost a loved one in a Nebraska truck accident, contact one of our truck accident attorneys about how to file a wrongful death claim. Surviving family members might qualify for compensation that also includes funeral expenses and burial costs.
Determining Fault in Nebraska Truck Accidents
If you prove, with the help of a qualified personal injury attorney, that the defendant’s negligence in maintaining a truck led to your accident and injuries, the court will likely rule in your favor. Yet, this doesn’t mean that you automatically get the full amount of damages that you requested. Nebraska courts apply a comparative negligence rule to personal injury cases, which means a court assigns a percentage of fault to each party listed in the suit. Before a court awards damages, it will reduce them according to the plaintiff’s portion of fault.
For example, if you sue a trucking company after an accident for $400,000, and the court finds that you were 10 percent at fault for the accident, you may only collect $360,000, or 90 percent of the original damages award. Nebraska’s modified version of comparative negligence includes a 50 percent threshold; if a court determines that a plaintiff was 50 percent or more at fault for the truck accident, Nebraska law bars him or her from collecting any damages.
Nebraska’s comparative negligence rule motivates the defense to shift blame to the victim to avoid liability and paying damages. You deserve compensation for the full cost of your injuries, making it imperative that you have an experienced truck accident attorney on your side.
Help for Nebraska Truck Accident Victims
The legal team at the Robert Pahlke Law Group has more than 85 years of combined experience helping accident victims recover damages. Our Nebraska truck accident attorneys know how to effectively investigate a truck accident case. We regularly subpoena trucks’ maintenance records and search for gaps that might indicate lapses in routine maintenance. Additionally, pre-trip inspection logs can also reveal known mechanical issues with a truck at the time of an accident or that a driver never actually completed an inspection before driving.
Truck drivers are generally under heavy pressure to meet strict delivery deadlines, and they sometimes push safety limits by delaying repairs. In other cases, a lack of maintenance occurs because of pure laziness. Whatever the specifics of your case, if you have been seriously injured or have lost a loved one in a truck accident caused by faulty or improperly maintained equipment, Nebraska law entitles you to seek compensation related to your injuries in civil court.
Personal injury cases are time sensitive because of Nebraska’s statute of limitations regarding personal injury cases, but cases that rely on truck and trucking company records require a stronger sense of urgency because these companies are only required to keep maintenance records for 30 days. You need a lawyer to obtain and investigate necessary records before it’s too late.
Call the Robert Pahlke Law Group today at (308) 633-4444, or contact us online, to take the first step in your case and to learn how you can seek compensation for your injuries. The Robert Pahlke Law Group represents victims of trucking accidents that occurred on I-90, I-80, I-76, and I-25.