Truck Accidents: Everything You Need to Know to Protect Yourself
Learn everything you need to know about truck accidents including common causes, avoiding them, determining fault, and more.
In 2017, deaths from trucking accidents reached the highest level in 29 years. Large truck fatalities for that year were 4,761, a 9% increase from the prior year. There are many reasons for commercial truck fatalities, one of which directly correlates to their weight. More often than not, commercial trucks weigh 20 to 30 times more than passenger cars. They’re also taller and have higher ground clearance which can result in those smaller cars falling victim to under-riding.
Commercial truck accidents are much different than smaller vehicle accidents because they involve more people than just the drivers. For example, truck manufacturers and trucking companies can both be held liable, depending on the cause of an accident. These factors matter and can affect your final settlement.
Do you want to get the 101 on truck accidents? This guide will give you everything you need to protect yourself.
How Do Drivers Cause Accidents?
There are many different causes of accidents involving commercial trucks.
One of the most common causes of trucking accidents is fatigue. Overworked drivers are at risk when they drive long distances for many hours at a time, with very little rest in between. At least 13% of all trucking accidents are caused by fatigue. Sometimes, the driver is to blame. But more often than not, it’s caused by truck company owners who demand the delivery of their goods within short periods of time.
A lot of the time, truck drivers are under a lot of pressure to deliver within those set deadlines. They miss out on quality sleep, and the accumulated fatigue results in lost concentration and coordination. Sometimes they end up falling asleep at the wheel.
Speeding is a common cause of all automobile accidents and is also one of the most common causes of truck accidents. Because company owners demand that their drivers reach certain destinations within short periods of time, truck drivers often find themselves having to speed to meet those demands.
Poor weather conditions, traffic jams, and other conditions often set drivers behind schedule. When they over-speed, their reaction time is significantly reduced. It’s not always possible for a commercial truck to veer or brake suddenly when their heavy truck is going too fast.
Drugs and Alcohol
Unfortunately, a lot of truck drivers have been proven guilty of using alcohol or non-medicinal drugs while on the job.
Some only use substances at stops, but others bring drugs and alcohol with them while driving. When they use drugs or alcohol and drive, their driving is impaired, and accidents are much more likely to occur. Some prescription drugs can also lead to poor judgment and a lack of coordination.
What Are Some Other Common Causes?
Who is at fault in truck accidents? The causes we mentioned are examples of ways in which drivers are at fault. But there are common causes that put the trucking companies and truck manufacturers at fault as well. And sometimes, that fault is shared.
Poor Truck Maintenance and Driver Training
Truck owners are required by law to make sure their trucks are in tip-top shape before they hit the road, every time. But the time it takes to maintain trucks is costly, and they don’t always make the appropriate checks, especially when they run behind schedule.
This only puts other drivers on the road at risk.
In addition to maintenance, truck drivers must put in training hours to meet requirements before they’re allowed to drive big commercial trucks. But not all drivers adhere to these guidelines, and not all companies enforce them. As a result, some truck drivers are inadequately trained to operate such a huge machine.
Brake failure and blown tires contribute to truck crashes when trucking companies fail to follow federal safety regulations for truck inspections.
Trucking companies are supposed to keep meticulous records of those inspections and the dates. But they don’t always do so.
Sometimes a lawyer will trace the cause of an accident back to the actual truck manufacturer. If a truck manufacturer has installed a faulty or nonsecure part, they are at risk for the fault in truck accidents.
Distracted drivers, road rage, blind spots, and unfamiliarity with roads are all additional causes of truck accidents.
How to Avoid a Truck Accident
Avoiding truck accidents is feasible. There are a few things you can do to make sure you don’t fall victim to a devastating commercial truck accident, such as:
- Avoid blind spots
- Give clear signals
- Use caution when you pass
- Lower your brights
- Give the truck plenty of space
- Merge carefully
- Avoid distractions
To avoid blind spots, make sure you stay 30 feet behind a truck and 20 feet in front, depending on where you’re driving. Try to maintain at least two lanes wide at all times, or whenever possible.
When you pass, give clear signals and make sure the driver knows you’re there. If you’re unsure, wait until you know you can maneuver safely.
Use caution when you pass by opting not to pass on hills as trucks can increase or decrease speed. When trucks pass you, slow down and make sure they have space.
Lower your lights (high beams) around trucks because those bright lights can reflect off their mirrors and blind them.
Give the truck plenty of space because if there’s a tire blowout, those remnants can hit your car. High winds cause truck rollovers. If a commercial truck must brake suddenly, your vehicle could slide underneath.
Merge carefully by opting not to pull in front of a truck when traffic is slowing down. Slow down when they pass to decrease passing time.
Avoid distractions. Ignore noisy passengers and don’t use your phone or focus on snacks and drinks.
Common Truck Accident Injuries
Injuries from truck crashes can be catastrophic. Trucks are so much heavier and larger than other vehicles that when the 2 collide, the result is often detrimental.
Some of the most common injuries are:.
- Broken bones
- Back and neck injuries
- Head injuries
- Internal injuries
- Seat belt injuries
- Rib and torso injuries
- Paralysis and spinal cord injuries
When it comes to the spinal cord and other injuries, they aren’t always apparent right away. That’s why anyone who is in a truck accident should seek medical attention IMMEDIATELY and contact a personal injury lawyer. Waiting to do so can only further the damage.
In 2011, 3,757 of traffic fatalities involved large trucks. And of those crashes, 72% of the casualties were operators of other vehicles. In the event of an accident, a truck is much more likely to cause a wrongful death than a crash with another car. It’s an awful truth, which is why it’s so important to do everything you can to avoid truck accidents.
Who is Typically at Fault for Truck Accidents?
The same source we mentioned above reveals that over 80% of trucking accidents happen as a result of driver error. The driver is usually the first person an experienced lawyer will investigate. They need to rule out things like alcohol and drug use, inadequate training, and speeding. They need to make sure that drivers haven’t violated the hours of service rules, which ensures trucks don’t drive beyond what they can physically handle.
Trucking companies can also be at fault. They are responsible for making sure drivers have adequate training and the proper resources to maintain their trucks and ensure safe driving. Trucking companies are also responsible for testing their drivers for drugs and alcohol. If they fail to do so or fail to implement proper training, they can be held liable for an accident.
A cargo company could be held liable if they didn’t properly secure the contents of a truck. If it was exposed, fell out, or caused a driver to tip over because of improper weight distribution, they’re at risk of being held liable.
The manufacturer is at fault if any parts are defective or were improperly installed. Brake failure, tire blowout or defective hitch, and steering system failure are all circumstances in which a lawyer chooses to investigate the manufacturer. Other drivers may also be held liable, and as a result, their compensation reduced.
What Should You Do After You’ve Been in an Accident?
Truck accidents are complicated. If you’ve been in one, the 2 most important things you must do is see a doctor and hire a lawyer. There are so many potential causes and factors involved that it’s essential you hire someone who is experienced and will check all the boxes.
Not only are car accidents often detrimental, but they are stressful, time-consuming, and emotionally damaging as well. The best thing you can do is alleviate some of that pain. Get someone on your side working on getting you the compensation you deserve and with the testimonials to prove their professionalism and experience.