How COVID-19 Will Affect Truck Accidents and Lawsuits
The coronavirus pandemic has had far-reaching impacts on the economy, especially in the trucking industry. In some ways, this has increased the risks for drivers as over 70% of the country’s goods are shipped on the roadways. Moreover, there could be impacts on the judicial system for those who have truck accident claims.
Drivers Are Going Faster on the Roads
Due to the quarantine, there is now much less congestion on the road. With so many people staying home from work, there is almost no such thing as a rush hour. This has led to an uptick in reckless driving on the part of both passenger car and truck drivers.
This is evidenced by the fact that road fatalities have not decreased by nearly as high of a rate as accidents themselves. Without many drivers on the road, motorists have tended to travel too fast and execute risky maneuvers. Analysts, in general, have reported that incidents of reckless driving are up nearly 80% as drivers have more room on the road. In addition, there are fewer police officers enforcing traffic laws as they are preoccupied with other emergencies right now.
This trend toward reckless driving has extended to some truck drivers as well. Many drivers have pressing deadlines for their shipments as stores and health care facilities need to be restocked. Sometimes, it has resulted in them traveling too fast. Thus, the perception of roads being a safer place due to COVID-19 keeping people at home is not entirely correct.
More Highway Work Zones
Highways and roads may end up being more congested at points. That’s because states are taking advantage of the lockdown to accomplish many needed infrastructure and roadway repairs. When there is less traffic on the road, states have more leeway to close lanes to perform more work.
Work zones lead to more difficult road conditions for truckers. Drivers who are unfamiliar with a particular road may be more likely to either approach the work zone at a higher speed or struggle to stay in their lanes. The sudden shift in traffic conditions has led to more risks for drivers and road workers.
Truck Regulations Have Been Suspended
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has relaxed some regulations that have previously required truckers to take breaks at certain intervals and limit the duration of their shifts. This has the effect of keeping drivers behind the wheel for longer. Tired drivers are more likely to be involved in truck accidents.
This does not apply to every truck driver, but it does ease the rules for those who are delivering critical supplies. This includes drivers who are delivering medical equipment. It also encompasses truckers who are helping make the deliveries that restock store shelves.
Fewer Trucks on the Road
Even though the country must still be supplied with vital supplies and food, the composition of the trucks on the road has changed somewhat. There are fewer oil tankers and car haulers on the road. In addition, since people are not relocating, there are almost no moving trucks on the road.
Thus, there will likely be fewer truck accidents during this time because traffic rates are down overall. However, given the road conditions, the accidents that do occur could be more catastrophic than usual. If you are in an accident with a speeding truck, your injuries will probably be more severe.
Most Truck Accidents Are Not Related to Congestion
National data shows that just over one-quarter of truck accidents relate to traffic flow interruption, aka road congestion. Of course, these accidents have even less of a chance of occurring when there are fewer trucks on the road.
However, this leaves the cause of roughly 75% of truck accidents still present, even if there is not as much traffic on the road. Some other common factors behind truck accidents could actually be exacerbated right now.
As we mentioned above, some restrictions on drivers have been lifted during the COVID-19 crisis. Slightly more than 10% of truck accidents are caused by driver fatigue. There is a chance that this number may expand because drivers have fewer restrictions that would require them to take a break.
Moreover, driver speed and truck maintenance are also causes of truck crashes. Drivers may be in a hurry to make deadlines as shelves need to be restocked. Furthermore, truck drivers are working under a great deal of pressure. In addition, trucking companies may be less likely to pull trucks off the road for maintenance issues because they are needed to haul goods. Either the need for the trucks to be operating or reduced budgets could mean neglecting certain checkup tasks.
Finally, there is a possibility that the longer shifts behind the wheel could also lead to an increase in distracted driving among truckers. Truckers who are driving for long shifts under pressure to make deadlines may be more tempted to multitask while behind the wheel.
You Can Still File Truck Accident Lawsuits
The courthouses in New Jersey are closed for hearings during the lockdown, but the civil justice system is still at work. This means that if you have been involved in a truck accident, you can still file a lawsuit against the trucking company that employed the driver who was responsible for your injuries.
The statute of limitations still begins to run starting the day of the accident. While courts have been flexible on some deadlines at the request of counsel, the statute of limitations is generally one timeline that judges will not alter. Thus, if your accident already occurred over a year ago, you could be running into issues if you are waiting to file.
If your accident occurred recently, you should still use this time to work with your trucking law attorney. You do not want to lose valuable time that your lawyer could spend both investigating your case and drafting the complaint.
Be Careful at Rest Stops and After Accidents
Just as you would be with other people, it’s important to be vigilant about maintaining the proper distancing when it comes to truckers. If you are on your feet after a truck accident, be careful to keep the required 6 feet of social distancing after you have exchanged information.
Truckers are laying it on the line right now to keep the country supplied. As a result, they are being exposed to COVID-19. Many drivers have tested positive for the illness. COVID-19 has affected the food supply, and there have been outbreaks at shipping terminals, so drivers are at risk of contracting the virus. Numerous truckers have posted on social media that they are waiting for the outbreak to spread through the trucking community. While we commend their important work during this dangerous time, it’s important to respect the contagious nature of the virus.
If you have been in an accident and need an attorney who can help you in the area of trucking law, contact RAM Law. We have offices in New Brunswick, Somerville and Freehold. Call us today at (732) 394-1549 to schedule your free initial consultation.