The New Jersey Turnpike runs between New York City and Philadelphia. Rt. 80 heads west from the George Washington Bridge. Rt. 287 can take you from central New Jersey to New York State. These and other roadways in New Jersey shuttle large and small trucks throughout the state and into the rest of the country. And truck accidents can happen. People injured in those accidents need the help of experienced New Jersey truck accident attorneys.
Do You Need the Help of New Jersey Truck Accident Attorneys?
If a truck injured you in an accident, attempting to deal directly with an insurance company on your own will probably result in a settlement offer well below that to which you may be entitled. Money damages we will work to get for you include bodily injury, pain and suffering, disability, loss of enjoyment of life, lost wages, mental distress, and unpaid medical bills.
The Union County, New Jersey truck accident attorneys at Schiller, Pittenger & Galvin, P.C., will be forceful advocates for you. Most truck accident cases settle at some point. However, if the insurance company for the truck driver or the trucking company will not make an adequate settlement offer, we will prepare to take your case to trial.
Additionally, truck accidents can be more complicated to handle than, for instance, accidents between passenger cars. For example, driver fatigue causes many truck accidents. How do you prove that? Well, one way is by getting the driver’s log that federal laws require large truck companies to maintain. Drivers of tractor-trailers, also known as big rigs, 18-wheelers or semi-trucks, have hourly limits on how much time they can spend driving without taking a rest break. That must be placed in the driver’s log.
Experienced New Jersey truck accident attorneys know they will need to review the driver’s log to see if the driver did not take the required rest break.
Likewise, many commercial trucks have “black boxes,” similar to airplanes. The black box collects data such as the speed of the truck, when the driver applied the brakes, etc. An experienced truck accident attorney will have that data downloaded and reviewed to see if there is information relevant to the cause of the truck accident in the data.
What Types of Trucks Get in Accidents in New Jersey?
There are many types of trucks that get into accidents in New Jersey. Besides 18-wheelers, truck accidents in New Jersey happen with dump trucks, fuel trucks, garbage trucks and other small and large commercial trucks.
What Causes Truck Accidents in New Jersey?
As with any motor vehicle accident, there are several common causes of truck accidents: speeding, driving while impaired, distracted driving, to name a few.
But there are a few that are unique to trucks:
Fully loaded semi-trucks carry thousands of pounds of cargo. If the shipping company did not properly secure that cargo, the trailer’s center of gravity can shift on a sharp curve. That can also happen if the truck driver has to brake and swerve to avoid another motor vehicle or object in the road. The shifting of weight inside the trailer can cause the trailer to rollover.
Trailer Hitch Failure
On big rigs, trailer hitches, also known as tow 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.
Trailer hitches fail because someone did not properly install them, were defectively manufactured or became defective because of wear and tear. Excessive weight of cargo can also cause a tow hitch to fail.
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, pushing the tail end of the cab even more. As a result, the cab and the trailer find themselves in a “jackknifed” position. Rollovers frequently occur when a big rig jackknives.
What Should You Do If You Get in a Truck Accident?
If you are injured, immediately see a doctor. Even if you have minor injuries, seek medical care. Remember, minor injuries to truck accident victims can become major injuries if not treated promptly. Some injuries to truck 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 truck and any other vehicles involved in the accident.
You should also get the contact information for the truck driver and witnesses. You will exchange information with the truck driver, such as license, insurance and registration details.
You should call the police to report the accident. Your auto 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 truck 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). Don’t wait; you may get a call within days or weeks from the truck driver’s insurance company. You don’t want to talk to them until you have spoken to an experienced Union County, New Jersey truck accident lawyer.
What Type of Injuries Do People Get in a Truck 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 truck accident because of the size and weight of a truck. Fully loaded 18-wheelers can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. By comparison, most passenger cars weigh 2,000 to 3,500 pounds. Such injuries in a truck accident can mean hospitalization and multiple follow-up visits to a doctor. People who sustain some of the injuries listed above may also need multiple visits to a physical therapist or chiropractor for treatment.
What Are My Damages in a New Jersey Truck Accident Case?
In a New Jersey truck accident case, there are several types of damage claims:
· Medical expenses-You may recover all of your medical expenses (even those which insurance paid);
· Property damages;
· Lost wages- 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, 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;
· Disability-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 truck accident. You have to stop working frequently, get up from the desk and walk around the office because of your back injury. You can tell the jury about that. The jury can 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 large truck, 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 your spouse was killed in a truck accident, or severely injured, the jury can compensate you for the loss of consortium-the loss of the affection, advice and companionship spouses show each other; and
· Punitive damages-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 people are injured because of someone else’s negligent actions rarely involve punitive damages. Punitive damages might be available against a trucking company that fabricated 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 we believe the defendant’s misconduct in your case was extreme, we will fight to get an award of punitive damages for you.
Who Can be Held Liable if You Are Injured in a New Jersey Truck Accident?
As mentioned at the outset, accidents involving trucks can be complicated cases. One reason for that is, depending on what caused the accident, you can hold multiple parties liable for injuries you receive in a truck accident.
Certainly, if the truck driver was speeding, driving impaired or driving distracted, he could be sued.
The owner of the truck and/or the company who leased or rented the truck from the owner if the driver was an employee can be named in a suit.
If a tire blew out or a trailer hitch failed because the manufacturer made them defectively, you could sue the manufacturer of those parts.
If the truck 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.
Another negligent driver could have caused the accident, causing the truck to rollover, jackknife, etc. In that case, that injured persons could sue the negligent driver.
Brake failure is a frequent cause of truck accidents. If the owner of the truck failed to properly maintain and inspect the truck’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 truck accident is unique. An experienced New Jersey truck accident attorney will know how to investigate the accident, preserve evidence and when to hire an expert to examine the truck or reconstruct the accident itself to determine where fault lies.
New Jersey Truck Accident Attorneys
If you have been injured in a truck accident, 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 for a free consultation with an experienced New Jersey truck accident lawyer. There is no attorney’s fee charged to you unless we are successful in obtaining a recovery on your behalf.