blog home Truck Accident Is handling a tractor-trailer case more difficult than a car accident case?

Is handling a tractor-trailer case more difficult than a car accident case?

By Beth Gibson on August 10, 2019

In this interview, Virginia personal injury lawyers John Singleton and Ken Gibson discuss how a collision with a semi-truck isn’t the same as a collision with another car. So how can you get justice? Let’s hear what they have to say:

Could several parties be involved in my injury by a tractor-trailer?

John: “A tractor-trailer case is dynamic, because there are so many different parties who can become defendants.

“Let’s say you’re rolling down I-64 or, more likely, on I-81, and you’re involved in a wreck with a tractor-trailer. Obviously, the first person that you’re going to look at for liability is the driver of the tractor. (The tractor is the cab, and the trailer is whatever they’re hauling. You look at these as two different parts because they are potentially two different animals.)

“Then, you’re looking at, ‘Who is his employer? Is he an independent contractor who just picked up a load for pay, by the mile, by the load, by the location? Or is he an employee of one of the larger trucking companies?’ That’s two defendants, right there.

“Number three, you might start looking at, ‘Whose load was he hauling? How did he pick it up?’ and, ‘Who actually loaded it? Was it overloaded? Is he hauling logs? Is he hauling hogs? Is he hauling grain? Is he hauling boxes? Is he hauling an intermodal container that’s just come off a ship down in Norfolk or Newport News?’

“Then you might look at the person who does the maintenance on the tractor, or the maintenance on the trailer, if equipment failure caused the wreck. Even the trailer might be owned by somebody else—generally a shell company located in either Tennessee or Maine (I don’t know why). And they’re very hard to get at, but you have to look at all of those people.”

Why are semi-truck accidents often so serious?

Ken: “One of the reasons these tractor-trailer accidents—really wrecks—are so catastrophic is that an average tractor-trailer weighs about 80,000 pounds. Most personal vehicles are anywhere from 2,000 to 4,000 pounds, so when you combine those forces, there’s some very, very bad results.”

What does GibsonSingleton do to get my tractor-trailer case ready?

Ken: “The challenge here is we have to gather all the information about the tractor-trailer, about the safety logs, and about the trip logs. Was the driver tired? Did he exceed the maximum hours of driving time required by federal regulations?

“We conduct extensive discovery: the process of exchanging information between the tractor-trailer defendant and our client. We want to subpoena documents, and we want to conduct depositions, which are sworn statements from the driver, from the company that hired the driver, and from any other witness who has information about the case. The key is to gather as much information as we can, because the tractor-trailer company is going to hire a team of lawyers to defend these cases. There’s a lot of insurance coverage on the line for the tractor-trailer and the driver.”

Where do you get your information in my tractor-trailer accident case?

John: “A tractor-trailer is a goldmine of data. As Ken was mentioning, the driver has to fill out a logbook every time he moves. Every time he’s in service, he needs to say when he started and when he stopped. And when he’s at rest, he needs to log that in. It’s by location, it’s by time, it’s by date. In a serious case, the investigating officer is going to look at that logbook and probably make copies, and that will be part of the officer’s investigative file.

“But you’ve got to know to ask specifically for that data. You also have to look at the ‘bill of lading’—the documentation that goes with the load. It doesn’t matter what the driver’s hauling, hogs or logs, there’s going to be a bill of lading to tell you where he picked it up, and where he’s going. A lot of times, you can back into that data and say, ‘Well, he picked these grapefruit up in Indian River, Florida, and he was going to Maine, and he’s 300 miles from Indian River, but he says he’s only been driving for three hours. That’s not possible.’ You know it, but you’ve got to be able to get all of those records together to prove it.

“The modern tractor-trailer has a lot of on-board equipment. They’ve got satellite navigation, they’ve got satellite tracking, they’ve got fuel consumption tracking, and you want to access all that data. That’s difficult, because the trucking company is going to say, ‘It doesn’t have anything to do with this case, so you don’t have any right to it,’ and, ‘Oh, sorry, we only keep it for three months and it’s been destroyed.’ Which may or may not be true, but that’s sometimes what they say. So, again, you’ve got to know to go out and look for it, and you’ve got to know how to get it.”

What’s the most important thing for me to know if I’m hurt by a tractor-trailer in Virginia?

Ken: “As you can tell, these tractor-trailer cases not only create terrible injuries to clients who’ve been in a wreck, but also they’re very complex. The tractor-trailer companies offer a fierce defense, but we’re ready to take these cases on and help you through this difficult process.”

As former U.S. Marines, John and Ken know how to go after an opponent and work smarter to get the job done right. Our team gathers strong evidence before asking the trucking company and other defendants for compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and other expenses. To set up a free consultation with our Virginia truck accident lawyers, call (804) 413-6777.

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Prevention, empathy, and diligence are hallmarks of everything we do at GibsonSingleton Virginia Injury Attorneys. Our community can see these ideals lived out in our work to prevent personal injuries from happening.

  • Safety Education
    GibsonSingleton launches a “Texts=Wrecks” campaign to reduce the number of people injured or killed by distracted drivers.
  • Annual Coat Drive
    During the fall, our team works to distribute coats to people in need in our community.
  • Hands-on Service
    John and Ken join the Gloucester Point Rotary Club in cleaning up the community.
  • Supporting Local Schools
    The Gibson family participates in Gloucester’s Botetourt Elementary Shuffle fundraiser.