Driving to work on the Turner Turnpike can be a harrowing experience when you are right behind a semi-trailer truck or big rig. These giant machines barrel carelessly down the highway, often changing lanes at a moment’s notice while cutting off other drivers. When truckers decide that the rules of the road do not apply to them, other motorists can be seriously hurt, or even lose their lives.
If you or one of your family members was injured in a crash or collision in the Oklahoma City area, you can rest assured that the truck accident injury attorneys of Hasbrook & Hasbrook will be there to help guide and counsel you through this difficult time. Backed by over 75 years of combined experience, our skilled legal team prides itself on compassionate client support and aggressive legal advocacy. We are firmly committed to pursuing maximum compensation for every injury victim we represent, regardless of the obstacles insurance companies may try to create.
National and Oklahoma Truck Crash Death and Injury Statistics
The Oklahoma Department of Public Safety contains an agency called the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office (OHSO). OHSO releases an annual report on statewide motor vehicle accidents. According to a 2013 OHSO report, a total of 5,182 large truck crashes were reported that year. “Large trucks” were defined to include:
- Single unit trucks with two or more axles
- Trucks over 10,000 pounds
A total of 90 accidents (about 1.7%) were fatal, resulting in 98 deaths. More than 1,300 nonfatal injuries were also reported, nearly 200 of which were incapacitating. A total of 1,265 crashes – about one quarter — occurred on interstate highways, slightly fewer than the 1,473 crashes (28.4%) which took place on city streets. Statistically speaking, August was the most dangerous month for crashes, while accidents were most likely to occur on Tuesdays.
In 2014, the most recent year for which data is available, OHSO reported 5,155 large truck crashes, a slight decrease from 2013. However, the number of fatal accidents remained virtually unchanged, actually increasing slightly from 90 to 91 (about 1.8%). These 91 fatal accidents caused 118 deaths, an increase of nearly two per month on average from the previous year. Another 239 people sustained incapacitating injuries. An additional 788 minor or moderate injuries were also reported.
On the federal level, vehicular accidents are monitored and studied by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which reported that large trucks — vehicles with a gross weight above 10,000 pounds — were involved in about 342,000 crashes in 2013. Collectively, these crashes were responsible for 3,964 deaths and close to 100,000 injuries.
The majority of those who were killed — about 71% of the victims — were not truck occupants, but the drivers or passengers of other vehicles. About 17% were truck occupants, while about 11% were pedestrians, cyclists, or other non-occupants of any vehicle.
Who is Liable for Compensating Automotive Accident Injury Victims?
Unfortunately, contributing factors like aggressive driving, driver fatigue, and poor road conditions all mean that accidents are commonplace on the Turner Turnpike, I-35, I-40, I-44, and countless other roads and highways in the Oklahoma City area. But exactly who is responsible when an avoidable accident occurs?
If you would guess that sole responsibility lies with the driver of the truck, you may be surprised to learn that many claims actually involve multiple parties. For instance, it is possible that the driver’s employer failed to make adequate repairs on the truck, causing the brakes to fail before your accident. To give another example, maybe the weigh station only skimmed the trucker’s log, allowing the trucker to cruise through the night on no more than an hour or two of sleep.
Because of these and other variables, determination of liability is a complex task which frequently involves conducting interviews, checking equipment maintenance records, and sending debris and other crash evidence to labs for expert analysis. Many accidents are caused not by one isolated factor, but by a convoluted chain of preventable events which occurred because of negligence, or the failure to anticipate and take precautions against a foreseeable hazard. Proving the defendant’s negligence is a vital component of any personal injury claim or lawsuit.
Truck drivers and carriers have a duty of care toward all other motorists on the road, which means taking reasonable steps to prevent harm to drivers, cyclists, pedestrians, and others. If a truck driver or motor carrier fails to take these vital steps toward safety – for example, by failing to screen employees, perform regular maintenance and inspections, obey traffic laws, or comply with federal limits on driving shifts – they could potentially be held liable for wrongful deaths or injuries which result. When you call Hasbrook & Hasbrook for your free consultation, we will determine whether you have a case.
Collisions Caused by Fatigued Truckers: FMSCA Hours of Service Regulations
You wouldn’t trust an exhausted surgeon to perform an operation, or trust a fatigued pilot to complete a flight safely. That’s because fatigue and exhaustion are well known to interfere with basic cognitive functions, delaying our decisions, clouding our judgment, and slowing our physical reactions. These kinds of impairments can be extremely dangerous when performing complex tasks or operating heavy machinery, and trucking combines both of these hazards.
In an effort to prevent accidents caused by fatigued driving, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has adopted safety standards called the Hours of Service (HOS) regulations, which apply to commercial vehicles that:
- Weigh more than 10,000 pounds. (This describes nearly all commercial vehicles you observe on the highway. For reference, a Honda Civic weighs just under 3,000 pounds.)
- Carry hazardous materials in quantities large enough to require the display of a placard. If you see a warning sign for flammable gas, poison, or other hazardous materials on a truck, that means the vehicle is subject to HOS regulations.
- Are intended or used to carry 16 or more passengers, without any compensation (e.g. a school bus).
- Are intended or used to carry nine or more passengers, for compensation (e.g. a transit bus).
These regulations set shift limits by restricting the number of consecutive hours a trucker (or other commercial driver) may drive. For example, truck drivers who are transporting cargo or property cannot drive for more than 11 hours, at most, after spending at least 10 consecutive hours off-duty. Additionally, truckers and other commercial drivers can work no more than 60 to 70 hours during a seven- to eight-day period.
Unfortunately, pressure to complete trips quickly often translates into drivers ignoring the HOS regulations, driving well past the shift limits allowed by federal law. To quote one disturbing NHTSA analysis of large truck accidents:
“Driver fatigue has been identified as an important crash cause. It is known that many drivers drive while fatigued, but accurate estimates are not available. HOS regulations that attempt to reduce fatigue are highly controversial and widely violated.”
While precise figures “are not available,” some studies have helped shed light on the possible incidence of fatigued and drowsy driving. For example, NHTSA research identifies fatigue as a driver factor in 2.6% of large truck crashes, making fatigue a more common problem than drunk driving, drugged driving, or driver inexperience.
The longer a driver continues on his or her shift, the greater the risk of losing focus or even falling asleep at the wheel. When an exhausted trucker causes an avoidable accident by deliberately violating federal safety regulations, he or she must be held accountable — not only for the accident which occurred, but also in the interest of preventing similar accidents from harming innocent people in the future.
Contact Our Attorneys for a Free Legal Consultation
Truckers and their employers are part of a huge commercial industry that focuses heavily on the importance of financial gain. And, when they try to negotiate with you, that is all they will think about: how they can escape with the fewest losses possible.
Our attorneys simply won’t stand for that, or for anyone who decides that making money is more important than your health and personal safety. Carriers and drivers who make dangerous decisions in the interest of profit must be held accountable for their actions. This sort of misconduct places everyone on Oklahoma’s roads in danger, and it is completely unacceptable that motor carriers should avoid financial responsibility while the accident victim is left to struggle with their medical bills, all at a time when they are out of work and aren’t earning income.
We know that the time after a serious accident is incredibly stressful, but try not to worry – our truck injury lawyers will enter negotiations with only one thing on our minds: how to acquire the necessary compensation for you to secure your finances and stabilize your future. While we understand that no dollar amount can turn back the hands of time, what compensation can do is cover your medical expenses, make up for lost earnings, and keep you and your loved ones more comfortable as you go through the difficult process of recovery.
If you were injured in a truck accident in Oklahoma City, your first priority is to focus on your rehabilitation before worrying about anything else. But whenever you’re ready to talk, we’ll be here to listen. To start exploring your legal options in a free and private consultation, call our law offices at (405) 698-3040. Hasbrook & Hasbrook will be by your side as soon as possible to help turn things around.
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