Getting out on the road in West Virginia always carries a risk. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), in one year, 260 people lost their lives in West Virginia vehicle accidents. The danger is only greater when adding tractor-trailers to the mix.
We all understand how important tractor-trailers are to the state’s economy.
Trucks deliver the food, clothing, and medication we all depend on. But keeping everyone safe on the roads is also a priority, and tractor-trailers pose especially high safety risks.
Given their unique features and massive size, tractor-trailers can cause significant injuries, for which victims should recover compensation.
Driver Error and Tractor-Trailer Design Increase Danger
Tractor-trailers pose greater safety risks, particularly because of the unique driver errors that truckers can make and the tractor-trailer design.
Driver error is one of the most common reasons for vehicle accidents generally. But there is even more potential for error when it comes to tractor-trailers, increasing the likelihood of serious accidents.
These may include:
- Lack of experience – Tractor-trailers require more skill than a normal passenger vehicle to safely operate. This is why West Virginia requires drivers of large trucks to carry commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs). Still, companies, desperate to fill positions, may hire truckers who lack the skill and experience needed to operate tractor-trailers safely.
- Ignoring established standards – Trucking companies and their drivers must adhere to specific rules issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), particularly to how much rest truckers must take relative to driving hours. However, in the interest of making deliveries on time, employers or truckers may disregard these rules, putting drowsy drivers behind the wheel of massive tractor-trailers, and placing them and others on West Virginia roads at serious risk of harm.
- Driver negligence and risky driving – Like any driver on the road, truckers may engage in negligent and risky driving, from driving distracted or fatigued, to tailgating, to violating traffic signals and driving laws.
These driver errors create a significantly greater risk of serious injury and death in the case of tractor-trailers. While a standard motor vehicle weighs approximately 6,000 pounds, a fully loaded tractor-trailer can weigh more than 13 times that amount. Anyone who encounters tractor-trailer driver error is at a massive disadvantage.
West Virginia Tractor Trailer Accident Injuries
West Virginia tractor-trailer accidents may cause devastating injuries and impacts to victims and their families. Some families lose loved ones in tractor-trailer accidents—the size differential between a tractor-trailer and a normal passenger vehicle makes fatal results more likely.
Some of the types of injuries that can cause life-long problems include:
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI) – Head injuries are an especially prevalent injury in tractor-trailer accidents. Indeed, traffic accidents, generally, are among the most common causes of TBI. TBI victims can suffer life-long impairments and require life-long care.
- Crushing injuries – Tractor-trailers also pose a high risk of crushing injuries. Trucks can pin victims in their vehicles due to the impact and much greater mass of the tractor-trailer. This crushing can lead to internal bleeding, broken bones, and other severe injuries.
- Back and neck injuries – Back and neck injuries are common in any vehicle accident, but especially when a tractor-trailer is involved. These injuries can cause chronic pain, diminished mobility, and other life-changing impacts.
West Virginia Insurance and Tractor-Trailer Accidents
Insurance typically covers tractor-trailer accident claims. Tractor-trailer operators in West Virginia are must carry minimum liability policies if they cause an accident. But determining who all may be liable for a tractor-trailer accident may be more complicated. While you may at first assume the tractor-trailer driver is the only liable party, this is not always the case, such as when the tractor-trailer driver was driving as an employee at the time of the accident.
Some potentially liable parties, other than the tractor-trailer driver, include:
- Owner/Operator of the trucking company employing the driver
- The company responsible for loading/unloading trucks
- Any company or business that performed maintenance work on the truck
- Vehicle parts manufacturers
Each of these parties could have caused the accident, and thus their insurers must pay your claim. Because of this alone, the insurance claim process can be tedious, as different insurers try to avoid liability by pinning the blame for the accident on parties other than their insureds.
And insurance companies often generally slow down the claims process, even as you are desperate for compensation to cover your medical and other expenses from the accident. An insurance company wants to minimize your claim as much as possible to protect its bottom line. If multiple insurance companies are potentially on the hook for paying out, they will not only fight you but each other, which could prolong the claims process.
In the wake of a tractor-trailer accident, victims with medical bills stacking up naturally are desperate to figure out how to pay them and keep financially afloat.
Generally speaking, there are three resources from which West Virginia tractor-trailer accident victims can seek compensation:
- Victim’s insurance company – The quickest way to get compensation might be to file a claim with your insurer, though your policy might not fully cover your losses. If you carry a liability-only policy, your insurance might not cover anything
- File a third-party claim with the at-fault parties’ insurance companies – Filing a claim with the responsible parties’ insurers may take investigation and time, but is often the only way to recover compensation to cover all expenses.
- File a personal injury lawsuit – If filing insurance claims fails, your only option is likely to be to file a personal injury lawsuit in civil court. A lawsuit may prolong the process but often gets insurance companies to pay fair compensation.
If you are in a West Virginia tractor-trailer accident, or you lost a loved one in a tractor-trailer collision, seek help from an experienced tractor-trailer accident attorney as soon as possible. In West Virginia, accident victims generally have two years to file a lawsuit before their right to do so expires. Families who lose loved ones in tractor-trailer accidents generally have two years from the date of their loved one’s death to file.