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Knoxville Truck Accident Attorneys

Representing Victims of Commercial Truck or 18-Wheeler Collisions Across Tennessee

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Were you or a loved one seriously injured in a semi-truck wreck?

Tennessee attorneys at Gilreath & Associates specialize in seeking compensation and justice for drivers and families affected by an accident involving a large truck.

Compared to other types of auto accidents, accidents involving commercial haulers, tractor-trailers, big rigs and semi-trucks are more prone to result in catastrophic consequences because of the sheer size and weight of the average large truck. Commercial trucks are a difficult vehicle to control, with poor visibility and fast-braking capability compared to the average car. Truckers making wide turns often don't even realize they are sideswiping a car or motorcycle.

What's more, large commercial trucks are built with very poor protection for the driver, and poor crashworthiness in trucks affects all individuals involved in the accident.

In Tennessee, around 100 people per year have been killed in fatal truck crashes since 2011, and 121 lost their lives in 2017. Nationally, there were nearly 5,000 reported fatal crashes involving large trucks and buses in 2017, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. One out of every 8 U.S. traffic fatalities involves a trucking collision.

And these statistics don't even account for the thousands of families and individuals who are seriously and permanently injured after a truck wreck each year.

Although Tennessee has stringent truck safety inspection rules, the state still has a truck accident fatality rate that is well above the national average. Determining fault in such serious accidents involves many complex legal issues, making trucking accidents a specialized area of practice different from auto accidents. The attorneys at Gilreath & Associates are experienced in the added complexities of litigating a trucking accident injury or death.

Knoxville-based law firm Gilreath & Associates is a member of the Association of Plaintiff Interstate Trucking Lawyers of America (APITLA). Firm founder, Sid Gilreath, is a national board member. APITLA is a national association of veteran lawyers who have made a commitment to fight for safer roads by eliminating dangerous and illegal trucking practices—a commitment Sid Gilreath has made to Tennessee drivers for over 50 years.

Don't fall for the claims of attorneys promising fast cash and no hassles. A serious case involving severe injuries or death requires serious effort. Contact the experienced Tennessee trucking accident attorneys at Gilreath & Associates for a free evaluation of your case.

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Our Past Verdicts & Settlements

When choosing a Tennessee personal injury law firm, you should consider not only the experience of a firm's attorneys but also the firm's success in obtaining verdicts and settlements in cases like yours. Here are just a few examples of past truck and auto accident results obtained by Gilreath & Associates attorneys:

Beavers vs Martin-Brower Co. Circuit Court, Clarksville Tn.

Tractor Trailor rear ends another on snow and ice. Campbell Co. Tn.

Common Causes of Truck Accidents

Trucking accidents can be caused by carelessness or negligence on the part of a driver or a trucking company. Some of the most common causes of trucking accidents include:

  • Driver fatigue
  • Reckless or careless driving causing rollovers
  • Inattention to other traffic
  • Non-compliance with federal trucking regulations for rest breaks
  • Drug or alcohol use by a truck driver or another motorist
  • Trucking company negligence for inadequate training of drivers
  • Trucking company negligence for inadequate safety programs
  • Inadequate vehicle inspections
  • Bad weather conditions
  • Mechanical failure
    (tire blowouts, front brake failure, improper load distribution, etc.)
  • Poor road design
  • Traffic signal failures

Even though trucking accidents only account for about 3 percent of injury-related car crashes, the risk of serious injury in a tractor-trailer wreck is much higher than any other type of crash. The size, speed, and weight of a semi-truck or motor carrier are much greater than other vehicles on the road, which often causes catastrophic injury or sometimes death if the driver loses control of his or her truck.

Gilreath's Tennessee trucking accident legal team talk about the most common causes of semi and tractor trailer collisions

Being involved in an accident with a semi-truck is a frightening experience. According to Nolo, there has been a 20 percent rise in truck accidents over the past two decades. Unfortunately, the state of Tennessee ranks 30 percent higher than the national median in these accidents. There are more trucks on the road now than ever before, but what are the real reasons and issues behind so many treacherous collisions?

Sleep-Deprivation & Heavy Truck Crash

The following video shows what can happen when a truck driver is dozing at the wheel or is sleep deprived. It shows a real truck wreck taking place. While there is sound in the video, no bodily injuries are seen.

Wrecked car from fatal truck accident - 1 Wrecked car from fatal truck accident - 2
Wrecked car from the crash scene

To Err is Human...

There are a multitude of reasons these accidents occur, but the number one cause – according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) – is driver error. Eighty-eight percent of truck-related crashes are due to error of the driver.  Driver error can consist of many facets:

  • Truck drivers are 10 times more likely to be the cause of an accident than weather, road conditions or any other factors.
  • Prescription and over-the-counter drugs are a huge issue as they often inhibit the ability of the driver to maneuver such a large vehicle properly.
  • Driver fatigue is a serious problem among the trucking industry. Often, the company requirements for a truck driver to reach a destination by a particular time are unrealistic. A lack of sleep and rest is a major concern.
  • Inattention and distractions often cause accidents in trucks as well, just as they do for other drivers. Is the driver eating, drinking, sending a text while driving, or thinking about everything else except the road in front of him?
  • Unfamiliarity with the road can be a problem as well. New routes that are extra mountainous or curvy can catch some truck drivers by surprise.

Due to several of these distractions the driver may run off the road, slam into the back of the vehicle in front of him, or completely lose control of the truck.

Equipment Malfunction

Another major issue that plagues truckers is equipment malfunction. Sometimes these malfunctions are a result of manufacturing or design errors, but often it is because the equipment has not been maintained properly by the trucking company. Below is a list of common equipment failures:

  • Tire blow outs due to severe wear and tear
  • Brakes that give out and should have been changed thousands of miles ago
  • Transmission failure
  • Improper loading of a truck which causes it to fall over and lose the cargo
  • Improper attachment of the trailer
  • Defective rear or side lighting
  • Defective steering

The mileage put on a truck means that proper maintenance must be a priority. If you are a truck driver, make your company aware of issues you notice that need TLC. Put it in writing when you make the company aware of the situation and don't put yourself as the driver in dangerous situations.

Any type of auto collision is terrifying and stressful. Deciding who is at fault in a trucking accident can add another dimension to the stress. Often, a person must battle the trucking company, the driver and the insurance company. Having an experienced trucking accident attorney on your side to help you seek the justice and compensation you deserve is strongly advised.

6 Types of Truck Accidents and How to Avoid Them

Truck accidents are indeed some of the most horrific crashes on Tennessee roads and highways, especially when they happen at high speed. These accidents can occur for a wide variety of reasons, but most accidents will typically fall into certain general categories when everything is settled.

The type of truck accident and its cause aren't always connected, as different conditions on the road can create different hazards. But everyone can agree that a collision between a big-rig truck and a small passenger vehicle should be avoided at all cost. Even an accident involving other commercial vehicles can leave passengers highly vulnerable to serious personal injury.

Truck accidents are often complicated legal matters, and therefore they are always strongly defended when claims are being processed. Multiple vehicle crashes are also common when a truck is out of control, especially in the mountainous regions of eastern Tennessee.

Each case is unique in some aspect, which is why it's important to hire an experienced and aggressive truck accident lawyer who can ensure you are properly represented.

Here are a few common types of truck accident cases that Gilreath attorneys specialize in:

Jackknife Truck Accidents

The most dangerous component of an 18-wheeler is the trailer being pulled behind. Surprisingly, the harnessing area of the trailer may actually be the weakest and most volatile point of the whole rig. Bad welds at the hitches can result in breakages or conditions that cause the tractor and trailer to swap ends, also known as "jackknifing."

Improperly overloaded trailers or sudden stops can cause a truck to jackknife as well, but this phenomena is most often associated with bad weather accidents on icy highways.

Rollovers Wrecks

Another common type of truck accident is the rollover. These accidents most often occur when a driver is forced to serve to avoid something on the road, including another vehicle. Rollover accidents can also be the result of poor loading balance and shifting loads when improperly loaded, and they can happen with either a flatbed or a box container.

Wind can also cause rollover accidents to occur, especially when a container is empty and the truck is driving in treacherous or windy conditions. Trucks will also rollover when struck on the side by other 18-wheelers or commercial vehicles in certain situations.

Tire Blowouts

One of the most common types of truck accidents is a tire blowout accident where the axle is damaged as well. The dual-tire design for back wheels is a good safety measure, but the supporting tire can be damaged when the damaged tire ruptures. The whole axle may be affected when both tires blow.

Malfunctioning axle assemblies are another common cause of wrecks, and they create problems with the trailer undercarriage — all of which can result in the grounding of the trailer. In addition, large pieces of torn tire rubber may fly into the path of oncoming or nearby vehicles, causing them to crash.

Mechanical Malfunctions

All tractor trailer trucks are required by law to be inspected on a regular basis, but mechanical problems in braking systems and steering assemblies (most commonly) can result in a big-rig getting out of control very quickly.

This is a scary situation that often happens on the interstate at a high rate of speed, and it almost always leads to a serious injury for both the truck driver and other vehicle passengers.

Rear-End Collisions (Underrides)

Another common type of truck accident is a rear-end collision. These crashes happen for varying reasons, and the driver of the trailing victim is not always at fault. However, when an 18-wheeler is involved, it's bad news for a passenger car to be in either location.

Rear-end collisions are usually the result of one driver trailing another driver too closely, which reduces their ability to stop in time. With a big truck, the stopping distance is much longer than a standard passenger vehicle. If a passenger vehicle fails to stop in time and hits the truck, causing it to slide underneath the trailer and get pinned, this is known as an "underride" accident."

Hazardous Chemical Accidents

Tanker trucks pose an added danger on the highway. The cargo in a tanker is liquid that is usually in constant motion while in transit and still moving around even when coming to a stop.

The fluid shifting can actually create real control problems for the driver. And the dangers are even worse when the chemicals are spilled onto the road in the event of a collision or crash.

State and Federal Trucking Regulations

State and federal laws establish a wide, and potentially confusing, array of standards and requirements relating to the operation of commercial motor vehicles. These laws regulate:

  • The number of hours a commercial driver can be on the road without a break
  • Driver training and qualifications
  • Oversight and supervision of the driver
  • Maintenance and repair of the commercial motor vehicle
  • And more...

A tractor-trailer wreck involving a motor carrier that is regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has built-in protection for an injured accident victim. The problem is that the carriers typically will not disclose the fact that they have insurance policies beyond the mandatory policy until you file suit.

For instance, they may not tell you:

  • The driver of the DOT-regulated vehicle is their statutory employee, even though the contract refers to the driver as an "owner-operator";
  • The trucking company is responsible for the actions of that driver as long as the driver acted within the scope of that statutory employment; or
  • They have valued your claim at 5 or 10 times the amount they are offering you for a full release of your right to sue.

For this reason, choosing a law firm familiar with such complex regulations is essential. The severity of these accidents requires a reliable trucking accident attorney with a broad range of experience in dealing with all types of truck accidents such as underrides (when a car gets pinned underneath a truck), rollovers (responsible for more than half of all deaths in large truck accidents), jackknifes (when a truck trailer wings out at an angle from the cab) and hazardous spills (which can be lethal to all involved).

Why Consult an Experienced Trucking Accident Attorney Near You

Many people involved in a trucking accident are misled by lawyers who promise to get them a quick buck at no hassle. However, a trucking accident lawsuit done right is a complicated and serious process that requires the expertise and experience of a knowledgeable attorney.

When a tractor-trailer crash occurs, not only will both drivers' insurance companies be involved, but also the trucking company, which will often try to reduce their own costs with lowball settlement offers or by downplaying the seriousness of your damages and injuries.

What you need when pursuing a personal injury claim after a trucking accident is an attorney who specializes in cases that deal specifically with collisions involving tractor-trailer motor carriers. Individual laws on trucking regulations vary by state, so it is best to find a lawyer in your area or nearby who has a thorough understanding of the proper legal procedure for seeking compensation.

Truck Accident FAQ

Q: Who is at fault for my truck accident?

The question of liability (fault) is primarily why truck accident cases can be so complicated. Liability can be shrouded and difficult to determine in a trucking accident. The truck driver, the trucking company, the truck manufacturer and the manufacturers of defective truck parts (i.e. brakes, tires, headlights) can all hold some degree of fault depending on the situation. In addition, bad weather conditions, drug or alcohol use, driver fatigue, and the time of day can all influence who is to blame for a truck accident.

Tennessee is an at-fault state, meaning that the issue of liability must be settled in order for the accident victim to receive compensation from the at-fault driver's insurance company or employer. What's more, Tennessee follows a modified comparative negligence (50 percent) rule, meaning that you can only recover damages if you are less than 50 percent responsible for the crash.

For these reasons and more, it's vitally important that you enlist representation from a knowledgeable attorney who can help determine liability and fight to preserve your right to maximum compensation.

Q: What agencies oversee trucking insurance and licensing regulations?

Regardless of who is at fault in a truck accident, all Tennessee truck drivers are bound by both federal and state regulations. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) both oversee trucking and interstate commerce on the national level, while Tennessee laws also apply. For instance, according to TCA § 55-7-203(b)(3), no commercial vehicle can weigh more than 80,000 pounds.

Federal rules require truck drivers to carry at least $750,000 in liability insurance. This number may be increased depending on a truck's cargo and other factors.

Q: What damages can I recover in a truck crash lawsuit?

Truck accident victims in Tennessee are eligible for 2 main types of compensation:

  • Economic damages. This compensation covers the cost of what you've lost financially as a result of the accident, such as medical bills, lost wages and property damage. There are no limits to economic damages; you should be reimbursed for everything you've had to pay as a result of the crash.
  • Non-economic damages. This category is intended to provide compensation to accident victims for things that are more difficult to quantify but are just as harmful financially and emotionally, including "pain and suffering," mental anguish, emotional distress and loss of consortium (in the event that a loved one was killed). Non-economic damages are generally capped by Tennessee law at a maximum of $750,000 per person; however, this limit can be raised in special circumstances such as the loss of a loved one or in the event of catastrophic injuries.

In addition, accident victims may be able to pursue punitive damages in rare cases. Punitive damages are only awarded when the plaintiff can prove "by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant against whom punitive damages are sought acted maliciously, intentionally, fraudulently or recklessly." These damages are generally capped at $500,000 or 2 times the compensatory damages (whichever number is greater).

Q: What is the statute of limitations in Tennessee for a truck accident?

If you were seriously injured in a truck wreck in Tennessee and wish to file a lawsuit against the driver, their insurance company and/or a trucking company, then you should know about some important deadlines.

In Tennessee, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims (including car and truck accidents) is 1 year from the date the accident occurred.

There are only a few, rare exceptions to this strict deadline. If you miss this deadline, then you will likely be unable to file a claim or pursue compensation, regardless of fault. The clock is ticking, so act now to protect your rights by consulting an attorney in your area.

Q: What should I do if I'm in a trucking accident?

Truck drivers aren't the only ones at risk in trucking accidents. Drivers and passengers of vehicles that crash into or collide with semi-trucks seldom walk away without serious injuries. If you or a loved one were injured in a trucking accident in Tennessee, first call 911 and seek medical attention immediately. If you can do so safely, collect as much information as possible at the accident scene—including pictures, witness information and the police report.

Afterward, contact a lawyer who is experienced with Tennessee's truck accident laws. At Gilreath & Associates, we can help you determine where to file a claim and what kind of damages to seek. Our experienced attorneys can help you get maximum compensation for your injuries and expenses such as past and future medical care, pain and suffering, property damage and more.

If you or someone you love were involved in a trucking accident, contact one of our highly-skilled trucking accident attorneys in Nashville, Knoxville or Memphis to discuss your case today.

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