Truck Rollovers: Your Frequently Asked Questions Answered
Posted on December 18th, 2019 by Zane Cagle
When big trucks suffer rollover accidents, whether due to high winds, poor weather conditions, or driver error, those accidents can cause catastrophic damage to other vehicles impacted by the accident and their occupants. Following any type of truck accident, you may have questions about why the accident occurred and what you should do next. Read on to learn what the skilled truck accident attorneys at the Cagle Law Firm suggest.
What causes big truck rollover accidents?
Big trucks sit higher off the ground than passenger vehicles. As a result, they do not have the center of gravity of say, a race car. A high center of gravity combined with their larger mass make them easier to roll than most passenger vehicles. In reality, big trucks can roll over for a variety of reasons, just like smaller vehicles. These reasons can include:
- Driver error. While truck drivers receive special training to help them handle the demands of driving a large vehicle, truck drivers may still make errors that cause the truck to roll. With a steep incline, poorly loaded cargo, or an abrupt driver overreaction, the truck may tumble off the road and ultimately roll over, taking any cars in the way with it. Truck drivers must pay much better attention than other drivers on the road. Big trucks take up more space and require more room to maneuver. Even momentary inattention can cause a driver to miss an important change in conditions on the road, leading to an accident. But truck drivers often spend as many as 11 consecutive hours behind the wheel at a time. Unfortunately, the fatigue that accompanies this kind of long shift can cause a driver’s attention to drift even when they are not engaging in distracting behaviors behind the wheel.
- Weather problems. In bad weather, big trucks may need to slow down substantially to travel safely. Slick roads, whether from ice or rain, can make it more difficult for truck tires to hold the road. High winds can also rock the truck, causing it to roll over.
- Mechanical failures. Mechanical failures of any kind can cause a truck driver to lose control of the truck, but tire blowouts, one of the most common types of mechanical failures trucks suffer, make it particularly difficult for a truck to remain safely on the road. When a tire blows out, not only does it make the truck more difficult to control, it changes the balance of the truck, causing it to list to one side. In some cases, that tire blowout can change the balance of the truck enough to make it roll over.
- Improperly loaded cargo. The way the loading team loads the cargo in a big truck can make an enormous difference in the way the truck handles on the road. When the team fails to load cargo properly, it can leave the truck off-balance. Shifting cargo can cause or contribute to a rollover accident in the blink of an eye.
Who bears responsibility for a truck rollover accident?
After a rollover accident, many victims choose to file a personal injury claim to seek compensation for their injuries. To file a personal injury claim, the victim needs to identify the party or parties responsible for the accident. If multiple parties bear responsibility for the accident, the victim has the potential to receive more compensation than if a single insurance policy covers the accident. Responsible parties may include:
- The truck driver. As many as 87 percent of truck accidents, including rollover accidents, involve driver error. When the truck driver causes an accident due to inattention, distraction, or failure to follow the rules of the road, the driver bears responsibility for the accident. Often, the trucking company will carry an insurance policy that covers all of its drivers. Some truck drivers also choose to carry their own insurance policies.
- The trucking company. Some accidents, even those that appear to be the result of driver error, actually result from the trucking company’s error. The company might, for example, require the driver to drive for too many hours or in unsafe conditions. Some trucking companies may ask drivers to falsify records or to drive when tired or under the influence. If the trucking company has unrealistic or illegal expectations of its drivers, the company may be liable for the accident.
- The truck’s loaders. Improperly loaded cargo can shift as the truck travels down the road. In some cases, shifting cargo can cause the truck to roll or slip off the road. When loaders fail to properly secure cargo, causing or increasing the severity of an accident, the loaders may bear responsibility for the accident. Sometimes, the trucking company employs those loaders. In other cases, the company that owns the cargo may employ the loaders.
- Truck and truck part manufacturers. When a truck’s parts fail to perform adequately, the company that manufactured the faulty truck or truck part may bear liability for the accident. For example, if a tire blows out in spite of a driver taking adequate precautions and replacing the tire when required, the tire manufacturer may share liability for the rollover accident.
- Other drivers. Sometimes, other drivers ignore the rules of the road or fail to take appropriate safety precautions when driving near a large truck. If another driver swerves abruptly in front of the truck and slams on its brakes, causing the truck driver to swerve off the road, that other driver may share liability for the accident.
6 Steps You Should Do After a Truck Rollover accident?
In the immediate aftermath of a truck rollover accident, adrenaline flows fast. You may not know what to do next or how to handle yourself. Follow these tips to help protect yourself at the scene:
- Move away from the truck, if possible. Make sure you do not remain downhill from the truck, even if you believe the truck is stable. You may also want to ask the truck driver what cargo the truck is carrying, especially in the case of tanker trucks, which sometimes contain dangerous chemicals. Get to a safe location away from the truck if you can.
- Seek medical attention as soon as possible. After your truck rollover accident, you will need to receive medical attention to determine the full extent of your injuries. Some injuries may not present symptoms immediately after the accident, including traumatic brain injuries and spinal cord damage. By seeking medical attention, you may reduce the odds that you will miss an injury or accidentally make it worse. Follow all instructions issued by paramedics and other first responders at the scene of the accident.
- Summon the police to the scene of the accident. When you call 911, you will summon both police and an ambulance. When the police arrive at the scene, they will create a police report, which will help identify the factors that caused the accident and provide a legal record of the date and time of the accident. The police may speak with you and other witnesses at the scene to get an accurate picture of what happened during the accident. If the police question you, provide a true description of the accident, but avoid making any statements that could implicate you.
- Keep a file containing all the information from the accident. Your file should contain information like a copy or photo of the truck driver’s license and insurance card, pictures from the scene of the accident, and copies of all of your medical records, including photos of your injuries and statements from your doctors, if relevant.
- Contact your insurance company. You will need to report any damage to your vehicle, especially if the accident totaled your vehicle. Your insurance company may also advise you about how to proceed after the accident or how to get in touch with the responsible party’s insurance company, if needed. DO NOT DISCUSS YOUR INJURIES IN THIS CALL. No one knows the extent of their injuries in the first days after a crash so do not discuss them with the insurance adjuster.
- Contact an attorney. Any time you suffer injuries in an accident, you may need to file a personal injury claim. A personal injury claim may require more attention to detail than a property damage claim after an accident. By contacting an attorney, you will get a better idea of how much compensation you deserve for your injuries and what you should expect from the claims process.
What damages can you recover after a truck rollover accident?
After a truck rollover accident, you can file a personal injury claim that will help you seek compensation for your injuries, also known as damages. The damages you can recover will depend on the extent of your injuries and the limits on the insurance policy that covers the responsible party. If multiple parties and, therefore, multiple factors contributed to your accident, you may have grounds to file a claim against all the responsible parties. A claim may include:
- Your medical expenses. Keep careful track of all medical expenses related to the accident, from care received from paramedics at the scene of the accident to physical therapy as you recover from your injuries. Those medical expenses may mount quickly, especially if you suffer a severe injury like a traumatic brain injury or spinal cord damage. You can also include anticipated future medical expenses in the case of injuries that will have a long-term or lifelong impact, including amputations, which may require you to replace your prosthesis every 3-5 years. Make sure to keep track of any alterations you must make to your home as a result of your injuries, including wheelchair ramps, widened doorways, or alterations to your bathroom to make it easier for you to function independently with your injuries.
- Your pain and suffering. Following a truck rollover accident, your injuries may cause substantial pain. Some accident victims suffer pain for the rest of their lives. Others may experience psychological pain related to the accident, including PTSD. You may also suffer as you miss out on activities that, before your accident, brought you joy.
- Lost wages. Many injuries will cause you to miss work during your recovery. Sometimes, you can return to work in a limited capacity while you recover. Other types of injuries may prevent you from working altogether during your recovery. If you cannot ever return to your former profession, you can include lost earning potential as part of your personal injury claim. The funds from a lost earning potential claim will allow you to pursue further job training or offer a source of financial support while you recover from your injuries.
Who pays for my medical expenses after a truck rollover accident?
Even if you know the truck driver caused your truck rollover accident, that does not necessarily mean that the truck driver must pay your medical expenses. Ultimately, after an accident, you bear responsibility for your medical expenses. You will provide the hospital with a copy of your health insurance information and take care of paying your medical bills. If you choose to seek compensation through a personal injury claim, you can then use any funds you are awarded by the court to cover your medical expenses.
Do I need an attorney to file a claim after a truck rollover accident?
It is not necessary to have an attorney to help you file your claim after a truck rollover accident. After an accident that involved serious injuries, however, hiring an attorney offers you many advantages. An attorney can help you better understand the compensation you deserve for your injuries, preventing you from accepting a settlement that does not compensate you fully. An attorney can also help you better understand the claims process, what specific things you should include in your claim, and when to negotiate with the insurance company.
How long do I have to file a claim after a truck rollover accident?
In general, you should try to file your truck accident claim as soon as possible. Contact a lawyer to discuss the legal time limit—known as the statute of limitations—for filing a claim.
If you suffered injuries in a truck rollover accident, contact an attorney as soon as possible. The sooner you start working with an attorney, the sooner you can file your claim and start working to get the compensation you deserve for your injuries.