What to Do After Head-On Truck Collisions
Posted on December 21st, 2019 by Zane Cagle
Head-on collisions are one of the scariest types of accidents on the road. They can happen in an instant, leaving the driver with little time to react.
In one case, a Freightliner truck was traveling south down Highway 25, just south of Gordonville, Missouri, when it unexpectedly veered into oncoming traffic. The truck collided head-on with a Chevy Impala, killing the driver instantly. Two passengers, as well as the truck’s driver, were taken to the hospital with minor injuries.
Head-on truck collisions like the one above are rare, accounting for only fourteen percent of all fatal truck accidents. But when they do happen, they can produce catastrophic results. In one year alone, 669 fatalities resulted from head-on truck collisions.
Over the past few years, these accidents have seen a steady increase. That’s why, as drivers, it’s important to understand where these accidents happen and why they happen. While not all accidents can be prevented, understanding the risks that exist on the road can help you take steps to protect yourself. If you or a loved one has been in a head-on collision, an experienced truck accident attorney can help you fight for your rights. Schedule a free consultation today with The Cagle law Firm.
Where Do Head-On Truck Collisions Happen?
As a country, we rely heavily on long-haul trucks. In 2016, large trucks drove a staggering 175 billion collective miles. Estimates suggest that trucks transport around 68 percent of all goods sold in the United States. As such, these trucks can be found all over the roads. They’re on the interstate, on city streets, and on rural roads.
As drivers, we often see large semis traveling down the freeway, so it’s easy to assume that this is where most accidents occur. But, in fact, only 25 percent of all truck accidents happen on interstates. Instead, over half of all accidents happen on rural roads. With head-on collisions, this makes sense, given the nature of these accidents. High-risk areas for head-on collisions include:
- Undivided highways: Undivided highways exist all across the country. These roads usually have less traffic and higher speed limits. Because of this, it is not uncommon for large trucks to use these roads over alternate routes. Unlike major interstates, these roads have no physical barrier, making it easy for vehicles to drift in and out of their lane.
- Curves and hills: Curves and hills reduce visibility. Head-on accidents can occur when a vehicle attempts to pass despite the lack of visibility. But it’s not just passing that poses a danger. Narrow curves can present a challenge for large trucks. Because of this, the truck may enter the opposing lane to complete the turn.
- One-way roads: When you’re driving down a one-way road, the last thing you expect is another vehicle driving towards you. Truck drivers may inadvertently turn down a one-way road if they are unfamiliar with the area. In some cases, poor visibility or poor signage may be to blame.
Common Head-On Collision Causes
Accidents don’t just happen. In most cases, the root cause can be traced back to the actions of one or more drivers involved. In head-on accidents, this is especially true. For a head-on accident to occur, one of the drivers must be traveling against the flow of traffic. But how does this happen?
- Drowsy driving: Drowsy driving happens more often than we’d like to believe. AAA estimates that one out of every six accidents is caused by a drowsy driver and 40 percent of drivers admit to having fallen asleep while driving. Truck drivers are particularly vulnerable to falling asleep at the wheel. A 2008 study found that the average truck driver gets just over five hours of sleep a night. Even when a driver doesn’t fall asleep at the wheel, a lack of sleep can cause slower reaction times, difficulty concentrating, and poor decision making.
- Distracted or inattentive driving: Driving a large truck takes skill and focus. As motorists, we depend on truck drivers to give the job their full attention. When a driver takes their attention off the road because of internal or external inattention or distractions, serious injuries can result. A 2006 study found that almost 80 percent of all accidents involved some sort of distraction three seconds before the crash.
- Poor judgment: As drivers, we are constantly making decisions. Do I have enough time to turn? Am I going too fast? Do I have enough room to pass? When drivers make bad decisions, accidents can happen. In one case, a man was driving his Ford when an oncoming semi attempted to pass a slower-moving semi. The driver of the semi allegedly misjudged the amount of space they had and crashed head-on into the pickup, killing the driver at the scene.
- Bad weather: Living in St. Louis and the Metro East, local drivers understand the reality of bad weather. But a truck driver can’t just take the day off because of ice or snow. In many cases, truck drivers stay on the road beyond the point that they should. Bad weather poses a danger to all drivers. If a truck hits a patch of ice or slick spot on the road, the driver can lose control of the vehicle and slide into the opposite lane.
- Poor visibility: It’s difficult to make good decisions when you can’t see the road ahead of you. Bad weather, hills, and curves can all contribute to poor visibility. Poor visibility can cause a driver to make an ill-advised decision or drift into the opposite lane because they can’t see the road.
- Medical emergencies: Not all accidents are preventable. When a driver has a medical emergency on the road, they may not have enough time to pull over before losing control of the vehicle. These accidents are particularly scary because there is no one to correct the truck or slow it down. Often a collision is the only thing that will bring the vehicle to a stop.
- Driving under the influence: Driving under the influence is one of the most egregious mistakes a truck driver can make. Given the sheer size and weight of their vehicle, driving under the influence demonstrates an extreme disregard for human life. When a driver kills someone or causes injury because they were driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they may be responsible for punitive damages on top of other expenses.
- Mechanical failure: When a driver suddenly loses control of their vehicle because of a parts failure, attempts to correct the vehicle may cause the truck to travel into the opposite lane.
- Hazards in the road: If you see an animal or another object in the road, it’s instinct to swerve to try to avoid a collision with that animal or object. But doing so can sometimes make matters worse. When a driver swerves to avoid an upcoming object, they run the risk of entering the opposite lane of travel and causing a head-on collision.
Staying Safe on the Road
When it comes to sharing the road with big rig trucks, your actions are just as important as the truck driver’s. If you see something unusual, your quick thinking can make all the difference. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Stay alert. Accidents can come out of nowhere. Often it’s split-second decisions that determine whether or not an accident happens. It’s good practice to constantly scan your surroundings. Look in front of you, behind you, and on either side. If you see a truck approaching you, move out of the way if you can safely do so.
- Use caution in areas of low visibility. If you are driving on a hill or curve, you should always exercise extreme caution. Do not attempt to pass or change lanes in these areas. It’s also a good idea to turn on your headlights. Doing so alerts other drivers of your presence and can prevent an accident. If visibility is poor due to bad weather, avoid driving, or pull over to the side of the road until visibility is clear.
- Avoid driving late at night. While most truck accidents happen during the day, drowsy driving accidents happen more often during the late-night and early morning hours. In addition to increasing your risk of running into a drowsy driver, you’re more likely to be tired yourself. Add on limited visibility at night and it’s a dangerous combination.
- Reduce your speed. Speeding reduces the amount of time you have to react to a hazardous situation and increases the potential damages exponentially. In addition to driving the speed limit, it is always a good idea to reduce your speed in bad weather, around curves, in poor visibility, and when you are unfamiliar with the area.
- Buckle up. It should go without saying that you should put on your seatbelt every time you enter your vehicle. But statistics show that more than ten percent of drivers do not regularly wear their seat belts. Out of the 37,133 traffic fatalities in 2017, forty-seven percent of victims were not wearing their seat belts.
- Be prepared. As a driver, it’s important to understand the risks that come with driving. Driving can be dangerous, and accidents are often out of your control. In the face of danger, it’s natural to panic. But doing so can cost you valuable seconds needed to appropriately react. Always practice defensive driving and be ready to take action if necessary.
Holding the Responsible Parties Accountable
After an accident, it’s natural to feel a wide range of emotions. Grief, anger, and sadness are all normal reactions. In addition to emotional trauma, head-on truck accidents can inflict a tremendous amount of physical pain. When this happens, you deserve to be compensated for your injuries. But while most motor vehicle accidents come down to individual liability, truck accidents may involve one or more responsible parties. It is not unusual for a truck accident claim to include a complaint against the trucking company or vehicle owner. If a product defect played a role in the accident, you may have a claim against the product manufacturer.
The amount you may be able to recover depends on a variety of factors including the extent of property damage and injuries, the total number of parties, and policy limits. Common recoverable damages in personal injury cases include:
- Medical costs: Head-on collisions are some of the most dangerous collisions on the road. As such, they are often accompanied by enormous medical bills. A personal injury claim can help you pay for your medical costs. These can include doctor’s visits, surgeries, hospital stays, medication, rehabilitation, and even alternative treatments like chiropractic care and massage.
- Time lost at work: When an accident causes you to miss time at work it can have a serious impact on your personal finances. Time loss benefits can help you recoup lost wages during the time you are injured and recovering. If you are unable to return to work, you may have a right to compensation for future lost wages.
- Pain and suffering: Pain and suffering is what lawyers call a non-economic loss. Essentially, this is a cost that is hard to put a price on. Physical and emotional pain can have a severe impact on your day-to-day life and the law recognizes this. The amount of your recovery will depend on your level of pain, the frequency of your pain, and how much your pain and suffering interferes with your quality of life.
- Loss of consortium: Loss of consortium is a legal term used to describe the loss of a relationship. This does not necessarily mean there was a death. Loss of consortium can include loss of affection, loss of guidance, loss of companionship, and loss of sexual relations.
- Wrongful death: Sadly, many head-on collisions result in the death of the passenger vehicle’s occupants. A wrongful death claim is not meant to compensate you for your loss, but rather transfer the costs associated with a person’s death from the victim’s family to the responsible party. A wrongful death claim may include actual medical and funeral costs, as well as pain and suffering and lost wages.
If you or a loved one were in an accident, the law provides you certain rights. If you have questions or need help with your claim, contact a licensed truck accident attorney.