Semi-trucks transport are critical sources of transportation for our economy but like other vehicles on the road, are unfortunately subject to becoming involved in accidents. Trucking accidents are defined as accidents that involve one or vehicles that weigh more than 10,000 lbs. Almost all of these trucks, also known as big rigs, in these accidents are on the road for commercial purposes. While a semi-truck can be driven without a trailer in tow, you will often see semi-trailers hauled by a semi-truck. It is important to note that semi-trailers cannot move on their own. A tractor-trailer and “18-wheeler” both refer to the combination of a semi-truck.
How many accidents are caused by semi-trucks?
Large truck accidents, including those of semi-trucks and tractor-trailers, can be catastrophic accidents and unfortunately, these accidents are not uncommon. In 2016, Florida saw 44,307 trucking accidents. In the United States, there were 114,000 injury crashes involving large trucks in 2019, according to the most recent data available according to the Federal Motor Safety Carrier Administration. Of those 114,000 crashes, 158,000 individuals were injured. Based on the same data from FMSCA, there were 4,479 fatal accidents that involved large trucks. And for property damage-only accidents, there were 392,000 accidents that involved large trucks, such as semi-trucks.
The sheer size and weight of types of trucks involved in truck accidents, which weigh up to 40 tons compared to a car’s 2.5 tons often makes any accident with another vehicle a highly dangerous event. Furthermore, the size of semi-trucks makes them difficult to maneuver, especially when it comes to braking. Trucks break at a 20 to 40 percent slower rate than other vehicles on the road. This slower race can be exacerbated by any weather conditions, such as rain or snow.
Where do truck accidents occur?
Most traffic accidents occur on highways, interstates, and major roads, and occur in rural and urban areas. A smaller percentage of semi-truck accidents occur on minor roads. The most common situations that led to deadly semi-truck accidents were head-on accidents, side-struck accidents, and rear-end accidents. Truck accidents may also involve motorcycles, bicyclists, and pedestrians.
The Types of Trucks Involved in Truck Accidents
State and federal laws are in place to regulate the truck driving industry. At the federal level, two agencies, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), are responsible for regulating the trucking industry. At the state level in Florida, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) regulates the trucking industry. However, even with regulations in place to make driving a semi-truck as safe as possible, including truck driving and manufacturing regulations, accidents do happen. Some common scenarios that lead to semi-truck accidents involve the following:
- Even though drivers must have a specific license to drive a semi-truck, sometimes truck drivers begin a job before completing the training requirements. Inexperienced truck drivers are more likely to not know how to handle more difficult driving conditions or navigate unfamiliar roadways in a safe manner.
- Weather and road conditions can also make it difficult for a semi-truck driver to operate the vehicle as normal, making an accident more likely to happen.
- Too much cargo on a semi-truck can lead to an unsafe situation in which the driver is unable to control the vehicle.
- Truck defects can also lead to a dangerous accident. While trucks must undergo quality control and are subject to manufacturing regulations, improper maintenance, such as the failure to replace brake pads, can lead to a truck being unsafe to operate. Trucking companies that fail to keep their trucks on a proper maintenance schedule may be liable for an accident if a defect or maintenance issue was to blame.
- Truck drivers are limited to the number of hours that can be driven by law. However, pressure to deliver goods on time and traffic conditions may put the driver in a situation to work longer hours that lead to sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation may lead drivers to make unsafe decisions on the road, thereby leading to an accident.
While the types of trucks involved in truck accidents are formidable on the road, truck drivers and drivers of passenger vehicles may be at fault when it comes to semi-truck accidents. Passenger drivers may be at fault and liable for a truck accident if any one of the following contributed to an accident.
- Changing lanes too fast and cutting a truck driver off too closely so that the truck has the inability to slow down and avoid an accident
- Failing to pay attention to the speed of a truck when it is changing lanes on a highway or near an intersection.
- Driving a passenger vehicle in a blind spot or no-zone area where a truck driver does not have full visibility. Note: if you cannot see a truck driver’s face in the side mirror then you are probably in their no-zone or blind spot.
- Attempting to overtake a semi-truck on the right side, which is the longest and largest no-zone or blind spot area. Semi-truck drivers also have to swing wider to the left than a passenger car before making a right turn, so if a passenger driver tries to change lanes while a truck driver is preparing to turn right then trouble could be ahead.
What do I do after I have been in an accident with a semi-truck?
If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident with a semi-truck, it is critical to contact an experienced personal injury attorney right away. Truck accidents may have multiple causes and can be complex accidents with devastating injuries and damages. Whether you are facing complicated negotiations with an insurance company or suffering from serious injury and significant property damage, you may benefit from an experienced trial attorney.
Clayton Trial Lawyers can protect your rights and make sure valuable evidence is not destroyed. Often, insurance companies want to take statements immediately after an accident; therefore, it is important that you have received legal advice before providing such a statement. Your attorney can advise you on issues ranging from how to make sure you are fully compensated for your vehicle to how to make sure you are getting the best medical treatment available.