West Virginia Truck Accident Lawyer
Commercial truck accidents in West Virginia demand strong legal action
Truck accidents in West Virginia involving tractor-trailers, 18-wheelers and other large commercial vehicles can have devastating consequences for victims. Because of the size of these big rigs, occupants of the smaller vehicles involved in collisions may sustain severe, life-threatening injuries. Whether you're dealing with a speeding truck accident on Interstate 79 in Clarksburg, a jackknife truck accident on Route 33 in Buckhannon or a tanker truck accident on Route 219 in Elkins, you have rights as an accident victim.
At Klie Law Offices, our experienced West Virginia tractor-trailer accident attorneys can help if you were involved in an accident caused by a truck driver. We know how West Virginia's legal system works. We thoroughly understand the various state and federal laws governing such accidents. Most important, we're prepared to do the hard work to build a strong legal case.
Trucking accidents are different from car accidents. Often, you're not simply dealing with another driver and a single insurance company. If you're injured in a trucking accident, you may need to deal with multiple parties: the trucking company that employed the driver, everyone involved with loading the contents of the truck, the insurance companies for each party as well as attorneys.
Additionally, you should be aware that trucking companies typically send investigators to the scene of an accident within hours, if not sooner. Their goal is to build a defense that minimizes the responsibility of the truck driver and trucking company.
You can level the playing field. Start by contacting us for a free case evaluation. We can begin an immediate investigation on your behalf.
How dangerous are commercial truck accidents?
Truck accidents involving tractor-trailers, 18-wheelers, delivery trucks, tanker trucks and other large commercial vehicles happen more often than you might realize. Click on the links below to learn more about truck accidents in West Virginia.
- What To Do After A Truck Accident
- Why Do I Need A Lawyer For My Commercial Truck Accident?
- FAQ About Truck Accidents
And large trucks are more likely to be involved in fatal multiple-vehicle accidents than passenger vehicles, because of the sheer size of such vehicles, which can sometimes weigh as much as 80,000 pounds when fully loaded.
What are the most common types of truck accidents?
There are many different kinds of truck accidents. Some of the most common ones that may involve trucking company negligence include:
- Rear-end - Rear-end truck accidents involving commercial trucks often result in serious injuries to the head, neck or back. If you or a loved one was hurt in an accident caused by a truck driver, we can help.
- Tire blowout - Tractor-trailers, delivery trucks and other large commercial vehicles often cause accidents when one or several tires blow out. Even the most experienced truck driver will have a hard time controlling a truck after a tire blowout, often resulting in a serious truck accident. The trucking company may be negligent for failing to inspect and maintain the tires, but the manufacturer of the tire may also be responsible. Tire tread separation is a common cause of a blowout. The tread may separate due to heat and friction over time causing the tire material to deteriorate. Our team can investigate whether the separation was due to a defect or negligent maintenance.
- Rollover - Tractor-trailers and other large trucks sometimes roll over, especially when truck drivers attempt to slow down too fast or take a corner too quickly. These accidents can be especially dangerous if the truck was carrying hazardous materials.
- Jackknife - This term describes a particular kind of tractor-trailer accident in which the trailer of the truck swings around and folds back toward the truck cab, forming a 90-degree or less between the trailer and the truck cab. Cars may become trapped in the jackknife, leaving to serious damage to the smaller vehicle and possibly catastrophic injuries or loss of life.
- Head-on - Among the most serious accidents we handle at our law firm, head-on truck accidents often result in serious injuries or fatalities. Our experienced legal team can investigate on your behalf to fight for compensation. We can look into whether the driver fell asleep at the wheel, was distracted or impaired by drugs or alcohol. A serious head-on crash demands a thorough investigation.
What are other common legal issues involving truck accidents?
Truck accidents often involve a wide range of legal issues. Some of the most common ones we deal with at Klie Law Offices include:
- Trucking company negligence
- Underride accidents in WV
- Overloaded or improperly loaded trailers
- Inexperienced drivers
- Tired truck drivers
- Violation of FMCSA rules
- Brake and tire defects
- Driving too fast
"How can a West Virginia truck accident lawyer help me?"
We know how to track down trucking companies and hold them responsible. Whether it's fighting to obtain the trucking company's maintenance records or whether the trucking company hired a driver with a history of reckless driving or ignored federal mandatory rest period laws, we're prepared to protect your rights, every single step of the way.
Trucking companies have a legal obligation to hire safe, licensed commercial truck drivers and to maintain their trucks so they are safe for the road. When trucking companies fail to perform routine maintenance or hire untrained, unlicensed truck drivers, those trucking companies must be held accountable.
Other examples of trucking company negligence include:
- Failing to maintain records
- Falsifying trucking company records
- Failing to load a commercial truck in a proper manner
- Failing to safely secure the contents of the truck
West Virginia truck accident victims might not realize that the trucking company can be sued for the driver's careless or reckless actions. In legal terms, this is known as being "vicariously liable." This means the trucking company is responsible for the actions of the driver if the crash occurred in the course and cope of the driver's employment. If the driver fell asleep behind the wheel or was texting while driving, the trucking company is responsible for the negligent conduct.
These serious truck accidents involve a car sliding underneath a tractor-trailer. Underride accidents result in hundreds of deaths nationwide every year, even though they can be prevented if trucking companies install strong enough rear impact guards on the back of tractor-trailers.
Truck underride accidents can be extremely severe and sometimes fatal. That's why it's important to contact our law firm as soon as possible after your underride accident. West Virginia attorney Erika Klie Kolenich or another experienced lawyer at our law firm can work with your family to make sure you case receives the attention it rightfully deserves.
Overloaded or improperly loaded trailers
Strict weight limits spelled out by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) exist for tractor-trailers, 18-wheelers, delivery truck and other large commercial vehicles. Overloaded trucks are more prone to tipping over and can be difficult to stop because of the extra weight.
Trucking companies also must ensure the trailer is loaded properly. The contents of a truck can shift during transit, resulting in a truck tipping or rolling over and causing a serious accident. Improperly loaded items on a flatbed truck may fall off and into the path of another vehicle. In these cases, there may be multiple layers of liability. The cargo shipper is responsible for securing the load, while the truck driver is responsible for inspecting the cargo.
Truck drivers must have a Commercial Driver's License (CDL) to legally operate a tractor-trailer or another large commercial truck. But trucking companies should never assume that a driver with a CDL is safe without conducting a background check. Responsible trucking companies need to make sure the drivers they hire do not have a history of reckless driving, speeding, drunk driving or other serious infractions.
It goes without saying that an inexperienced driver, even one with a CDL, has a greater chance of causing a serious accident than someone who has spent hundreds or thousands of hours behind the wheel of a large commercial motor vehicle. Drivers need to know what to do in a variety of potentially dangerous situations. They need to be street smart.
If your truck accident was caused by an inexperienced truck driver, you may have grounds for a legitimate truck accident lawsuit against the trucking company.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates the number of hours truck drivers can spend behind the wheel without taking a break. Specifically, truck drivers must take mandatory breaks every 8 hours and drive no more than 11 hours every 24 hours, according to the federal Hours of Service (HOS) rules for truck drivers.
Unfortunately, some professional truck drivers ignore the HOS rules and fall asleep at the wheel, resulting in serious truck accidents. In some cases, drivers break the HOS regulation to make up time or make extra money. But these drivers may be under tremendous pressure from their trucking companies to illegally work longer hours. Drivers don't have to fall asleep to cause an accident. They might be overly fatigued, which can have a similar effect as driving while drunk. With sleep deprivation, reaction times are slower. Tired drivers may forget to conduct necessary inspections. They may use drugs or stimulants to stay alert, which can affect their judgment.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has put forth rules that spell out what commercial truck drivers and trucking companies can and cannot do. Violations of these rules can have serious consequences. The driver and trucking company may face fines or criminal charges. The rules are designed to keep the public safe. Unfortunately, many truck accidents in West Virginia are linked to FMCSA rule violations, including, but not limited to the following:
- Drunk driving
- Texting while driving
- Hours of Service (HOS) violations
- Improperly maintaining truck
- Improperly securing truck cargo
- Falsifying trucking company records
Trucking companies have an obligation to ensure their tractor-trailers, 18-wheelers and other large commercial motor vehicles are properly maintained. When these companies fail to do so, the risk of serious accidents skyrockets. Brake failure and tire blowouts are contributing factors in many trucking accidents.
The trucking company may have neglected to inspect and maintain the brakes or the tires. But the liability in an accident can extend to the manufacturer of the brakes or tires. A product liability lawsuit may be necessary if the brakes or tires were defective. Our legal team can investigate the accident and determine which party is responsible. Tread separation that leads to a blowout may be a sign that the trucking company did not replace old tires. But if the tires were recently replaced by the trucking company, the tire manufacturer may be responsible.
Speeding truck accidents in West Virginia often result in serious injuries or fatalities. That's because force of these large trucks - which can sometimes weigh as much as 80,000 pounds - can cause severe damage to other vehicles. The driver may have been ignoring the posted speed limit or driving too fast for road and weather conditions in the moments before the crash. The driver of an 18-wheeler that is traveling at a high rate of speed may be unable to stop and avoid a collision. Speeding trucks also are prone to jackknifing because the driver may lose control.
If you or a loved one was injured or a loved one died in a speeding truck accident, attorney Kolenich or another lawyer at our firm can rigorously investigate your accident. We take these cases very seriously because we understand the seriousness of such accidents. We interview witnesses and talk with first responders. We pore over records, including the driver's log to find out if the trip mileage was consistent with the speed limits posted along the routes. We aggressively fight for our clients, who may need compensation for medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering and other damages.