by Dallas Car and Truck Accident Lawyer, Tim O’Hare
In 2019, an estimated 38,800 people lost their lives in car or truck accidents on U.S. roadways, according to the National Safety Council. About 4.4 million people sustained serious injuries requiring medical attention.
Accidents between passenger cars and commercial trucks, such as tractor-trailers and semis, often involve serious or fatal injuries. Approximately 11 percent of all car crash deaths occur in accidents involving large trucks. Of those killed in auto accidents, 5,000 motorists were killed in accidents involving a semi truck (74 percent of those killed were in passenger vehicles), and an estimated 140,000 people are injured in truck accidents annually.
Each year, nearly half a million trucking accidents happen on U.S. roadways, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and that number is on the rise. Between 2009 and 2017, the number of fatal truck accidents increased by 40 percent and the number of truck crashes resulting in injuries increased by 62 percent between 2009 and 2015, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
Accidents between passenger cars and commercial trucks, such as tractor-trailers and semis, often involve serious or fatal injuries. Nearly 5,000 motorists are killed in accidents involving large trucks each year (74 percent of those killed are in passenger vehicles), and an estimated 140,000 people are injured in truck accidents annually.
Key Differences Between Truck Accidents and Car Accidents
Accidents between two passenger vehicles are very different from an accident between a commercial truck and a car.
What role does size and weight play in a truck accident?
In an accident, size is everything. There is an incredible difference in size and weight between a semi compared to an automobile. Commercial trucks are marvelous machines, but these beasts of the roadways can also be very dangerous. A passenger car weighs about 4,000 pounds, whereas a tractor trailer can weigh upwards of 80,000 pounds, or more.
Due to their size, trucks are much more difficult to maneuver than a passenger vehicle. Coming to a complete stop in a truck takes at least 20 to 40 percent longer in a truck and the sheer force of the impact of a truck in a wreck is significantly stronger compared to cars, even if the two were traveling at the same speed.
Because semi trucks have more of an impact in an accident, injuries and damage to property can be much more significant. Traumatic brain injury, fractures, broken bones, internal injuries, soft tissue injuries, spinal cord injury and paralysis are all very real possibilities if you are ever involved in an accident with an 18-wheeler or other large commercial truck.
Who is at fault in a trucking accident?
In accidents that involve semi trucks, sometimes the truck driver is at fault, but more often than not (in 80 percent of cases), the accident was actually caused by the driver of the other vehicle. When the truck driver is at fault, critical driver error (failure to adapt speed to road conditions, illegal maneuvers, etc.) represents a main cause for trucking accidents. Although truck drivers are susceptible to the same dangers of driving as any driver, such as speeding or distracted driving, there are other factors that may also be involved in a truck accident. According to FMCSA, here are the 10 most common factors involved in a truck accident:
- Driver fatigue
- Brake problems
- Traffic flow interruption, such as congestion or a previous crash
- Prescription drug use
- Traveling too fast for conditions
- Unfamiliarity with the roadway
- Problems with the roadway
- Required to stop before the crash (such as due to a stoplight or crosswalk)
- Over-the-counter drug use
- Inadequate surveillance of the surroundings
Improper loading or inadequate maintenance inspections may also play a role in truck accidents. A mechanical breakdown, such as brake failure or tire blowout during operation of a 40-ton truck can be devastating for unsuspecting motorists.
If you are involved in an accident with a commercial truck and it was the truck driver’s fault, the trucking company and the truck manufacturer may also be found liable.
Truck accident lawsuits can be difficult to litigate as they involve specific nuances that aren’t seen in car accident lawsuits. For example, many times we are dealing with multiple defendants (and therefore multiple insurance companies) as the tractor is typically owned by one company and the trailer owned by another. The truck manufacturer may also be liable and if it was proven that the truck was improperly loaded, the entity responsible for loading may also be liable in the accident.
When it comes to car-to-car accidents, speeding is the leading cause of car crashes, followed closely by distracted driving, reckless driving and drunk driving. More car-to-car accidents happen than accidents involving trucks, but the likelihood of a severe injury in a truck accident involving a smaller vehicle is greater.
How can you prevent being a victim in a trucking accident?
Not every accident is avoidable, but there are tips you can remember to help protect yourself and your passengers from serious injury or death in a trucking accident.
Treat trucks differently than other cars. Big rig trucks weigh at least 30 times more than a passenger car, making it much more difficult for a large truck to come to a complete stop quickly. For example, a semi truck that is moving at 55 miles per hour can take the length of a football field to come to a complete stop. The size of an 18-wheeler also makes it difficult for the truck driver to change lanes. Never pull out in front of a semi truck and avoid situations where you may need to suddenly stop in front of a large truck.
Keep yourself visible. Driving next to a semi or directly behind one can make it very difficult for the truck driver to see you. Do not follow too closely or stay directly next to a semi truck. A general rule is that if you cannot see the truck’s side mirrors, the driver cannot see you.
Never stop on the side of the road. Pulling onto the shoulder of a busy highway could cost you your life. If you have a flat tire or are having trouble with your car, if at all possible, pull completely off the road, either onto the grass or onto a side road or into a parking lot. Drivers of large trucks like 18-wheelers may have a hard time seeing a car stopped on the side of the road until it is too late — especially at night. If you do stop on the side of the road, do not stay in your car. Watch for traffic and carefully get you and your passengers out and move as far away from traffic as possible until help arrives.
Always wear your seatbelt. Proper driver and passenger restraint in a vehicle is absolutely necessary in order to reduce the effects of g-forces on the body in any accident. The seatbelt will protect you from being thrown into the interior of the vehicle, such as the dash or another seat and can prevent ejection in an accident. The extra “stretching” of a seatbelt can also help reduce the amount of g-forces put on your body in an accident.
Litigating a truck accident requires an experienced truck accident lawyer who is knowledgeable about the unique issues and the ins and outs of a commercial truck accident case. Accidents involving commercial or semi-trucks require extensive investigation of the truck’s black box data to get a clear picture of how the truck was being driven and the conditions at the time of the accident in order to demonstrate negligence on the part of the truck owner or truck driver.
If you have been injured or lost a loved one as the result of a trucking accident, or a car accident, contact the experienced legal team at The Law Offices of Tim O’Hare today. We will help you receive all due compensation for your injury or loss. There are no fees or costs up front, and no fees owed unless we recover money for you.
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