Vehicle accidents might be a fact of life in Philadelphia, but a truck accident is something on another level. These crashes involve a vehicle that is ten times the weight of a normal car, even when it is not hauling any cargo. A truck weighs nearly thirty times as much as a car when it is full, which is nearly all the time because an empty truck typically does not make a trucker or their trucking company any money when it reaches its destination. Worse, a truck is further from the ground than a car is, so the contact between this exceptionally heavy vehicle and a normal passenger car happens at a height where the car has little protection and where injuries are far worse. Finally, trucks tend to stay on the highways around Philadelphia, so truck accidents are typically high-speed affairs that cause severe or fatal injuries.
Unfortunately, in 97% of the cases, those fatal injuries occur in passenger vehicles when the truck accident involves one large truck and one car.
These crashes happen for a variety of reasons. One of these reasons, though, is something that neither the trucker nor the other driver can control: An unsafe road condition. Whether they are the result of a poorly maintained or a badly designed road, these conditions can cause an accident if the truck driver hits it and loses control, or even if the trucker takes evasive action to miss the hazard, and loses control, anyway.
Unsafe Road Conditions Can Cause Truck Accidents
There are two different kinds of unsafe road conditions: Those that were caused by a poorly-designed roadway, and those that were caused by poor maintenance. Of the two, bad road conditions that stem from poor maintenance are far more common, as they include things like potholes or obstructed drainage facilities. However, poorly-designed roads also contribute to numerous hazardous road conditions, like tight entrance ramps to a high-speed highway or a road that is too steep to safely manage. In either case, the hazards of the roadway can contribute or cause a serious accident that can get you hurt.
For trucks that are pulling tens of thousands of pounds, those road conditions are even more dangerous. Guiding a vehicle through a minefield of potholes or along roads that were designed without considering the area's dramatic wind shears is completely different when you are driving a sedan or a tractor trailer. Not only does the weight of the vehicle make it far more difficult to slow a truck down to effectively get through a dangerous hazard, but the size of the truck makes turning more difficult and the height of it makes it far easier to overturn or catch the effects of a gust of wind.
In fact, according to a study done by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), an estimated 20% of truck accidents happen because of a roadway related factor, while weather contributed to another 14% of truck crashes. These numbers came in a study that investigated no fewer than 967 trucking accidents in 17 states between 2001 and 2003, making it one of the most extensive studies to cover trucking crashes in recent decades.
Unfortunately, in these crashes that were caused by poor road conditions, an interesting legal question comes up: Who is ultimately responsible for the crash?
Who Is Responsible for a Truck Crash Caused by an Unsafe Road Condition?
In Pennsylvania, the person or people who were ultimately responsible for a truck accident are liable to the victims that they have hurt. When the crash was caused by a hazardous road condition, though, it can be very difficult to tell who was responsible.
In most instances, though, the answer to this tricky question is that it is the truck driver or his or her trucking company that will be held liable. Truck drivers are in the best position to drive safely, and they have a legal obligation – called a duty of care – to drive in a way that is reasonably safe for the road conditions. This means they need to slow down or take extra precautions when they are facing a roadway that is littered with potholes or that is designed poorly and requires extra attention on their part to avoid a crash.
However, there are some cases where the roadway was so poorly designed that it would be unfair to expect even a safe truck driver to avoid an accident. In these cases, liability for the accident might fall on the state or local government or agency that was behind the road's poor design. However, these lawsuits are notoriously difficult because they are against a government whose assets are really just those of the taxpayers, and these taxpayers are innocent of any wrongdoing. Therefore, filing a personal injury lawsuit will have numerous procedural hurdles to overcome that were designed to prevent too much government funding from being won in personal injury claims.
Philadelphia Truck Accident Attorneys at Gilman & Bedigian
If you get hurt in a truck accident, getting compensated for your injuries is crucial because of how extensive they are likely to be. If left uncompensated, you could find yourself with a massive amount of medical debt which, along with the wages you have lost during your recovery, leave you financially insecure for years to come.
This is why the Philadelphia personal injury attorneys at Gilman & Bedigian represent victims of trucking accidents. We know and understand your needs and will fight to ensure your rights to compensation are pursued, even if it means filing suit against a local government for a road that was so poorly designed that it caused the crash that hurt you. Contact us online or call us at (800) 529-6162 for a free consultation that will help you understand your rights and how you can enforce them against the person or people who should owe you for your losses.