Semi-trucks are the biggest vehicles on the road. Due to their size, weight, and the cargo they haul, accidents with these large commercial vehicles often result in devastating injuries and even fatalities. In the majority of cases, the people who suffer the most harm in truck accidents are the occupants of other vehicles.
Coplan + Crane is dedicated to winning for those who have lost. Our truck accident lawyers have recovered multi-million-dollar results on behalf of clients who have been injured or lost loved ones in 18-wheeler crashes. We have the experience, knowledge, and resources to help you pursue the full compensation you deserve.
Please call Coplan + Crane at (708) 358-8080 today for a FREE case review. Our Chicago truck accident lawyers serve clients in Chicago, Oak Park, Rockford, and other areas of Illinois.
What Does a Truck Accident Lawyer Do?
Many attorneys handle claims involving auto accidents. Some may even have a few truck accident claims under their belts. However, a truck accident lawyer is a professional who can dedicate a significant portion of their legal practice to representing the victims of 18-wheeler collisions.
Truck accident litigation is very different from other types of accident claims. Lawyers who are serious about these cases must:
- Perform in-depth investigations of accident scenes that frequently involve multiple vehicles and victims
- Investigate the trucking company to determine how corporate wrongdoing contributed to the accident
- Know the complicated federal regulations and state laws that govern the trucking industry
- Understand the complex liability common in truck accident claims – multiple parties may be at fault, and it is up to the lawyer to determine how
- Be well-versed in the serious and catastrophic injuries that frequently occur in truck accidents
- Have the advanced knowledge and resources to hire the right experts and apply their testimony to the theory of the case
- Calculate the full extent of damages suffered by truck accident victims – losses are often significantly higher in these cases than in other types of vehicle accident claims
- Negotiate on behalf of clients with large and powerful defendants and insurance companies
- If necessary, prepare the client’s case for trial and present it in court
Attorneys who can perform each of these activities successfully are the ones who provide superior representation to the victims of truck accidents. Coplan + Crane has achieved millions of dollars in verdicts and settlements on behalf of those who have been seriously injured and lost family members in collisions involving big rigs.
Truck Accident Statistics
According to the Illinois Department of Transportation’s latest Crash Facts & Statistics report, more than 11,000 tractor-trailers were involved in accidents in a single year. Statistics show that a majority of truck accidents occurred on interstate and toll roads.
Over 300 of these crashes resulted in “A-injuries” (“Any injury, other than a fatal injury, that prevents the injured person from walking, driving or normally continuing the activities he/she was capable of performing before the injury occurred”), while 100 resulted in fatalities. The occupants of other vehicles accounted for approximately 77% of deaths and 76% of A-injuries in truck accidents.
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What Causes Truck Accidents?
Many different factors contribute to semi-truck accidents. Often, a combination of issues will cause a big rig to crash.
Hiring a truck accident lawyer is essential for ensuring that you take action against all of the liable parties. Coplan + Crane knows the issues that lead to truck accidents. Our lawyers will examine the following to assess why the accident occurred and who is at fault:
You would expect truck drivers to travel slowly given the size of their rigs and the heavy loads they transport. However, excess speed is a common factor in truck accidents.
As with all vehicles, speeding and driving too fast for conditions reduces the amount of control the driver has over the truck. This loss of control can lead to collisions with other vehicles, including rear-end accidents, head-on crashes, and more.
Truck Driver Fatigue
Drivers of semi-trucks are subject to federal regulations known as the hours of service. These rules are designed to reduce the risk of accidents by limiting the amount of time truck drivers spend behind the wheel.
- Drivers are required to take a 30-minute rest break after 8 hours of cumulative operation.
- Drivers are limited to 11 hours of driving in a day; after this, they must be off-duty for 10 hours.
- Truck drivers “may not drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty, following 10 consecutive hours off duty. Off-duty time does not extend the 14-hour period.”
- Truck drivers “may not drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days. A driver may restart a 7/8 consecutive day period after taking 34 or more consecutive hours off duty.”
Unfortunately, violations of the hours of service are common in the trucking industry. As a result, driver fatigue is a major cause of truck accidents.
Trucking company pressure is the major issue that leads to hours of service violations and driving while fatigued. Employers will often push drivers to stay on the road longer and cover more miles, which increases the risk of an accident caused by sleep deprivation.
Coplan + Crane will review the truck driver’s logs and records from the trucking company to determine if hours of service violations led to the accident. If this is the case, our attorneys may be able to bring a claim against both the driver and the trucking company.
Handling an 18-wheeler is a big responsibility. Unfortunately, truck drivers often try to multitask when they are behind the wheel. This commonly results in distracted driving accidents.
Some of the most common sources of distraction that contribute to truck accidents include:
- Cell phone use, such as texting and driving, talking on the phone while driving, and accessing apps
- Using the truck’s onboard computer while driving
- Checking maps or GPS devices
- Communicating via radio
- Eating and drinking
Cell phone records and other digital records of communication can help prove that the truck driver was distracted at the time of the accident. The truck accident attorneys at Coplan + Crane know how to obtain the necessary records to build your case.
The weight limit for a fully loaded semi-trailer is 80,000 pounds. Whether through negligence or an underhanded effort to move more cargo, however, companies will sometimes exceed the weight limit.
At high speeds, excess weight can turn a truck into an unstoppable force. Runaway trucks may collide with multiple vehicles, seriously injuring or killing the occupants inside.
Overloading or improper loading can also make the rig unstable. This can cause the trailer to tip or jackknife, both of which pose a serious danger to others on the road.
Abuse of alcohol, prescription drugs, and illegal narcotics is a pervasive problem in the trucking industry. When intoxicated drivers get behind the wheel of a semi, everybody on the road is at risk.
Liability for a truck accident may not be confined to the driver if intoxication was a factor. Investigation of trucking company records may reveal negligence on the part of the employer in screening for drug and alcohol abuse.
Poor Truck Maintenance
Multiple parties are responsible for ensuring that commercial trucks are in safe working order:
- Owners (this may be an individual or a company) must service the vehicle regularly and make repairs.
- Service technicians have a duty to check the performance of the vehicle and its components, recommend maintenance and repairs, and perform work to the best of their ability; these individuals may be employees of a trucking company or work independently.
- Truck drivers are required to inspect the rig before they start driving and in the course of a haul.
If one or more of these parties are negligent in their duties, the truck may suffer a mechanical failure. A malfunctioning semi truck is a serious danger on the open road.
What Are the Most Common Types of Truck Accidents?
Commercial trucks come in many shapes and sizes. As a result, the types of truck accidents in and around the Chicago area vary depending on the vehicles involved.
Some of the most common truck accidents we see at Coplan + Crane include:
- Jackknife accidents: Jackknife accidents occur when the trailer pivots to the side of the truck. Speeding, sudden braking, and other errors on the part of the driver are common causes of jackknife accidents.
- Turning accidents: Errors when executing a turn (such as taking a corner too quickly or allowing insufficient room for the trailer) can lead to vehicles on either side of the semi getting hit.
- Rollover and tip-over accidents: Large trucks often tip and roll as a result of overloading or cargo that is poorly balanced. These issues, combined with negligence on the part of the driver, can lead to accidents with other vehicles.
- Blind spot accidents: Semi-trucks have enormous blind spots (sometimes called “no zones”) in the front, back, and on both sides of the truck and trailer. Although motorists should exercise caution in order to stay visible to the truck driver, truck drivers are ultimately responsible for checking their blind spots and ensuring that other vehicles aren’t in danger when they brake, change lanes, etc.
- Underride accidents: An underride accident occurs when a smaller vehicle becomes trapped in the space beneath the trailer. The limited clearance typically results in fatal injuries to the occupants of the car.
Truck accidents can happen anywhere, from highways and expressways to city streets. If you are involved in any type of trucking accident, it is crucial to speak to a knowledgeable trucking accident attorney as soon as possible.
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Common Types of Injuries in Truck Accidents
Serious injuries are the norm in the wake of a truck accident. Multiple victims may experience physical trauma, permanent disability, chronic pain, and psychological dysfunction as a result of a collision with a semi-truck.
Injuries that commonly occur in truck accidents include:
- Head and brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Other injuries to the neck and back, including severe whiplash, disc herniation, etc.
- Broken bones
- Severe burns
- Amputation injuries
- Internal bleeding
- Damage to internal organs
Each of these injuries constitutes a medical emergency. Your first priority after any truck accident should be to seek medical attention (you may be transported to the hospital directly from the scene).
As you recover from your injuries, Coplan + Crane can investigate the accident on your behalf. Our team will communicate with you throughout the course of your case to account for all of the damages you have sustained, as well as to ensure that you have the support you need.
Who Is Liable for a Truck Accident?
One of the major differences between truck accident claims and other cases involving vehicle accidents is the complexity of liability. Unlike the “average” car accident claim, the driver is often not the only party responsible for the crash.
Truck accident attorneys at Coplan + Crane will examine the evidence and identify all of the parties that may be held liable. This may include:
- The truck driver: The driver of the semi-truck is the obvious place to start when determining who is responsible. We will draw upon a wide range of forensic and documentary evidence to establish how negligence on the part of the truck driver led to the accident.
- The trucking company: Investigation of company records may reveal a number of errors or a pattern of wrongdoing that contributed to the truck accident. Our team will scrutinize hiring and training practices, maintenance logs, and much more to develop a strategy for holding the trucking company accountable.
- The truck or parts manufacturer: If the truck accident was caused by a defective part or component, you may be able to bring a defective product claim against the manufacturer. Multiple parties may be involved in the design, manufacturing, and distribution of a defective part, and it is important to identify all of the potentially liable parties.
- The loading or shipping company: Third-party companies typically handle the loading of cargo before a truck driver takes to the road. Errors on the part of these companies can increase the risk of collisions as well as cause objects to fall into the road and potentially lead to an accident.
- A fleet mechanic or service provider: If the owner of the truck and/or the trailer hires a third party to perform maintenance and repairs, the mechanic or company may be liable for accidents stemming from the failure of the rig.
It is also important to consider the role that parties outside of the trucking industry may have played in the accident. For example, the careless driver of another vehicle could cause the truck driver to make evasive maneuvers, resulting in a chain reaction that ends in a crash.
Road hazards are another potential cause of truck accidents. If this is the case, a government entity may be liable for failing to maintain the road where the accident occurred.
What Is My Truck Accident Case Worth?
The severity and extent of damages in truck accident claims often mean that victims are entitled to substantial compensation. However, the responsible parties and their insurance companies are highly unlikely to pay the full value of your claim without a fight.
Damages is the legal term for the losses a victim may be able to recover if they suffer personal injury as a result of someone else’s negligence. Recoverable damages in your truck accident claim may include:
- Medical expenses (both the bills you face now as well as the cost of treatment, therapy, etc. in the future)
- Lost wages and benefits
- Loss of earning capacity (i.e., the loss of future income and benefits if you are unable to work due to your truck accident injuries)
- Property damage
- Out-of-pocket expenses, such as the cost of hiring home healthcare workers and household service providers, modifications to your home and vehicle, assistive devices, travel for medical care and rehabilitation, etc.)
- Pain and suffering
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Loss of consortium
Truck accidents are sometimes caused by egregious and intentional misconduct. If this is the case, you may also be entitled to punitive damages.
Punitive damages represent additional compensation awarded to a plaintiff as a means of punishing a defendant. To recover punitive damages, you must “show by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant’s conduct was with evil motive or with a reckless and outrageous indifference to a highly unreasonable risk of harm and with a conscious indifference to the rights and safety of others.”
Because of the burden of proof, punitive damages awards are uncommon. However, if the evidence shows that an “evil motive” or “reckless and outrageous indifference” was a factor in the truck accident, our lawyers will aggressively pursue the maximum amount of compensation on your behalf.
If your loved one died in a truck accident, our attorneys can file a wrongful death claim on your behalf. You and your family may be entitled to the following damages:
- Expenses related to a funeral service and burial or cremation
- Loss of economic support
- Grief and sorrow
- Medical expenses incurred prior to death
Whether you are seriously injured or a loved one is hurt or killed in a truck accident, you should not have to settle for less. Truck accident lawyers at Coplan + Crane are results-driven advocates for those who have suffered severe losses due to the negligence of truck drivers, trucking companies, and other parties.
Our goal is to win the full compensation you deserve for all of your damages. We draw upon extensive experience to assess the value of your case. Our truck accident lawyers can negotiate with the insurance companies on your behalf to reach a fair settlement, or file a lawsuit and go to trial if that’s what it takes to maximize your recovery.
How Long Do I Have to File a Truck Accident Lawsuit?
In Illinois, all personal injury, wrongful death, and product liability claims must be filed within 2 years. This is known as the statute of limitations, and it represents the length of time you have to file suit after a truck accident.
Most accident claims are settled out of court without the need to file a lawsuit. However, the complicated liability issues and extensive damages in truck accident claims make these cases more likely to go to trial.
Given the limited time you have to bring a claim and the challenges involved in investigating and litigating truck accident cases, it is in your best interest to speak to an attorney as soon as possible. Coplan + Crane can start building your claim immediately and take prompt legal action so you don’t miss your opportunity for compensation.
Why You Should Hire a Chicago Truck Accident Lawyer
Simply put, the victims of semi-truck accidents are ill-equipped to handle claims on their own. The extent of injuries, the high value of damages, and the aggressiveness with which insurers dispute these claims all make it difficult – if not impossible – to achieve a favorable outcome on your own.
When you consult the attorneys at Coplan + Crane, our team will take the time to answer all of your truck accident questions. Your initial consultation is FREE, which means you can seek qualified legal advice without having to worry about incurring additional costs.
Our truck accident lawyers will handle your case on a contingency basis. You pay nothing upfront, and you only owe us a percentage of the recovery when we succeed. If your claim is unsuccessful, you don’t owe us any fees.
Deciding to hire a truck accident attorney is the best way to protect your rights. While you recover from your injuries and try to adjust to “the new normal,” the team at Coplan + Crane will:
- Investigate the cause of the truck accident
- Gather all relevant evidence, such as photos, witness statements, accident reports, paper and electronic records, etc.
- Identify all liable parties and the available insurance coverage
- Communicate with your doctors and other medical experts to determine the seriousness of your injuries and how they will affect your life
- Evaluate the amount of compensation you may be due for your current and future losses
With all of this information in hand, our truck accident lawyers can represent you effectively in settlement negotiations and/or at trial. Some of the results achieved by the truck accident lawyers at Coplan + Crane include:
$15 million trial verdict for fatigued truck driver accident resulting in fatality
$11.5 million settlement for family of three due to truck accident resulting in wrongful death and serious injury
$2.5 million for family of truck driver killed in head-on collision with another semi-truck
$1.575 million settlement for the driver of a garbage truck injured in a crash with a disabled 18-wheeler
$1.486 million jury verdict for the wrongful death of a senior citizen in a truck accident
No two cases are identical, and we cannot guarantee a similar outcome. However, these results demonstrate our history of success in handling truck accident claims.
Our experience includes representing innocent motorists who have been injured in truck accidents and families who have lost loved ones in tractor-trailer crashes. We are also proud to serve truck drivers who have been injured through no fault of their own in the course of a haul.
Insurance companies recognize our skill as negotiators, as well as our willingness to go to trial. Both of these aspects of our reputation enable Coplan + Crane to achieve superior outcomes on our clients’ behalf.
At Coplan + Crane, we are passionate about winning for those who have lost. We dedicate a significant portion of our practice to serving those who have suffered injury and other losses as a result of trucking accidents.
Don’t face the devastation of a truck accident on your own. Our attorneys have extensive experience with a wide variety of accident claims involving commercial vehicles, and we can help you seek the compensation you deserve.
Please call Coplan + Crane at (708) 358-8080 today for a FREE case evaluation. Our trucking accident attorneys serve clients throughout Illinois, including Chicago, Oak Park, Rockford, and more.
How Common Are Trucking Accidents?
In their latest Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts report, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reports that there were about 415,000 truck accidents in the U.S. 101,000 of these crashes involving semis and smaller vehicles led to injuries, while 4,444 involved fatalities.
The truck wrecks were typically caused by:
- Driver exhaustion — Truck drivers are required to adhere to the hours of service regulations. Those who don’t are more likely to become fatigued and may fall asleep while driving, leading to accidents.
- Distracted driving — Truckers who look for or operate their phones while driving significantly increase their odds of being in an accident.
- Excessive speeding — 23 percent of the crashes involving semis and 18-wheelers are caused by trucks traveling at speeds that were traveling at unreasonably high speeds.
- Driving under the influence — A recent American Addiction Centers report shows that more truckers in the U.S. tested positive for alcohol consumption while driving. Worse, a NY Post report showed that over 70,000 commercial truck drivers have had their commercial driving license suspended because they didn’t pass mandated drug and alcohol tests.
How to Determine When a Truck Accident Must Be Reported in Illinois
The Illinois State Police has guidelines for reporting truck crashes within the state:
- All crash reports must be filed within ten days of the accident.
- For insured drivers, the accident must be reported if the property damage exceeds $1500.
- Uninsured drivers have to report the accident if the value of the property damage is above $500.
- If the crash resulted in bodily harm or death.
- If the truck was carrying hazardous materials when it was involved in the accident, the truck driver will be required to fill out a separate Incident Report Form 5800.1 in keeping with the Hazardous Materials Regulations. This must be submitted within 30 days of the incident.
What Evidence Is Used in a Truck Accident Case?
The key to successfully winning a truck accident case lies in your truck attorney’s ability to collect and present crucial evidence. The evidence is meant to prove negligence and assign liability. Some of these include:
- Police report — This usually includes vital information witnessed by the law enforcement agents at the crash scene, as well as, their opinions about the possible cause.
- Photo and video evidence — Hard proof of the accident scene and property damage can make a lot of difference in your case’s outcome.
- Witness statements — if there are witnesses, the police will include their statements in the report. Your truck accident attorney may also contact the witness for further statements.
- Monitoring devices like in-cab cameras — The FMCSA already has guidelines and regulations aimed at promoting safe roadway driving and dissuading bad driving behavior like distracted driving. If the in-cab camera shows that the commercial truck driver was distracted, they could be liable.
- Black box information — This contains vital data on actions taken by the trucker leading up to and during the truck crash.
- Truck driver’s records — These include the trucker’s qualifications, experience, substance abuse history if any, medical issues, and past safety violations.
- Tracking and logging device information — This usually contains critical information about how long the trucker has been driving before the crash. The goal is to determine if the trucker adhered to the federal hours of service regulations while traveling.
- Truck’s maintenance and inspection records — This contains valuable information about the state of the truck and whether it had been subjected to proper maintenance routines.
- Truck driver’s drug and alcohol levels — It’s important to establish if they were driving under the influence at the time of the accident.
- Cellphone records — This establishes if the driver was using their cellphone device when the crash occurred.
- Other pieces of evidence
Are Truck Drivers Tested for Alcohol and Drugs After a Crash?
Yes, they are. Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations state that all truckers should be tested for drugs and alcohol as soon as possible after an accident. Where possible, the alcohol test is usually carried out by law enforcement agents at the accident scene.
Drug tests, however, must be carried out by the driver’s employer as quickly as possible. Examples of drugs that the driver can be tested for include:
- Amphetamines including methamphetamines and MDMA
- THC in marijuana
- Phencyclidine (PCP)
- Common opiates like codeine, oxycodone, morphine, and others
How to Determine Negligence in a Truck Accident Case
To prove negligence in a truck crash case in Illinois, your truck collision attorney needs to establish the following elements:
- Duty — All truck drivers have a responsibility of driving safely and carefully on the roadway.
- Breach — You need to show that the trucker’s actions significantly increased your risk of harm on the road.
- Cause — There must be proof that their reckless actions or mistakes caused you harm or injury.
- Damages or harm — You have to show that you suffered significant losses because of their mistakes.
These are the four crucial elements required when you file a claim for losses caused during the crash incident.
How to Protect Your Rights at the Scene of a Truck Accident
If you are a victim, you need to get to safety as quickly as possible. Also, ensure the safety of everyone involved. Then, dial 911 to report the crash. If you can, take pictures and videos of the scene while it’s fresh.
Remain at the scene until the police and/or an ambulance arrive. However, if the accident only involves cosmetic damage and no injuries, you can trade insurance information and file a claim with the trucker’s insurance company at your leisure.
How Can a Truck Accident Lawyer Help Me?
An experienced Chicago truck accident attorney can help you file your insurance claim, provide skilled legal guidance and representation, secure the maximum settlement possible, and ensure that you get the compensation you deserve.
At Coplan + Crane, our truck crash accident lawyers can fight for your rights and ensure that the trucking company and the erring driver pay for the property damage, emotional trauma, and physical injuries that they caused you.