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Determining Fault in Northeastern Arkansas’ Highway Truck Accident Hotspots

Offered by McDaniel Law Firm, PLC

Being struck by a fully loaded, 80,000 lb. semi-truck barreling down the highway at 65 mph can be devastating and life altering for the victim and their family. 

For victims and their families deserving compensation for medical bills, lost earnings, disability, pain, suffering, and emotional loss, truck accidents can be very complicated. Commercial motor vehicles and interstate motor carriers frequently carry multiple insurance policies. The insurance companies and the trucking companies are focused entirely on protecting their own interests. After a crash, the motor carrier or trucking company will immediately begin taking steps to protect itself from accepting full responsibility for the harm it has caused. It will work to secure favorable evidence and avoid disclosing unfavorable evidence.  The motor carrier and its insurers will point fingers at the victim, other drivers, and even their own driver.

A trucking wreck is not simply a car accident. The commercial trucking industry is controlled by separate rules and regulations designed to protect the public from the catastrophic consequences of a collision with such large, heavy, and fast-moving equipment on the public highways. There may be layers of responsibility between a trucking company, an owner-operator, a shipper or broker, and others. An experienced Arkansas trucking attorney is necessary to level the playing field, secure the evidence, identify all the past and future harms and losses, and hold the trucking company, brokers, shippers, and insurance companies accountable.

Northeastern Arkansas crash hotspots

Every year there are thousands of serious truck accidents on Arkansas highways. Every region has its crash hotspots. In the northeastern part of the state, Mississippi County and Crittenden County have several stretches of highway that are particularly dangerous for motorists.

The most serious truck accidents in Crittenden County often take place in the greater West Memphis area near I-40, I-55, and I-555 on/off ramps. Car and motorcycle drivers should be extra cautious near highway entry and exit ramps. About 25 percent of all highway truck accidents are near or on ramps, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. This includes crashes when a driver is exiting, entering, or at the midpoint of an access road or on-ramp.

Often, the crashes are due to merging errors: a trucker doesn’t notice another vehicle in their blind spot or is driving distracted, for example. Other factors can be isolated to the truck, like faulty brakes or an overloaded trailer. The most common types of ramp-related crashes are rear-end crashes, sideswipe/cutoff wrecks, and run-off-road crashes.

The risk of ramp accidents increases at nighttime, during bad weather, and on ramps with sharp curves. Commercial trucks are particularly dangerous when entering and exiting the highway because they take wide turns and are prone to losing stability.

Efforts to stop highway tractor-trailer truck wrecks 

Traffic studies have suggested various methods to improve on/off ramp safety. The IIHS says that to reduce highway ramp truck accidents, officials could:

  • Alter ramp speeds
  • Elongate ramp curves to soften sharp turns or corners
  • Extend the length of acceleration or merge lanes
  • Install speed cameras
  • Install equipment that can detect unexpected congestion
  • Use highway message signs to alert drivers to traffic congestion ahead
  • Raise public awareness

While Arkansas has projects underway to improve highway safety, there will always be the potential for needless truck accidents. No matter how well a highway is designed, sometimes you cannot protect against unsafe, drowsy, or distracted truck drivers. It falls on trucking companies to make sure their drivers are safe and their vehicles are operated safely.

Who is at fault in an Arkansas truck accident?

When a semi-truck gets into an accident, it’s rarely just the trucker behind the wheel who is at fault. Any trip by truck represents the efforts of more than one business. This means that there may be multiple parties responsible for the crash and the human losses it causes, including:

  • Trucking company
  • Truck owner
  • Cargo owner
  • Cargo loaders
  • Maintenance crew
  • Inspectors
  • Manufacturer of the truck or parts of the truck

For instance, if a tractor-trailer truck rolls over while taking an off-ramp at an unsafe speed, the truck driver is likely liable, but if improperly loaded cargo causes the truck to become unstable and contributes to the rollover, then the company that loaded the cargo may be partially liable as well. If problems with the truck’s brakes contributed to the wreck, then the manufacturer of the brakes or the company that maintained the brakes may be at fault. These are complex, factually intensive situations that require extensive investigation.  It is also extremely important this evidence is collected and analyzed quickly before valuable information is lost.

A trucking company looking at compensating a family for catastrophic and permanent harms and losses will also try to blame the victim, regardless of how the wreck happened. It will even work to convince the victim or her family that a mediocre settlement is in their interest because they might not recover money at trial. 

Arkansas is a modified comparative fault state with a 50 percent bar rule. That means accident victims can recover compensation if they are less than 50 percent at fault for the crash, but the recovery is reduced by the percentage of fault. For instance, if you are found 30 percent at fault, your recovery will be reduced by 30 percent. However, if you are more than 50 percent at fault, you generally can’t recover at all. Therefore, it is essential you have an experienced trucking lawyer to respond to the trucking company and their insurance company’s efforts to deflect blame and prove it was entirely within their power, training, and obligations by law to avoid or prevent the wreck completely. 

Legal help for truck accident victims

People who are injured or lose a loved one in a trucking accident can pursue compensation for their losses through the civil justice system. In practice, however, getting that money can be difficult. An experienced truck accident attorney can help you fight for the compensation you need to make a full recovery. They can:

  • Identify who is at-fault in the accident
  • Conduct a deep investigation into what happened
  • Find evidence to support your claim that may have otherwise gone unnoticed
  • Talk directly with insurance adjusters
  • Negotiate a significant settlement
  • File a civil lawsuit, if necessary

Again, in trucking cases, there are often multiple liable parties. This is a double-edged sword: it means there is potentially more available insurance coverage to pay for the damages, but it also gives insurance adjusters the opportunity to shift blame or muddy the waters to reduce the victim’s settlement.  That’s one important reason it is best to consult a lawyer to make sure that the demands and facts of a case are stated clearly. An experienced truck accident attorney can help you and your loved ones navigate this complex legal and financial situation to find the best path forward.

Experienced and qualified truck accident lawyers almost always work on contingency. This means there is no up-front cost and no out-of-pocket expenses. The fee is a percentage of the final recovery, and it is only paid if the lawyer wins.

Personal injury attorneys typically offer free case evaluations to accident victims. Talking to a lawyer is not an obligation to file a lawsuit; it is an opportunity to tell your story and get essential answers about your legal rights and options. If you’ve been hurt in a truck accident, do not delay taking action. It is essential that you understand your rights, protect your future, and prevent being hurt a second time. An experienced and reputable truck accident attorney can help and be there for you every step of the way. 

McDaniel Law Firm, PLC is a personal injury law firm in Jonesboro, AR.

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At the McDaniel Law Firm, PLC, we’ve earned a reputation for being experienced personal injury lawyers in Jonesboro who fight tirelessly on behalf of injury victims throughout the...