Question: What should I do if I become involved in an accident with a commercial vehicle truck?
Shannon: I think the first thing you need to do as in any accident is to stay calm and determine if you need medical help or if anyone else involved in the accident requires medical attention. In that instance, you want to call 911. Once you determine if there is any medical needs, you want to allow the police to do their job. You want to make sure the police have been called and allow them to do their job. You don’t want to get out of your vehicle and engage in discussions or disputes with who did what or who caused what. You don’t want to start picking up materials or debris from the roadway. You want to leave that in place and let the police take care of that first. After you have spoken to the police, you want to make sure you get the information of all of the other drivers that have been involved in the accident. You want to get a name; you want to make certain that you have their insurance information. You want to have a contact number for them. And you want to make certain that you have the name and contact information for the police officer that has arrived at the scene to assist in documenting the crash. On your own, if you are able to determine if you are not requiring medical attention, you want to write down the license plate number and the department of transportation number that will be on the side of the tractor. Often, the tractor will have one license plate and the trailer may have another license plate. You want to write down that information as well. And so, similar to what we were describing, the type of information you need when you call the police to report a hazard, you’ll want to obtain that same information if you are involved in an accident.
Question: Is that transportation number an IC number on the side of the vehicle? Sometimes you will see IC and then a number next to it? Shannon: That’s true. That is it.
Question: What are some common causes of accidents involving trucks?
Shannon: I think we see the same causes in accidents as we do with passenger vehicles. As I mentioned, driver fatigue plays a big part in these commercial vehicles getting involved in accidents because they are often under pressure to make a delivery within a certain amount of time. There are distractions, you know, Illinois has the most cell phone restrictions, other distractions can come into play for the drivers of those commercial vehicles. And sometimes we see mechanical failures on the truck. There is just something that has not been maintained, whether knowingly or by surprise, and the mechanical failure can cause the truck to become involved in a collision. And again, important to what I mentioned earlier with the CDL, there are instances where the driver just lacks the actual ability to operate a commercial vehicle under certain driving conditions that trucks to encounter, such as mountains or icy road conditions. Again, that can cause the accident. Question: What is an under-ride accident?
Shannon: An under-ride accident is a situation where the height of the commercial vehicle allows for a passenger car to go under the trailer and the structural components of a passenger vehicle are tested and regulated for many things, including frontal collisions. However, passenger vehicle are not designed or tested to absorb the impact rather of passing under a commercial vehicle. And so it’s very important in the design of commercial vehicles to take into consideration the ability of a passenger vehicle to pass under it and to take steps to prevent that occurrence from being allowed to happen.
Question: What if I’m asked to give a recorded statement? Should I do that?
Shannon: You really should not give a recorded statement until you have spoken with a lawyer, and just because you speak with a lawyer, doesn’t mean you are going to proceed with litigation. Often your insurance company, your own insurance company, will require you to give a recorded statement. But frequently, the truck driver or the other driver’s insurance company will call you or contact you to ask for a recorded statement. And before you do that, you really want to make certain that you understand the facts and circumstances of the accident and usually talking with a lawyer will help you in that regard so that you are at least educated before you go ahead giving that recorded statement.
Question: Is it important to actually know your right as a victim before you do something like that?
Shannon: It sure is. So, it’s important though to know your rights. It’s important that you consult with counsel before you start giving recorded statements. And ultimately, you are going have to cooperate with your own insurance company. If they have retained counsel, then it is a prudent idea to do the same so that you know what you are doing when you are speaking with them. First and foremost, your safety and the safety of the people that you are with is the utmost important. But after that, you find out in these occurrences, that sometimes when witnesses come and assist you, they are gone by the time the police get there. So it’s not a bad idea to get names, numbers of people that are around you. And they may not ultimately be interviewed by the police, but you will just remember that person that came and told you what that truck did. If it results in litigation, your attorney may be able to track down all of the witnesses.
Question: If I’m injured in an accident involving a truck, who would be sued?
Shannon: There would be a variety of entities or individuals that would be potentially sued. The driver, but most often it’s the owner an operator of the tractor, the owner and tractor of the trailer, not necessarily the same person or entity. It could be an entity that retained the driver to transport goods or services on his or her behalf. So there is a variety of individuals and entities and again, the sooner you retain counsel, the sooner you can become educated on who may be responsible for any negligence that caused the crash.
Question: What is an accident reconstruction and how is it used in a crash investigation?
Shannon: An accident reconstruction as the name implies is just that. It’s a reconstruction of what occurred at the time of the crash and its an application of physics and science and engineering principles to a crash scene which relies on evidence either in terms of witness statements, driver statements, as well as physical evidence at the scene such as skid marks, there might be ruts in the roadway, gouges in the roadway, all of those things, an exploded tire, all of those aspects of physical evidence allow a certified crash reconstructionist to provide a basis to say what happened at the time of the crash or what most likely occurred at the time of the crash.
Shannon McNulty of Clifford Law Offices handles cases about the many areas of transportation liability law involving trucks, railroads, tractor trailers, motorcycles and helicopters.