Trucks are responsible for a disproportionate share of the nation’s highway fatalities. The federal government closely regulates the trucking industry to promote safety, and some of the most critical regulations concern the amount of weight a truck may carry. Unfortunately, a desire for profit sometimes drives trucking companies to violate these weight restrictions. This dangerous and illegal practice can lead to mechanical failures that often cause devastating crashes.
If a truck collision leaves you injured and you believe the truck might have been overloaded, contact a local accident attorney. A legal professional with experience representing the victims of overweight/overloaded truck accidents in Memphis could ensure you receive appropriate compensation for your losses.
Laws and Regulations About Truck Weight
Federal law sets the maximum weight of big rigs at 80,000 pounds. The Tennessee Code Annotated § 55-7-203 specifies that no single axle may bear more than 20,000 pounds and no tandem axle group may carry more than 34,000 pounds. State and local governments have set lower weight limits on some highways and bridges. Some municipalities even bar trucks from exceeding a specified weight when traveling on specific streets.
The primary reason to regulate truck weight is safety. Axles can only bear a certain amount of weight, and brakes, steering, and tires are apt to fail when a truck is too heavy. Some structures, such as bridges, were not built to withstand the weight of heavy trucks, and truck traffic can damage surface streets. Truckers in Memphis operating overweight or overloaded vehicles risk causing severe crashes and could face fines and other penalties.
Overweight or Overloaded Trucks Pose Substantial Risks
Trucks are difficult to drive in any circumstance. Given how large these vehicles are, steering is cumbersome, and braking and acceleration are sluggish. The normal stopping distance for a tractor-trailer traveling at the speed limit on a dry road is 525 feet, and the process of coming to a full stop typically requires 5-6 seconds. When the truck is overweight, the stopping distance and time to achieve a complete stop can increase substantially.
Steering can also become distorted when a truck is carrying too much weight. Tire and brake failure is common in overweight trucks with overloaded axles. A poorly balanced or improperly secured load can shift, causing the trailer to jackknife or overturn. The heavier the load, the higher the truck’s center of gravity, increasing the risk of a rollover.
Trucking companies and truck drivers know how much their rigs can safely carry. However, economic considerations often induce these companies to break the rules for the sake of profit, disregarding safety. A Memphis attorney can investigate whether the trucker or transportation firm violated weight limits. If so, the violation is evidence of negligence that could lead to liability for an injured person’s losses.
Claiming Damages in an Overweight Truck Accident Case
Through a civil claim, an injured party can claim reimbursement for out-of-pocket items like medical costs, diminished income, property damage, and incidental expenses. Economic damages may also cover future costs, like ongoing medical care or diminished earning capacity. The state does not limit the amount an injured person could collect for economic damages.
An injured person can pursue compensation for the subjective impacts of an accident, such as emotional anguish, physical pain, scarring, and disability. The Tennessee Code Annotated §29-39-102(a)(2) limits these non-economic damages to $750,000, although the limit increases to one million dollars for certain catastrophic injuries.
In addition, punitive damages are sometimes available if there is proof the trucker or trucking company acted with intention or deliberate disregard for others’ safety. A Memphis attorney can advise an injured person on whether there is sufficient proof of a trucking company’s intent to overload their vehicles to claim punitive damages.
Contact a Memphis Attorney About Overloaded/Overweight Truck Accidents
Transportation companies that put profits ahead of safety should pay for the losses their greed causes. As such, people who experience injuries in overweight or overloaded truck accidents in Memphis deserve fair compensation.
If you were involved in a truck accident and believe the truck might have been carrying too much cargo, contact a local injury attorney. Call the Law Office of David E. Gordon today to speak with an experienced lawyer.