As North Carolina – and many other parts of the country – grapple with winter weather, it is important to remain cognizant of how bad weather can impact road conditions. Our personal injury attorneys know that just because the roads are slick and slippery, it still means that people must get to work, school, run errands, etc.
Vehicles that are almost always on the roads despite weather conditions are commercial trucks, buses, and other fleet vehicles. It is essential that the businesses that employes fleet drivers keep the safety of their drivers and other commuters paramount over the company’s profits. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.
A fleet vehicle is any motor vehicle that is operated for commercial purposes. There are a variety of different types of businesses that operate company fleets, with one of the most obvious being trucking companies. Other companies that utilize fleets to operate include delivery services, bus companies, and taxi companies.
Every company that operates a fleet has a duty of care to make sure its vehicles are in safe working order. Frequent vehicle inspections should take place, preventative maintenance should be performed, and any issues discovered should be repaired right away.
In winter weather, the company may need to take additional steps to make sure vehicles are ready to travel in bad weather. These include:
- Checking all vehicle lights, both interior and exterior
- Checking antifreeze level
- Checking brakes
- Checking oil level
- Checking vehicle’s defrosting and heating systems
- Checking wipers and replacing them if needed. Also making sure the windshield wiper fluid is full
- Frequent checks of tire pressure – which can be impacted by cold and frigid temperatures
- Inspecting winter tire traction
- Installing winter tires
- Making sure all vehicles have brushes to remove snow, as well as emergency kits with hazard cones, shovels, jumper cables, etc.
Failure of Company
In the event that a victim is injured in a vehicle accident with a fleet vehicle during bad weather, a North Carolina personal injury attorney will take the steps to investigate what the cause of the crash was and who is liable for that failure. One of the factors the attorney will examine is the condition of the fleet vehicle. If the attorney finds evidence that the company breached its duty of care and allowed an unsafe vehicle on the road, the company will be legally liable for the losses the victim suffers due to their injuries.
Other Factors to Consider
Even if the fleet vehicle involved in the crash was in good working order, there may still be other factors present that can point to the company’s liability in the crash.
For example, some trucking companies have policies that drivers are to pull safely off the road in bad weather. Other companies may leave it up to the driver’s judgment to decide if it is safe to continue to operate. The potential issue with leaving it up to the driver is that many truck drivers feel pressured to meet almost impossible delivery schedules and stopping for bad weather could interfere with that schedule.
Operating a tractor-trailer or other large commercial vehicles can be especially dangerous in bad winter weather and the following are reasons why a commercial driver should consider pulling over in order to avoid catastrophic crashes:
- High winds that often accompany bad winter weather can make it difficult for a truck driver to maintain control of the vehicle and keep it in one lane of the highway.
- It takes longer for a large truck to come to a stop than other vehicles. However, when the roads are coated with snow or ice, stopping requires much more time.
- Winter storms often mean poor visibility, preventing the truck driver to see all the traffic that may be around.
- Large commercial vehicles have a different center of gravity than smaller passenger vehicles. Slippery roads combined with high winds can cause a truck or other large vehicle to jackknife or roll over – even if the driver is traveling at slow speeds.
Contact a Carolinas Truck Accident Attorney
If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident, contact a North Carolina truck accident attorney to discuss what legal recourse you may have against the responsible party or parties. The legal team from Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp has successfully advocated for many truck accident victims and their families and we understand how complicated these cases can be. Our attorneys are available to meet and discuss the details of your case and how we may be able to help.