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Articles Posted in Tractor-Trailer Accidents

There are many steps involved in the litigation of a Knoxville truck accident case. While the need for an initial investigation (such as the interviewing of witnesses, the gathering of records, and the like) and the filing of a formal complaint in the appropriate court are essential, these steps represent only the beginning of what can be a very lengthy process.

Securing service of process and answering discovery requests is also required, and many cases require the plaintiff to respond to various motions, including summary judgment motions seeking dismissal of the case. Of course, each case is unique and must be addressed on its own merits.

In some cases, a plaintiff may even have to go through the appellate process before having an opportunity to have his or her day in court. In a recent case, the plaintiff actually had his case go up on appeal twice during the pre-trial phase of the litigation.

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In a Tennessee truck accident case, an injured person may be able to recover money damages for several different types of loss, including loss of earning capacity. In simple terms, this means that the defendant has to pay the plaintiff the money that he or she would have been able to earn but for the accident.

Loss of earning capacity can be temporary (until the plaintiff physically recovers from the accident and returns to work), or it can be permanent (when the plaintiff is unlikely to ever be able to go back to work). The burden of proof is on the plaintiff to provide evidence of his or her lost earnings, both past and future, resulting from the wreck.

Sometimes, a jury may award an amount of damages that, when considered by the trial court judge or the court of appeals, was not in line with the evidence introduced at trial. Rather than start over with a new trial, the court may issue a “remittitur,” which reduces the amount the plaintiff ultimately receives as to one or more elements of damages but does not otherwise disturb the jury’s verdict in his or her favor as to liability or other issues. In other words, the plaintiff still wins; he or she just gets less money than the jury awarded.

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In an east Tennessee truck accident case, the plaintiff has the burden of proof. This means that he or she must provide proof sufficient to convince the jury, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the defendant’s failure to act in a reasonably prudent manner was the proximate cause of his or her injuries. In most cases, this evidence includes the testimony of one or more physicians who are qualified to explain to the jury the nature and extent of the plaintiff’s physical injuries, treatment, and limitations. If the defendant disagrees with the qualifications of the plaintiff’s proposed expert witness(es), a motion to exclude the testimony may be filed. The trial court will then rule upon the motion, and whichever party is aggrieved thereby may eventually seek the review of an appellate court regarding the decision.

Facts of the Case

In a recent federal court case, the plaintiff filed suit against the defendants, seeking compensation for personal injuries he allegedly suffered in a rear-end collision involving his van and their tractor-trailer. The defendants filed a motion to exclude the testimony of the plaintiff’s treating physician and medical expert, arguing that the doctor did not state in his deposition that he was serving as an expert witness, the doctor did not examine any documents other than the plaintiff’s medical records and was not aware of any facts related to the accident, the doctor’s report lacked a method of reasoning as to his conclusion that the accident at issue caused the injuries complained of by the plaintiff, the doctor did not connect his experience to his conclusions, and/or the doctor did not take into account possible causes of the plaintiff’s injuries other than the accident.

The plaintiff responded that, even if the doctor’s report was “technically deficient,” it would not be appropriate for the court to exclude it because any alleged failure to disclose it was harmless in that it did not prejudice the defendants.

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Tennessee is a “modified comparative fault” state. This means that, in deciding the effect that a plaintiff’s own negligence has on the outcome of a personal injury lawsuit, the plaintiff can only recover damages if he or she is found to be less than 50% at fault.

If the jury attributes 50% or more of the fault to the plaintiff, he or she cannot recover any compensation from the defendant. If the plaintiff is 49% or less at fault, he or she recovers the percentage of his or her damages assigned to the defendant. For instance, if the jury finds that the plaintiff suffered $100,000 in damages but was 25% at fault, the trial court will enter a net judgment of $75,000 in the plaintiff’s favor.

Facts of the Case

It is truly appalling the lengths to which some businesses and insurance companies will go in order to limit or prevent recovery by those hurt due to the negligence of truckers and trucking companies.

In the case discussed below, a professional trucker allegedly presented an accident victim with a document releasing the trucker’s employer from all liability – at the scene of the accident! When that didn’t work, the trucking company hired an investigator, who contacted the victim later that day to discuss a settlement.

Even though the investigator was aware that the accident victim was hurt in the wreck and had been to the hospital, he asked the accident victim to sign a “Release of All Claims” document just two days after the accident. Of the $10,000 settlement, just $215 was allocated for the victim’s personal injury claim. Unfortunately, the man signed the document.

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When a case goes to trial, it is up to the trial court judge to determine the specific evidence that may be introduced by the parties and considered by the jury in deciding the issues.

When one of the parties is aggrieved by an evidentiary ruling at trial, that party may opt to appeal the judge’s decision to a higher court for review.

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A semi-truck driver was unfortunately killed and three other people were hurt in a recent collision between two big rigs on Interstate 75. According to local law enforcement officials, a fire erupted after two tractor-trailers collided head-on in Campbell County near Caryville. A representative for the Tennessee Highway Patrol stated a northbound big rig that was being driven by a 49-year-old Russell Springs man allegedly crossed the median near exit 134 before striking another truck that was headed in the opposite direction. Apparently, the collision resulted in an explosion and chemical fire that forced officers to evacuate the roadway for several hours. Both trucks were reportedly engulfed in flames following the accident.

The afternoon tractor-trailer crash purportedly closed the Interstate in both directions while a hazardous materials crew engaged in what was initially believed to be a radioactive materials clean-up effort. Thankfully, no such materials were discovered by authorities. Sadly, one of the semi-truck drivers died at the scene of the collision. The other driver and two firefighters who responded to the tragic wreck were reportedly transported to the University of Tennessee Medical Center for treatment. At least one patient was taken to the hospital via Lifestar helicopter. According to the Tennessee Highway Patrol, the exact cause of the fatal collision is still under investigation.

Due to the many state and federal trucking laws and regulations, a tractor-trailer wreck can involve a number of unique pieces of evidence that do not exist in other traffic accident cases, such as maintenance logs, on-board computer information, and driver logs. In addition, the victim of a Knoxville traffic accident that was caused by a semi-truck driver may be entitled to recover monetary damages for his or her lost wages and benefits, medical bills, any temporary or permanent disability that resulted from the truck crash, pain and suffering, and more. Certain relatives of someone who was killed due to a tractor-trailer driver’s negligent act may also be eligible to recover for their family member’s wrongful death.
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Last Thursday, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported on a story about a Tennessee man who survived being crushed between an eighteen wheeler and a concrete median.

The driver of a Toyota Camry was travelling east on I-40 near the Campbell Station Road exit when a tractor trailer suddenly started merging into his lane. The Camry driver tried to alert the big rig by honking, but the rig continued to merge pinning the Camry against a concrete median.

Rescue workers tried to free the driver from the Camry with barely two feet of space between the tractor trailer and the concrete. The man finally emerged from the mangled metal Camry. Amazingly, he did not even have a scratch.
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Most trucking and bus companies operate their business in a safe and professional manner. Despite this, every once in awhile the news reports on a tragic accident by a company that has flaunted safety laws.

When a motor carrier accident happens it involves several parties, and the state and federal laws that apply can be complicated. If you or someone you know has been injured in a motor carrier accident, you are encouraged to contact an experienced Tennessee truck accident lawyer who knows how to get you the compensation you deserve.

On January 17th, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (“FMCSA”) announced new rules giving them authority to shut down motor carriers that have shown an “egregious disregard” for federal safety regulations. The FMCSA regulates the trucking industry in the United States. The new rules were created after frustration with companies and executives using “reincarnated” or “chameleon carriers” to move their assets or to establish complicated organizational structures to evade FMCSA violations.

We are intent on shutting down bus and truck companies that willfully endanger the public. [The agency will use] the rule to take stronger action against businesses and individuals that have a history of disregarding basic safety standards.

— FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro

The new regulations were brought about after years of complaints from the U.S. Congress and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) when highly reported and extremely tragic accidents happened despite attempts by the FMCSA to remove carriers with severe safety violations from the road.
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If big rigs get any bigger, as some Congressmen are apparently hoping will happen, we can all but guarantee a spike in the number of injuries and fatalities attributed to tractor-trailer accidents in Tennessee.

It’s simple physics, really.

We know that the bigger a vehicle is, the more damage it is liable to cause. This is especially true when vehicles are only designed to hold a certain threshold of weight and are then overloaded. This poses a danger not only to the driver, but to everyone else who shares the road.

As it stands now, the maximum weight limit threshold is 80,000 pounds. A bill currently moving through the U.S. House of Representatives would up that to 97,000 pounds.

Increasing this weight limit will not serve to reduce overloading vehicles. That will still happen. It’s just that with a measure like this, these massive trucks will have the power to inflict even more damage in collisions with motor vehicles.

The only ones who benefit from this are large shipping and trucking firms, which will be able to fatten their pockets by increasing the amount they can deliver at a time.

However, the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association, a group of about 150,000 smaller trucking operations, is staunchly opposed to HR612, mostly for safety reasons but also because the vast majority of trucking firms won’t be able to afford to upgrade their fleet – usually consisting of 20 or fewer vehicles – to compete with the newer, larger models in states that choose to adopt the new federal standards, should they get approval.

It wasn’t long ago that Congress grappled with this same issue. Last year, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), which revamped federal highway safety standards, rejected a proposal to increase tractor-trailer truck weight and size limits. Instead, it ordered a comprehensive study on the impacts of larger trucks on the integrity of highway infrastructure, motor vehicle safety and the economy. We are still awaiting the results of this research, though the Federal Highway Administration conducted its mandated listening session as part of that study at the U.S. Department of Transportation headquarters in Washington D.C. in late May.

In addition to opposition from OOIDA, the Automobile Association of America has come out against efforts to increase size and weight limits on commercial trucks. With a membership some 50 million strong, this could be a powerful voice in talking down these efforts.

As it currently stands, there are some 28,000 motor carrier companies across the country that are actively violating federal safety standards, having a direct impact on safety for all those who travel the highways. Increasing truck size limits won’t help to reduce that number. It will however give these companies more room to push the limits, which in turn puts us all at even greater risk.

And as the OOIDA underscores, the change is in no way necessary to help improve the greater good.
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