Cindy: Big trucks are a common enough sight on roads and highways across the country delivering goods from coast to coast they’re a crucial part of our economy but these big rigs are also involved in a large number of road accidents every year. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2012 nearly 4,000 people were killed and over 100,000 people were injured in crashes involving large trucks in the United States. Many people are probably familiar with the highly publicized big truck crash involving Tracy Morgan, an actor and comedian famous for his roles on SNL and 30 Rock. In that accident, a Wal-Mart truck crashed into a limo carrying Morgan and several friends. Morgan and several of the passengers were critically injured and one of the men in the car was killed. After the crash concerns about semi-truck accidents came to the forefront of public debate in a way that they never had before.
Terry Bryant is here to talk to us about big truck accidents, how you can avoid them, and if you’ve been in an accident what steps you can take to ensure the best possible outcome. So Terry, thank you for being here today.
Terry: Thank you for having me.
Cindy: At the time of the Morgan Crash the truck driver had been awake for over 24 hours and was close to hitting his 14-hour maximum driving time. Are there any rules in place to prevent accidents like this from happening?
Terry: There are a number of federal regulations designed to protect against fatigue-related accidents involving big trucks. For example, there are required rest periods for drivers and limits on how long they can be on the road, however some drivers don’t follow these rules. Additionally some employers set unrealistic schedules that can often lead to unsafe driving conditions.
Cindy: Okay, well, is it common for truck drivers to drive for extended hours as in the Tracy Morgan Crash?
Terry: Yes, it’s common for them to drive extended hours because their employers push them to transport the goods by the trucks that we have on our roadway.
Cindy: What precautions can drivers take on the road to avoid collisions with big trucks?
Terry: Well, the main thing is to give big trucks their space. Don’t tailgate or merge in front of them too closely. If you can keep a lane or two between them and you that helps. Don’t drive in their blind spots, if you can’t see their mirrors they can’t see you. And a lot of accidents come from car drivers not understanding the physical limitations of big trucks. In other words, how fast they can stop especially if they’re full with cargo.
Cindy: If you’ve been in an accident involving a big truck what are the first steps that you should take?
Terry: First, you should call the police, then make notes of any data, name of the other drivers that may be involved, license plates, and then pull out your cell phone and take some pictures of the scene and the vehicle. Go to the emergency room or get a medical exam by a qualified doctor. It’s important that you get checked out after any crash involving an injury, then consult with an attorney experienced in handling big truck accident cases as soon as possible.
Cindy: And, Terry, why is it important to consult with an experienced attorney as soon as possible after the accident?
Terry: Well, the insurance companies have people out there on these big truck crashes all the time. They get their attorneys and investigators out there to try to get evidence that would help their case so it’s important that you also begin to gather evidence before the witnesses disappear and before the driver’s log expire. Also keep in mind that the Statute of Limitations gives you a time limit in which a lawsuit must be filed. Different states have different laws on what we call the Statute of Limitations. If you miss the Statute of Limitations the law will treat your case as if it never happened.
Cindy: Wow! Great information. Terry, thank you for your time today.
Terry: Well, thanks for having me.
Cindy: Until next time. This is Cindy Speaker for Texas Law TV.