Truck Accidents Attorney in St. Louis, Missouri
Trucking Accident Statistics
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (“FMCSA”) is a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation that focuses on reducing crashes, injuries and fatalities involving large trucks and buses. Information on the FMCSA can be found at. Each year, the FMCSA collects significant data on safety-related issues in the trucking industry. Specifically, in 2013, the FMCSA reported that 3,541 fatal accidents involved a truck in its first harmful event. Of those 3,541 fatal crashes:
1,273 of the accidents occurred in a speed limit zone of 50-55 MPH
726 of the accident occurred in a speed limit zone of 60-65 MPH
585 of the accidents occurred in a speed limit zone of 70-75 MPH
491 of the accidents occurred in a speed limit zone of 40-45 MPH
267 of the accidents occurred in a speed limit zone of 30-35 MPH
86 of the accidents occurred in a speed limit zone of 25 MPH or less
68 of the accident occurred in an unknown speed limit zone
33 of the accidents occurred in an area where there was no posted speed limit
12 of the accidents occurred in a speed limit zone of 80-85 MPH
How Are Trucking Companies Rated For Safety?
As mentioned, the FMCSA oversees the regulation of safety for trucking companies. The FMCSA’s safety compliance and enforcement program is called CSA, which stands for Compliance, Safety, and Accountability. When evaluating the safety of motor carriers, the CSA employs a specific system, called the Safety Measurement System (“SMS”) which collects relevant data to provide the general public with safety ratings of trucking companies. Specifically, the SMS takes into account seven categories which are:
Unsafe Driving: Careless of dangerous driving, including speeding violations and other traffic violations
Hours of Service: Failed compliance with hours of service regulations
Driver Fitness: Unqualified drivers, lack of training or experience
Controlled Substance/Alcohol: Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
Vehicle Maintenance: Failing to maintain vehicle, mechanical defects
Hazardous Materials: Improperly handling of hazardous or dangerous materials, AND
Crash Indicator: Past accidents and crashes
Collectively, these seven categories are referred to as BASIC (Behavorial Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories). Each category will have a BASIC score for each registered motor carrier. In the end, these BASIC scores provide for critical information in the analysis of motor carrier company when it comes to safety.
Other Companies Liable for Trucking Accidents
Quite obviously, the trucking company that caused an accident is going to be held accountable in a trucking case. Despite this, an injured party’s ability to recover does not stop at the trucking company alone.
As mentioned, it is important for the general public to know about the safety ratings of any given trucking company. The BASIC scores, along with other ratings provide businesses with an idea of what kind of company they are choosing when they hire or select a trucking company for their transportation needs. Considering this availability of information, companies involved in the logistical process are now being held liable in trucking cases.
According to SelectUSA, the federal entity involved in facilitating business investment in the United States, the logistics business, as an industry, totaled $1.33 trillion in 2012 and accounted for 8.5% of the annual gross domestic product in 2012. Quite obviously, the logistics industry is a massive and lucrative business that thousands of companies participate. With respect to trucking cases, two of these entities, shippers, and brokers, are beginning to be held liable for the negligent selection, hiring, or retaining of a trucking company to transport goods. Shippers are entities that place or are recipients of goods that are placed into commerce. A broker is effectively an intermediary between shippers and the end recipient of goods.
Many large-scale shippers hire brokers to take care of all of their logistical and transportation concerns. In most cases, brokers are charged with the duty and responsibility of hiring competent carriers to transport goods between two entities. These brokers are paid by the load and often make hefty amounts of money as a business.
Critically, when a broker fails to hire or select a competent carrier and that carrier is involved in an accident, the broker can be held liable in connection to the underlying accident. Thus, the availability of the BASIC scores and a broker’s failure to check these BASIC scores plays an instrumental role in trucking cases.
Insurance Company Tactics
By law, trucking companies are required to carry insurance policies. When dealing with an insurance company, it is important to note the following:
Insurance companies are not on your side.
When insurance companies find out about a potential trucking accident claim, they will contact you immediately. They will ask you to provide a statement of what happened and they will ask you to provide them with all of your medical records and bills related to the accident. At first, these insurance companies will appear to be on your side and may come across as someone who is trying to help you get through your injury. Despite this, after complying with all of their demands, the insurance company will offer you a settlement which is substantially inadequate. Most of the time, the offer doesn’t even cover your medical bills, let alone your pain and suffering.
Insurance companies will employ many different tactics to try to convince you that your claim isn’t what you think it is. One of these tactics is to tell the injured party that they contributed to the accident. This is called comparative fault.
Comparative fault is a doctrine recognized by Missouri law that essentially allows fault or blame to be placed upon the injured party. Specifically, juries are told that if they see fit, they may assign a percentage of fault to an injured party based on the facts of the case. For example, a jury may find that an injured party’s actions, although not the main reason, still contributed to the accident occurring and as such will assign fault to the injured party. This assignment of fault will reduce your award in proportion to the percentage assigned.
Insurance companies are well aware of this doctrine and will oftentimes abuse this doctrine in an attempt to make the injured party believe they played a role in the accident. Insurance companies will make a determination for themselves as to what percentage of blame is to be placed upon the injured driver. For example, insurance companies will assign a significant percentage of blame to an injured driver who was injured in an accident due to being cut off by another driver. Despite following all applicable rules and regulations, insurance companies simply think being cut off by another driver is the injured party’s fault. Of course, this doesn’t follow simple logic, but that is how insurance companies think.
Why You Need to Hire a Lawyer
When an attorney gets involved in a trucking accident claim, insurance companies take notice. They begin to realize that they can no longer take advantage of an injured person who is in a bad situation. Insurance companies know that an attorney has the ability and resources to properly investigate an accident. Likewise, an attorney understands all the facets of a personal injury claim giving you a distinct advantage against the insurance company. All in all, when an attorney gets involved, the insurance company knows that the injured party means business.
What We Can Do For You
The Law Office of Steve Slough routinely handles trucking accident cases. The firm prides itself on standing up to insurance companies and fighting for construction accident victims. We have experience in dealing with insurance companies and know how to quickly discredit the theories they use to deny your claim.
If you or someone you know has been injured in a trucking accident, please feel free to call our office for a free consultation.