Types of Truck Accidents That Can Leave You Hurt
Posted on November 27th, 2019 by Zane Cagle
The number of trucks on the road is increasing and so is the number of accidents. In 2017 there were 4,657 fatal accidents involving large trucks. That’s a 10 percent increase from the previous year. The number of trucks involved in injury crashes also saw a substantial jump, increasing from 102,000 in 2016 to 107,000 a year later.
Any accident involving a large truck is dangerous. The typical tractor-trailer can outweigh a passenger vehicle 20 to one, and is two to three times longer. When a collision happens between a large truck and a smaller vehicle, the results are often catastrophic. That’s why the law holds truckers and their employers to higher standards than regular drivers.
If you or a loved one were in a large truck accident, an experienced Missouri truck accident attorney can help you understand your rights.
Types of Accidents
Just like the standard motor vehicle accident, truck accidents happen in a variety of ways. The type of accident can influence how many vehicles are involved and the degree of injuries. Because of their size, large truck accidents often involve multiple vehicles and serious injuries. Take a look at some of the most common types of truck accidents.
Jackknife accidents get their name from the motion they make at the time of the accident. When a truck jackknifes, the trailer swings and makes a 90º angle, similar to the motion of a pocket knife. A jackknife accident happens when the truck’s trailer takes longer to stop than its cab. This often happens when the driver suddenly slams on their brakes. Other factors can affect the likelihood of a jackknife accident. These include excessive speed, poor maintenance, and bad weather.
Jackknife accidents are extremely dangerous. When a trailer swings, it can hit cars in nearby lanes. Additionally, a truck that jackknifes is more likely to roll over. In both situations, the number of injuries and fatalities can be high.
Compared to other types of truck accidents, head-on collisions are relatively rare, accounting for just over 14 percent of all fatal accidents. And in most cases, these accidents happen when a passenger vehicle crosses the centerline. But this is not always the case. Of the 416 accidents that involved a driver crossing the center median, 36 accidents involved the truck driver crossing over.
In the grand scheme of things, 36 accidents may not seem like a lot, but considering the size and weight of large trucks, it’s 36 too many. Head-on accidents can be some of the most devastating types of accidents. According to the Insurance Information Institute, 31 percent of all passenger vehicle occupants killed in a truck accident were killed in a head-on collision. That’s more than any other type of truck accident.
A rear-end truck accident occurs when the front of a truck collides with the back of a passenger vehicle. Because of its weight, a large truck can smash in the back end of a smaller vehicle with extraordinary force. This is especially true at high speeds. While the fatalities are lower with this type of accident, accounting for only 5 percent of passenger vehicle occupant deaths in large truck collisions, they can still cause serious injuries.
Large trucks have a larger ground clearance than passenger vehicles. When the ground clearance is greater than the height of the front of a passenger vehicle, an underride accident can occur. According to the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO), the typical passenger vehicle is designed with crumple zones in the front of the car. When a collision occurs, the front of the car caves in on itself to absorb the energy from an accident. When a car collides with a large truck, the initial point of impact may be the car’s hood or windshield. This makes the crumple zone ineffective.
During an underride accident, the passenger vehicle becomes pinned underneath the truck. The force of the collision and the point of impact can lead to serious injury or death. According to the GAO, 219 fatalities resulted from underride accidents between 2008 and 2017. Because of the dangers of underride accidents, new laws require most trucks to have rear underride guards. However, legislation is still lacking when it comes to the effectiveness of these guards and requiring side and front guards.
T-bone accidents happen when the front of one vehicle collides with the side of another vehicle. These accidents are also known as broadside accidents and side-impact accidents. In 2017, 25 percent of all passenger vehicle occupant fatalities were the result of side-impact collisions. One of the reasons these accidents are so deadly is because of how vulnerable the side of a passenger vehicle is. Compared to the rest of the vehicle, there is little protection for vehicle occupants.
T-bone accidents often occur at intersections. One of the most common reasons for these accidents is a driver running a red light or stop sign. As a driver, it’s important to always check for oncoming traffic, even if you have the right of way.
Wide Right Turns
Large trucks require a greater turning radius, particularly when making a right turn. When a truck turns right, it has to swing out farther than its target lane. After completing the turn, the cab will move back to the given lane. An accident can occur when a passenger vehicle turns at the same time as a large truck. If the car attempts to pass the truck on the right, it can become pinned between the cab and the trailer.
Common Causes for Large Truck Accidents:
One of the best ways to avoid being involved in a large truck accident is to understand why they happen. While not all accidents are avoidable, being able to recognize when an accident can occur will help keep you safe. Here are some of the most common reasons for large truck accidents.
Distracted driving: Distracted driving is a big problem, and truck drivers are not immune. With long hours and little companionship, drivers may turn to portable or mobile devices, like a phone or iPad, to keep them occupied—and this violates the law, especially if they are not using hands-free features to make a call or text. When a driver takes his eyes off the road, he may not see a change in traffic, such as stopped vehicles or a changing light. Distracted driving can also cause a driver to drift into adjacent lanes or cause him to suddenly slam on his brakes in an attempt to avoid a collision.
Driver inattention: Along the same lines, driver inattention—all of the other behaviors that remove a driver’s eyes from the road—leads to serious accidents. When you’re on the road for so long, it’s easy to zone out or otherwise allow your attention to drift. Maybe a driver will apply makeup or comb hair or fiddle with the radio. Truckers get used to the same roads, the same routines, and this causes them to become complacent—they don’t take the time to yield to traffic in intersections, or notice when speed limits decrease and keep motoring on far faster then they should. When a truck driver isn’t paying attention the way he should, he may not see approaching hazards.
Speeding: Speeding is one of the most common killers on the road, for all vehicles. But large trucks are particularly vulnerable to accidents when it comes to high speed. Large trucks require a greater stopping distance and take longer to stop. And if they do have to stop suddenly, the chances of a jackknife accident are high. But despite the dangers, truck drivers continue to speed or follow too close. According to the Large Truck Crash Causation Study, 5 percent of crashes occurred because the truck was following too close.
Mechanical issues: We would all like to believe that all vehicles on the road are perfectly maintained. But sadly, this is nowhere near the case. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requires all truck drivers to do daily inspections of their vehicles. Additionally, they must submit to annual inspections. However, these don’t always happen. When a truck is not properly maintained an accident can occur. Some of the most common issues include brake failure and tire blowouts. A mechanical issue can take a driver off-guard and make it impossible for them to control the vehicle.
Driving under the influence: Thankfully, accidents involving a drunk or drugged truck driver don’t happen as much as other types of accidents. However, when they do, the results can prove catastrophic. The FMCSA has rules regarding alcohol use by truck drivers. In all states, a trucker driver can receive a DUI if he has a blood alcohol content of 0.04 or greater—half that of a regular driver. Alcohol can affect a driver’s ability to make decisions, concentrate, and control the vehicle.
Other driver errors: There are many reasons accidents occur and some of these come down to poor training or poor decision making. One of these mistakes includes failing to clear blind spots. Large trucks have huge blind spots, some extending 20 to 30 feet. Because of this, drivers must take extra measures to make sure the path is clear before they attempt to turn or change lanes. Another issue is driver fatigue. Truck drivers work long hours. When they don’t get enough sleep they risk falling asleep at the wheel.
What Is the Average Truck Accident Settlement?
A common question we get is, “How much is my accident worth?” The truth is, there is no simple answer. Many factors go into determining the amount you deserve as compensation for your injuries. No single factor will determine how much your case is worth. While no attorney can accurately give you a specific number right off the bat, there are a few things that are typically looked at when evaluating a personal injury claim. These include:
- Medical costs: Medical costs will be one of your largest expenses in a truck accident case. Truck accidents can cause severe injuries that may require months of treatment. Typically a personal injury claim will seek compensation for all medical costs associated with your injury. This may include doctor visits, medical transportation, medical imaging, lab tests, chiropractic care, medications, and physical therapy.
- Lost wages: After an accident, you may find it difficult to return to work. You should not have to cover the burden of lost income alone. A personal injury claim can help you recover compensation equal to the income you would have made while you were recovering. If you are unable to return to work at all or only in a limited capacity, you may have a case for future wages or lost earning capacity.
- Home modifications: Traumatic brain injuries or spinal cord injuries can involve a long recovery. They may affect your ability to move around or get in and out of your home without assistance. When this happens, home modifications can help make things easier. This may include wheelchair ramps, handrails, hospital beds, or larger doorways.
- Pain and suffering: Pain and suffering is a broad term. It covers most of the non-economic costs of an injury. In other words, costs that don’t have an exact dollar value. Pain and suffering awards will vary case-by-case and will depend on the specific circumstances of your injuries. However, some of the most common pain and suffering claims include physical and mental distress. This may include chronic pain, depression, anxiety, sleep problems, or PTSD.
- Wrongful death: Sadly, large truck accidents often cause injuries that are too severe to survive. When this happens it can leave the victim’s family struggling to cope with the loss of a loved one and to figure out how to take care of any outstanding expenses. A wrongful death claim can help hold the at-fault party accountable and relieve some of the financial burdens of the accident. A wrongful death claim may cover medical bills, funeral costs, loss of companionship, and lost wages.
Help Is Only a Call Away
Coping with an accident can be difficult, especially one involving serious injuries. It is not a task you want to take on alone. A truck accident attorney can help you determine the value of your claim and connect you with resources to aid in your recovery. If you have been injured in an accident, you deserve fair compensation for your pain and suffering. When it comes to truck accidents, many variables can affect the outcome of your case. These matters often involve multiple parties and require someone with experience to determine the cause of the accident. For more information about your legal rights after a large truck accident, contact an experienced St. Louis, Missouri, and Illinois truck accident lawyer.