Common Causes of Truck Accidents, Wrecks, and Personal Injuries
Most people are surprised to learn some of the more common causes of truck accidents, wrecks, and personal injuries are not the fault of the truck driver. Out of the nearly half-million trucking accidents in the country each year, the vast majority of these are caused by passenger vehicles. According to a study conducted by the American Trucking Association in 2013, 81% of trucking accidents are caused by passenger vehicle drivers.1
Quite often, drivers are unaware of proper and safe driving habits to exercise when driving around big rigs. Instead, they commit one or more unsafe driving acts which contribute to causing the accident, including:
- Texting while driving and weaving into the truck’s lane.
- Attempting to pass a big rig in unsafe driving conditions like wind, rain, fog, snow, and ice.
- Remaining in hidden blind spots beside or behind the truck where the truck driver cannot see the vehicle.
- Passing semi-trucks in the right-hand
- Failing to judge the truck’s speed and turning left in front of it at an intersection.
- Assuming a truck will slow down when merging onto a freeway, highway, or interstate and not accelerating enough before merging.
- Not speeding up or slowing down to allow a truck to merge or change lanes while the vehicle is hidden in a blind spot.
- Attempting to pass multiple big rigs and losing control of the vehicle from driving too fast and losing control from crosswind turbulence big rigs generate.
- Pulling directly in front of a truck and slamming on the brakes.
- Daydreaming or falling asleep behind the wheel and losing control of the vehicle.
- Turning right on the right-hand side of a truck while the truck is also making a right-hand turn and requiring a wider turning angle.
How Do Truck Accidents Differ from Car Accidents?
The thing most passenger vehicle drivers seem to forget is the weight of big rigs and how this affects driving. Weights of semi-trucks can average around 80,000 pounds—sometimes more. Based on the laws of physics, the more something weighs, at higher speeds it will require much longer stopping distances.
In some cases, to bring a big rig that is traveling 60 to 70 mph to a complete stop could require the distance of a regulation football field in normal driving conditions. If the roads are wet, icy, or slick, the stopping distances can double, triple, or even quadruple.
Another reason passenger vehicle drivers commonly cause truck accidents is because they fail to account for the “No See Zones” around the big rig. Truck drivers are higher up and have a better overview view further ahead of them. However, they are not able to see directly behind the trailer when vehicles are too close. In addition, the entire right-hand side and most of the left-hand side of the truck are blind spots which the truck driver cannot see.
Causes of Truck Accidents Caused by Truck Drivers
Even though the majority of truck accidents are caused by passenger vehicle drivers, there still is a small percentage of accidents caused by truck drivers. The causes for these accidents include:
- Texting while driving.
- Not paying attention to the general flow and speed of traffic.
- Distracted driving/taking one’s eyes off the road to look down, adjust the radio, eat, drink, or do some other task.
- Improper vehicle maintenance.
- Failure to verify the cargo was loaded and secured correctly.
- Not connecting the trailer to the truck correctly.
- Defective truck equipment and parts.
- Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Driving at excessive speeds.
Most commercial truck drivers practice safer and better driving habits than most passenger vehicle drivers. For truck drivers, this is their job, so they are more cautious about ensuring they obey traffic laws and do what they can do to help reduce the risks of accidents. If they do get into an accident and are deemed at fault, not only could they be held liable for damages and injuries but also lose their jobs.
What Laws Protect Truck Drivers?
Truck drivers have a code of conduct they must follow based on several different federal, state, and local regulations and laws. Some of these laws also afford certain protections in the event of an accident. In addition, there are OSHA requirements and Federal Motor Carrier and DOT (Department of Transportation) regulations commercial truck drivers must follow.
For instance, if truck drivers report their truck maintenance is not current to their employers and have a DOT inspection completed, they may not be held liable in the event of accidents. Rather, the company the commercial truck driver works for could be the one responsible for personal injuries and property damages for failing to maintain the safety of the truck.
Furthermore, truck drivers’ employers cannot require truck drivers to perform tasks or operate a commercial truck in any manner that violates one or more of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s rules and regulations. This includes speeding, driving recklessly, driving for longer hours than allowed by law, and so on. If an employer coerces employees into breaking laws, the employer could be held accountable if there is a truck accident.
Who Is Liable for Personal Injuries?
When a truck accident does occur, it is essential to establish who was at fault for the accident. If passenger vehicle drivers were responsible for causing the accidents, they cannot sue truck drivers or their employers for their personal injuries. Yet, truck drivers could sue passenger vehicle drivers for any personal injuries they sustained.
The cause of the accident is another factor that has to be taken into consideration. For instance, the truck driver just had all new brakes installed on the truck and trailer, yet the brakes failed to work correctly and the truck driver rear-ended a vehicle and set off a chain of rear-end collisions, causing numerous personal injuries.
In this case, the truck driver would not be at fault. Rather, the mechanic that installed the new brakes could be liable for personal injuries for everyone involved in the accident. Additionally, if the cause for the brake failure is determined to have been caused by defective parts, the manufacturer of those parts could be held liable.
Determining who is at fault and liable for personal injuries can be complex and complicated. It is, for this reason, best to contact a truck accident law firm and speak to a truck accident lawyer for legal advice and assistance.
When Can Your Truck Accident Attorney Sue for Damages?
In Texas, there can be a percentage of fault assigned to each person involved in the accident, which is referred to as contributory negligence. Your truck accident attorney will review the circumstances of the accident as well as what percentage of fault, if any, you were assigned. As long as you were 49% or less at fault for the accident, you could have grounds for suing the other driver.
Just keep in mind, any settlement or judgment by a court in your favor will be adjusted based on the level of percentage you were at fault. For instance, you are found to have been 25% at fault for the truck accident. You contact a truck accident attorney and file a lawsuit. Your attorney is able to negotiate a settlement of $300,000. However, since you were 25% at fault, the amount received by you would be only 75% of the $300,000 settlement or $225,000.
As you can see, not only trying to figure out who was at fault but also the percentage the person contributed to the truck accident is something that can affect your ability to sue.
If a loved one or you were injured in a truck accident and were not entirely at fault, please contact Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P. at 713-364-0723 for a free case evaluation and consultation today! Our truck accident lawyers are available 24/7 and will inform you of your rights, the potential monetary damages you could seek, and what you need to file your personal injury claim.