The commercial trucking industry is essential to our American way of life. Without big rigs and their drivers, Americans lack easy access to many of life’s staples and luxuries. However, as imperative as trucks and truckers are, they also pose severe risks to those they share the road with. The trucking industry is safer than it once was, it still has a ways to go.
Every year thousands of accidents happen on U.S. roads involving commercial trucks. Innocent victims are severely or even fatally injured. Victims who find themselves in this situation should reach out to a skilled commercial truck accident attorney. By working with an attorney, they can seek full and fair financial recovery for their injuries and damages.
What Makes Commercial Trucks So Dangerous?
Commercial trucks, also known as big rigs, tractor-trailers, or semi-trucks, pose unique risks and are more dangerous than regular passenger vehicles due to several factors.
Size and Weight
Commercial trucks are significantly larger and heavier than passenger vehicles. They can top out at 80,000 pounds or more, while the average passenger vehicle weighs around 4,000 pounds.
The sheer size and weight disparity make commercial trucks more challenging to maneuver, stop, and control than smaller vehicles, increasing the potential for severe accidents and catastrophic damage.
Due to their size and length, commercial trucks require a larger turning radius and have limited maneuverability, especially in urban or crowded areas. This can make sharp turns, changing lanes safely, or reacting quickly to sudden obstacles or hazards challenging.
Longer Stopping Distances
The size and weight of commercial trucks significantly affect their stopping distances. A loaded truck takes a considerably longer distance than a passenger vehicle to come to a complete stop. This increased stopping distance raises the risk of rear-end collisions or accidents caused by sudden stops or slowing down.
Commercial trucks have larger blind spots, known as no-zones, on all vehicle sides (front, back, left, and right). These blind spots make it difficult for truck drivers to see smaller vehicles, motorcycles, or pedestrians in adjacent lanes. If drivers fail to check their blind spots properly or neglect to use their mirrors effectively, it can lead to accidents during lane changes or merging.
Maintenance and Mechanical Issues
Due to the heavy use and mileage commercial they quickly accumulate, trucks require proper maintenance. Inadequate maintenance, neglected repairs, or faulty equipment can contribute to accidents. Brake failures, tire blowouts, steering problems, or other mechanical issues can result in loss of control and accidents on the road.
Commercial trucks often transport hazardous materials, such as flammable, explosive, or toxic substances. In the event of an accident or cargo-related incident, the potential for more significant damage, injuries, and environmental hazards increases.
Types of Commercial Truck Accidents
Commercial truck accidents can often result in severe consequences. Some common types of commercial truck accidents:
Commercial trucks require longer stopping distances and time than passenger vehicles. A rear-end collision may occur if a truck driver fails to maintain a safe following distance or does not react in time to sudden traffic changes. These accidents can result in significant damage and injuries, particularly if the truck carries a heavy load.
Jackknifing happens when the trailer of a truck swings out at an angle, resembling the shape of a folding knife or a V. It typically occurs when the truck’s wheels lose traction, causing the trailer to skid sideways. Jackknife accidents often happen during sudden braking or when a driver loses control, and they can lead to multi-vehicle collisions or block multiple lanes of traffic.
Due to their high center of gravity, commercial trucks are highly susceptible to rollover accidents. Rollovers occur when a truck tips onto its side or roof. Excessive turning speed, uneven road surfaces, abrupt steering maneuvers, or shifting cargo can all cause a rollover accident. Rollover accidents can involve other vehicles and lead to severe injuries or fatalities.
Underride accidents occur when a smaller vehicle collides with the rear or side of a commercial truck and becomes wedged underneath the truck’s trailer. These accidents can happen if a truck suddenly stops or a driver fails to signal or adequately illuminate their vehicle. Underride accidents often result in catastrophic injuries or fatalities due to the impact on the smaller vehicle’s occupants.
Wide Turn Accidents
Commercial trucks require a significant turning radius, making it frequently challenging for drivers to execute sharp turns. Truck drivers may sometimes not correctly assess the space needed to complete a turn, resulting in collisions with other vehicles or objects, especially when making right turns. Wide-turn accidents can lead to significant property damage and injuries.
Lane Change Accidents
Due to their large blind spots, commercial trucks pose a risk during lane changes. Suppose a truck driver fails to check blind spots or uses improper signaling. In that case, they may collide with a vehicle in an adjacent lane while changing lanes. These accidents can result in serious injuries, especially if the smaller vehicle is forced off the road or into another vehicle.
Commercial trucks often travel long distances, placing significant stress on their tires. In addition, some tires have manufacturer defects that make them weak. If a tire blowout occurs while the truck is in motion, the driver may lose control, leading to accidents.
Tire blowouts can cause the truck to veer into other lanes, collide with nearby vehicles, or overturn the truck. Even if other vehicles on the road aren’t involved in an accident with the big rig, pieces of tire can hit their vehicle, impeding their vision or causing accidents in other ways.
Each commercial truck accident is unique, and various factors can contribute to the occurrence and severity of the accident. Investigating the specific circumstances, evidence, and potential negligence is crucial to understanding the causes and liability in each case. Seeking legal representation from a reputable truck accident attorney can help victims navigate the complexities of commercial truck accidents and pursue appropriate compensation for the victims.
Causes of Commercial Truck Accidents
Truck accidents can occur for many different reasons. Unfortunately, negligence is the main factor in most of them. Truck drivers, trucking companies, truck owners, cargo loaders, government entities and contractors, and other parties can cause an accident.
Driver Fatigue and Hours of Service
Long working hours and demanding schedules can lead to driver fatigue, impairing their judgment and reaction times. Commercial truck drivers often face tight delivery deadlines and may be incentivized to push themselves beyond safe limits. Hours of Service (HOS) regulations address this issue by limiting the hours a driver can work and mandating rest breaks. However, some drivers may violate these regulations, leading to fatigue-related accidents.
Distractions such as cell phone use, eating, grooming, or other inattentive behaviors can divert a driver’s focus from the road. Commercial truck drivers spend long hours on the road, which increases the temptation to engage in distracting activities. However, taking eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, or mind off driving significantly increases the risk of accidents.
Speeding and Reckless Driving
Excessive speed, aggressive maneuvers, and tailgating contribute to commercial truck accidents. Some drivers may feel pressured by their employer to meet delivery deadlines and may resort to speeding to make up time.
Speeding reduces the driver’s ability to react to sudden changes in traffic or road conditions, increasing the likelihood of accidents. Reckless driving behaviors, especially by truckers, such as abrupt lane changes, weaving through traffic, or tailgating, put everyone on the road at risk.
Poor Vehicle Maintenance
Inadequate maintenance of brakes, tires, lights, and other critical components can lead to equipment failures and big rig accidents. Commercial trucks face significant wear and tear due to extreme mileage and heavy loads.
Neglecting required routine inspections, failing to address mechanical issues promptly, or using substandard replacement parts can compromise the truck’s safety.
Brake failures, tire blowouts, or faulty lights can lead to loss of control, collisions, or other dangerous situations. Regular maintenance and inspections can identify and address potential problems to ensure the safe operation of commercial trucks.
Inexperienced or Insufficiently Trained Drivers
Lack of proper training and experience can result in poor decision-making and an increased likelihood of accidents. Commercial truck drivers must have specialized skills and knowledge to operate these large vehicles safely.
Insufficient training can lead to:
- Errors in judgment
- Improper maneuvering
- Failure to recognize and respond to hazardous situations
Inexperienced drivers may lack the necessary defensive driving techniques or knowledge of safety regulations. Adequate training programs, ongoing education, and mentoring equip drivers with the skills they need to safely navigate the complexities of operating commercial trucks.
Improper Cargo Loading and Securement
Incorrectly loaded or unsecured cargo can shift during transit, affecting the truck’s stability and potentially causing accidents. Proper cargo loading and securement will maintain the balance and integrity of a commercial truck.
Unevenly distributed, overloaded, or inadequately secured cargo can shift or fall off, leading to:
- Loss of vehicle control
- Spills on the roadway
Cargo loaders and shippers play a vital role in ensuring proper loading practices and adherence to safety regulations to prevent accidents caused by improper cargo handling.
Alcohol, illicit drugs, some prescription medications, or certain over-the-counter medications can impair a driver’s ability to operate a commercial truck safely. Impaired driving reduces coordination, impairs judgment, slows reaction times, and compromises overall driving skills. Truck drivers also must abide by stricter standards regarding drinking and driving.
An attorney can assist you in many ways after a truck accident, including:
- Legal advice and guidance – An experienced commercial truck accident attorney can provide legal advice tailored to your case. It’s their job to guide you through the entire process and help you understand your rights and options.
- Investigation – Your attorney will thoroughly investigate the accident, collecting evidence such as the truck driver’s logbooks, maintenance records, the truck’s black box data, witness statements, and any available surveillance footage to determine liability and build a strong case on your behalf.
- Liability determination – Truck accidents can involve multiple parties, such as the truck driver, trucking company, maintenance contractors, or manufacturers. Your attorney will identify the liable parties and hold them accountable for their negligence.
- Negotiation with insurance companies – Unfortunately, Trucking companies often have powerful insurance companies that will minimize their liability and pay you the least compensation. An attorney can negotiate with these companies, ensuring you receive fair compensation for your injuries, property damage, and other losses.
- Calculating damages – Truck accidents can result in significant damages, including medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and long-term rehabilitation costs. An attorney can accurately assess the full extent of your damages to ensure you receive appropriate compensation.
- Settlement or trial representation – If you can’t reach a fair settlement through negotiations, your truck accident lawyer can represent you in court and litigate your case to pursue the compensation you deserve.
- Statute of limitations compliance – Every state has a statute of limitations, the timeframe injured victims must file a lawsuit for a truck accident. An attorney will meet all legal deadlines to preserve your right to seek compensation.
- Handling paperwork – Dealing with legal paperwork and documentation can be overwhelming, especially when recovering from injuries. An attorney will manage all the necessary paperwork, filings, and legal formalities on your behalf.
- Advocate for your rights – An attorney should protect your best interests and fight for your rights throughout the legal process. They will work diligently to make this process as easy as possible for you while still pursuing the maximum compensation possible in your case.
Hiring an attorney after a truck accident can make a significant difference in the outcome of your claim, helping you focus on your recovery while they handle the legal pieces of your case. Find a skilled personal injury attorney with experience in handling truck accident cases. Hire one as soon as possible after suffering an injury in a truck accident.