The sheer size and weight of a commercial truck make these vehicles more prone to certain types of accidents. According to J.D. Power, a semi-truck carrying an empty trailer weighs around 35,000 pounds. Once the trailers are full, the weight can increase considerably. A truck with a loaded trailer can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, which is the maximum legal weight.
Most passenger vehicles weigh only a fraction of these amounts. When a car and a truck collide, the truck can cause serious personal injuries and property damage. The size difference and certain practices in the commercial trucking industry contribute to some of the common causes of truck accidents.
Driving over the speed limit or too fast for weather conditions
Many truck drivers have tight deadlines to meet, and every minute counts. When a driver arrives at their destination, someone usually has to be at the dock to receive and sign for the load. If a driver arrives even an hour or two late, that delay upsets the delivery recipient and, in turn, the carrier that employs the driver. A frequently late driver will face repercussions and possibly lose their job.
This intense pressure to be on time causes some truck drivers to drive well over the speed limit or not slow down during inclement weather.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires rest periods for on-duty truck drivers and limits a truck driver’s consecutive hours on the road. With these mandated breaks, fatigued driving should not be a problem for truck drivers. However, not all drivers will use their off-duty hours to rest. And, unscrupulous employers may encourage drivers to work more than the law allows.
Like any other driver on the road, a truck driver might answer their work or personal cell phone. GPS devices can also be a distraction. Truck drivers may eat while driving to stay on schedule or make up time after a traffic jam. When a truck driver takes their eyes off the road for even a few seconds to open a food package or check a text message the consequences can be deadly.
Like all motor vehicles, commercial trucks require ongoing maintenance. But with tight delivery schedules, routine inspections and repairs can fall by the wayside. Several parties could be responsible for mechanical failure in trucks: the driver for not notifying their employer about any issues, the transportation company for lack of oversight, or the truck manufacturer for faulty parts.
Driving under the influence
The regulations outlined in the FMCSA’s Motor Carrier Safety Planner prohibit commercial truck drivers from consuming alcohol while driving or on duty. However, that does not mean that every driver abides by these rules or takes the requirement seriously. A truck driver could treat themselves to a beer at lunch and think that they are okay to drive.
Alcohol is not the only substance that can impair an individual’s driving ability. Illicit drugs, over-the-counter medications, and prescription drugs can all affect driving performance. Even caffeine over-use from energy drinks or one too many coffees can impair a person’s ability to drive safely.
Were you injured in a truck accident? Here is what you need to know
#1. You may be eligible for a personal injury settlement
If you were hurt because of a truck driver’s reckless or careless actions, you may be able to pursue compensation.
A personal injury settlement can cover:
- Lost wages, if your injuries prevent you from working
- Medical expenses for your accident-related injuries
- Ambulance ride and ER visit
- Ongoing doctor visits
- Physical therapy
- Surgery and hospital stays
- Out-patient care
- Repair or replacement of your damaged vehicle
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Physical pain
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Embarrassment and loss of self-esteem from permanent scarring or disfigurement
An attorney can help you pursue a personal injury claim in civil court. You should contact a personal injury law firm right after your accident, as you have a limited time to file a claim.
#2. An attorney knows how to maximize your compensation
You may question your need for an attorney, especially if the insurance company has already offered you a payout. Shouldn’t you just accept the initial offer, so you can get on with your life?
Unfortunately, the insurance company is not looking out for your best interests. They are a for-profit company that wants to pay out as little as possible. The insurance company may only voluntarily offer you a fraction of what you
A truck accident law firm can calculate what your injuries cost you not just today, but 10, 20, 30 years down the road. When you accept an insurance payout, you usually forfeit your right to pursue any more money in the future. The compensation you agree to must be adequate, so you are not shortchanged for any accident-related expenses later on.
#3. You may receive a settlement without a court trial
After a truck accident, many injured people are scared and anxious. They do not know what the future holds, and money is a concern. For some people, contacting a personal injury lawyer is the first time they have dealt with the legal system.
The thought of a court trial can be overwhelming, but filing a personal injury claim does not automatically mean that you will have to appear before a judge or jury. Many truck accident lawsuits settle outside of court.
And as the plaintiff the injured party who files the lawsuit you have the final say about going to court. Your attorney can support you and make you aware of your options, but you will not end up in court unless you decide to take that route. And if you do go to court, your attorney will prepare you and help you feel comfortable about the process.
#4. You can file a claim even if the truck driver (or other negligent party) does not face criminal charges
In some accidents, the truck driver or transportation company broke the law. For example, the driver drank alcohol while on duty, or the company failed to perform a routine inspection. This negligence may result in criminal charges. But not all accidents will result in a criminal case.
Your truck accident claim is separate from any criminal proceedings.
The only two requirements to pursue a settlement are:
- Someone else’s negligence or carelessness caused the accident that injured you; and
- Your injuries resulted in damages for which you should recover compensation, such as doctor bills and emotional distress.
The only way to know if you can seek a settlement is to speak with a personal injury attorney.