If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident, an experienced Denver truck accident lawyer can help you seek just compensation from the truck driver or truck company who injured you. Denver accident attorney, Jeremy Rosenthal, has been practicing personal injury law in Colorado for over a decade and his firm exclusively works with cases in this area of law. Contact his office today for a free consultation or click here to fill out the online form.
Colorado Truck Accident Statistics:
- Truck Accident Statistics
- Colorado Trucking Laws
- What are the most common types of truck accidents?
- What type of compensation can I receive for a truck accident in Colorado?
- How do I prove negligence in a truck accident?
- Who is liable in a truck accident?
- When should I contact a truck accident lawyer?
Truck Accident Statistics
Large trucks are one of the primary ways that goods are transported across the country. According to the American Trucking Associations (ATA), trucks are responsible for delivering “over 80 percent of all freight transported annually in the U.S.” The ATA stated in its report that “[t]rucks carried 10.49 tons of freight in 2015, accounting for 70.1% of domestic freight tonnage.” The report also stated that ” there were 3.63 million Class 8 trucks in operation.” In addition, total trucking revenue exceeded $700 billion in 2015.
Unfortunately, though useful and necessary to the transportation of goods, large trucks can pose a risk to others on the road if not operated in a safe and careful manner. When large trucks are involved in accidents with smaller vehicles, the consequences for the smaller vehicle occupants can be dire. In general, 2015 saw an increase in car accident fatalities according to the preliminary report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Approximately 35,200 people lost there lives on the roads and highways across the nation last year. Among the types of accidents that increased were accidents involving large trucks. The NHTSA reported that the number of “fatalities in crashes involving large trucks increased by 4 percent.” The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reported that there were 141,292 accidents involving large trucks in 2015 which resulted in 4,197 deaths and 70,915 injuries.
Passenger vehicles like cars, SUV’s, etc., face significant risks when involved in a crash with a big rig, because, as the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety points out, “”[t]rucks often weigh 20-30 times as much as passenger cars and are taller with greater ground clearance.” The people in the passenger vehicles may be injured, maimed, or killed in a collision with a large truck. In fact, the ATA stated that there is more likely to be a fatality in a large truck/passenger vehicle accident than in an accident involving two passenger vehicles. In addition, the driver of the large truck was less likely to be the fatality in the crash.
Colorado Trucking Laws
Commercial Driver’s License
In order to drive certain large or high capacity passenger vehicles, some commercial drivers are required to obtain a commercial driver’s license or CDL. A CDL is mandatory if it falls into one of the following categories:
- A single vehicle with a gross combined weight of 26,001 pounds or more
- A combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight of 26,001 pounds or more (one vehicle is towing another)
- A vehicle which is designed to carry 16 or more individuals, including the driver
- A vehicle which is federally required to display hazardous materials placards while in motion
These parameters and the required use of CDLs were put into effect by the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986 (CMVSA). In addition to preventing the use of multiple licenses, CDL requirements standardize the knowledge one must gain in order to operate large commercial and passenger vehicles which keep other drivers safe. In order to be issued these licenses, drivers must have a comprehensive review of their driving record from the past ten years and drive with a commercial driver’s permit (CDP) for a minimum of 14 days and a maximum of 180.
Trucking and Commercial Auto Insurance
Commercial vehicles, vehicles used for business purposes, or vehicles registered or titled to a business must all usually carry commercial auto insurance. Also, according to the DMV, if a vehicle is equipped with certain items, commercial auto insurance may be required. These items include
- Snowplowing equipment
- Cooking or catering equipment
- Altered suspensions
- Hydraulic lifts
- Racing equipment
Commercial auto insurance requirements differ for many different kinds of vehicles, although all exceed the minimum liability insurance for passenger vehicles. This means that insurance for commercial vehicles is more expensive and comprehensive than normal motorist insurance, often providing bodily injury, property damage, and collision coverage for multiple drivers over and above basic liability insurance. The law requires commercial drivers or driving companies to purchase this pricier insurance because they assume that a business which involves driving inherently carries more risk of an accident. In addition, commercial vehicles are often operated by multiple drivers or employees which adds another level of uncertainty.
In order to ensure driver safety in the United States, there are federal regulations which limit the amount of cargo that different kinds of trailers can load. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration sets these weight limits. They also standardize limits across states so that trucks can pass through different state lines with the same weight limits.
Commercial trucks may carry up to 20,000 pounds per axle and 34,000 pounds per tandem axle. In total, an 18-wheel semi truck cannot carry more than 80,000, with some possible exceptions with permits. The government also uses something called the Bridge Gross Weight formula to prevent large vehicles from damaging roadways and bridges. This formula takes into consideration a trailer’s dimensions including height, the weight and length of wheelbase to prevent short heavy trucks from damaging roadways. This formula means that sometimes trucks have stricter weight limits, depending on their dimensions.
As most drivers are aware, weigh stations on highways are implemented to check trailer loads. Colorado has ten weigh stations which are situated in areas of the highway where trucks and semis are entering the state. Certain classes of vehicles must clear these ports of entry before they are allowed to continue to drive on the interstate in Colorado. This list includes all commercial vehicles
- Weighing more that 16,000 pounds without a cargo
- With a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of more that 26,000
- With Gross Vehicle Weight or apportioned license plates
- Carrying a placard displaying Hazardous Materials code
Common Types of Truck Accidents
Navigating a vehicle the size of a trailer truck involves challenges that are significantly greater than those faced by other drivers.When companies and drivers of these vehicles break the regulations, however, and decide to overload their trucks or trailers with cargo to cut costs, accidents may occur. Accidents fall into three general categories:
Negligence can include speeding, driving while intoxicated, following so close that a rear-end collision cannot be avoided, dangerous wide turns, reckless driving in a construction zone, among other behavior. While traveling on long descents, such as mountain passes, the weight of the cargo, especially if it is above regulation, can push the truck down the hill and increase speed. At times, the brake system on the truck can be overloaded by the speed, weight, and incline, and the driver may lose control of their vehicle. The more weight a truck is carrying in its trailer, the more stress is applied to the hitch or connection between a cab and its cargo. Overloaded trailers may, therefore, cause a failure in the connecting mechanism. When a trailer, weighing thousands of pounds, comes loose on the interstate, the damage can be catastrophic.
Poor Truck Maintenance
A typical tractor-trailer truck weighs 20 times as much as the average passenger car. Any failure to maintain its braking system creates the potential for extreme risk. Inadequate brake maintenance can cause axle brakes to lock, causing the trailer to jackknife uncontrollably and possibly result in a rollover accident – with innocent people becoming victims. If trucks with open tops are improperly loaded or loaded with too much material, they also have a greater chance of expelling part of their cargo which can be deadly for other drivers on the road. If the truck is not loaded correctly and the weight is not properly secured to the bed of the trailer, during acceleration or turns the cargo may shift and loosen, sometimes flying into the road and creating hazards for other vehicles. If trucks are loaded too fully (such as a dump truck or a coal truck), pieces of material can be blown from the cargo into the windshield of other drivers, potentially blind them as they maneuver their vehicle.
The sheer size of some trucks is such that an ill-timed turn or other maneuvers can create a barrier that is impossible for other drivers to avoid, forcing them off the road or into other vehicles. Heavier trucks stop, start, and turn more slowly, reducing general responsiveness, putting stress on mechanical components and load bearing axles, and contributing to the likelihood of an accident, especially if a driver is not familiar with the mechanics of extremely heavy vehicles. Overloading also affects balance, especially if the weight is not arranged properly between axles in the trailer. Talk with an off roads accident attorney in Denver if you or someone you know was involved in a off road truck accident.
Compensation for Truck Accidents in Colorado
Trucks have legal weight limitations for a reason, and disregarding those safety limitations may increase compensation for victims of a truck accident. If you have been injured or a loved one has been killed in an accident involving a truck that you believe may have been improperly loaded or loaded beyond its federal weight capacity, it may be time to enlist the help of a Denver personal injury attorney. If you have been injured in a truck accident, you could be eligible to receive compensation for both the present and long-term consequences of the accident, including:
- Medical expenses: Any costs associated with treatment, surgery, physical therapy or other rehabilitative services, now and into the future.
- Lost wages: Wages lost due to your energy, as well as any future impact on your ability to earn a living or support your family.
- Pain and suffering: Compensation for the stress caused by the accident, or the anguish resulting from a reduction of your physical capabilities from which you will never recover.
- Punitive damages: In cases of extreme negligence, Colorado law (CRS 13-21-102) allows you to seek punitive damages in an amount equal to the actual damages awarded. If the driver who caused the accident was intoxicated or texting, for example, you would be likely to be awarded punitive damages.
Proving Negligence In Colorado Truck Accidents
If you or a loved one has been in an accident with a large truck, you may be dealing with significant injuries, or your loved one may have passed away. Usually, in order to hold a person liable for the injuries he or she causes, the plaintiff in a lawsuit must show that the other party was negligent. Negligence is an area of tort law that permits people to bring a civil case against another person in order to seek monetary compensation for the injuries that they have suffered at the hands of a careless party.
In Colorado, as in most states, in order to prove a defendant was liable, the plaintiff must prove four elements. The plaintiff first must show that the defendant owed a duty to the plaintiff. The plaintiff then must show that the defendant breached that duty. Third, the plaintiff must show that the defendant’s conduct was both the actual and proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. Finally, the defendant’s conduct must have caused the plaintiff injury. Vigil v. Franklin, 103 P.3d 322, 324 (Colo. 2004).
Tractor trailer trucks have “Event Data Recorders,” which have a function similar to the “black boxes” in airplanes. This device records information such as the length of time the driver was driving without breaks, and how fast the truck was traveling at the time of the accident.
It is imperative that the data recorder is preserved, and the information accessed to help with your case – these recorders often have damaging evidence. If you engage our Denver truck accident lawyers immediately, we will take action to preserve this critical evidence before it is lost or destroyed.
Truck Accidents And Employer Liability
If you have been injured because of the negligence of a truck driver, there may be another party who you can seek compensation from. Unlike accidents between two passenger vehicles, a truck driver can be an employee. And an employer can be held liable for the torts its employees commit under the doctrine of respondeat superior. Respondeat superior means “let the superior make answer” in Latin. Black’s Law Dictionary 1426 (9th ed. 2009). Under this doctrine, if an employee is negligent and injures someone while in the course and scope of his or her employment, then the employer of that negligent employee can be held liable for the injuries its employee has caused.
For example, truck driver Dylan is an employee working for ABC Trucking Company. While delivering a shipment for the company he rear-ends a car, causing injuries to the passengers including Pamela. In a subsequent lawsuit, Pamela seeks damages from the ABC Trucking Company because Dylan was acting in the course and scope of his employment when he was making the delivery.
Whether or not an employer can be held liable is not always clear. There are various things that can affect a plaintiff’s ability to seek compensation from a company. If an employee is not acting within the scope of employment then an employer cannot be held responsible for the employee’s actions. According to Denver rear end accident attorneys, if an employee was driving a company car on his lunch break and rear-ended a vehicle, the employer would likely not be liable because the employee was not doing any company business at the time.
Colorado Truck Accidents And Jurisdiction
Another legal question that may crop up during a truck accident case is that of jurisdiction. It is important to note that jurisdictional issues can quite complicated and an experienced attorney can help you navigate this potentially tricky issue. Jurisdiction means “[a] court’s power to decide a case or issue a decree.” Black’s Law Dictionary 927 (9th ed. 2009). A court must have subject matter jurisdiction, as well as personal jurisdiction. Personal jurisdiction is “[a] court’s power to bring a person into its adjudicative process.” Id. at 930. A court must have personal jurisdiction over a defendant in order for that court to enforce a judgment against the defendant. In general, states have jurisdiction over their citizens. Thus, if you are rear-ended by a person from Colorado, you can file a lawsuit against that person in Colorado courts because the Colorado courts likely have personal jurisdiction over that person.
The problem can arise when you are hit by a person from out of state or if you get into an accident while you are out of state. Colorado has a long-arm statute that gives its courts power to over defendants who commit “a tortious act within this state.” C.R.S. 13-1-124 (2016). An example of a tortious act would be injuring someone in a car accident. Thus, in general, a person who is from out of state and causes a car accident will likely be able to be sued in the Colorado courts. However, it is a different story if you are in a car accident in another state. For example, if you are injured in a car accident in Utah by a person from Utah, then if you choose to bring a lawsuit, you will likely not be able to do so in Colorado unless the defendant has some connection, or “minimum contacts” with Colorado.
Why You Should Find a Denver Truck Accident Lawyer as Soon as Possible
Significant amounts of money can be at stake in cases where a truck accident has caused personal injury. Experienced truck accident attorneys will know how to check the truck’s weight capacity, the record of cargo, and port of entry information. Insurance companies will do everything they can to limit their liability, including sending their investigators as soon as possible in the hope that they can gain control of the narrative of the event.
An experienced Denver truck accident attorney from the Law Firm of Jeremy Rosenthal in Denver, Colorado, can help you avoid common pitfalls in the early stages, and ensure that an investigation on your behalf is initiated as possible. If you’re not familiar with personal injury law or the processes involved in a truck accident claim, you may fall victim to insurance company tactics employed to reduce the value of the compensation.