Any car or truck accident can have devastating and even tragic consequences, but semi-truck accidents can be especially catastrophic for crash victims and their families. Statistics show that car and truck accident injuries are often far worse when a semi-truck or 18-wheeler was involved in the crash. Victims of these kinds of accidents often sustain injuries such as:
- Head, neck, and back injuries
- Spinal cord injuries and paralysis
- Broken bones
- Internal injuries
- Amputated limbs or extremities
- Torso and rib injuries
- Seatbelt and airbag injuries
Unfortunately, most people who die in accidents involving semi-trucks are occupants of passenger vehicles also involved in the crash. This is because semi-trucks are incredibly heavy—often 20 or 30 times heavier than regular passenger vehicles—which means they require much longer stopping distances than smaller vehicles, and they can do great damage to smaller cars and trucks in a collision. Large trucks are also prone to rollover accidents due to their higher center of gravity. Thus, when a smaller passenger vehicle collides with a far larger and heavier commercial truck, the injuries sustained by the occupants of the smaller vehicle are likely to be severe, if not fatal.
The resulting medical bills after a crash can be incredibly costly, and emotional distress can be long-lasting. For these reasons, when a commercial truck driver, company, or manufacturer is found to be liable for an accident, it is very important for crash victims and their families to hire a knowledgeable and compassionate truck accident attorney with a proven track record of success in handling complicated truck accident claims.
As a victim or as the loved one of a passenger who has been in a truck accident, you may find yourself wondering why these kinds of accidents happen.
Why Do Semi-Truck Accidents Occur?
There are many possible truck accident causes, several of which are unfortunately also the reason behind all types of auto accidents. In all vehicle crashes, speeding, reckless driving, and driving under the influence have all been found to be common causes of accidents. In semi-truck accidents, specifically, driver fatigue is a top cause, because drivers of large commercial trucks work long hours and operate under pressure to travel long distances as quickly as possible and fulfill large quotas. Similarly, driver distraction is a common factor in semi-truck accidents; multitasking semi-truck drivers are at high risk of causing a catastrophic accident when they text or eat while behind the wheel.
Driver inexperience is another common cause of semi-truck accidents. Commercial trucking companies sometimes put their company’s bottom line before safety, hiring new, inexperienced drivers that command less pay than more experienced operators. These new drivers are trained quickly; then, before they are properly prepared or familiar with the type of truck they will be driving, they are put behind the wheel of a truck that is uniquely large, heavy, and difficult to manage.
Improper maintenance and loading are two other factors that have led to numerous accidents on the roadway. Along with inadequate driver training, two other ways some commercial trucking companies have been found to cut costs is by not performing the proper maintenance schedule on their entire fleet of trucks, and by loading cargo onto a truck too quickly, without properly distributing the cargo’s weight. Both of these are acts of negligence are likely the result of a push to get the truck and its driver back on the road as quickly as possible. Failing to follow proper protocol, however, can lead to accidents with tragic results.
Yet another common cause of semi-truck accidents is malfunctioning parts. When a large truck blows a tire or encounters a sudden braking or steering problem, the results can be catastrophic, especially if the driver of the commercial truck is inexperienced in handling unexpected events like these. In accidents involving large trucks with parts that failed, the manufacturer of the faulty part can be held liable, if it can be proven that the part’s failure contributed to the crash.
How Many Accidents Are Caused by Semi-Trucks?
If your life has been affected by a semi-truck accident, whether you were involved in the crash or you have a loved one who was, you may have wondered, “How many accidents are caused by semi-trucks?” After all, semi-truck accidents are rather different from regular accidents involving only passenger cars and trucks. Although accidents involving large trucks account for a minority of roadway accidents each year, they are far more likely than crashes involving only smaller vehicles to cause serious injuries and fatalities.
According to statistics released by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, both fatal and injury-causing crashes involving large trucks and buses steadily increased between 2009 and 2017. According to a report released in 2013 by the American Trucking Associations, other factors in these crashes include following too closely, brake problems, drivers who are unfamiliar with a roadway, drivers under work pressure, and aggressive driving.
Occupants of the smaller vehicle are far more vulnerable than the truck’s occupants when it comes to injuries and fatalities. When liability for the crash lies with the owner, operator, or manufacturer of the semi-truck, the victims of the crash are entitled to compensation for their damages.
Truck Accident Settlements Can be Complex
Truck accident settlements are often complex and lengthy processes, due to several factors, including the fact that commercial trucks and large buses are subject to a separate set of state and federal laws than those that govern drivers of smaller vehicles. Semi-truck drivers must follow regulations regarding weight limits on their cargo, as well as time limits on how long they can drive and how long they must rest between driving stints. They must also follow regulations regarding maintenance requirements for their trucks and the trucks’ parts. Industry lobbyists attempt to relax these regulations, often in an effort to improve productivity and increase their clients’ bottom line.
Semi-truck drivers are also required to carry special insurance with higher limits than regular car and truck drivers. When a semi-truck is involved in an accident, as in any accident situation, attorneys and insurance agents will try to establish what caused the crash in order to determine who is at fault in the car accident. When a commercial truck is in an accident, liability may fall on the driver, but it may also fall on a number of other parties, such as the driver’s employer, the owner of the truck, or the manufacturer of the truck and its parts.
So many separate and potentially liable parties make for a complex and lengthy process of determining the exact causes of a truck accident, who should be held liable, and what compensation the accident victims deserve to receive.
If you have been involved in an accident with a semi-truck and you are not found to be at fault, there is a bit of a silver lining: Since commercial truck drivers are required to carry high insurance limits, you have a better chance of recovering more compensation for your damages than you would after an accident with a regular passenger vehicle. On the other hand, when multiple defendants are involved in a truck accident case, as frequently happens, it can take years for all parties involved to come to an agreement about which liable party is responsible for which portion of the damages.
Truck accident cases in which multiple parties are found liable—for example, when a truck driver is determined to share liability with both the company that owns the truck and the manufacturer of one of the truck’s parts—have a good chance of going to trial rather than being settled out of court. Going to trial is more expensive and takes longer than settling the case out of court, which is often preferable to plaintiffs for those reasons.
Truck Driver Laws in Texas and Nationwide
Certain truck driver laws and regulations are set by the federal government and apply to commercial truck drivers throughout the United States, but other truck driver laws and regulations are state-specific. All laws, whether at the state or federal level, are intended to increase safety on the road for both commercial truck drivers and occupants of other vehicles that share the roadway.
In Texas, commercial truck drivers must be at least 21 years old to legally drive their commercial vehicles across state lines. Out-of-state drivers, once in Texas, are subject to state laws and regulations in cases of both accidents and traffic infractions. For example, if a truck driver in Texas is found to be driving under the influence, he or she is subject to the specific DUI laws of the state of Texas.
Also in Texas, certain vehicles that many may not think of as being commercial trucks are considered commercial vehicles under the law. Larger farm trucks, for example, as well as larger passenger trucks and passenger vans (such as those seating 16 occupants, including the driver) are considered commercial vehicles, even if they aren’t traditional 18-wheelers or tractor-trailers. If their weight ratings or seating capacities fall within the range set by Texas law as applying to a commercial vehicle, they are legally considered as such. This means that in the event of an accident, these vehicles are subject to all the laws and regulations that govern the owning and operating of commercial vehicles.
Slack Davis Sanger Can Help Victims of Truck Accidents and Their Families
If you are a victim of a commercial truck accident or you have a loved one who was involved in an accident with a commercial truck, get in touch with Slack Davis Sanger as soon as possible. Time is of the essence in these complex cases, which typically take months or even years to settle. The truck accident attorneys at Slack Davis Sanger are leaders in commercial truck accident lawsuits, with a long track record of success in handling these complex cases. Our skilled attorneys are also compassionate listeners and passionate advocates for our clients. Our extensive knowledge of truck accident laws, including both state and federal regulations that govern how commercial truck companies, drivers, and manufacturers operate make our firm uniquely qualified to take on these cases.
The firm handles cases involving catastrophic personal injuries and deaths. Our work spans three decades of handling airplane and helicopter crashes, truck and car accidents, oilfield and construction accidents, and other devastating accidents. We try lawsuits throughout the country in both federal and state courts and have recovered hundreds of millions of dollars for our clients. To date, we have handled or tried cases in 47 states, read more about our attorneys and firm.