Semi-trucks, also known as commercial motor vehicles or tractor-trailers, deliver most of our products. While these large vehicles maintain our economy and comfort, they are hazardous to other drivers.
If a semi-truck accident injured you or a loved one, an experienced truck accident attorney can help. A semi-truck attorney can answer your legal questions, inform you of the process to seek compensation, and explain the legal services available to assist you with your claim.
The Size of a Semi-Truck Creates Hazards
Semi-trucks are around 72 feet long, 13.5 feet high, and 8.5 feet wide. When fully loaded, they can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. Without even considering the driver's actions, the size of a semi-truck vehicle presents risks to others.
These risks include:
- The danger of a “no-zone” accident if the truck driver fails to check their blind spots before backing up, turning, or merging into another lane. Semi-trucks have significant blind spots on all four sides of the vehicle.
- The risk of rollovers. Semi-trucks have a high center of gravity, which makes them prone to rolling over. During or after rolling over, other vehicles risk crashing into it or becoming crushed beneath it.
- The danger of an underride. Semi-trucks have a high ground clearance that provides enough space for a vehicle to fit between the truck's underside and the road. An underride occurs when a vehicle slips into that space.
- The risk of a squeeze play. Because of their size, commercial trucks often make wide turns, swinging into adjacent lanes. A squeeze play occurs when a vehicle gets trapped between the truck and the curb as the truck turns.
- The truck's delayed stopping response. Unexpected braking increases collision risk, particularly if the truck is speeding or is traveling on wet or icy roads, as these factors further increase the truck's stopping distance.
Common Causes of Semi-Truck Accidents
A truck's size alone does not generally cause an accident, but rather contributes to accidents caused by human error.
Some common human errors that result in semi-truck accidents include:
- Distracted driving. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)—the agency tasked with monitoring the trucking industry—prohibits the use of handheld mobile devices, with a particular focus on texting and driving. Texting involves all three driving distractions: manual distractions that remove a driver's hands from the wheel, visual distractions that divert the driver's eyes from the roadway, and cognitive distractions that draw the driver's mind away from the task driving.
- Speeding. As mentioned above, speeding increases a truck's braking time. It also decreases a driver's detection time for dangers on the road, increasing the likelihood and severity of crashes.
- Impaired driving. The FMCSA requires truck drivers to submit to regular and random drug and alcohol screenings to obtain a license to operate semi-trucks. Despite safety requirements, some drivers drink or use drugs while driving, including over-the-counter or prescription medications with intoxicating effects.
- Driver fatigue. Semi-truck drivers spend significant time in their vehicles throughout the day and night. The FMCSA notes that around 13 percent of truck drivers involved in accidents reported being tired at the time of the crash.
- Lack of training for the job. Driving an enormous truck surrounded by smaller vehicles requires unique skills and training. This training focuses on truck operating basics and pre-trip inspection. Drivers generally need additional training about vehicle awareness and road safety.
- Poor maintenance or vehicle defects. Truck drivers must perform a pre-trip inspection before every transport to search the vehicle for visible signs of unsafe wear. Additionally, trucking companies or independent truck owners must retain proof of regular truck maintenance.
Semi-Truck Accident Injuries Can Impact Every Facet of Your Life
Semi-truck accidents can cause severe injuries. These injuries can result in permanent disabilities, loss of earning capacity, the inability to participate in hobbies or activities, and even death.
Seeking Compensation After a Semi-Truck Accident
The size discrepancy between semi-trucks and other vehicles causes most truck accidents to injure other drivers. An estimated 5,000 fatalities and 118,000 injuries resulting from semi-truck accidents each year occur to the occupants of other roadway users such as passenger drivers, motorcyclists, bicyclists, or pedestrians. If a semi-truck accident injured you or a loved one, you can seek compensation through the personal injury or wrongful death claims process.
Hiring an attorney is the first step if you decide to pursue compensation for your injury through the claims process. Your attorney begins your claims process by sending a demand package to the at-fault party's insurance provider containing the details of your claim, documentation of injuries and expenses, and a demand for the overall value of the claim.
The insurer can accept the liability of their insured and pay the claim as submitted, deny liability and provide the claimant with a reason for the denial, or offer a settlement.
If the insurance provider fails to offer a settlement that fairly compensates you for your injuries or loss, you can file the claim in civil court as a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.
Many Potential Sources of Liability
There is often a massive amount of evidence to gather and consider for a personal injury claim.
There other potential sources of liability in a semi-truck accident include:
- The truck driver whose recklessness or carelessness resulted in a crash.
- Other drivers or roadway users, whose negligence also was a factor.
- The trucking company that hired the driver may bear vicarious liability for its employees' actions. The company must ensure its drivers are properly licensed, trained, and physically capable of handling the demands of the position. It must also ensure that the truck is adequately insured and in good condition.
- The individual or entity responsible for providing regular maintenance services on the truck.
- The manufacturer of defective parts used on the truck or the other vehicles involved.
How is Liability Proven in a Semi-Truck Accident Claim?
One of the most important aspects of a personal injury or wrongful death claim is the ability to prove who was liable for the accident.
Liability in semi-truck accidents depends on:
- Whether the at-fault party had a duty to take reasonable actions in a given circumstance to avoid causing injuries to others; this is known as the duty of care.
- Whether the at-fault party breached the duty of care when they took reckless actions.
- That a semi-truck accident occurred in which you were injured or lost a loved one because of the at-fault party's reckless actions.
The Type of Compensation You Can Receive
If a semi-truck accident injured you, you may receive compensation for the expenses and impacts of your injury, including:
- All past, current, and future medical expenses related to the injury and associated complications.
- Wage loss for work you missed due to your injury.
- The loss of future earning capacity if your injury results in permanent disabilities and you can no longer earn what you did before the accident.
- Property damage you sustained in the accident, such as the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle.
- Physical pain and suffering as a result of the injury and related complications.
- Emotional distress resulting from the trauma of the accident or its impacts on your life.
Family members who lost a loved one in a semi-truck accident can seek compensation for the expenses and impacts of their loss through a wrongful death claim. Like a personal injury claim, wrongful death actions involve a demand to the at-fault party's insurance provider. If the provider fails to compensate the claim, you can file a lawsuit in court.
Through a wrongful death claim, you can recover:
- The cost of funeral and burial or cremation.
- The cost of medically treating the deceased's final injuries.
- The loss of financial support provided by the deceased to their family members.
- The loss of net accumulations to the deceased's estate that would presumably continue if they had survived the accident.
- The loss of care, companionship, guidance, nurturing, and moral support the deceased afforded to their family members.
Experienced Semi-Truck Law Offices Can Help You With Your Claim
An experienced truck accident attorney can help you understand the process of seeking compensation for the expenses and impacts of your loss and explain to you the legal services that can assist you with your claim. These services include determining liability, establishing a value to your claim, gathering evidence and witness testimony to prove your claim in court, and assisting with collecting your settlement or court award. For a free case evaluation, contact a semi-truck law firm today.