Trucking Accidents in Missouri
St. Louis is a centralized hub where much of the nation’s cargo and freight moves through. While commercial logistics and freight bring business and jobs to St. Louis, it also means that many of the city’s highways are often littered with semi-trucks. As a result, there are frequently St. Louis trucking accidents taking place in and around the city. If you are involved in a trucking accident in St. Louis or a neighboring suburb, contact a St. Louis MO trucking accident attorney at TorHoerman Law to determine whether you qualify to participate in a St. Louis trucking accident lawsuit.
St. Louis Trucking Accidents
Frighteningly, there were 89 fatal trucking accidents in the last year alone – representing eight percent of all fatal accidents in Missouri.
While St. Louis MO truck accidents occur less often than other auto accidents, there are key differences setting the two dangerously apart.
- Truck accidents are more likely to result in serious injury or death, likely due to the large size of the tractor-trailer vehicle which generally has a more destructive impact than smaller vehicles.
- The party held liable for the accident may not be just the driver – it could the owner of the truck, the trucking company the driver is employed with, the company that maintains the truck, or the company the loads the truck’s cargo. In a St. Louis trucking lawsuit, it is likely there will be more than one liable party.
QUICK FACTS About St. Louis Trucking Accidents
- A semi-truck can legally weigh up to 80,000 pounds without an oversize or overweight permit. Comparatively, a car typically weighs about 5,000 pounds.
- Did you know a semi-truck needs 40% more time to stop than a car?
- If a truck is driving without a trailer, this is referred to as ‘bobtailing’. Surprisingly, driving without a trailer is more dangerous, especially in bad weather.
- The average cost of all large truck crashes is about $91,000 per crash, but if the accident resulted in a fatality, the cost of the truck accident skyrockets to $3.6 million per crash.
- Highway deaths decreased in 2017, except when a large truck is involved, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Deaths involving a large truck increased by 9% from 2016 to 2017. The NHTSA defines a large truck as any vehicle, commercial or non-commercial, with GVWR greater than 10,000 pounds.
Have you or a family member suffered an injury due to a St. Louis tractor-trailer accident? At TorHoerman Law, our lawyers are dedicated to one thing – helping you or a loved one through a difficult situation.
What’s Classified as a Semi-Truck?
A semi-truck, 18-wheeler, big rig, tractor-trailer, commercial truck – all names for a large truck. While there are different names for a large truck that all mean the same thing, there are different classifications based on the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR), or the weight of the truck and cargo it is carrying. The classifications of large trucks also come with different rules and regulations that the trucking company and driver must abide by.
Trucking Safety in St. Louis
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) was founded in 2000 and “partners with industry, safety advocates, and state and local governments to keep our nation’s roadways safe.” Specifically, the FMCSA has enacted strict laws regulating the trucking industry in hopes of reducing the number of accidents. While those regulations do help to eliminate accidents, some drivers and companies routinely violate the regulations, putting others on the road at risk.
Truck drivers are obligated to follow the same duty of care that drivers of passenger vehicles follow – an obligation to exercise the highest degree of care to other drivers. Beyond that, truckers must adhere to licensing, training, and hours of service requirements as designated by state and federal regulations.
Federal regulations state that each driver adheres to strict driving hour limits, maintain a logbook of distance and hours driven, ensure the truck is properly maintained, follow speed limits, and follow weight limits for trucks.
As a truck driver, there are three maximum driving hour rules – 14-hour “driving window” limit, 11-hour driving limit, and 60-hour/7-day and 70-hour/8-day duty limits. Driving hours must be recorded either automatically by “an automatic onboard recording device (AOBRD), or other electronic logging devices (ELD) system”, or manually in a written logbook, referred to as the “record of duty status.” Failing to record driving history can result in you being fined or placed out of service. It goes without saying that drivers must also abide by all street signs and speed limits as they are held to the same standards as drivers of passenger vehicles.
Weight limits are to be strictly followed, but if carrying a tractor load that is overweight, special permits can be issued by the chief engineer for the Missouri Department of Transportation either for a single trip or a definite time period. Trucking companies must apply for permits prior to beginning the transportation of goods.
It is required by law that all semi-trucks undergo “systematic inspection, repair, and maintenance” routinely, but how often is dependent on the fleet and type of vehicle. According to FMCSA, “the motor carrier is solely responsible for ensuring that the vehicles under its control are in safe operating condition and that defects have been corrected.” If the company fails to properly maintain the truck, they could be held liable for any accidents that occur.
In Missouri specifically, drivers must first pass a skill and knowledge test before obtaining their commercial driver’s license (CDL). While drivers must be 21 to cross state lines while transporting goods in a large truck, each state can pass its own state laws regulating the age of an individual driving only on state roads. In Missouri, 18 is the legal age a person can drive a semi-truck.
Truck drivers are also held to rigid standards regarding alcohol, drugs, and cell phone usage while driving – all are strictly prohibited at all times. Failure to do so can result in large fines, dismissal from the company, or withdrawal of the driver’s CDL license.
Common Causes of St Louis MO Trucking Accidents
When trucks are overloaded, the excess weight can make it more difficult for the driver to maneuver or stop.
Many Missouri trucking accidents occur during inclement weather, especially in snow or ice.
Trucking accidents frequently occur in areas of heavy traffic, such as on the highways near downtown St. Louis.
Likely inevitable when turning at a 45-degree angle, a truck will jackknife which basically means the “trailer contacts the tractor by the ailer “coming around” on the driver”. More common on wet or icy roads, jackknifing can also occur if a tractor is empty and the driver must brake hard.
Truck drivers are required to adhere to a strict schedule, one that allows for proper resting time. If a driver fails to do this, their driving ability may be severely lacking.
Driving at night
The likelihood of a fatal crash is three times greater at night, according to the National Safety Council.
Defective truck equipment or mechanical failure
Trucking regulations require companies to maintain proper care of the truck and follow maintenance schedules and inspections. In some cases, the company may have done everything right, but equipment or parts could be defective – placing blame on the manufacturer of those parts.
Trucking company negligence
A number of things can equate to negligence on the part of the trucking company. Allowing drivers to violate hours of service limits, failing to properly train drivers, or negligent hiring practices can all lead to trucking company negligence, among other factors.
Poorly maintained roadways
All levels of government – local, state, federal is tasked with maintaining the quality of roads, but if they are not properly maintained and cause an accident, they could be held liable.
Other careless drivers
Trucks are not equipped with the ability to stop suddenly or change lanes quickly if the need arises. A careless driver zooming in and out of traffic, failing to pay attention and stopping quickly, or simply driving in the blind spot of a truck, can cause a truck driver to make defensive moves that could otherwise put other travelers on the road in danger.
Cell phone usage is strictly prohibited while driving a semi-truck.
Gathering Evidence For a St. Louis Truck Accident Lawsuit
The gathering of evidence in the aftermath of a truck accident is imperative to a future claim. While most of the leg work will be done by your St. Louis MO trucking accident attorney, there are a few things that can be done immediately following the accident, if you are able. But, calling emergency personnel and seeking medical attention first is more important.
Document when and how the accident occurred. Take pictures of the accident, including any other objects hit such as parking barriers. Record the names, licenses, and insurance information of anyone involved. Obtain a copy of the police report, along with the names of responding law enforcement officers.
After discussing your case with a St. Louis trucking accident lawyer, they will begin the process of documenting evidence which will potentially include a number of things.
- Data from the “black box” installed in every truck
- Logbooks required to be maintained
- Radio recordings
- Driver and accident reports
- Tire or skid marks in the roads
- Pictures from the scene of the accident
- The trucker’s driver and medical histories
- Truck inspection reports
While the evidence is not limited to those listed, it provides a baseline for the kinds of things you can expect to be gathered and investigated. Each case is different and varying factors are involved warranting different evidence.
Complying with OSHA Regulations
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), ran by the U.S. Department of Labor since 1970, sets strict regulations for many industries, including trucking. While regulations concern mostly “non-driving operations”, the “workplace” is important to maintain for the safety of all involved.
Warehouses, loading docks, construction sites, and trucking company sites are all examples of the type of places OSHA regularly visits to ensure safety standards are being met. But, OSHA works alongside other trucking regulators such as FMCSA and the U.S. Department of Transportation – it often depends on the incident and where it happened to decide which regulator will handle the investigation.
While companies are required to follow OSHA guidelines, violations can and do occur. As a driver on the roadways, you have no way of knowing what kind of cargo is in the truck’s cargo hold. If a trucking company or warehouse violated safety regulations, those actions can have implications on the roadways. For example, if the cargo catches fire, the fire poses a great risk to other vehicles.
After an accident, it is important to discuss further actions with your attorney. The legal team working on your claim will evaluate the police report and previous OSHA citations to decide on further action.
Liability in a St. Louis Trucking Accident Lawsuit
Trucking accidents can be confusing because there may be more than one liable party. Depending on what caused the accident, the liable party may be in question. The following are common parties, often more than one, that can be held liable in a trucking accident:
- The driver of the truck
- The company that employs the driver
- The company that loaded the truck
- Parts manufacturer
Liability in a St. Louis truck accident can potentially cause controversy because the trucking company and federal regulations can make it harder to obtain compensation.
In St. Louis, the courts follow the pure comparative fault rule. Essentially, a jury will decide how much of the accident was your fault and reduce the damages awarded by that percentage. For example, a jury may decide you were 10% at fault because of your failure to reduce speed in wet conditions, but the driver of the semi-truck was 90% at fault for the accident. If the jury awards you $50,000 in damages, you will only be eligible to receive $45,000 because 10% was deducted because of your 10% responsibility in the accident.
It is not uncommon for the trucking and insurance companies to use the St. Louis liability laws to their advantage by attempting to place at least some blame on another party – resulting in a lesser payment for those companies and less compensation for the victim. For that reason, it is important to hire a lawyer who will fight for your case and fight to help you receive the compensation you deserve.
St. Louis MO Trucking Accident Attorney
As lawyers, our job is to keep you informed of the lawsuit process through every step – this starts from the minute you contact our firm to the conclusion of your case. If you have any questions about a potential lawsuit, please call our office. At TorHoerman Law, our experienced team of attorneys can help address any concerns you may have regarding a St. Louis MO truck accident lawsuit.
When someone you love has been in a truck accident, you need the best attorney. Contact our team today for a free, no-obligation consultation.
For additional information, see the following pages:
For additional practice areas in St. Louis, MO, see the following pages:
- St. Louis Injury Lawyer
- St. Louis Car Accident Lawyer
- St. Louis Motorcycle Accident Injury Lawyer
- St. Louis Wrongful Death Attorney
- St. Louis Slip and Fall Lawyer
- Bicycle Accident Attorney St. Louis
- St. Louis Premises Liability
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