According to statistics compiled by the National Safety Council (NSC), large trucks – defined as weighing more than 10,000 pounds but excluding buses and motor homes – were involved in 118,000 crashes with other vehicles in 2019 that resulted in injuries, 5,005 of them fatal. The majority of the deaths, 71 percent, were occupants of other vehicles.
A collision with a large truck – popularly called big rigs, semis, tractor-trailers, and 18-wheelers – can be devastating. Some of these large trucks weigh 80,000 pounds or more compared to a four-wheel vehicle weighing in at maybe 5,000 pounds or less.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a collision with a truck, or worse, lost their life, contact the Denning Law Firm, LLC. We can aggressively pursue your claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company, or another liable party, or file a personal injury or wrongful death claim in court. We will investigate the circumstances of your accident, assess liability, and advise you of your legal options.
We proudly serve injured victims and their families across Kansas City, Missouri, and Kansas, as well as the surrounding areas of Overland Park, Johnson County, and Jackson County.
Trucking operations are governed by both federal and state regulations in Missouri and Kansas, though they largely mirror one another. Federal regulations apply to all interstate operations, while state regulations govern intrastate commerce.
Federal laws stem from Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations and are generally referred to as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.
Though these regulations cover everything from driver qualifications to truck maintenance and repair to insurance requirements, most importantly they limit the hours a truck driver can be on the road. In a 24-hour period, federal regulations mandate 10 hours of rest and 14 hours of work maximum. Of those 14 hours of work, only 11 can be spent behind the wheel. There are also weekly limits between 60 and 70 hours of on-duty (not just driving) work, depending on whether the truck sits idle for a day or not.
Missouri regulations impose the same driving, working, and resting restrictions on truck operators, though there are some exemptions. Kansas likewise adheres to the hourly restrictions of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
It’s important to note that truck drivers will either have electronic tracking devices installed on their vehicles to record hours of driving and routes, or they will have to maintain a manual log. The data recorded either electronically or by hand will prove vital if you’re involved in an accident with a large truck.
Missouri is an at-fault state, meaning you can initiate a lawsuit against a driver who crashes into you and causes damages and injuries. Kansas, on the other hand, is a no-fault state. In Kansas, you must seek compensation for medical expenses and lost income due to injuries from your own insurance company. Only if you have serious injuries can you sue the other driver. Serious injury is defined as:
Fracture of weight-bearing bone
Compound, compressed, or displaced fracture of any bone
Permanent loss of a body function
Insurance policies will cover only actual medical and related recovery expenses, including lost wages due to inability to work, and the compensation they offer will be limited by the coverage cap on the policy.
Both Missouri and Kansas require only $25,000 in bodily injury liability coverage, and in Kansas, your personal injury protection (PIP) coverage requirement starts at only $4,500 per person for medical expenses. PIP is what covers you in a no-fault state unless you suffer a serious injury as defined previously.
In a personal injury lawsuit, available instantly in Missouri but only if you’ve suffered a serious injury in Kansas, you can not only recover medical expenses and lost income, but also non-economic damages for pain and suffering. Kansas caps noneconomic damages, currently at $325,000.
Missouri imposes a five-year statute of limitations, dating from the accident, for filing a personal injury lawsuit. Kansas limits such claims to two years.
An accident involving a large truck is more complex than a fender bender between two passenger cars, where one person may be totally at fault or largely at fault. In a trucking accident, under the legal principle of vicarious liability, other persons and entities can also be liable.
The FMCSA says that the most common cause of trucking accidents is driver error. Other factors leading to accidents include driver fatigue, distracted driving, unsecured cargo, inadequate training, improper maintenance, dangerous weather, and road hazards.
If the trucking company fails to train the driver properly or overworks him by breaking driving limitations (11 hours in 24 hours), the trucking company can be liable. If the brakes malfunction on the truck causing the accident, either the maintenance people or the manufacturer may be liable for the defect. If the cargo on the truck is loaded incorrectly, causing the center of gravity to be off and making the vehicle hard to navigate, the cargo loaders may be liable.
If road conditions contributed to or caused the accident, then the responsible government agency may be liable, but government entities possess safeguards that make legal action against them more difficult, especially in terms of time limits and proving liability.
That is another solid reason you need to consult with experienced legal counsel when you’re involved in a collision with a big rig. Vicarious liability can pose legal hurdles that don’t exist in passenger car accidents.
Both Kansas and Missouri allow lawsuits to recover damages for the “wrongful death” of a family member. Specifically, spouses, parents, and children of the deceased can bring suits. The general principle is that, had the deceased lived and been qualified to pursue a personal injury lawsuit, then the family members can seek recovery for a wrongful death.
In Missouri, the statute of limitations for a wrongful death lawsuit is three years. In Kansas, the limitation is two years after the death of the family member.
An accident with a truck is no simple fender bender, especially if someone is injured, or worse, loses their life. You need the help of experienced attorneys to investigate the circumstances, assess liability, and advise you of your best legal options for obtaining the compensation you deserve. If you’re in Kansas City, Missouri, or Kansas City, Kansas, as well as the surrounding areas of Overland Park, Johnson County, and Jackson County, contact the Denning Law Firm, LLC, immediately for a complimentary case evaluation.