Truck accidents may be a traffic accident with a commercial truck, 18 wheeler AKA big rig, flatbed truck, garbage truck, box truck or other type of large vehicle. These vehicles are doing great things and keeping commerce going in America. The problem is that drivers can be overworked, overloaded, and fatigued. These vehicles can cause serious damage to others on our roadways.
Even celebrities are not immune to the effects of truck accidents. Tracy Morgan, a famous comedian and actor, had his life changed in 2014 when his vehicle was struck by a truck driver who had been awake for over 24 hours.
Truck Accident Statistics
The majority of truck accidents happen in the more populated areas of the US, which makes sense, because that’s where there are more people driving cars to get into accidents with, and more trucks delivering goods!
According to the US Department of Transportation, in 2015, 11.9% of fatal vehicle accidents involved a large truck or bus, and 7.9% of nonfatal vehicle accidents did as well. That’s a significant portion of the nearly 6,300,000 crashes that year. Another alarming statistic is that truck crashes are actually going up each year. In 2012, there were 317,000 crashes involving a large truck, but by 2015 that number was up to 415,000, nearly 100,000 more accidents per year.
The worst states for truck accident fatalities are generally the states with the largest population, including New York, Texas, and California. However, a larger number of people end up with injuries and property damage from a truck accidents that are not fatal, thankfully. In 2015 there were 83,000 truck accidents that caused at least a minor injury.
The larger the truck, the more fatal the crash. In 2015, Class 8 trucks, those with a load of more than 33,000 pounds caused 2,841 fatal crashes, while all the other lower weight ranges each had less than 300 fatal crashes. In addition, in about 400 of these crashes, the truck was carrying hazardous material that actually spilled during the crash, making it even more dangerous.
two people riding motorcycle looking at the excavator accident
Causes of Truck Accidents
According to GTG Technology group, there are five main causes for truck accidents. Each one is something that truck drivers should look out for when they are on the road. However, it is also the duty of other vehicle drivers to watch out for trucks on the road. Here are some of the top causes of truck accidents.
Some experts estimate that as many as 90% of all vehicle crashes
are caused by driver error in some way. This includes obvious things like drinking and driving, texting while driving and other distractions, but also minor miscalculations that could lead to something scary happening on the road. When driver error involves a large truck, the stakes are that much higher.
Poor Vehicle Maintenance
A single truck can travel nearly 70,000 miles
in one year. They are also carrying large loads, sometimes more than 15 tons of cargo. Both of these factors can lead to maintenance issues that may cause a crash. With such large vehicles on the road, the smallest detail falling into disrepair could lead to a truck accident. Even damaged items affecting visibility like reflectors or lights could increase the likelihood of truck accidents.
According to one study
, tire and brake problems accounted for 35% of truck accidents in one year. Equipment error is a big problem. It may be related to vehicle maintenance, but even on a perfectly maintained vehicle, something could go wrong at any time.
white car behind a truck on snowy road
Poor weather conditions like rain, ice, snow, and even strong winds may increase the chances of a truck accident. According to the Department of Transportation
, wind speed, precipitation, fog, pavement condition, and water level are all factors that could increase the risk of a truck accident depending on the severity. It is especially challenging when you have two or more of these factors simultaneously.
Improper Cargo Loading
The Department of Transportation
has put into place rules for the proper securement of cargo. However, just as with any driver or vehicle, it is easy to have a user error or equipment failure. When cargo is not loaded properly it could lead to an imbalance, or the contents could shift during travel. In this case, the results can be a serious truck accident.
Many of these problems can be eliminated with just a bit of vigilance from truck drivers, cargo companies and truck owners. Although, even with attention paid to serious details, something can go wrong at any time.
Types of Trucks and Their Unique Dangers
All trucks are not created equal. There are several different types of trucks that have different risks when it comes to truck accidents.
Big-rigs weigh tens of thousands of pounds and are hurtling down our common roadways at high speeds. They are also known as 18 wheelers, semi trucks and tractor trailers. They haul huge loads long distances and have large blind spots. Additionally, they are likely to tip over and they need a long distance to come to a complete stop. Accidents are bound to happen.
aerial photo of parking lot during daytime
have a flat surface for loading cargo onto. Many accidents with these types of trucks have to do with improper loading of the cargo. Because it is not contained within an enclosure, the damage can be big if something goes wrong.
On its way to the largest uranium mine in the world.
Trucks Carrying Hazardous Materials
The percentage of truck accidents that involve hazardous materials
is pretty small, but the potential for damage is large. Depending on the material, it can make the accident more deadly and dangerous, causing explosions, health problems and other adverse effects.
flooded road with cars and trucks
These types of trucks are more common in an urban atmosphere and may be less common on the highway, but they have some of the same dangers. In this case, they may have more run ins with pedestrians
and cyclists than cars. However, they still pose a threat to vehicles for many of the same reasons as other types of trucks.
Driving Safely on the Road with Trucks
While you can’t control the actions of truck drivers, you can control your driving. There are several things you can do to be safer on the road with trucks, according to the Department of Transportation
As previously mentioned, trucks have large blind spots. Drivers can’t see you directly in front, directly behind, and in a large area to the right and left. Be careful when merging near trucks, and when you are passing them on the highway. When passing, only move in front of the truck when you can see the driver in your rear-view mirror. This ensures that you are out of their blind spot.
concrete mixer truck on road beside building
Don’t Cut Them Off
Passing is one thing, but cutting a truck off is actually quite dangerous. It takes a truck a longer time to slow down when you zip in front of them. If you’re too speedy, they may not be able to stop in time. Plus, you may be cutting into a blind spot so the driver may not see they need to slow down in the first place.
vehicles on wide concrete road during daytime
Follow All Regular Driving Rules
For some, driving near a big truck can cause anxiety, but as long as you follow all other driving rules, you will most likely be OK. Don’t text and drive, keep your eyes on the road and never drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Make sure to wear your seatbelt and think of safety first always when driving, but especially when driving around trucks.
Step by Step Truck Accidents Guide
Right After the Accident (When You Are Still on the Road)
1. Evaluate yourself for injuries. Remember, some injuries may not be felt right away due to adrenaline. Look your body over even if you don’t feel anything too bad.
2. Evaluate other people in the car for injuries.
3. If it is safe to do so, pull over into a breakdown lane. If you are too injured or it would not be safe, stay where you are and put on your hazard lights.
4. Call 911. You want to have a record of the accident and you want to have a medical professional look you over even if you feel fine.
5. Wait for help to arrive.
6. Once help does arrive, get medical assistance, make a report and exchange information with the truck driver. Get as much information as you can like the police officer’s information, report number, witness names and numbers, and take pictures of the damage if possible. Get the truck driver’s insurance, contact and company information. Write down pertinent information about the truck itself, the location and circumstances of the accident. If your injuries are very severe, do not to worry about this. Getting better should be your first priority!
7. File a claim with your insurance company & focus on getting back to health.
The Aftermath (The Following Weeks/Months)
2. Keep strict track of losses like time taken off of work and expenses due to the truck accident.
3. Document your healing process, including your mental health.
These helpful pieces of information in the short term and long term will help to build the foundation of your truck accident case.
How the Right Personal Injury Attorney Can Help After Truck Accidents
Trucking companies are very experienced in keeping damages low. They are experts in paying pennies on the dollar to victims for injuries. You need someone on your side who has experience with their tactics and can get you the financial support you need to heal and get back to your life.
The attorneys at the Smiley Law Firm can help to level the playing field. They are experienced in dealing with trucking company adjusters and insurance companies. They will also help to advise you on what doctors you should see for the types of injury that you or your loved ones have suffered.
We have offices in Texas, Louisiana and California. Call us at 504-434-7700 for a free consultation, or fill out our contact form for questions about how we can help you with personal injury truck accident cases.