We all know the feeling: your chest tightens when you look at your rearview mirror and see a 40 ton, 18 wheeler truck, rapidly approaching your back bumper. This feeling is not completely irrational. According to federal statistics, trucks of that type cause thousands of collisions each year. Given a truck’s size and weight, common sense tells us that a collision between a big rig and a car—or even an SUV—will probably turn out badly for the car or SUV.
In a collision between a truck and a passenger automobile, the fatalities occur in the automobile 98% of the time. To put concrete numbers on the problem, in 2004, those types of crashes killed almost 5,200 people (12% of all traffic fatalities) and injured 116,000 more. This is the equivalent of 25 fully loaded jumbo jets crashing every year.
Some of the reasons are obvious: Trucks are bigger, heavier, and longer than cars and they need more room to maneuver. Trucks need a lot more road to come to a stop. Many collisions involving trucks are caused by the same things that generally cause car accidents: badly maintained trucks, speeding and overly aggressive driving. There’s also failure to yield the right of way, or bad driving conditions caused by inclement weather. However, there are many other causes of these collisions and they are very avoidable.
One of the biggest causes of crashes is excessive truck size. Federal law currently limits trucks to no more than 80,000 pounds in weight, but an 80,000‑pound truck is more than twice as likely to be involved in a fatal accident as a 50,000‑pound truck. They also cause more “wear and tear” to the roads.
Trucks are also getting longer. The industry‑standard trailer has grown from 40 feet long in the 1960s to 53 feet long today. Longer trucks mean larger blind spots, resulting in more accidents. Additionally, many roads (including interstates) were designed when trucks were shorter, and their ramps and merge lanes were not designed to handle today’s longer trucks. As a result, these trucks cross over into other lanes of traffic, increasing the danger of a collision.
Larger, longer, and heavier trucks require more braking time, meaning that they are more likely to be in a collision because they cannot stop. For example, a truck weighing 100,000 pounds can take up to 25% longer to stop than one weighing 80,000 pounds does.
Other truck‑related collisions are caused by a driver’s inexperience in operating a particular type or size of truck. Tired truckers who have been on the road for too long and are over-tired also cause collisions. This is an increasing problem given the deregulation of the trucking industry and recent changes in the rules governing how long a trucker may drive before he is required to stop for a rest. Another factor is changes in how goods are shipped now that “just‑in‑time” delivery systems have been implemented.
Suits involving truckers are frequently more difficult to prove than other kinds of collision suits, for several reasons. First, it may be difficult to locate the trucker after the collision. The nature of a trucker’s job means that he might be involved in a collision in a state far from where he lives and he might never return there.
Trucking companies are also very skilled in defending themselves against negligence claims and they can be very aggressive in denying claims. Trucking companies regard those claims as just part of doing business, because every dollar that they pay out in compensation to accident victims is a dollar that hurts their bottom line.
Finally, most commercial big‑rig accidents involve many more parties than the typical accident including; the driver, the trucking company, multiple other drivers, the shipper(s), the insurance adjuster, and the insurer, just to name the most common. The legal relationships among all of these parties can be difficult to unravel.
A person who has been involved in a collision with a trucker is entitled to recover an amount necessary to compensate him for his injuries. This amount may include compensation for such items as medical bills, time lost from work, pain and suffering, mental anguish, disfigurement, and loss of earning capacity. The complexity of these cases means that you should consult an experienced attorney. Do NOT rely on the trucking company’s insurance adjuster to look out for your interests because they won’t.
Call us if you or a loved one has been involved in a big‑rig collision. We will be happy to discuss the matter with you and work to get you the compensation that you deserve.
For more information on truck accidents visit the Worthington Law Group website.