Virginia is home to 70,000 miles of public roads and 1,000 miles of interstate.
Every year, roughly 34,000 registered trucks use these roadways to transport more than 900 million tons of freight. All of this large truck traffic is good for Virginia's economy, but it's not so good for the safety of other road users.
A truck accident is more likely than a car accident to result in serious or fatal injuries. What's more, large truck accidents aren't always treated the same as car accidents under the law.
Let's take a look at some things you should know if you or a loved one is involved in a truck accident in the Old Dominion State.
In Virginia, large truck crashes (semis, tractor-trailers, big rigs, etc.) made up only 1.9% of all traffic crashes in 2018. However, more than 35% of large truck accidents resulted in injury or death.
Across the United States, 4,136 people died in large truck crashes in 2018. Only 16% of these deaths were truck occupants, whereas 67% were occupants of passenger vehicles and 15% were pedestrians, bicyclists, or motorcyclists.
|Virginia crashes involving large trucks (2018)|
Truck accidents are devastating to passenger-vehicle occupants because trucks often weigh 20 to 30 times as much as passenger cars and are taller with greater ground clearance.
But what causes truck accidents?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) investigated the actions that lead to large truck accidents and found that they could generally be broken down into 6 categories:
The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (VDMV) tracked truck crashes in 2018 and found that the following truck driver actions preceded truck crashes:
|Virginia truck driver action preceding accident (2018)|
|Driver action||Number of accidents||Percentage of crashes|
|Improper lane change||295||10.8%|
|Avoiding another vehicle||58||2.1%|
|Failure to yield||44||1.6%|
|Following too closely||247||9.0%|
|Hit and run||22||0.8%|
|Left of center (not passing)||19||0.7%|
|Ran traffic control||16||0.6%|
|No improper action||1,248||45.7%|
Driver fatigue is a serious problem in the trucking industry. Fatigue can impact a driver's response times, ability to maintain focus, and ability to make good decisions.
According to a study conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), approximately 13% of commercial vehicle drivers who crash are fatigued. Because of these risks, federal laws governing the trucking industry establish certain hours-of-service limitations that truck drivers must follow.
|Hours-of-service limitations for commercial drivers|
|Work||Property-carrying vehicles||Passenger-carrying vehicles|
|On-duty||Maximum 14 consecutive hours on-duty following 10 consecutive hours off-duty||Maximum 15 hours on-duty following 8 consecutive hours off-duty|
|Driving time||Maximum 11 hours of driving during the 14-hour on-duty period||Maximum 10 hours of driving following 8 consecutive hours off-duty|
|Weekly||Maximum 60 hours on-duty in any period of 7 consecutive days (if the vehicle operates every day) or maximum 70 hours on-duty in any period of 8 consecutive days (if the vehicle doesn't operate every day)||Maximum 60 hours on-duty in any period of 7 consecutive days (if the vehicle operates every day) or maximum 70 hours on-duty in any period of 8 consecutive days (if the vehicle doesn't operate every day)|
To recover damages in a Virginia truck accident, you first need to prove that someone else was responsible (i.e., at fault) for the accident in which you were injured.
In most cases, the at-fault party will be one of the following:
In Virginia, the legal theory of respondeat superior can be used to hold a trucking company responsible for the actions of its truck driver employees. Under this theory, the employer is liable for the actions of its employees so long as the driver's actions were:
Virginia is one of the few states in the country that follows the pure comparative fault rule. Under this rule, the plaintiff is prohibited from recovering ANY damages if they're found even the slightest bit at fault for the accident.
For example, if a jury finds that a truck driver was 97% at fault for your accident because the driver ran a red light, but also found that you were 3% at fault for failing to turn your headlights on at dusk, you'll be prohibited from recovering any damages.
This might not seem fair, but it's the law.
The bad news is that truck accidents often result in catastrophic damages. The good news is that Virginia allows truck accident victims to recover both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages refer to the loss of monetary resources. Noneconomic damages are those damages that aren't easily quantifiable.
Here's a breakdown of what each category entails:
|Damages available in a Virginia truck accident lawsuit|
|Economic damages||Non-economic damages|
|Property damages||Pain and suffering|
|Medical expenses||Emotional distress|
|Lost wages||Loss of consortium|
In Virginia, certain family members can file a wrongful death lawsuit if their loved one was killed in a truck accident. Filing a wrongful death lawsuit is a lot like filing a negligence lawsuit in the sense that the family member still has to prove that the truck driver (or some party other than the deceased) was at fault in order to receive compensation.
Once the family member establishes liability, the family member can recover certain damages for the losses sustained as a result of the deceased's death (such as sorrow and mental anguish and the loss of the deceased's care).
The steps you should take after a Virginia truck accident are similar to the steps you should take following a car accident in Virginia:
Truck accidents with passenger cars tend to result in more serious injuries than collisions between two or more passenger cars. Sometimes, the aftermath of a truck accident can stick with a person for life, which is why it's crucial that you receive the money you need to handle your ongoing and future medical and life care expenses. These serious injuries can include...