Commercial Vehicle Accident Attorneys in Phoenix, AZ
Sharing driving space with very large, heavy tractor trailers is a daily occurrence on Arizona highways, and while you might exercise every caution possible to avoid collision with one of these mammoth vehicles, the reality is that it’s a chance we all take every time we drive on the public roads and highways.
When a trucker causes a collision, you need the premier Arizona truck accident lawyers Snyder & Wenner, because make no mistake about it: a trucking accident is NOT the same as a run-of-the-mill car accident.
Since trucking accidents require significant experience, knowledge, and strategy to properly litigate, hiring any average car accident law firm can be a major mistake. Instead, you or your loved ones must hire an experienced, aggressive Phoenix truck accident lawyer.
Contrary to popular belief, trucking accidents do not only include big rigs and semi-trucks. In fact, trucking accidents also include collisions caused by:
- Cement trucks
- Delivery vehicles
- Work vans and work trucks
- Construction vehicles
- Other large commercial vehicles
For more information on these other types of vehicles, please visit our commercial vehicle accident page. Each year, trucking accidents across the country cause more than 140,000 injuries requiring extensive medical treatment. These collisions cause more than 5,000 deaths each year. Unfortunately, Arizona is no different. According to the Arizona Department of Transportation, in 2013, 11,826 truck and bus accidents were reported in the state of Arizona. Snyder & Wenner can help with all types of truck-related accidents, including cross-border trucking, accidents caused by overloaded trucks, and accidents caused by unrealistic trucking schedules.
Phoenix Truck Accident Attorneys Helping Victims Take Legal Action
Accident victims may pursue a liability claim against the responsible party or parties in order to recover compensation for damages, this may include damages related to:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages and earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
The claim process for a trucking accident can be complicated and frustrating. Because many truck drivers are employees or contractors of a larger entity, you may be dealing with multiple parties while determining liability and obtaining compensation for damages. In addition, sometimes there are questions regarding who is at fault for the accident or the degree of fault that should be assigned to each driver involved.
An attorney who specializes in motor vehicle accidents and specifically trucking accidents in Phoenix can serve as a liaison between you and all involved parties, helping you make sure that the responsible entity is properly identified quickly and efficiently and that fault is assigned appropriately.
What Are the Most Frequent Causes of a Trucking Accident?
The reason that trucking accidents are not the same as the run-of-the-mill car accident is because there are certain factors that typically lead to these collisions. Unfortunately for the victims, these factors can be easily prevented if the trucker and the trucking company simply act reasonable and appropriately.
Unrealistic Trucking Schedules
When an 18-wheeler is in an accident with a car or SUV of any size, the collision is likely to cause serious injury to the car driver and passengers. If the truck driver is under pressure to deliver cargo at a certain time because of unrealistic truck schedules, truck driver fatigue can add to the seriousness of the accident.
At Snyder & Wenner, P.C. in Phoenix, Arizona, we devote the time necessary to every client we represent. A truck accident case requires careful investigation to determine the causes of the accident—driver fatigue, cargo problems, maintenance issues, speeding, or other problems.
Regulations Are in Place to Prevent Driver Fatigue
By law, truck drivers are required to keep a log of their meal breaks, rest stops, arrival times, total driving time, and so on. Most drivers do this responsibly. Most also keep a watchful eye on cargo stability, the surrounding traffic, road signs, and road conditions. Most of the time, accidents do not occur.
When truck accidents do occur, one common cause is unrealistic scheduling. Responsible truck driver schedules should take delay factors into account, such as dangerous weather and high traffic areas. When a trucking company's profits depend on how quickly its drivers can deliver cargo, owners or managers may impose stressful or difficult time expectations on their drivers.
Although there are legally mandated safety protocols, drivers may feel pressured to speed, skip sleep, or ignore maintenance issues as they try to meet their deadlines. Many drivers are paid according to how many miles or hours they drive, which is an incentive to push the limits of driving time.
The Driving Limits Are Clear
Truck drivers cannot drive for more than 11 hours (or work for more than 14 hours if the job requires loading or unloading cargo) after being off-duty for 10 hours.
A driver may not drive at all if that driver has worked for 60 hours in the previous seven days or 70 hours in the previous eight days, unless the driver has taken at least 34 consecutive hours off.
If a loved one was seriously injured or killed in a truck accident, our personal injury lawyers have the resources and the ability to determine the cause and to fight for the compensation you need and deserve.
The Truck's Load Was Too Big or Improperly Loaded
When 80,000 pounds of cargo is traveling at highway speeds, it is essential that weight restrictions are followed and the cargo is properly loaded, distributed, and secured within the trailer of a tractor-trailer big rig.
An accident that involves an overloaded truck and a car or SUV almost always causes serious injuries or wrongful death. If the cargo is overweight or improperly loaded, that can increase the danger to everyone involved in the accident.
Was It an Overloaded Truck? Was the Load Properly Secured?
Our personal injury attorneys and accident experts review all aspects of a truck accident. Because catastrophic injuries are usually involved in an accident with a semi-truck, it is important to understand how the accident happened and who or what might have contributed to the accident.
We also investigate the medical conditions of those injured so that our lawyers will know how much compensation is appropriate. After determining the extent of the injuries and the causes of the accident, our law firm will then develop an effective, persuasive case to present to an insurance company, and, when necessary, to a jury.
An Overloaded Truck Is a Safety Hazard on the Highway
Weigh stations along the highway emphasize the importance regulators place on truck weight. In spite of this, overweight cargo can still be a problem. Other problems occur because of how a truck is loaded. An out-of-balance load can cause a truck to tip over when it makes a turn or stops suddenly.
Unrealistic truck schedules can contribute to the problem by not allowing enough time to check and re-check the cargo of an 18-wheeler.
We Look at All the Details and Prepare the Case for Trial
It is in the details that accidents happen. At Snyder & Wenner, P.C. in Phoenix, Arizona, we examine the details so that we can present a thorough case. If you have been seriously injured in a truck accident, contact us for a free consultation. We handle cases throughout Arizona and nationwide.
There are a number of complex issues to confront when investigating or litigating a truck accident. There are a number of state and federal regulations, ownership issues, and other legal matters. Cross-border trucking adds to the complexity. That is why it is a good idea to talk to personal injury attorneys with truck accident experience.
When a truck is owned by our neighbors in Mexico or Canada, a truck accident investigation can be especially complicated. At Snyder & Wenner, P.C. in Phoenix, Arizona, we understand how to deal effectively with challenging investigations. In Arizona, most cross-border trucking accidents involve trucks from Mexico.
Different Countries Have Different Standards
U.S. federal and state standards for the loading, maintenance, and operation of trucks are different from the standards in Mexico. However, when a cross-border trucking accident takes place in the U.S., U.S. laws are applied. However, investigation may be more complex because of the need to determine ownership and liability.
At Snyder & Wenner, P.C., our trial lawyers are meticulous in finding the details necessary to present an effective case, both to insurance companies in settlement discussions and to juries in the courtroom. The more serious the injuries, the more important it is to know all the causes of a cross-border trucking accident and determine all the liable parties.
We Have the Experience to Litigate Cross-Border Trucking Accidents
For more than 25 years, our law firm has focused our time and financial resources on complex personal injury and wrongful death cases. We cannot take every case, but when the injuries are serious, we can give the case the attention it needs and deserves. Our personal injury attorneys are prepared to help. Contact us for a free consultation.
Truck drivers (and their companies) all know that these potential problems exist, but they often put profits in front of safety. Instead of driving less or ensuring safety checks have been done, the drivers will put everyone else at risk. When that happens, the results can be catastrophic.
Who Might Be a Responsible Party in My Trucking Accident Claim?
Depending on the circumstances surrounding your accident, there are multiple possibilities for who might be a liable party for your damages. Even if fault is clearly assigned to the driver of the truck, you might be dealing with other parties when working through your claim.
The Following Factors Could Come into Play When Determining Liability
Regulation of the trucking industry – The federal government regulates the business and operation of trucking companies and has issued a series of laws and mandates that set the standards for owning or driving a tractor trailer.
Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations contains this set of regulations. It is important to understand and review these laws and standards when trying to identify liability because the breach of any of the regulations—such as the hours-of-service regulations that dictate how long truckers can drive—could be a contributing factor to the accident.
Negligence or recklessness – If the driver of the truck acted in a way that was negligent or was cited for reckless driving at the scene of the accident, he or she may be responsible for your damages. The trucking company employing the driver may also be vicariously liable.
Mechanical failure or lack of maintenance – In the case a faulty piece of equipment on the truck contributed to the collision, it could be the manufacturing company that produced that part—or the truck—that is liable. Another scenario could involve brakes that needed to be replaced or a tire that was no longer safe. In this case, you would consider seeking damages from the party responsible for truck maintenance.
While these are only a few examples of the possible scenarios affecting liability in a truck accident, it should be clear that the process of narrowing down the potential responsible parties might not be a clear-cut or simple one. You may need assistance in navigating the investigation process and in coordinating communications.
At Snyder & Wenner, we have been litigating big rig and truck accidents for over 30 years. We have the experience and knowledge that it takes to hold trucking companies responsible for their negligent conduct that leads to serious, life-threatening truck accidents.
While some aspects of truck accidents are similar to car accident cases, many are not. To answer the most frequently asked questions we receive regarding truck accident cases, we have provided the following information as a resource to our community.
How do I choose an attorney?
You need an experienced, knowledgeable attorney. Snyder & Wenner has been in business for more than 30 years. Our lawyers have national reputations and are consistently cited in Super Lawyermagazine and U.S. News & World Report for excellence in advocacy.
If I am in an accident with a big truck, what should I do?
First of all, if you are involved in an accident with a big truck, you will be shaken up if not actually suffering from injuries. It will be hard to think clearly. Fortunately, the rules for an accident with a big truck are basically the same as the rules for any accident.
Call the police. Police officers are skilled as securing the scene and ensuring the safety of everyone involved. Be sure you tell the emergency dispatcher where the accident is, if anyone appears to be injured, and what kind of injuries seem to be involved. That will allow the dispatcher to send the appropriate type of emergency personnel.
When possible, after you are interviewed by the police officer, which you almost certainly will be, find out how to get a copy of the police report. This may sound silly, but sometimes you may not be able to tell from the policeman’s uniform what jurisdiction he works for. You will need to contact that jurisdiction to get a report. That report will include the names, contact information, and other information about all the drivers involved.
In the case of an accident with a big truck, you will want to know information about the driver’s employer, usually a trucking company. You may ask the police officers to obtain this information from the truck driver and include it in the report.
Police reports will also include insurance information about everyone involved, a diagram or description of the accident scene, weather conditions, witnesses’ names, and the tickets issued to any of the drivers.
If you can, over the next few days, go back to the accident scene. You will be calmer and may be able to notice more things, such as other cameras, additional traffic signs, skid marks, etc. Be careful not to interfere with traffic when you are trying to look for other evidence.
What about pictures?
You should definitely take pictures. This can be done with most cellular phones. Be careful not to interfere with the emergency personnel. Be aware that some persons may object to having you take pictures. If possible, take as many pictures of the vehicles, the damage, the driver, and the witnesses. Try to document the damages, skid marks, and any other evidence of the collision.
Also, look for cameras. It is amazing how many places have cameras now. Nearby banks or other commercial concerns may have surveillance cameras that captured part or all the accident on film or digital recording device. These recordings are often recorded over quickly so it is important that you or your lawyer asks for a copy as soon as possible.
If you see other people at the scene taking pictures, ask if you can exchange pictures to have the most complete record possible. And be aware, some commercial trucks even have dash cameras that can show exactly what the driver is doing. If possible, determine if such a camera exists. Your lawyer can ask the trucking company for it.
Should I write anything down?
Yes, in addition to taking pictures, you should make a written record. After an accident, it is easy to forget details, so as soon as you can, make a record of what you see and say and what is said to you. If your phone can record, this is great, but you want to transcribe your notes later.
Include what other persons say they heard as well. Try to exchange contact information with as many of the witnesses as possible. They too may want to bring suit and may appreciate having your information.
How does a personal injury case involving a commercial truck differ from one involving a passenger vehicle?
There are significantly more laws that govern the drivers of commercial trucks than there are governing the drivers of passenger vehicles. Since many of these trucks are driven across state lines, there are also federal laws that come into play. A lawyer who is very knowledgeable about car accidents may not have sufficient experience with these different laws and regulations to adequately represent you in court.
Another point is that big trucking companies have staff who are devoted full time to limiting the liability of the company. In other words, they are trying to figure out how to pay you less for any accident. That’s why you may need an attorney to help you represent your own interests.
I'm not sure if my accident involved a big truck. What do you mean by "big trucks"?
The terms “big truck,” “commercial truck,” “big rig,” and “semi” are used interchangeably in these FAQ. Basically we mean trucks that weigh between 10,000 and 80,000 pounds. That’s up to 25 times what a typical passenger car weighs.
Who is liable for truck accidents?
Liability means legal responsibility. To obtain any judgment and therefore any money in a court case, someone must be proved to be legally responsible for the acts that caused the injury. The court is ultimately responsible for determining who is liable for any incident.
You, as the victim of the accident, will be acting as a plaintiff. The difficulty is sometimes figuring out who should serve as the defendant.
There are lots of reasons a big truck can be involved in an accident. Who is to blame is sometimes hard to figure out. A legal firm has specialists in this area who can advise you. Together you can figure this out. Obviously, the driver of the big truck will be named as a defendant, but there may be others.
The trucking company that the driver works for may qualify as a defendant if the driver was under the control of the company as part of his employment. There may be others as well.
As part of trying to avoid having to pay, the company will try to claim that they had no control over the driver. This is usually true only if the driver is an independent contractor, and even then, that defense may not stand up in court.
With few exceptions, the trucking company is found to be at least partly liable in court. The only exception is if the driver deliberately tried to cause harm, such as in the case of road rage.
There may be other people or entities serving as defendants too. This is why your lawyer must hear all the details of the accident before determining who to sue.
Other possibilities for the role of defendant include:
- The person or company that leased the truck or trailer
- The shipper of the cargo
- The loader of the cargo
- The owner of the truck cab
- The owner of the truck trailer
- The manufacturer of the truck, the trailer, or any part of these that could have caused the accident
Although it is not usually done, it may even be appropriate for the manufacturer of the cargo to be a defendant. One case in which the manufacturer was successfully sued occurred when chemical gas was released into the air, resulting in respiratory problems for the accident victims. In that case, important factors were who was informed of the danger of the cargo and what safety measures were taken.
Obviously, each of these potential defendants will try to convince you that other persons or entities are the ones who should be held liable. Each defendant that actually ends up in court will spend substantial time trying to convince the court that you were really more to blame for the accident. That is just one of the reasons you need a good law firm.
What is the difference between accidents with cars and accidents with big trucks?
Big trucks are susceptible to all the same kinds of accidents that cars have. However, when a big truck is involved, the dangers are multiplied. Think about the weight of the big truck and the trouble that it will have coming to a complete stop with all that weight. Add to that its massive size and how much opportunity for collisions all that size affords. In general, accidents with big rigs result in more damage and more injuries.
How competent are big truck drivers?
To be a licensed driver of a big rig, an applicant must be over 21 years of age and pass a number of vision and physical exams. Most attend truck driving school to prepare for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations written exam.
This is a requirement of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Then the driver gets a green card that must renewed every two years. With the green card, he can apply to take a practical road test to get a Class A or CDL, which means Commercial Driver’s License.
How often do big trucks get involved in accidents?
According to the National Traffic Safety Administration, big trucks were involved in 8 percent of all fatal accidents and 3 percent of all non-fatal accidents in 2012 (the most recent year for which there is complete data).
The Arizona Department of Transportation combines large trucks and buses together. During 2013 (the most recent report from the Arizona Department of Transportation), big trucks and buses were responsible for 5.79 percent of the 107,348 traffic accidents in Arizona.
What is negligence and who decides who was negligent?
In general, as your representative, we will be attempting to prove a case of negligence. The term negligence has specific meaning in law. Basically it means that “it was an accident, not intentional, but if someone had acted reasonably, it would not have happened.” So your attorney will try to prove three things:
The persons or entities identified as defendants owed you a reasonable effort to help you avoid injury (and this can be physical, emotional, or financial). In the case of the driver as the defendant, this is easy because all drivers have a legal duty to take reasonable care for other vehicles, bicycles, motorcycles, or pedestrians.
What evidence will be needed?
To win maximum awards, a lot of information is needed. First, your lawyer will meet with you. He or she will want to know exactly what happened from your perspective. Any notes you made, pictures, contact information, and the police report will all be helpful during this meeting. This conference will help your lawyer figure out what other evidence might be available and how to obtain it.
Other evidence might include:
- Log books. Commercial drivers are required to keep logs of their drive times, rest times, and other key information.
- Bills of lading and other paperwork. This can help provide a full picture of the driver’s activity.
- Black box data. Just like airplanes, commercial trucks have an on-board recorder that captures essential data. This includes speed, brake usage, etc. The black box information must be obtained as soon as possible because it is recorded over with each new trip.
- Cell phone data. If there is any chance that the driver was using a cell phone at the time of the crash, the cellular carrier’s records will show it. This must be subpoenaed through a lawyer.
- History of drivers. The histories of all involved drivers may be introduced in court, including yours. Your lawyer may want your complete driving history, including accidents, tickets, insurance claims, etc. He will also be looking into the trucker’s record, including the status of his Commercial Driver’s License at the time of the accident, his criminal record, his traffic records, and his financial record.
What if I am partly to blame?
This is an excellent question. Many people think if they made any mistake, they cannot take action against another party. This is not true. Arizona has comparative fault rules. That means the court will decide what percentage of fault each party is responsible for. So say you changed lanes without signaling and a big truck struck your car. If, after trial, a jury awards you $1,000,000, but says you are 40% responsible, your total verdict will be reduced by 40%, or $400,000. Most of the time, the plaintiff did nothing wrong to cause the accident.
So say you changed lanes without signaling and a big truck struck your car. If, after trial, a jury awards you $1,000,000, but says you are 40% responsible, your total verdict will be reduced by 40%, or $400,000. Most of the time, the plaintiff did nothing wrong to cause the accident.
Are expert witnesses necessary to prove fault in a truck accident case?
Expert witnesses are typically needed to prove various claims in the case. Your attorney can help you figure out what witnesses are needed and how to obtain them for your case. Bear in mind, our best witness in any case is you.
How long do I have to file a lawsuit?
Different states have different statutes of limitation for vehicle accidents. In Arizona, you have two years to file a claim. The clock starts ticking when the accident occurs. The best time to contact an attorney is as soon as possible after the accident. This is not because of the statutes but because evidence can be lost, memories can fade, and witnesses can disappear.
What if the insurance company makes me an offer?
The trucker’s insurance company will almost certainly make you an offer, usually very soon after the accident. They are counting on your vulnerability and lack of information to convince you to sign a settlement that may be completely unfair.
For example, let’s say you have just been released from the hospital with two broken legs after the accident. Your car is totaled and you are still shaken by the image of the accident. The insurance company sends a representative with a settlement offer of $50,000. This sounds great! After all, your health insurance will pay for all but your deductible and you can get a new car and even pay off some other debts.
You are tempted to sign immediately. But will you need to hire extra help at home while you heal? How much work will you miss and how much sick leave will you be paid for? Will you need physical therapy? Who will pay for that? Who will pay for the expense involved in traveling to doctor appointments?
You need a lawyer to help you think through all the possible expenses you will have. The insurance company may try to convince you that their offer is only good for a limited time, like midnight tonight. Nonsense. Demand time to speak to your lawyer.
Where do I sue?
In almost all cases, you can sue in either the state in which the accident occurred or in the state where the trucking company’s main headquarters is.
What will I sue for?
This is an excellent question and one that makes it clear why you should not immediately settle with an insurance company. Your attorney will be able to advise you on the damages you might be compensated for. These may include:
- Property damage. This includes your car itself, the contents, and other property lost as a result of the accident. Pictures and possibly receipts for lost items will be helpful.
- Any injuries should be fully documented by your physician for maximum effectiveness. Again, pictures can impress the courts. To ensure that our clients have good medical care and the medical records are complete, Snyder & Wenner has two nurses on our staff.
- Lasting damages. Often, we think that we will simply “get over” the accident, when actually it may not be that easy. Damages such as a disfiguring scar, a permanent limp, or a loss of a skill, such as an ability to swim, may all be considered for compensation.
- Expenses caused by accident. We all think about out-of-pocket medical expenses, but what about the cost of commuting to medical treatment, the need to hire someone to help in the home, and unpaid time off work? Your attorney can help you calculate these expenses.
- Pain and suffering and emotional distress. Medical and/or psychological records will be helpful to demonstrate the extent of these injuries.
- Non-quantifiable losses. These are less likely but should not be ignored in conversations with your lawyer. They include things like a loss of ability to be intimate with your partner or the loss of companionship because your partner is now unable to communicate with you verbally.
How much money will I get in court?
This is obviously one of the most frequently asked questions. However, no one can even estimate the extent of your damages and your potential award without thoroughly understanding all aspects of your case.
Call Snyder & Wenner, PC for Help
If you were involved in a trucking accident caused by a delivery truck, semi-truck, big rig, 18-wheeler, or any other commercial vehicle in Phoenix and need assistance with the claim process, we can help you. Call us today at 602-224-0006 to set up a free consultation to discuss your case with a Phoenix truck accident attorney.