Perhaps the most serious type of road traffic accident involves collisions between large goods vehicles (LGV) (or heavy goods vehicles (HGV)) – and cars, motorbikes, cyclists, and other road users.
The weight, height, and force of impact of an LGV or HGV on a typical car, for instance, can have catastrophic results for car drivers and passengers – whilst the driver of the lorry can escape with minor injuries.
Accidents involving LGVs and HGVs can cause serious, life-changing personal injuries and even death. If not driven properly, LGVs, HGVs and other lorries and long haul trucks are effectively lethal weapons on the road, and can cause multiple vehicle accidents.
These accidents often involve lorry drivers overtaking cars and pulling in too quickly, tailgating, attempting a low bridge, or taking calculated risks in the knowledge that they are relatively protected by the sheer size of their LGV. Yet all drivers have a duty of care towards other road users.
Lorry drivers need special training and a professional driving qualification called the Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) before they are allowed to drive LGVs or HGVs on public roads. Drivers usually need to pass 4 tests before they are awarded a CPC (they must also have a full driving licence and be at least 18 years of age). They may also need a specific operator’s licence depending on their circumstances.
Yet even with all the required training and licences, human error cannot be completely avoided. In addition, mechanical faults in lorries can lead to serious road accidents. Sometimes, this reflects inadequate safety checks making the LGV dangerous even before its journey begins.
Some road accidents involving LGVs are entirely avoidable. LGV and long haul drivers who continue to drive whilst fatigued may momentarily lose their concentration, or even fall asleep at the wheel – causing a serious accident.
Commercial LGV and other long distance drivers are regularly advised to ensure they take breaks when required, and to stop if they feel tired. There are also strict rules in the UK on the maximum number of hours a commercial driver is permitted to drive. For instance, they must drive no more than 9 hours a day or 56 hours per week; and must take a break (or breaks) totalling at least 45 minutes after no more than 4 hours 30 minutes’ driving.
Failure to comply with these rest requirements can lead to a DVLA fine and, in serious cases, prosecution.
If a rest break is not possible, it could mean that the lorry’s route was not sufficiently planned, or the work schedule was not properly thought through beforehand. These factors can also contribute to an accident and mean the haulage company is liable for any resulting injury.
Although there has been a crackdown on drivers using their mobile phones, there are still those who persist in using them whilst driving. Lorry drivers using their mobile phones or SatNavs pose a potentially greater risk to other road users because of the nature of their vehicles. Drink and drug use by lorry drivers are also highly likely to raise the accident risk.
Other causes include poor loading or overloading on the LGV/HGV, meaning cargo is not secure or stable, raising the risk of tipping over or losing control.
Whatever the cause of the accident you have been involved in, you should speak to a qualified injury lawyer about your claim. They will be able to determine your likelihood of success and advise you on your next steps.
Your claim will usually be against the employer of the LGV/HGV driver, not the driver personally. This is because the employer will be held ‘vicariously liable’ for the driver’s actions. In reality, the claim will be against the employer’s insurance company.
If you are the LGV/HGV driver and you want to make a compensation claim following an accident caused by your vehicle, you will also make your claim against your employer. For instance, your employer may not have made it possible for you to take your required rest breaks, or your vehicle was not sufficiently roadworthy.
It is important that the police, the company concerned and, if appropriate, the Health and Safety Executive, are notified of the accident. The formal records kept will be important evidence in support of your claim.
It is vital to have the details of any witnesses to the accident, and any available photographs and drawings of the accident to help your claim. Photographs of your injuries, as well as a diary of your recovery and any rehabilitation, are important. The vehicle’s tachograph will provide vital information about the driver’s driving time, speed and distance.
To prove your compensation claim, you will need to demonstrate that the lorry driver was negligent or driving dangerously – and that your injuries were caused as a direct result. Even if you were partly to blame for the accident, you should still be able to recover some compensation.
An expert claims lawyer will use all of the information you provide to build the strongest possible case against any party who can be held liable for your injuries and any loss.
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