Large trucks, such as big rigs, cross New Jersey’s highways and roads daily. Big rigs, also known as semi-trucks, 18-wheelers or tractor-trailers, carry large loads of freight across the state. And they can get into motor vehicle accidents for many reasons. Therefore, if a New Jersey big rig accident injures you, contact experienced New Jersey big rig accident attorneys to help you.
How Do New Jersey Big Rig Accidents Happen?
There are many ways in which a big rig accident can occur:
Driver fatigue is one of the most common causes of New Jersey big rig accidents. And it is not just drivers actually falling asleep at the wheel. Fatigue can negatively affect the driver’s reflexes and reaction time.
Tow hitch failure
Tow hitches, also called trailer hitches, connect the trailer to the cab. If the trailer hitch fails, the trailer becomes detached from the cab. Should the required safety chains also fail, the trailer will then roll on its own until it hits an object, another vehicle or runs off the road.
Tow hitches also fail because someone did not properly install them, they were defectively manufactured or became defective because of wear and tear. Additionally, excessive weight of cargo can cause a tow hitch to fail.
Speeding is a frequent cause of New Jersey big rig accidents. And speeding, fully loaded big rigs cannot stop as easily as smaller, lighter vehicles. Speeding big rigs can have a rollover accident if they are on a curve or if they are cut off by another vehicle and have to turn sharply.
Besides speeding on curves, big rigs can roll over if the truck or shipping company improperly loads the trailer. Unsecured or improperly secured loads can shift inside the trailer. As a result, this causes the trailer’s center of gravity to shift. If the big rig then goes on a curve or makes a turn (even if the driver is not speeding), the cargo can shift and lead to a rollover.
Jackknifing occurs when the cab hauling the trailer loses traction on the road. If the driver brakes hard, turns sharply to avoid another vehicle and skids, the trailer continues to head straight. In effect, the trailer pushes the tail end of the cab even more. When the cab and the trailer find themselves in a “jackknifed” position and rollovers can occur.
What Should You Do If You Get in a New Jersey Big Rig Accident?
If a big rig accident injures you, immediately see a doctor. Even if you have minor injuries, seek medical care. Remember, minor injuries to big rig accident victims can become major injuries if not treated promptly. Some injuries to big rig accident victims may not show symptoms for hours or days after the accident.
Be sure to tell your doctor all of your injuries, no matter how minor they may appear to you.
If you can, take pictures of the accident scene. You should also take pictures of the damage to your car, the big rig and any other vehicles involved in the accident.
You should also get contact information for other the big rig driver and witnesses. Of course, you will exchange information with the big rig driver, such as license, insurance and registration details.
You should call the police to report the accident. Your insurance company will want a copy of the police report.
You should notify your insurance company as soon as you can. The company may require notice within a specified time period.
As soon as you can, contact an experienced New Jersey big rig accident lawyer. New Jersey, as every other state, has specified time periods within which injured persons must file personal injury lawsuits (two years from the accident; if a minor, two years from when the minor turns 18). Do not wait; you may get a call within days or weeks from the big rig driver’s insurance company. You do not want to talk to them until you have spoken to an experienced Union County, New Jersey, big rig accident lawyer.
What Type of Injuries Do People Get in a Big Rig Accident in New Jersey?
There are many types of injuries that can occur in a truck accident in New Jersey, ranging from soft tissue injuries and bruises to concussions, broken bones and spinal cord injuries.
Serious injuries can occur in a big rig accident because of the size and weight of a big rig. Indeed, fully loaded big rigs can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. By comparison, most passenger cars weigh 2,000 to 3,500 pounds. Such injuries in a big rig accident can mean hospitalization and multiple follow-up visits to a doctor. Additionally, people who sustain some injuries listed above may also need multiple visits to a physical therapist or chiropractor for treatment.
What Are My Damages in a New Jersey Big Rig Accident Case?
In a New Jersey big rig accident case, there are several types of damage claims:
You may recover all of your medical expenses (even those for which insurance was paid)
You may recover lost wages if you had to miss work because of your injuries
Pain and suffering
You can tell the jury how badly your back hurt after your truck accident. You can also tell the jury how you got chiropractic treatment for weeks and you still have stiffness in your back most mornings when you wake up. That is pain and suffering
If there are lingering symptoms from your injury (and there often are), you can tell the jury about them. Perhaps you work at a desk all day but cannot sit for over 25-30 minutes because of the back injury you sustained in the big rig accident. Because of your back injury, you stop working frequently, get up from the desk and walk around the office. You can tell the jury about that. The jury can take that into account during their deliberations. They can then factor it into their damage award
Future medical treatment
If you suffered a traumatic brain injury or compound fracture of your leg in an accident with a big rig, you may need medical and physical therapy treatment for the foreseeable future. You (and your doctor) can tell the jury about that
Loss of consortium
If a big rig accident killed your spouse, or severely injured him/her, the jury can compensate you for the loss of the affection, advice and companionship spouses show each other. In other words, the loss of consortium; and
Punitive damages are a distinct type of damage and are not usually available in a personal injury case. Punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant for bad conduct. Cases in which someone’s negligence injures others rarely involve punitive damages. Punitive damages might be available against a trucking company that falsified maintenance records for its fleet of trucks, including the one that hit you. There would have to be serious misconduct on the defendant’s part to justify an award for punitive damages. However, if the defendant’s misconduct was egregious, we will fight to get an award of punitive damages for you.
Who Can be Held Liable if a New Jersey Big Rig Accident Injures You?
As mentioned at the outset, accidents involving big rigs are often complicated. One reason for that is, depending on what caused the accident, you can hold multiple parties liable for injuries you receive in a New Jersey big rig accident.
Certainly, if the big rig driver was speeding, driving impaired or driving distracted, injured parties can sue the driver.
Additionally, injured parties can sue the owner of the big rig for the employee-driver’s negligence.
If a tire blew out or a trailer hitch failed because the manufacturer made them defectively, injured persons could sue the manufacturer of those parts.
If the big rig had a rollover accident, the shipping company that put an overweight load in the truck or who did not properly secure the load could be liable.
The negligence of another driver could have caused the accident. Such negligence could have caused the big rig to roll over, jackknife, etc. In that case, injured persons could sue the negligent driver.
Brake failure is a frequent cause of big rig accidents. If the owner of the big rig failed to properly maintain and inspect the big rig’s brakes, injured parties could hold the owner liable. Lastly, the accident could have resulted from a defectively designed or improperly maintained road. In that instance, the government agency responsible for the road may be liable.
Every big rig accident is unique. An experienced New Jersey big rig accident attorney will know how to investigate the accident. That attorney will know to preserve evidence. Lastly, he will know when to hire an expert to examine the truck or reconstruct the accident itself to determine where the fault lies.
If a New Jersey big rig accident resulted in an injury to you, whether as a driver, passenger, bicycle/motorcycle rider or pedestrian, call us at 908-490-0444 at our Scotch Plains office or contact us online. You can schedule a free consultation with an experienced New Jersey big rig accident lawyer. There is no attorney’s fee charged to you unless we are successful in obtaining a recovery on your behalf.