As a motorist in Oklahoma, you have probably noticed that more and more commercial vehicles share the highways with you. Tractor-trailers, 18-wheelers and tanker trucks travel through our state to reach delivery points across the country. With the increased number of big rigs comes the higher risk of truck vs. passenger vehicle accidents, and the significant difference in size and weight often allows truck operators to walk away unscathed while occupants of cars usually suffer catastrophic injuries -- if they survive.
Although most truck drivers are aware of their increased responsibility to drive with care, some may be a little more lax behind the wheel, which can lead to serious crashes involving other motorists. If you or a loved one are suffering the consequences of a truck accident that was not your fault, the cause of the crash will determine who might be liable for your damages.
Truck drivers' errors
Along with safe driving, truckers have other responsibilities. Even when an operator drives safely, the following errors by truck drivers can cause serious accidents:
- Failure to follow general safety guidelines
- Failure to ensure a properly balanced cargo load
- Failure to secure the load
- Disregard of weight restrictions and overloading the vehicle
- Using drugs or alcohol while driving
Engine or equipment failure
Large commercial trucks have a variety of different systems and many moving parts that are in operation simultaneously. If only one part malfunctions or breaks, catastrophic results can follow -- even if the driver does everything perfectly. If equipment failure of a big-rig caused the crash that led to your injuries, other parties might be liable.
The manufacturer of the malfunctioning part may be to blame, or the fault could fall on a mechanic or another person who installed the part or did repairs. If it was a refurbished part, the company responsible for the refurbishing might be liable as well as the seller of the part.
Trucking Company Policies
Trucking company owners who prioritize profits over the safety of their drivers could play a significant role in the inabilities of drivers to avoid accidents. If they impose unrealistic expectations and schedules, it might force operators to drive too fast. To meet deadlines, rushed truck operators may fail to ensure proper loading, and they may exceed the allowed hours of continuous driving without rest. Dangerous situations can result when lousy working conditions cause excessive stress and fatigue.
Even the safest drivers may experience personal economic pressures that might push them to disregard safety regulations. Truckers paid per mile traveled might give up rest periods to drive extra miles. Along with the hazards fatigued drivers cause, their rush to get the truck loaded and back on the road can have devastating consequences.
Your right to compensation
Regardless of whether your accident injuries resulted from the negligence of the truck operator, the employer or owner of the vehicle, or any entity responsible for equipment failure, you are entitled to pursue recovery of damages. Personal injury lawsuits -- or wrongful death if you lost a loved one -- are complicated legal procedures. However, resources are available to determine whom to name as defendants, and an experience personal injury attorney can provide the necessary support and guidance throughout ensuing legal proceedings in an Oklahoma civil court.