Truck crashes occurs in a disturbingly growing manner as trucking remains the means by which about 70 per cent of all products distributed in the United States reach their destination. The growth in the truck crash rate is a cause for concern and truck crash liability is also an area of law that occupies a lot of legal time – quite apart from the liability from the truck accidents.
The actual truck accident rate in the United States is such that by one estimate truck crashes will be the fifth largest cause of death in the United States by 2030.
Furthermore, 74 per cent of all vehicle fatalities in the United States involve trucks. Approximately 130,000 people are injured annually in accidents involving trucks.
It is clear that the truck accident arena is one that is worryingly active in terms of liability and related legal issues.
Dangerous Goods & Truck Crashes
Apart from driver negligence and related liability issues, there are often major public liability issues that arise with truck craches, such as those accidents involving the carriage of hazardous material such as flammable liquids, combustible material, oxidizing material, explosives’, radioactive material and so forth.
The risk of explosions and contamination arising from accidents involving trucks carrying such material is obvious and the lawsuits that can follow can be extremely expensive for culpable parties.
Common Truck Accident Injuries
Multi-vehicle accidents with large trucks frequently result in substantial personal injury and the significance of these crashes increases as the number of vehicles involved increases due to the truck’s size and weight which can cause it to lose control.
The most common truck accident injuries are back and neck injuries, spinal cord injuries, head and brain injuries, amputation and disfigurement, burns, cuts, bruises, broken bones, lacerations, etc.
There are a number of reasons for truck crashes, any one or more of which may lead to legal liability on the part of the driver and/or the mechanical servicing entity, the truck manufacturer or the contracting trucking company, including the following –
1. Distracted Driving
One of the primary causes of truck accidents is distracted driving. Distracted driving can cause serious accidents, and in that case, Trucking accident attorneys can be of great use. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), cell phone use while driving results in traffic crashes that are three times more likely than driver behavior without a cellphone. Distracted drivers range from texting and talking on a phone to using GPS.
2. Failure of Brakes
Brakes failed in 19% of fatal accidents. A truck’s brakes can fail in various ways, most often due to worn components. A brake line may leak or be severed as well. Brake drums, shoes, and linings may become loose from corrosion or dry rot. Brake failure often crashes trucks into a personal property or structures like trees.
3. Impaired Driving
Truck drivers are also at risk of being impaired by drugs and alcohol. The NHTSA reports that more than 50 per cent of all fatal crashes involved a driver who had been drinking alcohol at the time of the accident.
4. Out of Service Trucks
Trucks are frequently out of service for repairs or overhaul. Even short repairs, such as changing a tire or storing water in the transmission tank, can make a truck unsafe to operate, putting other motorists and pedestrians at risk when it is put back into service. The Safe Trucking Act reduces these hazards across participating businesses by cracking down on dangerous driving practices and demanding safer results from all drivers who drive company trucks.
5. Overloading Cargo
Considering the truck’s capabilities, trucks carrying too much cargo increase drivers’ chances of accidents. Unsecured loads can be a fatal distraction as they often shift unexpectedly and cause collisions. Overloaded trucks sway and bounce excessively on bumpy or icy roads, resulting in accidents that endanger people and cargo.
6. Overspeeding and Overtaking
Truckers also over-speed and overtake unnecessarily, which can lead to collisions. Overtaking is considered dangerous when done too closely or at unsafe speeds.
7. Poor Lighting
Trucks often travel in dark environments, which makes it difficult for drivers to see other vehicles and obstacles on the road. Poor lighting conditions also include dense fog or rain clouds.
8.Poor Road Conditions
Truckers encounter many different road conditions throughout their daily journey, which can cause them to lose control. Poor road conditions also include potholes, cracks in the pavement, and slippery surfaces.
9. Unfamiliarity with Roadways
Driving after dark and alone, especially on a winding or unfamiliar highway that does not have well-lit signs explaining the routes, increases confusion and decreases visibility. Trucks are often unfamiliar with the streets they travel. Each city is unique and has a different mix of infrastructure that creates blind spots for drivers depending on the distance from the curb. Dilapidated bridges may pose particular problems for truckers—especially when heavy traffic forces them to climb steep hills or descend sharp curves. When roadways are not well illuminated, trucks also are more vulnerable to potholes and other hazards.
Each year many accidents happen due to bad weather conditions. Heavy storms, lightning, ice, snow, or sleet are just some of the serious conditions truckers have to contend with every day. The ability of a truck driver to safely drive in adverse weather is diminished by poor visibility, road condition, and fatigue.
Following some safety tips can reduce the risk of a truck accident-
- Wear your seat belt – According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, wearing your seat belt reduces your risk of injury by 97% compared to not wearing a seatbelt. Buckle up even if you are only going around the block.
- Do not drink and drive – Driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs increases your risk of getting in a crash.
- Stay alert while driving – Always be aware of your surroundings and make sure you use proper safety precautions when driving, such as using headlights at night or wearing a seat belt.
- Obey traffic laws – Obey all traffic regulations, even if you think they are unfair. It will help avoid accidents and ensure that everyone on the roads can travel safely.
- Get training – Get proper training to become a safe driver and learn about trucking hazards.
What to do after a Truck Accident
The aftermath of a truck accident can clearly be ugly, both from a medical and legal perspective.
So far as legal assistance is concerned, an expert attorney involved in handling truck accident liability cases is obviously an advantage for those involved in handling future lawsuits or threatened legal action.
The various causes of truck accidents, as outlined above, demonstrate the prevalence of the problem with ‘big rigs’ on the roads and the potential risks that are incurred by both themselves and other road users.
As the issue grows with the growing demand for supply chain delivery via the roading network, the trucking accident issue is not one that is going away any time soon. It is, however, one that requires closer focus upon both truck safety, road safety and legal liability issues.
Source: Cefali & Cefali, attorneys at San Juan Capistrano, CA who are a husband and wife ‘anti establishment’ law firm with expertise in truck accident liability issues.