Washington DC Truck Accident Lawyer
Large commercial trucks significantly outweigh most of the passenger vehicles on DC’s roadways. A crash involving a commercial vehicle that may exceed 80,000 pounds can lead to devastating and often catastrophic consequences. And unfortunately, truck collisions are on the rise. When these bodily injuries occur due to negligence, the occupants of the passenger vehicle could have a viable injury claim. You should reach out to an experienced DC truck accident lawyer to determine what you are entitled to.
If you or a loved one has been hurt in a truck accident, you have the legal right to set forth a claim for damages from all at-fault parties. Federal and state safety regulations and law regulate the trucking industry. A skilled Washington DC truck accident lawyer can assess all potential avenues of compensation following a collision with a tractor-trailer.
Roger Gelb has developed a track record of recovering millions of dollars on behalf of accident victims. At Gelb & Gelb, P.C., vehicle accidents are our main focus. We have handled thousands of personal injury cases on behalf of clients throughout the D.C area. Our personal injury attorneys are committed to making sure that you understand your legal rights and obligations, and that you remain informed every step of the way.
Laws Governing Truck Accidents
Due to the dangers that are inherent in operating large commercial vehicles, the federal government has created extensive regulations for truck drivers. These regulations go well beyond the rules of the road all drivers must adhere to.
When a commercial driver is involved in a crash, whether they were in compliance with federal regulations could serve as evidence of negligence. A seasoned tractor-trailer collision lawyer can review the facts of the accident. Our team will investigate the truck operator’s records to determine if a violation occurred. Some of the regulations that apply to federal trucks include:
- Driver’s log requirements
- Special speed limits for large vehicles
- Rest requirements for long-distance drivers
- Maintenance standards
- Licensing and training requirements
What can a Truck Accident Lawyer do For You?
Truck collisions can occur for a variety of reasons, ranging from driver negligence to mechanical issues with the commercial vehicle. Common types of truck accidents include head-on collisions, rollover accidents, jackknife collisions, and under-ride collisions. Trucks also have blind spots due to their size, and can crash into pedestrians, bicyclists, and other vehicles when making turns.
Following a truck accident, it is important to conduct a thorough investigation of all potential causes. More than one party could be held accountable for the crash. The truck employer and driver may be at fault, and a victim could pursue a legal claim against all negligent parties.
Causes of Truck Accidents
The list of causes for a truck accident is near infinite. Here, we wish to highlight the causes that relate to truck accident cases in Washington, D.C.
Product and Mechanical Failures
Mechanical truck issues that contribute to a crash can take different forms. They can then result in the manufacturer or the trucking company being held legally responsible for any resulting harm. The rationale is that with proper care, mechanical problems are avoidable. For example, brake issues, tire blowouts, and breakdowns that cause a serious accident can result in liability for the parties that are responsible for maintenance. If a defective truck part causes a crash, then a product liability claim may be appropriate. A top truck accident lawyer serving the DC area can assess whether a design or manufacturing defect played a role in causing the plaintiff’s injury.
Often, these accidents result directly from the negligence of the truck operator. Negligent, careless, or drunk driving is also a main contributor to truck collisions. Due to a commercial truck’s large size and weight, maneuvering it is challenging and requires specific training to avoid obstacles such as blind spots. To properly turn and brake, drivers must pay attention to the road, anticipating the distance they will need to come to a complete stop. An overloaded truck, or one that is improperly loaded could affect the ability of the driver to stop. Additionally, federal Hours of Service rules regulate the number of hours a driver may operate their truck. This is important to protect other drivers. A fatigued driver is often unable to respond and operate their vehicle appropriately. Of course, an accident does not need to fit neatly into one of these categories.
A breach of one’s duty of care as a truck driver is a sufficient first step for a negligence claim. To breach one’s duty of care, there must be an act or omission that causes the defendant’s conduct to fall short of the applicable standard of care in those circumstances. The reason that definition is vague is because that is how the law is. The classic standard is that of a reasonably prudent person in like circumstances. If the truck driver behaves the way a reasonably prudent person would not, then a jury would likely find a breach of duty. This satisfies one element of negligence and you will be one step closer to a finding of liability.
Other examples of negligence that can contribute to an accident include truck drivers speeding, wide turns, overweight trucks, tire defects, rear-end collisions, jackknifes, rollovers, or even driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Can I Sue the Trucking Company?
The trucking company is another common defendant in these cases. As long as the truck driver is operating within the scope of their employment, an accident victim has the right to hold the truck company responsible as well. You may do so via vicarious liability. Vicarious liability allows you to hold a third-party responsible for the acts of its employee. In fact, you may sue the trucking company even if they have no involvement in the accident whatsoever. Even if they take steps to prevent the accident, you may still have a viable claim against the trucking company.
Frolic and Detour
“Frolic and detour” is a classic theory in tort law. It refers to whether a driver is acting within the course and scope of his employment at the time of the accident. If the driver is on a frolic, then he is not operating within the course and scope. Thus, there is no vicarious liability on the trucking company for the driver’s acts. What constitutes a frolic? This is a question for the fact finder at trial. During settlement negotiations, lawyers will argue each side, but it can be a toss up in court.
A clear example of a frolic is if a trucker who is on a job from Florida to Maine through D.C. travels 80 miles west to Maryland to go to a bar. During such a frolic, even though the driver is in the midst of completing a long haul, he is clearly not behaving within the course and scope of his employment if he is driving 80 miles away from his route.
So, if he collides with your vehicle while he is on this frolic, the trucking company will likely not be vicariously liable. Whether a driver is on a frolic or not is generally something we can determine during the discovery phase of trial. It is something a good DC truck accident lawyer will look for to ensure there is maximum coverage. Of course, a trucking company is likely to have more than the driver acting in his or her personal capacity, and we want to ensure maximum compensation for our clients.
Of course, if a trucker is on a detour, then he is still operating within his job’s duties and his employer is vicariously liable for the trucker’s conduct. An example of a detour is if the truck driver drives three miles off his route to get dinner before returning to his route soon after. This is a minor detour and the trucking company would still be vicariously liable.
Besides vicarious liability, we can prove liability by the trucking company through other methods. One such method is by suing the employer for their failure to properly train or hire their drivers. For example, if a trucking company hires a driver who has a terrible driving record including multiple speeding tickets, DUIs, or reckless driving charges, then he is clearly not fit to drive a truck. If the driver then hits you while driving under the influence, speeding, or even just negligently, you may have a case against the employer for a negligent hire.
Additionally, the failure to maintain a truck in a safe working condition could also result in a negligence claim. What may appear to be a simple brake issue with the truck or an even less obvious example may just require some investigation by your DC truck accident lawyer. Such an investigation may reveal negligence by a mechanic working for the company who was negligent in inspecting the truck. This is especially common for garbage truck companies. Identifying the right defendants is the first step in the truck accident timeline. A top truck accident lawyer in the area can investigate and identify all negligent parties responsible for an accident with a tractor-trailer.
Do all DC Truck Accident Claims go to Trial?
No, most truck accident claims in DC do not go to trial. In fact, the vast majority do not. Ideally, we will be able to settle your case before having to file suit in Washington, D.C. There are a few reasons why we prefer not to do so. First, going to trial takes time. Once we file our complaint with the DC court, we have to wait up to about a year to get to trial. The District of Columbia court system is quite backed up right now, even in 2023. And when you are in an accident, you may have exorbitant medical expenses. Having to wait that long for your rightful compensation can put financial stress on you. We do not want that to happen. While court is sometimes unavoidable, we want to get you assistance as quickly as possible.
However, sometimes we do need to take your case to trial. There are instances where the defendant disputes liability. A dash camera in your vehicle can help avoid these issues in the future. The reason being, once the defendant’s legal counsel or insurance provider sees that liability is clear and that they will lose in court, they often back down. However, without such indisputable evidence, we may have to proceed to discovery and trial. At trial, we use witness testimony and any other evidence we can discover. We may also be able to subpoena video evidence from the District or a nearby store or neighbor.
Moreover, we are not always able to come to terms regarding recovery. While there are formulas that make it rather clear how much you suffer in damages, sometimes defense teams do not see it that way. When this happens, we have to go to trial to win you rightful compensation. Maximizing your compensation is always our goal. But of course, we will always discuss your options with you. Whether you choose to accept a settlement offer or go to trial is always your decision in the end. It is the job of your DC truck accident lawyer to clearly explain the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Why Choose Gelb & Gelb, P.C. for Your Truck Accident Case?
Roger Gelb leads a team of skilled attorneys and compassionate and hard working legal assistants. With nearly 70 years of experience, our attorneys understand what it takes to get you the compensation you deserve. Whether we resolve your case via settlement or some other alternative dispute method, or take the defendant to trial, we always aggressively pursue your recovery.
Our firm takes a client-centric approach. This means we make it our mission to always respond to client questions as quickly as possible. We ensure that, no matter when you call, you will reach someone from our office 24/7. While our attorneys are not awake at all hours, the average response time outside of traditional office hours is immediate. This is because we know how stressful the legal and recovery process can be following a bad truck accident. When everything else in your life feels like it is out of control, we will be the ones you can turn to.
Most Common Types of Truck Accident Injuries
Given the sheer weight difference between a truck and any other motor vehicle on the road, the potential for severe injuries is substantial. While this article hopefully will provide you with actionable tips to avoid truck accidents in the future, below is a list of the most common types of truck accident injuries we encounter in practice.
- Head injuries
- Neck injuries
- Back injuries
- Broken bones
- Internal injuries
- Psychological injuries
- Lung injuries
- Dental injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal chord injuries
Average Compensation in a DC Truck Accident
The compensation you will receive depends on the severity of your injuries and the extent of your medical treatment. There are three primary categories that go into an evaluation of damages. The first is medical expenses. After a truck accident, you may obtain full compensation for your medical expenses that are reasonable and related to the accident. Second, you may recover lost wages. But to recover this category of damages, you need a letter from a medical provider excusing you from work. Third, is the noneconomic damage of pain and suffering. This is less quantifiable and requires legal argument to get on behalf of our client. But, this is a legitimate damage under the law and you may recover it with help from a good truck accident lawyer.
Contact a Washington, DC Truck Accident Attorney Right Away
Truck accident injuries can lead to lifelong pain, suffering, and medical complications. When your future is adversely impacted by a truck crash, it is vital to protect your legal rights. By pursuing a personal injury claim in a timely manner, you can secure compensation for the debilitating injuries stemming from a truck accident.
A Washington DC truck accident lawyer could help you investigate your claim. By doing so, you can make an informed decision on proceeding with a lawsuit or settling. Attorney Roger Gelb is proud to provide clients with personal, effective legal representation for their personal injury claims. He ensures our clients avoid the common mistakes after a DC truck accident. Those injured in a truck or other vehicle collision can rely on the experience and dedication of Mr. Gelb and the team at Gelb & Gelb, P.C. Schedule an initial consultation right away to discuss your options.