Truck accidents are more deadly than passenger car accidents, mostly due to the size and weight of a large truck. Fully loaded, a truck can weigh up to 80,000 pounds—sometimes more if the truck is hauling an oversize load. While some accidents are caused by careless truck drivers or maintenance issues, others are also caused by passenger car and truck drivers who drive erratically or do not respect the space that large trucks need to safely maneuver and stop.
Massachusetts Truck Accident Statistics
Of the 350 fatal accidents in Massachusetts during 2017, four of the fatalities involved large truck occupants. Twenty-eight of the 350 fatal accidents involved large trucks. Plymouth County ties with Bristol Country for being the second most dangerous county to drive in, each with 13 percent of the total fatal accidents in the state for 2017. Only Worcester County has more, with 16 percent of the fatal accidents in the state for 2017. If you or someone you know has been seriously injured in a trucking related accident speaking with a truck accident lawyer can outline all your available options.
While your chance of being involved in an accident with a large truck looks rather small on paper, real-life circumstances dictate whether you sustain an injury or die in a truck accident. Commuting every day along routes commonly used by truckers significantly increases the chances of getting into an accident with a big rig. Your driving habits also increase or decrease the risk of crashing.
Truck Accident Causes
Two main reasons exist for truck crashes: (1) the actions of a truck driver and (2) the actions of a passenger vehicle driver. While you cannot do anything about the truck driver’s actions, except try to avoid the many trucks on the road, you can decrease the odds of being involved in an accident with a truck by changing your driving habits. Consider the following:
Truck Driver Issues
Many things can go wrong with truckers and trucks, but they are a necessary evil. Not only do truck driving companies provide important jobs, but also trucking is a convenient way to get goods to our cities and towns.
Truckers are supposed to complete a maintenance checklist before leaving for a long trip. If a trucker or the trucker’s company sees a maintenance issue and does not repair it, it may lead to an accident. For example, if the trucker notices that a recapped tire on his truck has started to separate, but the trucker does not change the tire, it may separate going down the highway and send pieces of rubber flying into unsuspecting motorists.
Additionally, truckers must follow federal hours of service regulations. These regulations are put in place to keep truckers from driving while they are tired. However, these regulations can only dictate how long a truck driver must be out of the cab or in the sleeper section of the cab. It cannot dictate that a driver must sleep a specific amount of hours. If a truck driver does not get enough sleep during his or her off time, he or she may easily get into an accident.
Truckers can also cause accidents by not following the rules of the road, just like a passenger vehicle driver. A speeding truck could wreck just like a speeding passenger vehicle. The difference is that the size of the truck causes it to travel a farther distance after the driver hits the brakes. And, because of the size and weight of the truck, it will do more damage to the vehicles it hits than a passenger vehicle would.
Passenger Vehicle Issues
In many cases, the truck driver is not to blame during an accident. A passenger vehicle may cause a trucker to wreck. If you are legally passing a truck and the driver in front of you merges into the truck’s lane too soon, that driver could cause the trucker to slam his brakes on to avoid hitting the car that just cut him off. In many cases, hard braking may cause the trailer to sway or even jackknife. Thus, you could get caught up in a big rig accident because of the actions of another passenger vehicle driver.
Avoiding Truck Accidents
You could lower your risk of being involved in an accident with a big rig by giving trucks the respect that they demand while on the road. If you are on a highway and have to pass, ensure that you can see the truck’s grille in your rearview mirror before you merge in front of the truck. If you can only see the truck in your passenger door mirror, you are too close to the truck and are taking up the truck’s extra stopping space—space that it needs because of the weight of the rig.
If you notice a truck that cannot stay in its own lane or keeps running over the rumble strips, back off instead of trying to pass. The driver could be distracted or drowsy. There’s a good chance that the truck will swerve right into you as you pass. If you have to get off the highway for a 10-minute break to let the trucker get farther ahead of you, that 10 minutes could save your life.
If you see a problem with a truck, your best bet is to stay away from the truck. However, if you can safely get next to the cab and try to warn the driver, you may want to try to get the truck to pull off the road by motioning him over. Once the driver sees you, get ahead of the truck so that you are not hurt if the problem exacerbates.
Damages Available in Truck Accidents
If you are injured in a truck accident, you should seek damages, including special damages, general damages, and punitive damages. Special damages are economic in nature and have a price tag attached to them. They include reimbursement for medical expenses and lost wages. General damages are for non-economic damages and are usually awarded if your injuries are expected to be long-term or permanent. General damages may include pain and suffering and loss of companionship.
Punitive damages are only awarded when a defendant’s actions are grossly negligent or done with an intent to harm. Grossly negligent actions may include drunk driving or distracted driving.
If you were injured in a truck accident, contact a Brockton truck accident lawyer to schedule a free consultation.