Gabriel Lependorf David Silverstein (609) 240-0040
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New Jersey Truck Accident Attorneys

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Collisions Involving Big Rigs, Large Trucks, 18-Wheelers, Tractor Trailers & More

Tractor-trailers, also known as big rigs, 18-wheelers, and semi-trucks, are a constant presence on the Garden State’s highways. While they are vital to our state’s economy, they are also a great danger to smaller vehicles due to their size and weight.

If you have been injured or lost a loved one in an accident involving a tractor-trailer, you may be able to pursue compensation for your family’s losses and damages. But winning a legal claim against a trucking company is no easy task, because you will be going up against their insurer’s army of lawyers.

To secure the settlement you deserve, you will need your own experienced legal team to fight on your behalf. The New Jersey auto accident attorneys at Princeton's Lependorf & Silverstein, P.C., have been successfully representing New Jersey injury victims for over 25 years. We have secured many substantial settlements, and will put our knowledge and experience behind your claim. Call (609) 240-0040 today for a free consultation. Don’t delay! New Jersey has strict statutes of limitations on personal injury lawsuits.


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What Makes Tractor-Trailers So Dangerous

There are many reasons why tractor trailers are so dangerous to other drivers on the road, including:

  • Size and weight: Big rigs can legally weigh up to 80,000 pounds when fully loaded, compared to the weight of the average passenger car - about 3,500 pounds. The average length of a tractor-trailer combo it is 70 to 80 feet, compared to the average American car length of eight to 12 feet.
  • Two or more pieces: Tractor-trailers consist of two or more independent pieces, the cab (tractor) and the trailer (and sometimes, two trailers). This makes them harder to maneuver and more prone to jackknifing, rollover, and separation accidents.
  • They take longer to come to a complete stop: It’s basic physics. Something heavier has more momentum than something lighter traveling at the same speed. Something with more momentum will take longer to stop. Combine this increased stopping time with traveling down hills or on rain-slicked roads, and you have the perfect recipe for an accident.
  • Blind spots: Tractor-trailers have large blind spots or "no zones" where they have difficulty seeing the vehicles surrounding them.
  • Hazardous cargo: Many trucks carry hazardous cargo, such as gasoline, dynamite, or other dangerous chemicals that can catch fire, explode, or spill.

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New Jersey Truck Laws & Regulations

The laws that apply to large trucks are much stricter than those that apply to cars and smaller trucks. For example, holders of New Jersey commercial driver's licenses are subject to a legal blood-alcohol-content limit of 0.04% - half of the normal BAC limit - while driving commercial trucks. In addition, any fatal accident, accident with an injury, or accident causing more than $500 in damages must be reported to the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission. The weight, emissions, and safety equipment on trucks are also subject to regular inspections.

Like ordinary drivers, truckers are subject to licensing and registration requirements. In addition, truckers are also subject to state or federal guidelines, which include:

  • Physical fitness requirements: Drivers must submit to regular physical examinations to certify that they are healthy and physically fit to safely perform driving duties.
  • Limitations on how long they may drive without sleeping: Long-haul drivers must maintain an hours of service (HOS) log to show the hours driven each day, any breaks that were taken, and the total drive time for the week. Falsifying this log is a serious violation and can result in the loss of a commercial driver’s license.
  • Requirements that certain information be visible on the truck: The required information includes the name of the truck owner or lessee and the municipality of the place of business. The gross vehicle weight must also be displayed, and all of this information must be clearly visible in lettering at least three inches high.
  • Limitations on which roads and highways trucks may use: As an example, trucks with a gross weight over 10,000 pounds are not permitted on the Garden State Parkway north of exit 105. One of the main reasons for this regulation is that many of the overpasses have low clearance that is not adequate to allow larger trucks to pass under them safely.
  • Special state and federal regulations on transporting hazardous materials: Drivers hauling any type of hazardous material must have a special endorsement in addition to the appropriate licensing, and the truck must be labeled to denote the type of material being hauled.
  • Size and weight limitations: There are licensing restrictions for drivers that govern the size of the trucks they are permitted to operate. A class C license is required for small buses and commercial trucks. A class B license is required to operate regular buses and medium-sized box trucks. A class A license is required to operate any tractor-trailer combo or a vehicle weighing in excess of 26,000 pounds. Additional endorsements are needed to drive double- or triple-trailer school buses or tanker trucks.
  • Much higher minimum requirements for liability insurance: This increase in insurance is required for both independent truck drivers and the commercial trucking companies.

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big rig on its side

We will work tirelessly on your behalf to ensure that you recover the compensation amount you deserve.

Dangerous Practices by Trucking Companies

In addition to the dangers posed by the size, weight, and design of tractor-trailers, some trucking companies encourage their drivers to violate Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations to deliver more goods faster, and thus increase profit margins. These dangerous practices can include:

  • Speeding: Driving faster than the posted speed limit, or driving faster than is safe due to the weather conditions.
  • Overloading trailers above the FMCSA maximum of 80,000 pounds: This is a business choice for many trucking companies. They are willing to risk potential injury to innocent bystanders to increase their load and their profit.
  • Improperly loading trailers: In an effort to save "valuable" time, truckers are discouraged from taking the time to redistribute their remaining load after making a delivery. The result is often an unbalanced load, which increases the potential for a jackknife and will tip over more easily.
  • Driving too many hours without a rest break: Even with federal restrictions and the requirement of an HOS log book, drivers are encouraged to falsify records or ignore safe driving practices regarding breaks and sleep.
  • Not performing required routine maintenance: Maintaining and repairing a semi takes away time that could be spent transporting cargo and making money. Independent drivers as well as commercial trucking companies are prone to erring on the side of profit and not caution.
  • Driving under the influence: The United States Department of Transportation released the data for commercial drivers who failed a drug test in a single year. Out of the 5.4 million tested, over 44,000 were found to be under the influence of a substance that impairs driving ability.

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Compensation for an Accident with a Tractor-Trailer

If you’ve been injured in an accident with a tractor-trailer, you may be able to pursue compensation for damages including the following:

  • Current medical bills
  • Cost of future medical bills related to your injury (such as reconstructive surgeries, skin grafts, etc.)
  • Property loss or damage
  • Permanent injury or disability
  • Costs of physical therapy and rehabilitation
  • Scarring and disfigurement
  • Loss of a limb
  • Pain and suffering
  • Costs of in-home care
  • Household and vehicle modifications if needed
  • Emotional trauma and mental duress
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Full or partial paralysis
  • Lost wages from missed work
  • Loss of career or earning potential
  • Reduction of earning capacity
  • Hedonic damages for loss of joy of life

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Wrongful Death Damages for a New Jersey Truck Accident

In the tragic event that you’ve lost a loved one in a tractor-trailer accident, you and your family may be able to seek compensation for any of the following wrongful death damages:

  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Medical bills
  • Pain and suffering of the deceased before death
  • Loss of future income
  • Loss of future benefits (such as medical benefits or retirement)
  • Loss of love, affection, companionship, guidance, etc.
  • Loss of household duties the deceased performed (such as childcare, property maintenance, etc.)

While we at the Princeton law offices of Lependorf & Silverstein, P.C., truly hope you never need our services, rest assured that we will be there to assist you and your family if you do. Call our New Jersey personal injury attorneys for a free consultation at (609) 240-0040.

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Additional Information

The firm’s principals, Gabriel R. Lependorf and David E. Silverstein, have each been representing injured victims in the State of New Jersey for over twenty five years.

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