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Owning Up: Astonishing rates of truck accidents across America

I. Injured by a Truck

Trucking accident lawyers develop a specialty unlike any other accident recovery in modern America. It’s probably because of the sheer size of the problem, in the numbers of accidents, drivers, and costs. Totally accurate statistics showing the number, and severity of trucking accidents across America, are virtually impossible to keep current with. That’s because literally every second, an accident occurs, causing the approximate sum of $5,000 in property damages alone. That’s every single second, of every single hour, in every day.

With so much carnage on the road caused by or involving commercial trucks, small wonder that there are attempts by trucking companies to shift some of their costs and risks onto the drivers themselves. When this happens, it’s imperative to speak with a trucking accident lawyer as soon as possible to protect your rights against all the parties involved… whether owner or operator.

II.  Major Culprits?

There are an amazing number of trucking companies operating in the states. Recent federal studies suggest that there are at least 530,000 trucking companies in the nation. Fleetwide, this represents more than 2.5 million trucks owned and operated by these companies.

A person has to be careful not to generalize about which companies or trucking operators are the “most dangerous.” On the other hand, studies routinely place three major tucking corporations at the top of accidents per mile of operation. Statistics may be temporary or aberrations. However, trucking accident lawyers will examine the safety and statistical records of accidents for any company that is operating trucks. These factors may affect your case and the liability of a trucking company or trucker.

Estimates vary somewhat, but it’s very likely that almost 5,000 people will be killed in the coming year, in crashes that involve some type of commercial truck traffic. Most of the casualties (97%) are going to be drivers or passengers in the non-truck vehicle, or vehicles. Vehicles, because trucks are also disproportionately involved in causing multi-vehicle damage and deaths.

III.   The Range of Trucking Accidents

Some truckers often complain that there have been inadequate changes to the Federal Motor Carrier Act for far too long (since 1977). Additionally, while many experts focus on the most severe cases of trucking accident fatalities, the actual damages are much more extensive.

Yet, there’s good news and bad news. For an extended period of time, there was actually a significant decrease in the number of injuries involving large trucks on American highways. From a high of 102,000 in 2002, trucking accidents dropped all the way down to around 60,000 in 2009. This represented a decrease of over 40%. Unfortunately, the numbers have crept back to almost the previous identical range, and reached 97,000 in 2015. The trend (or, the bad news) is exceedingly worrisome, because in 2016, the number increased past the previous high of 102,000, to reach almost 120,000. This means that commercial truck accident rates have increased over 65% since its 2009 low. Experts, such as trucking accident lawyers, know that fatalities are also on the increase. So are severe injuries. While bus crashes are accounting for a disproportionate amount of these new injuries and deaths, truck drivers themselves comprise only 3% of the total fatalities.

IV.  FedEx, For Example

Without meaning in any way to pick on Federal Express, it is one of the most common carriers to look to, for assessing trucking accident risks. As with many other trucking companies, there are serious questions about who actually works as an independent operator versus controlled employee of the Federal Express corporation. Studies suggest there are crucial differences in safety based on who is control of the trucking.

A major class action suit by the drivers at Fed Ex gave rare insights into exactly how that major trucking company does, and doesn’t, technically “hire” truck drivers. The case covered dozens of states around the country, including North Carolina. Every state had different rules about how truck drivers are treated: whether as employees or contractors. This diversity in state laws is why any truck accident in North Carolina requires the expertise of a trucking accident lawyer, preferably located in North Carolina. Unlike other states around the country, however, the truckers in North Carolina didn’t allege fraud or breach of contract against FedEx employment practices. Instead, the truckers just asked to let a court determine their employment status. The court looking at this class action noted that North Carolina has one single, “vital” test… Does the trucking company have the retained right to control the details of means and methods of doing the work? While this does appear to be a fairly simple test on its face, there are actually eight parts to decide whether not a trucking company has kept control. These factors include things such as whether or not the trucker has an independent business or is subject to being fired by the trucking company. Some other aspects of the tests may include hiring additional workers and having control over those workers. Once again, because of the complexity of a specific case and facts in that case, it is crucial to work only with an experienced trucking accident lawyer.

As noted above, there are more than a half a million auto trucking companies registered in United States. The issue of who is actually owning or mostly liable for trucking accidents is likely to get worse, based on these specific statistics. Why? Because if you peel back that half million number, for example, it represents a significant historical low in the number of trucking companies. In 2013, as the American economy was still struggling to recover from the Great Recession, there were actually almost 800,000 separate trucking companies in the country. Trying to fix the low rate of profit per mile or dollar spent has shaped the way trucking companies operate.

Ultimately, and with serious implications, the court in the class action case ruled that the specific North Carolina FedEx drivers were in fact independent contractors (applying what’s called the “Kansas Test”). The implications of this decision need to be interpreted in each case by an experienced trucking accident lawyer.

Conclusions:   

It would be impossible for any one person to master all of the statistics involving the likelihood of particular types of trucking accidents. But for North Carolina drivers or pedestrians hurt by a commercial truck accident, they should only be working with an experienced trucking accident lawyer. If you, a family member or a loved one have been hurt in a vehicle or accident related to a commercial truck, or semi trucking accident, or have questions involving related injury claims or your legal rights or hearings, please contact us.  You will speak with a trucking accident lawyer, who can best answer your questions.  There is never a fee for this initial consultation.

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