How serious of a problem are accidents with heavy trucks?
We are sure that all of Canada still mourns for the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team members killed or injured in 2018 when their bus collided with a transport truck at a highway intersection near Tisdale, Saskatchewan. The crash killed 16 team members of the 28 Broncos on the bus, including players, coaches and other team staff, headed for a hockey game in the neighboring community of Nipawin. As the Broncos bus entered an intersection on the highway, it was struck by a transport truck carrying bales of peat moss, which had failed to stop at the flashing stop signs at the crossroads, as it was required by law to do. The 29-year-old truck driver, who was a new truck driver in the truck driving industry, was unharmed in the accident. He was convicted of numerous criminal offences, including dangerous driving causing death, and ultimately sentenced to 8 years in jail. The accident investigation revealed that he had violated many safety-related trucking regulations, including driving-time limits. His employer, the trucking company, was also charged with violating federal and provincial trucking regulations, such as the failure to maintain adequate logbooks. Lawsuits seeking compensatory damages were commenced on behalf of the Broncos who were killed and injured.
Nearly 2000 Canadians are killed each year and another 10,000 seriously injured in collisions with a heavy truck (one with a gross vehicle weight greater than 12,000 pounds). Large semi-trucks, truck tractors, 18 wheelers and large commercial vehicles have a fatality rate double the rate for all other vehicles.
In Alberta in 2018 (the latest statistics available), there were 45 persons killed and 604 injured in collisions involving heavy trucks.
By way of partial explanation, more than 90% of all consumer products and perishables in Canada are now shipped by truck. The number of large trucks on our roads has surged over the past decade, with the rise in population and demand, and was projected to total 1,230,000 by 2020.
Compared to other vehicles, Alberta statistics show that heavy truck drivers were more likely to run off the road, make an improper lane change or pass improperly. Defective vehicle factors are also a significant cause of accidents. Truck drivers are also more likely than other vehicle drivers to be fatigued or asleep at the time of a crash.
Clearly this is a serious problem.
Who can I sue if I have an accident with a heavy truck?
The first question to answer is whether the court system or the Alberta workers’ compensation system applies. If you are injured “during the course of employment,” your compensation may be governed by WCB Alberta. However, determining whether you were injured “during the course of employment” depends on the specific facts. In addition, there are still certain circumstances where you can sue an at-fault driver even if you are covered by WCB at the time of the accident (contact us for details). The bottom line is that the situation can get complicated fast. It’s important to understand which system applies because the compensation for injuries is different under a WCB system versus the courts. We strongly recommend that you consult a lawyer to protect your rights and determine your options. We are happy to have those conversations with you. Contact us.
This blog post addresses the situation where you were not at work at the time you were injured.
Who may be liable if you are hit by a commercial vehicle
There are many possible defendants to sue if you are in an accident with a heavy truck or commercial vehicle. Defendants that may be liable, either individually or jointly, include:
The truck driver, who may have been negligent in one of many ways, including:
- driving unsafely or not obeying the rules of the road, such as by speeding, failing to come to a complete stop, or making a lane change without properly checking the blind spots;
- driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs;
- operating the vehicle while being overly fatigued or asleep at the wheel;
- driving while distracted, for example, by texting or eating;
- lacking essential training in the operation of heavy trucks; or
- carrying too much weight or improperly loaded weight on the truck.
The trucking company, which may have failed to:
- adequately hire and train their truck drivers;
- vet the background of their drivers;
- regularly monitor the performance of their drivers by, for example, drug testing;
- maintain or repair the truck;
- regularly inspect the truck prior to each road trip; or
- ensure their drivers had sufficient breaks to be well-rested while driving.
The owner of the truck, if the owner failed to adequately maintain or inspect the truck, or failed to retire the truck if it no longer met safety standards;
The manufacturer of the truck’s parts or equipment, if the parts were defective or not properly installed, such as defective tires on the truck;
The cargo loader, if the truck was improperly loaded or secured, or if the load exceeded capacity;
Mechanics, service centres or other entities involved in maintaining and inspecting the truck; and
A government body, if, for example, the accident was caused by improper road conditions, such as trees blocking visibility, or if the roadway was improperly maintained.
A note about passengers in commercial vehicles
In cases where you were the passenger in a commercial vehicle; a taxi, uber, or bus, for example, you may also have a claim against the driver of the vehicle. Once again, this depends on the facts and this is something we would cover with you during a consultation.
How CAM LLP can help if you are injured, or a loved one is killed, in an accident with a heavy truck?
CAM LLP clients often come to us with a lot of questions including whether they have a valid claim, what they can do to pay the bills while they or a loved one is recovering from an injury, or what to do if a loved one has been fatally injured. Our first step is to listen to your story and answer your questions before we explain your options.
If you have a claim our experienced personal injury lawyers can assist you by commencing a lawsuit on your behalf, or on behalf of the estate of your loved one, against all defendants who may be liable for damages for the injuries or death. We will take on dealing with your insurance company and the procedural aspects of your lawsuit, so that you can focus on recovery.
CAM LLP’s work on your behalf may include taking steps to gather and evaluate the evidence relevant to your injury claim, such as:
- gathering and assessing evidence to prove the liability of the defendants, such as accident reports, employee records, records of previous accidents or safety violations of the truck driver, and any surveillance video that may be available;
- reviewing the driver logs, to make sure the truck driver complied with driving-time requirements, for example;
- reviewing the maintenance and inspection manifests;
- arranging for an inspection of the truck;
- taking pictures of the scene of the accident;
- getting statements from any witnesses to the accident;
- hiring an accident reconstruction expert to determine how the accident occurred and who was responsible; and
- compiling the medical evidence of all of your damages.
In addition, we will protect you from aggressive insurance adjusters representing the defendants.
What damages can I expect if I am successful in my lawsuit?
A CAM LLP experienced personal injury lawyer can help you obtain fair compensation for your injuries, or the death of your loved one. The types of damages that may be appropriate depend on the facts of your case and may, including the following compensatory damages:
- damages for the wrongful death of your loved one, such as bereavement damages;
- general damages, including damages for your physical injuries, as well as any emotional or psychological injuries you may have suffered;
- damages for any past or future loss of earnings you may suffer as a result of the accident;
- homemaker benefits, that is, damages to compensate you for any household chores you may no longer be able to do, or may have to hire help to do;
- recovery of your medical bills;
- recovery of the cost of your prescription medicine; and
- recovery of the cost of replacement of or repairs to your vehicle.
What if I may have been partially responsible for the accident?
Even if you were partially at fault for the accident you will likely still be entitled to a certain percentage of your damages. The court will determine the relative responsibilities of the parties, or this may be agreed to by legal counsel in settlement negotiations. It is advisable to consult a CAM LLP experienced personal injury lawyer to discuss your situation even if you may think you are partially at fault.
First steps after the accident
If you have the misfortune to be involved in a collision with a heavy truck, the following steps are advisable:
- never leave the scene of the accident;
- if you can, and if no one is seriously injured, immediately get yourself and your passengers out of the vehicle and walk to a position of safety, off the roadway;
- as it is more likely that there may be serious injuries in a collision with a heavy truck, do not move an injured person, as you may aggravate their injuries-wait for professional emergency assistance;
- call for any medical assistance that may be necessary;
- gather contact information from the truck driver, including an exchange of insurance details;
- be careful not to say anything that could be construed as an admission of fault, such as an apology to the truck driver, law enforcement or an insurer;
- do not agree to accept money or discuss any settlement at the scene of the accident;
- write down or record the contact information of all potential witnesses to the accident and, if safe to do so, take photos of the scene;
- if the police do not attend at the scene, file an accident report as soon after the accident as you can;
- be careful not to give a written or recorded statement to an insurance company, even your own insurance company, until you have consulted a personal injury lawyer. Each of the parties potentially liable to a lawsuit will likely be represented by their own insurer, so you may have an array of insurance adjusters involved in your case; and
- reach out to an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible, so steps may be immediately taken to gather evidence, and to protect your rights.
One additional note do NOT post information about the accident on social media and stay off social media while you are recovering. What you say and post to social media can be used as evidence and may be misunderstood and misinterpreted.
About CAM LLP injury lawyers
At CAM LLP we understand the impact and ripple effects that a serious injury can have on your life and the lives of those you love.
Since 1962, our lawyers have been achieving precedent-setting results for injured Albertans, and we have extensive experience with helping clients injured in accidents with heavy trucks, including semi-trucks, truck tractors, 18 wheelers and large commercial vehicles.
Years of experience evaluating claims, negotiating settlements with insurance companies, and helping injured people get fair compensation makes a difference.
Please contact us for a free consultation.