What are some common causes of truck accidents?
Part of being a responsible driver is understanding that you share the road with many others, and have an obligation to look after their safety in addition to your own. Not all vehicles on the road are created equally when it comes to safety and risk of harm. Personal vehicles are more likely to be damaged and the occupants harmed than large commercial vehicles. Compact cars often fare worse in accidents than large SUVs. And motorcycle riders are perhaps the most vulnerable of anyone who is traveling on any given road.
Regardless of what type of vehicle you are operating or your own personal risk level when it comes to an accident, every driver has an obligation to behave in a manner that is safe and responsible. When those basic obligations are not met, drivers can be held liable for the consequences.
Few things are more terrifying than being involved in an accident with a large commercial truck. The sheer size and weight of these vehicles is intimidating, and no personal vehicle has the heft or safety features that could prevent harm from such an unbalanced match.
Understanding your rights under the law is the best way to protect your interests if you are involved in a truck accident. Working with skilled and experienced truck accident attorneys is also important, and ensures your case receives the attention and management you deserve. The following information is provided in the hopes of shedding some light on the most common causes of truck accidents.
In a time when virtually every driver on the road has access to unlimited news, entertainment, and communication with others all through a palm-sized electronic device, distracted driving is a real concern. Despite numerous warnings on all levels to put the phone away and focus on the road, a quick trip down any American roadway will show that plenty of drivers feel that this advice is not applicable to them.
Truck drivers are no exception. Even though there is no trucking company in the nation that would condone using a phone while actively driving, plenty of commercial truck divers do this each and every day. Whether they are just making a quick check of the weather, looking to see how a loved one responded to a text, or doing something as dangerous as watching tv while driving, distractions are common.
Trucking companies are not non-profit organizations. They exist to make money, and cutting corners is not a rarity. Some companies prefer to get new drivers out on the road as quickly as possible rather than taking the time to train them properly.
It takes time to learn how to maneuver a large commercial truck on crowded roadways. Not all trucks have the same navigational equipment or features, which also take time to get used to. When companies pressure drivers to hit the road without proper training, everyone else who shares those roadways is at risk.
Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
You’d think that a driver who is operating a vehicle that weighs in excess of 10,000 pounds, often at speeds over 50 miles per hour, and sometimes in dangerous weather or road conditions would never further complicate matters by using drugs or alcohol while behind the wheel. In reality, however, driving under the influence continues to be a pressing problem within the trucking industry.
It’s important to note that it isn’t just street drugs that cause problems. Prescription medications can also lead to accidents, and even when a driver is taking their medication exactly as prescribed, any impediment to safe driving that results is the fault of the driver. As the opioid epidemic continues to rage, many truck drivers are struggling with substance abuse issues that sometimes bleed into their professional lives.
Driving while fatigued
Numerous studies show that driving while fatigued is nearly as dangerous as driving while intoxicated. Yet this problem can affect virtually any commercial truck driver, even those who are serious about maintaining safety while on the road.
Driving a truck is a solitary way to earn a living. There are only so many radio stations and podcasts to listen to before fatigue sets in. Factor in the pressure to adhere to a tight schedule and the desire to make as much money as possible to pay the bills back home and you have a toxic environment rife for a potential accident.
One thing about fatigued driving is it is very hard to identify the line between simply feeling tired and being so fatigued that you can no longer operate your vehicle safely. When drivers are involved in accidents brought on by fatigue, many cannot recall the seconds just before the accident, suggesting that they fell asleep before they lost control of the vehicle.
Failing to maintain commercial trucks to proper safety standards
Here again we have an issue where commercial trucking companies have to choose between safety and profit. It takes time, money, and skill to perform routine maintenance on large trucks, and some companies are operating on a shoestrong budget. When faced with the need to bring in money and an aging or poorly maintained fleet, some operators will push their vehicles to the limit.
Unfortunately, this sometimes ends in pushing a vehicle beyond its limit and causing an accident. Making matters worse, drivers of personal vehicles have no way to know which trucks are in poor condition, and have to trust that the companies that put those trucks on the road are keeping up with maintenance and inspections.
Failing to make adjustments for changing weather or road conditions
Driving a truck for a living means seeing America in a way few people can claim to experience. It also means seeing the worst in terms of road conditions. Many of our nation’s roadways are covered in potholes, poorly defined lanes, and other hazardous conditions.
Drivers are expected to make adjustments to their driving practices to accommodate unsafe road conditions. This means constantly monitoring the roads to check for signs of concern, and making tough decisions when conditions seem unsafe. It also means putting aside the hope of a profitable day to ensure the safety of others.
Weather conditions can also pose a risk to commercial drivers. In heavy rain, sleet, snow, or ice, drivers must take care to determine if the road conditions are safe. There are times when conditions warrant pulling over and waiting for improvement, even if that means getting behind schedule. Even high winds pose a risk to commercial trucks, which have greater surface areas to catch those winds an multiply their force.
Improper speed or passing procedures
All drivers have experienced impatience while behind the wheel. After all, the reason you are driving at all is to get from one point to another, often on a schedule. When traffic, road conditions, or weather slows your progress, it’s tempting to pick up your speed or pass other drivers to make up lost time.
This is bad enough in personal vehicles, but when a commercial truck driver speeds, it takes far more time and distance to come to a stop. That’s why there are rules and regulations regarding commercial trucking speeds. Drivers who fail to follow those limitations put everyone at risk of harm, including themselves.
Attempting to pass slower vehicles can also lead to hazardous circumstances. There are specific guidelines for how large trucks should pass other vehicles. When drivers ignore those guidelines a serious accident can occur.
Failing to properly secure a load
Large commercial trucks often consist of a cab and chassis and the container that sits on top of the chassis. When the container is not properly secured in place, the load can shift and a serious accident can happen.
Even smaller commercial trucks can encounter problems with a poorly secured or imbalanced load. Taking the time to perform checklists and determine that everything is properly in place is an important part of the responsibilities of a driver.
Problems with tires or brakes
The tires and brakes on a commercial truck are placed under considerable strain, even more so than with a personal vehicle. Drivers and trucking companies must take steps to routinely inspect tires and brakes to ensure they are in good working condition.
Even with proper precautions, brakes and tires can fail, especially when they are used on large, heavy vehicles for long stretches of time. That’s why truck drivers are trained to perform specific maneuvers to safely stop a truck if the brakes fail or a tire is lost. When drivers fail to put that training into action, serious accidents and injuries can follow.
Aggressive driving or road rage
Virtually everyone who has spent time behind the wheel knows what it is like to experience occasional road rage. Anger can flare up when another driver is behaving badly, especially if you are already tired or under stress.
Commercial truck divers are humans, and are also subject to occasional bouts of road rage. The difference is they are controlling an incredibly heavy vehicle that is not capable of making swift adjustments in speed or direction. That’s why truck drivers are expected to know how to manage their emotions and place safe driving above all else, no matter how rude other drivers may be.
Aggressive driving can also be a problem. Drivers who tailgate, refuse to yield the right of way, or cut other drivers off can create unsafe conditions that can lead to serious accidents.
What are my rights if I’m involved in a truck accident?
If you are involved in an accident with a commercial truck, the first step is determining which party is at fault in the matter. Although the accident causes outlined above pertain to commercial truck drivers, that is not to say that every accident involving a commercial truck is the fault of the trucker.
Drivers of personal vehicles can also partly or fully to blame for a trucking accident. So figuring out where the fault lies is important. In order to qualify for a personal injury case, the accident must be caused by the negligence or intentional wrongful acts of another party.
The party in question is sometimes the truck driver, but could also be the company that employs that driver. Even the manufacturer of the truck could be at fault if there were defects in the vehicle that caused or contributed to the accident.
When a commercial trucking company hires an outside shop to handle the maintenance for a vehicle, that shop can be held liable if a maintenance issue caused an accident. In many cases, multiple parties are taken to task after a serious truck accident.
How does a personal injury lawsuit move forward?
Once the parties have been identified, it’s time to gather evidence about the circumstances that led to the accident. Numerous sources can be utilized to create a picture of the events leading up to an accident.
Statements from the drivers involved is a good place to start. Witnesses to the accident often add a different perspective to the incident, and should be spoken to when possible.
Technology has broadened the ways that evidence can be collected. Many roadways are equipped with cameras that record traffic. Many commercial trucks have cameras and other recording devices that can show the conditions leading up to an accident.
Police reports are also a great source of evidence, especially if the officers who completed the reports were careful and thorough. Finally, an inspection of the roadway and the vehicles involved in the accident can provide more information about what went wrong and who is liable for damages in the case.
How are most truck accident cases handled?
The majority of truck accident cases are settled out of court. Few companies want to go through the expense and time required to bring a case before a court of law. Even fewer want the publicity that comes with a high profile trucking accident case, even at the local level.
Most trucking companies want to simply put the matter behind them and refocus on operating a successful venture. With the right legal team in place, most truck accident cases can be negotiated and settled within a relatively short period of time.
If you or a loved one is involved in a commercial trucking accident, be sure to reach out to a team of experienced and skilled truck accident attorneys as soon as possible. You’ll learn more about your rights under the law and the strength of your case. All of the details are provided to empower you to make an informed decision about how to move forward.
If you decide to pursue the matter, your attorney will handle all of the paperwork needed to move the case forward. Truck accident cases can be incredibly complex, especially if there is significant property damage or injuries at play. Your legal team also gathers evidence in the case, compiles a list of your expenses and projected needs in regard to medical care and rehabilitation, and calculates the intangible losses brought about by the truck accident.
Your attorney handles negotiations with the other parties, and ensures that you get the best settlement possible given the circumstances. If the matter does eventually go to court, your attorney presents a clear and compelling case, with your interests always at the center of the process.
Having a trusted legal advisor to turn to can make it far easier to navigate this challenging time, and allows you to focus on moving on in the knowledge that your legal rights are being handled by a professional. Your questions will be answered in a timely manner, and you’ll be updated as the process moves forward. Most importantly, you can rest assured that you are doing everything in your power to create a fair and favorable outcome for you and your family.