How Crane Truck Accident Cases Work - A Lawyer's Perspective
Crane trucks are different than regular semi-trucks and 18-wheeler, partially because the operators have to be specially licensed. Federal law requires that crane or derrick operators to be licensed through National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO) or an audited employer program. But moreover, crane trucks are built differently than most commercial trucks and have their own set of difficulties & dangers.
These unique vehicles are often configured in a way where the trailer part of the truck that carries the crane sits higher off of the ground, higher than would the typical trailer of an 18-wheeler for instance. As a result, there is a high risk of an "under-ride" accident where a vehicle can go underneath that trailer, causing severe injuries and possibly even fatalities. By their very nature, crane trucks are incredibly top-heavy. If a crane is working by the side of the road, and it tips over due to improper operation or mechanical failure, then approaching motorists can be in a great deal of danger.
Questions answered on this page:
- What are crane trucks?
- What do I do if I was hit by a crane truck in an accident?
- Is the crane truck driver liable, or his employer?
- What kind of obstacles will I face in my case?
If the driver of a crane truck was the cause of your accident, then you will need to obtain legal assistance to help you secure equitable financial compensation for your injury. Our attorneys with Grossman Law Offices have been in practice for 25 years, and we've handled many crane truck accident cases in our tenure, giving us invaluable experience. If your attorney has never handled a crane truck accident case before, it's best to have experience on your side rather than try and figure everything out on the first try.
Shortage of Skill Leads to Accidents
Crane trucks are a fixture at just about every construction site and are used to lift heavy, cumbersome objects. This type of vehicle has a boom with several sections telescoped together. In order to be able to lift these heavy loads, a crane truck is outfitted with reinforced steel cables that run from behind the cab and over the boom. The more cables the truck has, the heavier the amount of weight it can lift. There is a large gear below the cab that allows the truck to maneuver 360 degrees, and the operator controls this gear via a foot pedal.
As you might guess, it takes a special worker to operate all this, and do so safely. That's why there's a difference between having a CDL and a crane operator's license. Unfortunately, though, construction companies that need a task done quickly will often ask an unqualified worker to hop in the crane cab and perform a task they're not trained to perform. That puts everyone in danger.
As of October 2014, OSHA updated their regulations to allow "operators-in-training" to work with certain types of cranes and light certain types of loads, provided they have permission from their trainer and are closely supervised. In theory, that should be safe enough, but you don't have to be able to see into the future to imagine how easily it can go wrong.
In recent years, instances of operator error and negligence leading to crane truck accidents have been on the rise. Even though crane truck operators must have a special license, huge overseas construction projects, such as oil and gas drilling operations in the Middle East, have caused a shortage of highly skilled operators in the United States.
A Different Kind of Danger
"Bucket trucks" are often confused as a type of crane truck, but they're actually in their own separate category. However, crane trucks come in all shapes and sizes. You have no doubt seen one of the smaller models at work before, or more than likely, you saw one when an electri to your neighborhood to fix a downed power line after a storm. These have truck-mounted aerial lifts, which are also used on telephone lines, for the erecting of signs, tree trimming, painting and myriad other uses.
The problem is, as we stated, this makes the trucks rather "top-heavy." Workers themselves, as well as passersby, are often in danger of a smaller crane truck suddenly tipping over due to its arm being over-extended. Many times, this is because the truck was trying to hoist too heavy a load and the operator didn't pay attention to the limits of his truck.
However, there are several bucket trucks in use that are aged, and as a result of that, lack updated safety equipment and have maintenance problems. If a crane truck is not kept in top shape, the articulated arm can collapse suddenly or move without warning and cause an accident. Many times, these trucks are rented and used by operators who have little to no training in running one of these complex machines, which makes this type of accident even more terrifying.
In mid-2014, a crane truck in Dallas blew a tire while on the Dallas North Tollway and the arm of the crane swung into oncoming traffic, where it hit another car and killed the driver. This highlights an obvious danger that's unique to crane trucks: the boom or "arm" of the crane becoming unsecured and hitting someone. This happens a lot when cranes are being transported from work site to work site.
Taking Legal Action after You're Injured in a Crane Truck Accident
We have seen several instances of crane truck drivers failing to warn oncoming motorists of their presence by setting out cones, flares, or some other type of warning device and causing an accident as a result. We have also seen examples where the construction company that owned the crane failed to outfit it with reflectors to warn motorists of potential hazards.
If you can prove that the crane truck driver involved in your accident was either inadequately certified or trained, you may be able to sue that driver's employer for negligent hiring practices. You will, in all likelihood, be taking legal action against a construction company rather than a trucking company. Regardless, you will also be taking action against an insurance carrier. And because the policies covering crane trucks are sometimes large, the insurance company involved in your case will fight tenaciously to see to it that you either get nothing for your suffering, or your compensation is substantially reduced.
The construction company and its insurance carrier will, in all likelihood, claim that the driver is not a general employee but rather a contractor. And as such, the company will argue, it should not be held accountable for that driver's negligence. But our attorneys with Grossman Law Offices know that many construction companies use the "contractor" label in an extremely liberal fashion, in order to not have to purchase worker's compensation insurance. There are several ways that we can establish the fact that, despite the company's label, the driver of the crane truck that caused your accident was actually an employee. And when we can prove that, you will be able to hold the construction company liable for your suffering.
Trying to push the blame off on the crane truck operator is a common move made by construction companies and trucking companies, but it's something we've seen a lot of over the past 25 years and we've developed a good process for shooting that argument down.
Call an attorney immediately.
You need to act as quickly as possible in contacting an attorney to have the best chance of obtaining fair compensation. If you or someone close to you has suffered an injury in a crane truck accident, the attorneys ar Grossman Law Offices are here to help you at (855) 326-0000 (toll free). One of our attorneys will listen to the details surrounding the accident and the injury that was suffered, and let you know how we may be able to help. At the very least, we can tell you what your next steps need to be, whether it's hiring an attorney or simply getting your medical bills taken care of.
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