In truck accident injury cases, truck drivers and the companies they work for often claim that the accident occurred because of weather conditions that were beyond the truck driver's control. This argument is used as a defense to shirk responsibility for the accident and avoid paying for the damages suffered by others in the accident.
The reality is that weather rarely plays a role in accidents and is almost never the primary cause of truck accidents. In the hundreds of truck accident injury cases handled at Sachs Waldman over the years, we've never seen a case in which the accident could not have been prevented had the truck driver acted responsibly for the weather conditions at the time of the accident.
Actually, if all truck drivers obeyed all federal and state regulations for the industry and drove the way they are trained to drive, nearly all truck accidents could be avoided. Federal laws and the laws of most states, including Michigan, hold commercial truck drivers to a higher standard of responsibility than the average motorist. This is because they spend more time on the road, earn a living by driving, and drive monstrous vehicles that weigh up to 40 tons and cause catastrophic damage in an accident with other motorists.
For example, in inclement weather, when visibility is reduced, Michigan law and federal law require truck drivers to reduce their speed to 1/3 of the posted speed limit. So if the posted speed limit is 60 miles per hour, under weather conditions with reduced visibility a truck driver should drive 20 miles per hour. But when was the last time you saw a semi-truck driving 20 miles per hour?
Automobile drivers are not required to reduce their speed so drastically. The difference lies in how long it takes to stop a tractor-trailer rig. Because of its size and weight, it takes considerably more distance to bring a semi to a complete stop than it does a sedan or similar size vehicle. Wet pavement, ice or snow compounds the problem further.
Another difference in requirements between truck drivers and other motorists is the level of care they are supposed to take when road and weather conditions become dangerous. Drivers of cars are required by law to take "reasonable care" while truck drivers are required to take "extreme caution." So commercial truck drivers are required to be much more cautious in dangerous weather and road conditions than other motorists. This means taking extra precautions, like getting off the road before conditions become unpredictable or dangerous, even though automobile drivers may not be getting off the road.
While many truck drivers make every effort to drive responsibly and follow regulations, it's the handful of truck drivers who ignore trucking laws and safety guidelines who cause most truck accidents. Often they are pressured by the companies who hire them to ignore safety rules in order to deliver cargo faster and on schedule. But regardless of whether a truck driver regularly ignores laws and regulations or caused an accident due to a one time lapse in judgement, when truck drivers cause accidents they should be held accountable for all the injuries and damages they cause.
However, getting truckers and trucking companies to take responsibility for their actions is no small task. Trucking companies and their insurance companies hire skillful lawyers and often employ unethical tricks to avoid paying for the pain, suffering and other damages experienced by the people they hurt.
At Sachs Waldman, our Detroit truck accident attorneys have extensive experience combating trucking companies and their defense lawyers. We know the tricks they employ and how to build a case that will stand up to an aggressive defense. If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in an accident involving a commercial truck, call our Wayne County personal injury law office and schedule a free initial consultation: 1-800-638-6722.