According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the rate of truck accidents and fatalities has been increasing. Roughly 11 million Trucks comprise 4.7% of passenger vehicles but they are involved in 12.4 % of all fatal crashes. Individuals in a passenger car are five times more likely to die than a truck driver. Those individuals that do survive a collision with a truck are likely to suffer severe injuries. Victims and their loved ones can often experience significant frustration in trying to receive compensation for the losses and injuries they suffered.
Due to the immense size of trucks, the speed at which they travel, and the often flammable or explosive nature of their cargo, accidents involving large trucks and motor vehicles are usually serious. Roughly 138,000 people are injured in large truck and bus crashes each year.
Some truck accidents can cause minor injuries that may be hard to detect immediately. It may take several hours or days to feel the effects of an injury such as lower back pain. However, lower back pain can lead to chronic conditions that can last for years.
An individual that has been injured in a commercial truck accident is entitled to compensation for their pain and suffering, lost wages, medical bill reimbursement, and damage to their vehicle. However, the process is not the same as making a claim in a car accident due to the nature of the trucking industry, types of accidents and parties involved.
Trucks Can Inflict More Damage Than Passenger Cars
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Highway Data Loss Institute, trucks can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, 20-30 times more than a passenger car, and are taller with greater ground clearance. In a crash, a small car can easily under ride a truck in a crash.
The Nature of the Trucking Industry Can Contribute to Accidents
A number of characteristics inherent in the business can contribute to traffic accidents, such as:
- Inadequate training as to driving technique, safety concerns, and defensive driving.
- Systems of compensation that encourage faster vehicle speeds and more hours of consecutive vehicle operation than would normally be advisable.
- Unrealistic schedules and expectations of trucking companies that encourage drivers to hurry, despite safety risks involved.
Trucking Companies are Subject to Complex Industry Regulations
Due to the interstate nature of their business, trucking companies are under the
regulation of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Department of Transportation. They are held to higher standards such as:
- Drivers are required to have a special commercial driver’s license with a specific number of hours of training behind the wheel from a licensed CDL training company.
- Drivers have to maintain logbooks of their drive time. Commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers have regulations such as an 11-hour driving limit after 10 consecutive hours off duty.
- Trucks have to be regularly maintained and inspected annually.
Working through the myriad of regulations to determine if a violation could be the cause of the accident for which the driver or company is liable is a complex undertaking.
A Number of Different Infractions May Contribute to an Accident
Very few crashes have just a single cause, but in almost all crashes there is a primary error or other failure. In about 9 out of 10 crashes, the primary failure is a driver error. Common causes of truck accidents include:
Inexperienced drivers. It is common for trucking companies to cut corners by paying for young and inexperienced drivers because they charge lower rates per mile. Oftentimes the drivers are given minimal training and resources in order to start driving as quickly as possible. As you can imagine, this significantly increases the risk of an accident, especially during heavy traffic situations.
Speeding. Speeding is one of the most frequently cited factors in serious truck accidents. This is even more dangerous than it is for other motorists given the added weight and the brake time needed to stop.
Fatigued driving. Truck drivers often drive thousands of miles in a number of days. Additionally, many truck drivers are paid based on miles, so there is an incentive for the truck driver to drive further distances in shorter periods of time because the driver makes more money that way.
Distracted driving. Given the long hours and tedious nature of driving, it should come as no surprise that distractions are a leading cause of truck accidents. The advent of smartphones, tablets, and other handheld devices has only exacerbated this issue.
Driving under the influence. For decades, drug and alcohol use among truck drivers has been the elephant in the room for the trucking industry. There are strict policies in place that require employers to drug test potential drivers before they are hired and randomly in the future in some cases. Unfortunately, however, many companies choose to avoid these practices to save money and boost productivity, which only puts other motorists and passengers at risk.
Unsafe Trucking equipment. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, 20% of vehicles have been taken out of service once inspected for having too many safety violations. Violations can include defective brakes, worn tires; loads that exceed acceptable weight limits etc.
Proving a Truck Driver’s Negligence is Not Always Easy
Once negligence is proven, your attorney must figure out who is liable. Although it seems clear that the driver would be held responsible for his own actions, there are others that may be also. In a large trucking accident there may be multiple defendants, including but not limited to: the driver, the trucking company, contractors, employers, and insurance companies. Commercial vehicles carry commercial insurance policies, which have higher coverage limits than regular insurance policies.
Under current federal law, any company owning a trucking permit is responsible for all accidents involving a truck that has its placard or name displayed on the vehicle.
Every driver who gets behind the wheel of a truck has a duty to drive safely and avoid reasonable risks; if the failure to do so results in an accident, the negligent parties should be held liable for the damage and/or injuries caused.
Don’t let just anyone handle your case. If you or a loved one is injured in an accident involving a truck driver, contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Van Law Firm today to discuss your case and determine your rights.