Truck Accident

Palatine Truck Accident Lawyer

An accident involving a large commercial vehicle like a semi-truck is very different from typical car accidents due to the massive size and weight of the truck and its potential to cause catastrophic injuries and fatalities. Moreover, since these trucks are part of a business, their operations are governed by different rules, such as Hours of Service (HOS) rules, maximum weight limits, and high insurance coverage minimums.

When a truck accident happens, determining who is responsible is not easy. It is not only the negligent driver who might be at fault; the trucking company could also be held liable. At The Law Office of Jack M. Shapiro, P.C., we recognize that a truck accident is a life-altering event that deserves aggressive legal representation. Contact us to schedule your free consultation.

Vehicle And Truck Accident View From Above

Commercial Truck Accident Laws in Palatine, IL

Under Illinois personal injury laws, all commercial truck drivers and trucking companies owe a duty of care to other road users. This means adhering to traffic laws, maintaining the vehicle properly, and ensuring the driver is adequately trained and rested.

Modified comparative negligence rule

Since Illinois follows a “modified comparative negligence” rule, the injured victim can recover proportionate compensation only if they are less than 50% at fault for the accident.

The trucking companies and their insurance carriers will aim to shift 50% or more of the fault to the injured victim to avoid liability. This makes it critically important to have our top-rated Palatine truck accident attorneys at The Law Office of Jack M. Shapiro, P.C. on your side to protect your right to compensation.

How does liability work in Palatine truck accidents?

In many cases, the trucking company can be held liable for the actions of their truck drivers under the doctrine of vicarious liability, provided the driver of the vehicle involved in the crash was acting within the scope of their employment. Apart from vicarious liability, trucking companies can be directly liable if their actions contributed to the accident by negligent hiring practices or failing to keep the vehicles in good shape.

If your case has multiple potentially liable parties – the truck driver, the trucking company, manufacturers of truck parts (in case of equipment failure), or even governmental entities responsible for road maintenance, the law of “joint and several liability” will apply.

This Illinois law states that when there are several defendants, each one can be held responsible for the total amount of damages if they are more than 25% at fault. Each party may be held liable for the full amount of your damages, regardless of their individual share of the liability.

View From A Drivers Seat Of A Car That Is About To Crash With A Truck

Liability insurance coverage minimums for commercial trucks

Illinois mandates a certain amount of liability insurance that commercial trucks must legally carry. The purpose of these minimums is to ensure that in an accident, there are adequate funds available from the trucking company’s insurer to cover medical bills, property damage, and other liabilities.

The minimum required insurance depends on the type of vehicle and the nature of the cargo it carries:

  • The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires a minimum of $750,000 in liability insurance for trucks carrying general freight.
  • For trucks hauling hazardous materials, the minimum insurance requirement is higher due to the increased risk.
  • Trucks transporting oil or certain types of hazardous materials in bulk must have a minimum of $5 million in coverage.
  • For commercial vehicles transporting passengers, the minimum required insurance can range from $1.5 million to $5 million, based on the seating capacity.

Hours-of-service and qualification rules of the FMCSA

The Hours of Service (HOS) rules established by the FMCSA govern the working hours of anyone operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) in Illinois. These rules include:

  • A driver may drive a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off-duty.
  • Drivers may not drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty, following 10 consecutive hours off duty. Off-duty time does not extend the 14-hour period.
  • Drivers must take a 30-minute break if they have driven for 8 cumulative hours without at least a 30-minute interruption.

Compliance with these rules is monitored through logbooks and electronic logging devices (ELDs) that automatically record driving time. The FMCSA has also established the following regulations regarding the qualifications and training required for commercial truck drivers:

  • Drivers must be at least 21 years old to drive a CMV across state lines, carry hazardous materials, or drive within a state if that state’s law permits it.
  • They must possess a valid CDL for the class and type of vehicle they intend to operate.
  • They are required to pass a physical examination every two years.
  • Drivers must pass written tests to obtain a CDL.
  • Prospective drivers must have a clean driving record and may undergo a background check.
Truck Fallen On Its Side

2023 updates to the laws

Effective August 11, 2023, Illinois allows for the recovery of punitive damages in wrongful death cases, including those involving truck accidents. Previously, punitive damages were not permitted in such cases in the state. These damages are additional compensation awarded to punish the defendant for particularly harmful behavior and to deter others from similar actions.

This change means that families of wrongful death victims now have the opportunity to seek punitive damages in court, potentially leading to higher compensation and more accountability for negligent parties in wrongful death cases. This law applies to new cases filed after the effective date and to existing cases active as of that date.

Types of Accidents Our Commercial Truck Accident Attorneys Handle

Our Palatine, IL truck accident lawyers represent a wide range of accident claims involving various types of semi-trucks, 18-wheelers, tractor-trailers, and other large freight carriers.

  • Rear-end collisions: These occur when a big rig collides with the rear end of another vehicle.
  • Jackknife accidents: This happens when the trailer of an 18-wheeler or semi-truck folds at the point of articulation, forming a sharp angle with the cab, resembling a folding knife.
  • Rollovers: When a large vehicle, like a tractor-trailer, tips over onto its side or roof, it is known as a rollover. It can be caused by high speeds, sudden turns, or load shifting.
  • Underride accidents: These occur when a smaller vehicle slides underneath the rear or side of a large truck.
  • Blind spot accidents: Commercial vehicles have larger blind spots than passenger cars. Accidents can occur when a vehicle is in a truck’s blind spot and the truck driver fails to see it while changing lanes or turning.
  • Lost load accidents: These accidents happen when cargo is improperly secured and falls off a truck, creating hazards on the road that can lead to accidents.
  • Head-on collisions: In these severe accidents, the front ends of two vehicles, including at least one large commercial vehicle, collide.
  • Side-impact or T-bone accidents: When the side of a passenger vehicle is struck by the front or rear of a commercial truck, commonly at intersections.
  • Wide turn accidents: When a truck makes a wide turn and collides with other vehicles, pedestrians, or objects. They typically occur when the truck swings left to make a right turn and vice versa.
  • Tire blowout accidents: Tire blowouts can be dangerous accidents when they happen to 18-wheelers.
  • Brake failure accidents: Due to heavy loads and constant use, brake failures are a risk in commercial vehicles, leading to accidents if the truck cannot be stopped in time.

Why You Should Contact Our Lawyers in a Truck Accident Case

Gathering evidence from the crash site

After a vehicle crashes, there is physical evidence at the crash site that is necessary for building a case. This includes skid marks, vehicle debris, damage to the truck and passenger vehicle, and any marks on the road or surrounding environment. This evidence can offer insights into how the accident occurred, the speed of the vehicles, and the point of impact. As such, it needs to be documented quickly because it can be disturbed or erased, especially in busy traffic areas.

Securing black box data and video footage

Data from electronic logging devices and other onboard systems in commercial trucks that record information like speed, braking patterns, and engine use, can be overwritten or lost if not secured promptly. Our Palatine personal injury lawyer will move fast to secure this evidence to reconstruct the accident and determine liability. Many truck accidents in Palatine are captured on traffic cameras, dash cams, or even bystanders’ smartphones. Securing this footage early is essential as it can be deleted, overwritten, or lost.

Trucks Linked Up On A Road

Staying ahead of the defendants’ tactics to shift blame

Another reason why you must get in touch with our experienced truck accident attorney is that, following an accident, trucking companies activate a “rapid response protocol.” This is a well-known fact: after the collision, the driver notifies their employer, who then sends in a risk manager to handle the situation. This risk manager will dispatch a team of lawyers, investigators, and insurance adjusters to the accident scene, and they all have one goal – to gather information that could be used to defend the trucking company.

This team will collect evidence that shifts blame away from the truck driver or the company and suggests the fault lies with the injured victim. They are also focused on minimizing the financial impact of the accident.

Countering the insurer’s lowball settlement offers

The insurance adjusters will assess the damage and quickly offer you a settlement lower than what might be fair given your severe injuries. Keep in mind that these are skilled negotiators who understand how to use the stress and confusion after your accident to their advantage. They are likely to push for quick statements or decisions – do not get pressured into unfair agreements.

Finally, the statute of limitations in Illinois for seeking legal action in these cases is only two years. Contact our Palatine truck accident lawyer as soon as possible because the clock starts ticking from the moment the accident occurs.

Types of Evidence Our Lawyers will Collect to Prove Liability of the Trucking Company

As soon as our law firm starts representing truck accident victims in a case, we begin collecting the following types of evidence to establish the liability of the freight hauler and maximize our client’s compensation:

  • Photographs of the crash site, skid marks, vehicle damage, road conditions, and any debris from the crash
  • Eyewitness accounts
  • Police reports to access the official preliminary assessments of fault and violations of traffic laws.
  • The truck’s electronic logging device (ELD) data and logbook records to check for violations
  • Cargo records (if the truck was carrying cargo) to check if it was loaded properly; improper loading can affect the truck’s stability and braking
  • GPS data to learn about the truck’s route, speed, and if the driver was speeding or made abrupt maneuvers
  • Dashboard camera footage to access real-time evidence of the driver’s actions and road conditions
  • The truck’s maintenance records to find any negligence on the part of the trucking company
  • The driver’s hiring process, training records, and history of traffic violations or previous accidents; negligent hiring or insufficient training can be grounds for liability
  • Cell phone records to check if the driver was using their phone at the time of the accident, which can indicate distracted driving
  • Toxicology reports to check for alcohol or drug use (if there is suspicion of the truck driver’s negligence via impairment)
  • Your medical records to establish the extent of your truck accident injuries and their impact on your life
  • Expert testimonies from accident reconstruction experts, medical professionals, and economic experts

Get Strong Legal Representation from Proven Palatine Truck Accident Attorneys 

At The Law Office of Jack M. Shapiro, P.C., our deep understanding of the Illinois commercial truck accident laws, our record of large settlements and verdicts, and our strong negotiation skills to counter insurance company tactics set us apart. Top-rated truck and car accident lawyer Jack M. Shapiro possesses unique insights into the strategies of insurance companies, specifically how they challenge personal injury claims. He uses this knowledge along with compelling evidence to build a case for maximum possible compensation for you. Call us at (847) 243-8917 or request your free case review online.

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