Our highways teem with tractor-trailers, as the very nature of our commerce system in the United States depends on the ability to move goods quickly and efficiently from one place to another. With millions of tractor trailers on the road, they play an essential role in our economy for drivers and consumers. While such trucks may provide an efficient method of transporting goods, they present significant hazards to the motorists with whom they share the road.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most tractor-trailers exceed 26,000 pounds when measuring the weight of the vehicle, passengers and cargo. In contrast, the average midsize sedan weighs 3,300 pounds. The sheer size and weight of these massive vehicles make them more difficult to control and maneuver and can cause serious injuries as a result of an accident, especially when a collision with a smaller passenger vehicle is involved.
Although tractor-trailers are important, it is sometimes hard to feel safe while sharing the road with these giant machines. If you imagine a collision with a vehicle that weighs several tons, you may agree it seems the chance of survival is slim.
The fact is, tractor-trailer accidents result in many fatalities each year. In 2014, there were 6,596 truck-related accidents in Pennsylvania. Of those accidents, 136 were fatal. If an accident with a tractor-trailer is not fatal, it is likely to cause serious injuries.
If you are a victim of a tractor-trailer accident, it is your right to seek compensation for the damage caused. Such an event can have lifelong consequences, and you do not want to be left paying for someone else’s negligence. As experienced trucking accident lawyers, we want to increase awareness about the risks of sharing the road with tractor-trailers, and we want to share the steps you need to take in the event of an accident with a large truck.
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Common Tractor-Trailer Accident Problems
While many truckers and the companies they work for are highly conscientious and safety-conscious, there are some drivers who may not always abide by the rules of the road, placing themselves and other motorists in jeopardy. Generally speaking, truck drivers are paid by the mile. You can see why some truckers push themselves to exhaustion — to meet demanding schedules and get their mileage.
Tractor-trailer accidents can happen for many reasons, including a driver’s fatigue. However, certain problems are frequently associated with tractor-trailer accidents. Here are some of the most common tractor-trailer issues that could lead to an accident:
- Inadequate training
- The need to use two lanes to turn
- Jackknifing, or when the trailer gets out of sync with the tractor and forms a V or L shape
- Loss of control due to fatigue, driving under the influence or driving too fast
- Prescription or over-the-counter drug use
- Brake or tire problems
- Interruption of traffic flow
- Unfamiliarity of roads
- Poor vehicle maintenance
- Equipment failure
- Improper loading of cargo
- Failure to properly inspect the truck at the beginning of a shift
WHAT ARE THE TYPES OF TRUCK ACCIDENTS?
There are multiple types of trucking accidents, all of which can result in fatalities or life-threatening injuries. The most common commercial vehicle accidents include:
- Rollovers: A driver may lose control of the truck, causing it to slide and tip over onto its side.
- Rear-ending: Even when brakes work properly, trucks can fail to stop in time and end up crashing into the back of a vehicle.
- Under Ride: If a truck stops too quickly, passenger vehicles behind may get stuck underneath the truck’s trailer.
- T-bone: If a driver runs a red light, they can hit another vehicle at a perpendicular angle.
- Head-on: Head-on collisions are the most dangerous crashes involving large trucks.
Common Causes of Large-Truck Car Accidents
A study conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) found that almost half of large truck rollover crashes resulted from one of the following:
- A driver’s failure to adjust their speed to the curves in the road
- Problems with the load being carried
- Conditions of the brakes
- Road surface conditions
- Intersection circumstances
Other leading factors in a rollover crash include a trucker dozing off, falling asleep or being distracted.
Although truckers are the ones behind the wheel of a massive vehicle, they are not always to blame. Sometimes, car drivers cause a trucking accident. A car driver may cause a collision with a tractor-trailer by:
- Abruptly changing lanes
- Driving in a trucker’s no-zone
- Making a turn next to a truck when there is not enough room or visibility
- Driving between trucks
- Unsafe Passing
Regardless of who caused the accident, the results of a trucking accident can be devastating. When a truck and a car collide, injury, death or lifelong disability often ensues. Who is held liable for such pain and suffering?
For example, consider a truck takes up to 40 percent farther to stop than a car. If the brakes are poorly maintained, that can easily lead to an accident. Unfortunately, this happens more often than one might think. According to the Department of Transportation (DOT), defective brakes account for 29.4 percent of commercial large truck collisions. If a truck has defective brakes, who is at fault? Determining faulty brakes requires a thorough investigation involving technicians, engineers and other qualified individuals.
A trucking accident may be the result of a trucker’s negligence, negligence on their company’s part or a car driver’s carelessness. However, even if an average motorist was responsible for a trucking accident, they may be able to recover a certain amount of compensation. Trucking companies have a high standard of safety laws to abide by. If they are found to be a responsible for an accident by a percentage, they will need to compensate for that amount. It is important to determine who is liable for a trucking accident because the cost is huge.
The Financial Impact of a Trucking Accident
If you suffered a tractor-trailer accident injury, the financial impact could be severe. You may be unable to work for an extended period, making it difficult to sustain your usual standard of living. A serious accident may also mean significant medical bills that may not be fully covered by insurance.
According to the FMCSA, a fatal large truck crash costs an average of $3.6 million per crash, while one with injuries costs approximately $200,000. It costs an average of$91,000 per crash for all large truck crashes. The bigger and heavier the truck, the more damage is likely to occur.
Consider the terrifying thought of colliding with a several-ton vehicle. Not only will your car undergo irreparable damage and you will need a new vehicle, but you and your passengers may also face life-changing injuries or worse. Some of the most serious injuries resulting from an auto accident include traumatic brain injuries and damage to the spinal cord.
The Cost of Spinal Cord Injuries
According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCIA), vehicle crashes are the leading cause of spinal cord injury. Someone with high-level tetraplegia faces an average yearly expense of $1,079,412 for the first year and $187,443 for each subsequent year for healthcare and living expenses. This estimate does not include loss of wages or productivity. A person who suffers from tetraplegia is paralyzed below the spinal cord injury. Their arms, hands, torso, legs and pelvic organs are all affected.
Someone with a spinal cord injury but motor functioning at any level can expect to pay $352,279 a year and $42,789 for each subsequent year for healthcare and living expenses. Besides experiencing life-changing physical suffering, paralysis or loss of motor functions has a major impact on emotional and social aspects too.
The Cost of Traumatic Brain Injuries
Traumatic brain injuries are quite serious as well. In 2010, about 2.5 million Americans sustained a traumatic brain injury according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The estimated cost of traumatic brain injuries in the U.S. in 2010 was $76.5 billion.
A traumatic brain injury may affect:
- Cognitive function
- Motor function
This type of injury may cause lifelong disability and impact daily living activities. A traumatic brain injury can also have serious financial consequences.
Other Trucking Accident Side Effects
Both spinal and brain injuries require thousands of dollars in medical attention, and both can result in disability. How can a victim of a tragic accident continue to work and pay their bills under such circumstances? The cost of emotional trauma needs to be considered as well. For example, many victims of traumatic events experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD may impair their ability to function normally. With PTSD an individual may experience:
- Flashbacks or nightmares
- Psychological distress
- Physiological reactions
- Persistent fear
- Avoidance of places, people or activities that are reminders of the traumatic event
- Trouble sleeping or concentrating
Who Is Responsible in the Event of a Trucking Accident?
The expense of a trucking accident seems immeasurable. You may be wondering how responsibility is determined in a trucking accident, and who will pay for related costs. Figuring this out can be a complicated process and calls for expert examination and advice.
A trucking accident could be the result of a driver’s negligence or a manufacturer’s negligence. It could be the result of several factors combined. You will need evidence, data reports and witness accounts to confirm who is liable for your pain and suffering and financial loss. An experienced truck accident lawyer can help you build your case and get the compensation you deserve.
Is a trucking company also liable for accidents caused by their drivers? It depends on the circumstances, and it can get complicated. Sometimes a trucker is an owner-operator and not technically the employee of a trucking company. This limits the liability of the company the trucker contracts for. If the trucker is an employee of a company, the company may be held liable for the accident.
There is a term called “logo liability” that may make liability easier to determine. In short, logo liability means a driver driving a truck with a company logo is an employee of that company while they are under the responsibility of the truck and its cargo. This does not matter whether the driver is technically an employee or an owner-operator. However, not all jurisdictions will accept logo liability in a claim. It is best to consult an accident attorney to make sure all parties involved are held liable where due.
What to Do After a Trucking Accident
If you are in a tractor-trailer accident, collecting evidence immediately after is critically important. If you have been injured as a result of a tractor-trailer accident, you must act quickly to secure the proof you will need to establish negligence.
Truck drivers who realize they have caused a tractor-trailer accident may take fast action to reduce the appearance of liability, as a negligent act could result in a loss of driving privileges, hindering their ability to continue to earn a living. Therefore, you want to take the right steps immediately after an accident.
After a trucking accident, you will need to make a few phone calls as soon as possible. You will need to call:
- The police or 911
- Your insurance company
- Your lawyer
If you are not injured, you will want to take the following steps:
- File a police report.
- Collect evidence such as photos, video or audio.
- Take note of what you see, who you talk to and how you feel.
- Gather witness contact information.
- Go to a doctor and get checked.
If you are in an accident with a large truck, you will likely need medical attention immediately, and you may not be able to do any of the above steps. In the case of severe injury, contact an accident lawyer or ask a loved one to contact a lawyer for you as soon as possible to handle your situation.
If you did not suffer injury from the accident, still seek medical attention. You may not feel any pain at the moment because of the adrenaline from the crash, but you do not know what might hurt you later. If you wait too long, it will be more difficult to prove your injury is a result of the accident.
In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations on filing a truck accident claim is two years. However, the longer you wait the weaker your case will become. Hiring a lawyer to handle your truck accident claim immediately is the best way to preserve the integrity of your case and get the most compensation.
SHOULD I TALK TO MY INSURANCE COMPANY AFTER AN ACCIDENT?
Pennsylvania is a no-fault state. This means you make your claim with your own insurance, so it’s important to know what to say and what to avoid. Your lawyer should handle the details of your claim, but you do need to contact your insurance to give them the basic information. Here’s what you should do.
- Stay calm: You likely have a lot of feelings in the wake of an accident, especially if you sustained injuries. Taking your anger out on the insurance representative will not help your case.
- Know who you’re talking to: Collect the representative’s name and telephone number, as well as the name of the person or business he or she is representing.
- Minimize personal information: You can give your name, address and phone number, but avoid discussing your work schedule or income.
- Do not give details: The insurance representative might want you to give a statement about what occurred. You should only reveal basic facts like where and when the accident occurred, the vehicles involved and the identity of witnesses. Avoid giving details of your injuries.
The insurance company will use whatever you tell them to try and reduce the amount of compensation they pay. If at all possible, speak to your lawyer before talking to the insurance adjuster.
Get Immediate Help in the Event of a Trucking Accident
Chances are, you will need an experienced tractor-trailer accident injury attorney working on your behalf to secure the necessary evidence and protect your interests. For example, a few actions a trucking accident lawyer might take include:
- Inspecting the truck for failed equipment like faulty brakes
- Reviewing truck log books, driver time sheets and personnel information to verify whether drivers were behind the wheel longer than permitted according to the law. Truckers are allowed to drive up to eleven hours. Many drivers violate this regulation.
Trucking accidents are serious events, and you likely won’t be able to spend the time or energy required to properly investigate and document important details. Do not hesitate to reach out for help and contact an experienced attorney.
Have You Been in an Accident? Contact Lawyers You Can Trust
Despite awareness of trucking danger, truck accidents are increasing. In 2016, 3,986 people died in large truck crashes. Seventeen percent of them were truckers or truck passengers while 66 percent were car passengers or drivers. Sixteen percent were bicyclists, pedestrians and motorcyclists. This is a 27 percent increase since 2009.
If you were unfortunate enough to have suffered an accident with a tractor-trailer, we want to help you recover your losses. At KBG Injury Law, we have a team of experienced tractor-trailer injury lawyers ready to fight for the compensation you deserve. Sometimes insurance companies do not pay all they owe, and we will make sure they also do their part. In a tractor-trailer accident, costs may far exceed what your insurance or health insurance will cover, and you could suffer the consequences for years to come, perhaps even a lifetime.
We do not believe in sitting back and letting things happen. At KBG Injury Law, we take your injury as personally as you do. If you were the victim of a life-altering tractor-trailer accident, give us a call or request a free consultation today.