West Chester 18 Wheeler Accident Attorney
Large 18-wheeled trucks are responsible for thousands of fatal accidents every year. According to the National Safety Council’s latest data, an estimated 107,000 large trucks were involved in road crashes leading to injuries in 2020 alone.
Due to the truck’s weight, size, and bulk, 18-wheeler accidents are more likely to result in severe and fatal injuries, costly property damage, and involve multiple vehicles. When such crashes occur, the victims often feel helpless and powerless to pursue justice. Fortunately, the West Chester 18-wheeler accident lawyers at Wilk Law are dedicated to helping accident victims get the compensation they deserve.
Have you or your loved one been involved in an 18-wheeler crash in West Chester, Pennsylvania? Look no further than Wilk Law for fair legal representation in personal injury or wrongful death claims. The claim processes are riddled with bureaucracies, confusing paperwork, and endless obstacles that stand in the way of justice.
That’s why you need a powerful litigator like Wilk Law with the legal skills and experience to stand up against the big trucking and insurance companies. Here’s what an 18-wheeler accident attorney in West Chester can do for you:
- Gather strong evidence to support your claim or build your case
- Determine liability in an 18-wheeler accident case
- Take care of all the paperwork (claim forms, demand letters, medical records, expense receipts, etc.)
- Negotiate with insurers and trucking companies to ensure you get a fair settlement
- Fight aggressively for your rights in a court of law should the case go to trial
- Guide you in navigating the legal frameworks in claiming compensation or arguing in court
Wilk Law handles all the legal processes while you focus on recovering from injuries or getting on with your day-to-day life. And we’re nothing like those predatory law firms that exploit desperate car crash victims. For one, we do not charge for consultation; you only pay after we win. You can rest assured that your case is in capable and trustworthy hands.
In our line of work, we get asked many questions about semi-truck accidents in Pennsylvania. This article provides answers on the state of 18-wheeler crashes in Pennsylvania and how to get fair compensation after an accident.
Trucking Industry in Pennsylvania
Let’s start with a brief overview of the trucking industry in the state of Pennsylvania. For starters, Pennsylvania has over 120,500 miles of public roads. The Pennsylvania Department of Transport (PennDOT) oversees most (nearly 40,000 miles) state and local highways, such as the Lincoln and Roosevelt highways, US Route 202, and US Route 322; the rest are maintained by various state agencies and municipalities.
Trucking is a big industry in Pennsylvania. Road freight vehicles are the go-to transportation medium for hauling electronics, raw materials, fuel, foodstuffs, pharmaceuticals, and other commodities within Pennsylvania and across state lines to neighboring New York, Maryland, Ohio, New Jersey, and Delaware. To put Pennsylvania’s trucking industry into perspective, PennDOT registered nearly 150,000 new trucks rated between 26,000 lbs. and 80,000 lbs. in 2021 alone. Additionally, Pennsylvania is among the top five US states in trucker employment, with 87,390 truck drivers.
With so many trucks roaming the vast and busy Pennsylvania roadways, there are bound to be road accidents involving semis. In fact, some 18-wheeler road accidents are unavoidable (as we shall see later).
18-Wheeler Accident Trends
How often do 18-wheeler accidents happen in Pennsylvania, and what is the nature of these accidents? PennDOT’s annual publication of car crash statistics sheds light on the state of semi-truck accidents on Pennsylvanian roads. Here are five key highlights from the 2021 Pennsylvania Crash Facts & Statistics report:
- 7,244 (6.1%) of the 117,899 road crashes reported in 2021 involved heavy trucks.
- 144 heavy truck crashes were fatal.
- 2,117 trucks were involved in collisions with other vehicles.
- Over half (55.5%) of all truck accidents occurred on state highways
- Only 2.2% of crash fatalities were heavy truck occupants
We can make some informed deductions from the above statistics. One, heavy truck accidents make up a significant portion of Pennsylvania’s total road crashes and fatalities. Two, state highways are particularly dangerous for truckers, likely due to the higher truck traffic volume on such roads. And finally, truck drivers are less likely to lose their lives in road collisions; trucks pose a greater danger to other motorists and pedestrians in crashes.
Semi-Truck and 18-Wheeler Crashes Can Be Catastrophic
According to PennDOT, trucks were involved in 12.5% of all fatal car crashes. That’s a rather high and worrying fatality rate. Moreover, many road accidents involving heavy trucks are utterly devastating in terms of damages, injuries, and fatalities. Here are five reasons why 18-wheeler and semi-truck crashes can be so catastrophic:
A loaded 18-wheeler can weigh up to 80,000 pounds (40 tons). For comparison, the average passenger car weighs only 2 tons or 4,000 pounds. All that weight means a loaded truck can’t stop on a dime. According to the FMCSA, a loaded trailer traveling at 55 mph needs 196 feet to come to a complete stop in ideal road conditions. A passenger vehicle traveling at the same speed needs only 133 feet of stopping distance.
Plus, the momentum generated by the heavy load delivers a heavy punch upon impact, even at low speeds. And since semis have incredibly sturdy chassis and body panels, they are more like battering rams on wheels.
Poor Speed Judgement
It’s often difficult for other motorists and road users to judge a truck’s speed accurately. It’s easy to assume a truck is driving slower than it really is, especially at night. This can lead to dire miscalculations when cutting in front of a truck at an intersection or overtaking a truck on the motorway.
Poor Driver Visibility
18-wheelers are massive—the average US tractor-trailer measures about 72 feet long, 8.5 feet wide, and 13.5 feet tall. Even with the extra-large rearview mirrors, truck drivers still have poor visibility around their vehicles. For instance, big rigs have a 10-20 feet blind spot in front of the hood, a sweeping two-lane blind spot on either side and a 20-30 feet long blind spot behind the trailer. The truck can unintentionally collide with the vehicles or hazards that fall into any of these blind spots.
Some trucks transport hazardous materials such as oil, chemicals, and waste that can spew onto the road after a crash. Hazardous materials on the road can be a danger to other motorists in many ways, including slippery surfaces and fire risks.
Loaded semi-trucks are notoriously difficult to maneuver and require a sharp, alert, and decisive mind behind the wheel. Unfortunately, some truck drivers work long hours and rack up hundreds of miles daily. This inevitably leads to exhaustion, drowsiness, and burnout, critically impairing the driver’s reaction time and judgment.
What Are the Common Causes of Semi-Truck Crashes?
According to FMCSA’s Large Truck Crash Causation Study, most heavy truck crashes can be associated with the following critical events:
- Running out of the travel lane and driving into another lane or off the road.
- Losing control of the rig due to overspeeding, vehicle systems failure, shifting cargo, or poor road conditions.
- Rearending other vehicles in the truck’s travel lane.
Generally, each of the three critical events can be linked to one or a combination of these factors:
The FMCSA found driver error to be responsible for a majority (87%) of 18-wheeler crashes. Driver error encompasses everything the driver does or fails to do, leading to an unavoidable collision. Common driver errors include impairment, fatigue, distracted driving, speeding, poor judgment, panicking, and overcorrecting.
Like other vehicles, trucks, too, can malfunction. However, a lot more can go wrong in a truck to cause an accident. These are the most common truck malfunction issues associated with road crashes (listed in descending order):
- Brake failure
- Tire/wheel problems
- Steering failure
- Unsecure/improperly hitched trailer or imbalanced load
- Power train failure
- Suspension defects (misalignment, collapse, damage, etc.)
- Lighting issues
Environmental factors have to do with the prevailing road, traffic, or weather conditions beyond the driver’s or vehicle’s control. These include roadworks, hazards on the road (potholes, debris, fallen trees, etc.), chaotic traffic, bad weather, inadequate road signage, and poorly placed intersections.
A truck accident lawyer analyzes each case to find the root cause of the problem and the liable party. For instance, a negligent driver, the road maintenance authorities, or some unavoidable circumstance might be to blame for an 18-wheeler accident.
Tactics The Trucking Companies Will Use To Trick You
Most commercial semi-trucks work as fleet vehicles for large trucking companies. Usually, trucking companies take out covers for their vehicles with big insurers. In an ideal world, the insurer compensates truck accident victims fairly by covering their medical expenses and other damages. But that’s not always the case. Big insurance companies have armies of aggressive lawyers and claim adjusters whose sole purpose is to deny or undercut claims on any possible grounds. They will employ all sorts of social engineering tactics to keep you from getting your rightful compensation.
Here are some of the common ways insurance companies trick you into accepting lowball settlement offers or even walking away empty-handed:
Calling You Soon After the Accident
A road accident can be a traumatizing experience for everyone involved. Even a few hours after the accident, your mind may still be racing as you try to make sense of the situation and get medical attention. Insurance adjusters may choose that moment to contact you in the hope of taking advantage of your compromised state of mind to drive their motive.
The adjuster will try to contact you as soon as possible—before you’ve had time to speak to a lawyer or get a full medical examination. They’ll probably sweet talk you or twist your words into admitting fault for the accident or taking other claim-jeopardizing actions.
Offering a Quick Settlement
A quick offer from a truck accident insurer is always a red flag. If the insurer is too quick to settle, your claim is probably worth a lot more than whatever they’re offering. This is a common tactic used to quiet down claimants and stop them from pursuing their claims further.
Asking For Your Medical Records
Think twice before signing a blanket medical authorization. Doing so gives the insurer unlimited access to all your medical records. The insurer only needs to see the medical records pertaining to the injuries incurred during the accident, not your entire medical history. Often, this is a ploy to find any pre-existing medical conditions the insurer can pin on your injuries or involvement in the crash.
Downplaying Your Injuries
The insurance adjuster may try to downplay your injuries, citing that they are not as severe as you claim. They may even refer you to a specific medical institution or urge you not to get medical treatment at all.
Delaying The Process
Insurers can deliberately delay the claim process to buy more time for their investigations, overrun certain deadlines, or frustrate you in pursuing the claim. Unnecessary delays are also a common tactic for getting claimants to settle for less than they are owed.
Urging You Not to Hire an Attorney
Claim investigators and adjusters hate dealing with lawyers. They’ll try to convince you there’s no need to get a lawyer involved in the case. Without a lawyer, they know they can take advantage of your limited legal knowledge to manipulate your decisions. Remember, hiring a truck wreck lawyer is your best bet at getting fair compensation.
What Is a Settlement Agreement?
A settlement agreement or mutual/general release is a binding contract that settles a dispute between two parties. In the case of an 18-wheeler accident, a settlement means monetary compensation for the injuries and damages incurred by the accident’s victim.
In Pennsylvania, you may claim compensation for medical expenses, out-of-pocket losses, cost of future care, and personal injuries that are a direct result of a road accident. However, the settlement details and amount depend on a number of factors, including the type of insurance, the at-fault party, and the nature of the injuries. The claimant and the insurance company discuss the settlement terms based on all these factors to arrive at an agreeable sum.
If an agreement is not reached during claim negotiations, the claimant may opt to take the case to trial, where a jury presides over the dispute and settlement terms.
Mistakes People Make Which Ruin Their Cases
As one of West Chester’s top accident attorneys for over 20 years, we’ve seen well-meaning people make seemingly innocent mistakes that ruin their cases. Here’s our round-up of common mistakes to avoid when claiming compensation after a truck accident:
- Sharing too much about the accident or case (with insurance adjusters, friends, or on social media)
- Agreeing to record a statement with the insurance adjuster
- Refusing to seek medical care
- Disobeying the doctor’s orders
- Not reporting the accident to the police
- Settling too soon or for the first offer
- Waiting too long to file a claim
- Believing the insurance adjuster is your friend
- Trying to handle the case without a lawyer
Originally known as Turk’s Head—after an old inn located in what is now the town’s center; West Chester, PA, is a borough and the county seat of Chester County (since 1786), one of the 67 Pennsylvania counties. The town is nestled in the heart of the Brandywine Valley and is home to 18,630 Pennsylvanians. West Chester has a rich history, a vibrant community, and that unmistakable small-town charm.
Road-wise, West Chester has 33.82 miles of public roads, most of which are maintained by the borough. US 202 and US 322 are the two major highways serving the town. A network of tarmac ribbons, including West Chester Pike, Gay Street, High Street, Market Street, and PA 162, crisscross the town, linking various key destinations.
Experienced Pennsylvania Law Firm
Clearly, insurance companies can take advantage of you by lowballing your settlement or denying your claim altogether. But don’t worry, Wilk Law is here to ensure you get the compensation you deserve, down to the last penny. We will fight tirelessly for you at the negotiation table and in court until fair and satisfactory justice is served.
Contact us today to get a trusted, competent, and experienced West Chester 18-wheeler accident attorney by your side.