A certain amount of risk is involved every time a person gets into a vehicle. Most people accept this risk without dwelling on it too much, but the simple reality is that danger can come in many forms and at any time. Driver error, mechanical or other vehicle problems, poor road conditions, weather-related issues. These are just a few of the challenges drivers face while on the road, any of which can be the reason a simple trip to the grocery store or commute to work turns fatal. In fact, a sudden change in weather was the cause of a deadly accident on Interstate 81 in Schuylkill County on Monday, March 28, 2022.
When a snow squall unexpectedly hit the area that morning, the sudden high winds and whiteout conditions took drivers by surprise, resulting in a massive crash involving 50 vehicles. The pileup, which left six people dead and sent 24 to area hospitals, involved passenger vehicles and large trucks. This is rarely a good combination.
Of course, motor vehicle accidents that involve only passenger vehicles such as cars, sport utility vehicles (SUVs), or pickup trucks can be dangerous enough to result in serious injuries or even death. However, that danger – and the likelihood of severe or catastrophic injuries or death – increases substantially when large commercial trucks such as 18-wheelers or tractor-trailers are involved. When an accident involves both passenger vehicles and big rigs, as the March 28 crash on I-81 did, the odds are stacked against the people in the passenger vehicles.
Statistics bear this out, showing that in these types of accidents it is usually the occupants of the car who suffer severe injuries and fatalities – not the people in the truck. According to the nonprofit group the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), 4,119 people were killed in large truck crashes in 2019 alone. A whopping 67% of those fatalities were occupants of cars and other passenger vehicles.
Why are truck accidents so dangerous?
There are several reasons why truck accidents are especially dangerous for anyone in a passenger vehicle, but the main reason is the size disparity between large commercial trucks and passenger cars. The sheer size and weight of tractor-trailers – even when they are not carrying a load – put the average passenger vehicle at a significant disadvantage in a truck accident. Large trucks often weigh 20 to 30 times more than a passenger vehicle. A car, SUV, or pickup truck typically weighs anywhere from approximately 3,000 pounds to nearly 7,000 pounds, depending on the specific vehicle. In contrast, a tractor-trailer can weigh up to 80,000 pounds when fully loaded, and roughly 35,000 pounds when empty. In either scenario, the passenger vehicle is no match for an 18-wheeler.
Their size also makes tractor-trailers and other large trucks difficult to maneuver, even for the most experienced and well-trained commercial truck driver. This can increase the chances of a truck accident. To make matters worse, drivers of passenger vehicles are often unaware of the unique challenges truck drivers face and wrongly assume that large trucks have the same maneuverability as a car or an SUV. This is simply not the case, and the result can be a catastrophic accident.
Drivers of large trucks must contend with other factors that contribute to the possibility of an accident, such as:
- Longer stopping times.A vehicle as large and heavy as a tractor-trailer requires additional time and distance to safely come to a stop. Even a semi-truck requires additional room and time to stop. In an emergency situation such as a snow squall, when visibility suddenly reduces to zero or close to it, the natural inclination of any driver is to stop until they can see what is in front of them. However, a sudden stop or rapid deceleration is not always possible for a large truck. Any vehicles that have stopped or significantly slowed down in front of them may be impacted – quite literally.
- Limited field of vision.Large trucks such as 18-wheelers have multiple large blind spots that severely restrict the driver’s ability to see the road – and other vehicles – around the truck when using the rearview or side mirrors. These blind spots are located on both sides of a tractor-trailer and in the front and back of the truck. While the driver of a passenger vehicle may think the truck’s driver can see their car, that is not always the case. As a result, drivers of passenger vehicles must be especially cautious when driving anywhere near a tractor-trailer.
- Vulnerability to wind.Moderate to high winds can pose a serious challenge for an 18-wheeler. At 70 to 80 feet long, these trucks can become difficult to control as the combined surface area of the truck and trailer create a sail-like effect that can catch the wind and throw the trailer off-balance. The result can be catastrophic for any vehicle that is in close proximity to the tractor-trailer.
Common injuries in truck accidents
Any truck accident can be traumatic – even if everyone involved survives. A serious truck accident can cause severe, life-altering injuries for the occupants of a passenger vehicle, such as:
- Back and neck injuries
- Burn injuries
- Broken bones
- Internal injuries such as organ damage
- Soft-tissue damage
- Spinal cord injuries (SCI)
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
These painful and often debilitating injuries may require extensive medical care and follow-up treatments, all of which can be incredibly expensive. Some injuries may be so severe that the victim may be unable to return to their pre-accident life and may even require lifelong treatment and care. This can leave them unable to support themselves or their family, all of which can create a significant financial burden.
What to do if you are in a truck accident in York, PA, or the surrounding area
Car accidents, even minor ones, can be frightening. A commercial truck accident can be terrifying – especially if you are in a passenger vehicle. If you are fortunate enough to survive the accident, the ordeal is just beginning. Most trucking companies and their insurance providers are determined to avoid a large payout – even when their driver is at fault and your or your loved one’s injuries are serious enough to warrant a substantial monetary award.
The personal injury lawyers at KBG Injury Law have extensive experience representing clients in cases involving motor vehicle and truck accidents in all of South Central Pennsylvania. From our offices in York, Lancaster, Hanover, Harrisburg, and Gettysburg, we work to ensure our clients receive fair compensation for injuries sustained in truck accidents. We understand the emotional and psychological toll a serious accident can place on victims and their loved ones, so we do everything we can to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve without adding to your stress.
If you or a loved one were involved in a truck accident in York or anywhere in South Central Pennsylvania, we can help. Call us at 717-848-3838 or complete our contact form to schedule a consultation today.
The personal injury attorneys at KBG Injury Law are all experienced litigators. Almost all of them represented insurance companies prior to becoming advocates for injured people, which provides them with a unique perspective and insight into how these companies operate. They also offer extensive courtroom experience if going to trial is the best legal alternative for the client.