overturned semi on the side of the highwayIn the realm of personal injury law, trucking crashes are amongst the top accidents that result in very serious injuries and substantial damages. Certain dangerous truck driving behaviors are found to be significant contributing factors to many commercial trucking crashes. Also, the size and weight of many commercial trucks are factors in causing severe and catastrophic injuries. Generally, a passenger vehicle is no match for a tractor trailer that may weigh over 40,000 pounds and drive at speeds of 50 mph or greater.

Just as in all personal injury cases in Massachusetts, the accident victim must prove that the truck driver and trucking company were negligent and that their negligence was the cause of the victim’s injuries and damages. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has identified several behaviors that have been shown to increase the likelihood of trucking crashes. These behaviors, if proven, may satisfy a plaintiff’s burden of proof in a personal injury lawsuit and allow accident victims to recover the money they deserve for the injuries suffered.

About the Safety Management System of the FMCSA

The Safety Management System is part of the Compliance, Safety, and Accountability System of the FMCSA. It is a vital system developed to collect extensive information to evaluate the safety performance of trucking companies. The intent behind this system is to help reduce large truck crashes, injuries and fatalities.

This system collects trucking crash data and safety violations of commercial trucks and trucking companies across the United States. The data collected is assessed and used to develop and implement new technology and safety improvements to the trucking industry. The system’s goal is to help bring awareness of the many causes of trucking accidents with the purpose of reducing commercial truck crashes and injuries suffered in these accidents.

Five of the Behaviors Identified that Increase the Probability of Trucking Crashes

The Safety Management System has identified five behaviors that have been shown to increase the likelihood of commercial trucking crashes.

Unsafe Driving: Unsafe operation of a commercial trucking vehicle is characterized as careless and dangerous driving. These driving behaviors include speeding, reckless operation, inattentive driving and improper lane changes. Unsafe driving, especially with large commercial trucks, creates a serious hazard on the highways.  

Fatigued or Drowsy Driving: We have written about this previously because it is a behavior that is often a cause of serious trucking accidents. Truck drivers typically operate their tractor trailers for lengthy periods of time. The long and extended hours of driving cause truck drivers to become drowsy and fatigued. A tired truck driver’s focus may be taken away from the roadway and impact his ability to react to hazards or other traffic on the highways.

Unfitness of the Truck Driver: Drivers, who lack the necessary licensing, training and experience, are considered unfit for operating large commercial trucks. The inexperience or lack of proper training may cause an unfit driver to be unable to appropriately maneuver a tractor trailer resulting in serious accidents and injuries. Furthermore, licenses to operate large commercial trucks also require the drivers to be medically qualified. A driver who does not have the requisite medical clearance is also considered unfit to operate commercial trucks.

Use of Controlled Substances and/or Alcohol: This one is common sense. Drugs and alcohol are known to impair the fine and gross motor skills that are necessary to operate a motor vehicle. Impairment is dangerous for any driver, but especially for driving large commercial trucks. Large tractor trailers and other commercial trucks are not as easy to operate as regular cars. When truck drivers are impaired by drugs or alcohol, it diminishes their ability to safely operate the trucks. There have been many trucking crashes that were determined to be caused by an impaired truck driver and the results can be catastrophic.

Improper Vehicle Maintenance: When a large commercial truck is improperly maintained by a trucking company or their maintenance companies, it can cause the trucks to be very dangerous on the highways. Some examples of improper maintenance include defective brakes, tires and lights as well as other mechanical equipment failure. Mechanical failures in trucks have been determined to be the cause of many crashes.

A Recent Example of an Identified Behavior That Caused a Severe Trucking Crash

Just last week, a Freightliner tractor trailer rolled over onto a car driven by a Framingham man on an exit ramp off of the Massachusetts Turnpike. The car was crushed, and the man suffered severe injuries in the trucking crash. The accident victim’s injuries were so severe that he was required to be transported by helicopter to an emergency room in Burlington, Massachusetts.

While the accident is still under investigation by the Massachusetts State Police, the speed of the tractor trailer was identified as a factor in the crash. The speed may have contributed to the tractor trailer tipping over onto the car while driving on the off ramp. Speeding falls into the unsafe driving behavior that was discussed above and found to increase the probability of trucking accidents.  

Personal Injury Claims Following Commercial Trucking Crashes

An accident victim who suffers serious injuries in a crash involving a commercial truck may be entitled to financial compensation for the injuries and losses caused by the crash. The injured party must be able to prove that the truck driver and/or trucking company was negligent and caused the accident and injuries. If the trucking accident was determined to have been caused by the truck driver or trucking company for any one of the five dangerous driving behaviors identified by the Safety Management System, the accident victim may satisfy his or her burden of proof and recover money damages.

Trucking accidents, however, often present complex legal issues. This is why anyone injured in a trucking crash should have an experienced Massachusetts truck accident lawyer on their side. Identifying the cause of the crash, the negligent or responsible parties and the insurance policies available to cover the damages caused by the accident can be difficult. An experienced accident attorney can help victims get the compensation they deserve.

Contact Our Framingham Truck Accident Attorneys Today

The lawyers at Mahaney & Pappas, LLP have nearly 50 years of combined legal and trial experience in personal injury cases that involve large commercial trucks. An experienced personal injury law firm is what accident victims need to make sure the negligent parties and companies are held accountable and maximum compensation is recovered.

Charles S. Pappas
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Massachusetts injury lawyer & workers' compensation attorney serving accident victims in Webster & Framingham.