Commercial trucks provide a valuable service to the nation’s economy by transporting a variety of goods all across the country. While most truck drivers practice safe driving, some take risks to reach their destinations faster. Truckers are typically paid per mile, meaning the more miles they drive, the better the pay. Despite federal regulations regarding hours of service, some truckers push the limits, resulting in drowsy, drunk, and distracted driving. If you or a loved one was seriously injured due to the negligent actions of a truck driver, consider speaking with a truck accident attorney.
Types of Truck Accidents
Sharing the road with a large truck is often a scary experience. Their sheer size and weight—in addition to blind zones and limited mirrors—make them a potential danger for passenger vehicles. No matter how defensively you drive, a commercial truck driver who engages in reckless behaviors places you at risk for serious injuries. The following examples demonstrate how a truck accident can happen in a second:
- Rollover – According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), 78 percent of truck rollover accidents involve driver error. Taking turns too fast can cause a shift in the load, resulting in a rollover accident. Tanker trucks carrying hazardous materials present an extra danger upon rolling over during an accident. Explosive materials, like fuel, can erupt in fire, exposing passenger vehicle occupants to flames and burns.
The FMCSA warns drivers to not become complacent in carrying hazardous materials. No matter how much experience a driver has, a rollover accident can happen in a second, resulting in serious harm for other drivers.
- Rear-end – A fully loaded semi-truck, traveling at 65 miles per hour, requires about 525 feet to stop. To put that in perspective, it is the length of about two football fields before the truck can fully stop. When traffic is at a dead stop, a fully loaded semi-truck approaching you at 65 miles per hour is incredibly dangerous and often deadly.
Current laws allow trucks to weigh up to 80,000 lbs. The weight, along with the required distance to stop, places you at risk for catastrophic harm due to a distracted, drowsy, or drunk driver. A truck driver’s failure to pay attention to the road is often deadly for those in passenger vehicles.
- Side-impact crash – A commercial truck has much higher ground clearance than a passenger vehicle. When a side-impact crash occurs, the impact can cause catastrophic injuries for those in the vehicle. Commonly referred to as underride crashes, efforts to require side guards have been met by opposition from some trucking companies. Executives cite such concerns as the extra weight the guards add to trucks and the associated costs.
Trucks currently have rear-guards due to federal requirements. Standard inspections do not require checking the condition of rear-guards. Many rear-guards—while in place—are in no shape to prevent a passenger vehicle from sliding underneath the truck. Many rear-guards have rust or other types of deterioration.
A truck accident can occur at any time. Trucks with faulty equipment, such as brakes, only increase the chance of a serious accident. If you’ve been seriously injured or lost a loved one due to a reckless truck driver, a personal injury attorney can help. Consulting an attorney is an important first step in processing what happened and understanding your options for seeking compensation.
Common Causes of Truck Accidents
Driver error while behind the wheel of a large commercial truck can change your life if you’re involved in an accident. Here are just a few of the key reasons for commercial truck accidents:
- Sleep deprivation – Mandatory rest requirements for truck drivers only work if a driver can rest. For many drivers, it is hard to regulate their sleep while on the road for long periods of time. For those with an undiagnosed sleep disorder, the danger of falling asleep behind the wheel is very real. A drowsy driver is often as dangerous as a drunk driver, due to a lack of judgment and response time.
- Distracted – Driver distraction for truck drivers is not unlike those for drivers of passenger vehicles. GPS systems, smartphones, and eating or reaching for objects can take anyone’s eyes off the road.
- Distractions also occur outside of the cab by looking at billboards or scenery. A three-year study by the FCSMA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that approximately 11,000 crashes nationwide involved distractions external to the cab.
- Drunk driving – Drivers who hold a Commercial Drivers License (CDL) face suspension of their license for one year for a first offense, and for life with a second offense. Examples of CDL offenses in Massachusetts that can result in the suspension or loss of the license include:
- A blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .04 percent or more
- Driving under the influence of an illegal substance
- Refusing to take an alcohol test as required by law while driving any vehicle
Encountering just one of these types of commercial truck drivers during your travels changes your life. The serious injuries you experience may require a lifetime of medical procedures and care.
How a Personal Injury Attorney Can Help
A traumatic accident is an overwhelming experience. Dealing with doctors and stressing about missed time from work becomes your new norm. A personal injury attorney can serve as the legal representation you need to protect your interests.
Insurance companies like to settle cases quickly. Their initial settlement offers may appear like large sums of money; however, chances are, the amount offered isn’t enough to cover future financial needs.
Navigating Massachusetts law regarding personal injury claims is best left to professionals. While each case is different, you may be entitled to financial compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
The statute of limitations affects how much time you have to pursue a personal injury case. It is better to take action sooner rather than later in reaching out to an attorney to review your case. Most personal injury attorneys offer free case evaluations. You have nothing to lose by contacting an attorney to review your case.