When you see a semi-truck commanding a stretch of highway, you have every right to be daunted by its sheer size, weight and speed. Semis can weigh as much as 40,000 tons, and with that tremendous bulk often traveling at more than 70 miles per hour, it should come as no surprise to learn that over 100,000 people each year are involved in semi-truck accidents. If you or someone you love has been injured as a result of contact with one of these massive machines, it is in your best interest to learn about what the different causes of these accidents are as well as what recourse you might have to be compensated for the harm done.
The Parties Involved
The majority of our nation’s goods are conveyed from place to place via trucks. In order for all of these operations to run smoothly, a number of players are critical. They include truck manufacturers, suppliers of trucking equipment and parts, the people who drive the trucks and those who hire them. Any one of these parties can be at fault in the event of a semi-truck accident. Taking the time to learn how these incidents occur as well as their various types is the first step toward recovery of damages.
Perhaps the most obvious source of accidents occurs as the result of mistakes made by the operator of the semi-truck. The following are the most frequently seen causes of driver error:
- Sleepiness or fatigue. The life of a truck driver is difficult, often spanning 11 hours or even more on the road every day. In light of this fact, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has laid down strict rules limiting the hours a driver can be on the road and imposing penalties for violators. Even so, operators are often incentivized to flout these laws in order to get their load to its destination as quickly as possible. The results of weary drivers can be serious and can include concentration lapses, reduced awareness, slow reaction time and poor judgment.
- Use of drugs, including alcohol. This is strictly prohibited by federal law but still occurs all too often.
- Failure to inspect the vehicle before initiating the trip. Although doing so is required by federal law, a driver eager to get on their way may take a fatal shortcut by avoiding this essential step. Doing so can cause them to miss serious issues such as under-inflated tires, faulty coupling devices, leaks or malfunctioning lights.
- Poor driving techniques that lead to rollover accidents. When operators speed, take turns too quickly, over-steer or brake incorrectly, the potential for dangerous accidents is great.
Although there are some causes of injury that happen out of the blue and cannot be prevented, the situations described above are avoidable. Should a truck operator fail to follow laws and regulations or otherwise be careless, they can be held liable.
Defects in the Vehicle
In a machine that is made up of thousands of moving parts, there are many potentially harmful issues that can arise, particularly if regular maintenance is not made a priority. The most common trouble areas include:
- Windshield wipers.
- Coupling devices.
- Headlights and tail lights.
- Electronic stability control mechanisms.
In the case of defective parts, it is often possible to sue the designer, maker or seller of the product that caused the accident. Furthermore, an injured party can sue the trucking company or driver directly if it is clear that those parties knew there was a problem with the specific part or piece of equipment.
Adverse climatic conditions can quickly turn routine driving into an ordeal. Fog, ice, snow and even driving rain can reduce visibility and impair an operator’s ability to safely maneuver their vehicle. Nevertheless, there is no excuse for negligent driving even in situations like these. Federal regulations require that drivers use “extreme caution” when encountering hazardous conditions such as those described above. When things become too dangerous, it is always recommended that a driver take their vehicle off the road until things improve.
There are several types of accidents that bad weather can exacerbate:
- Rear-end crashes that occur when conditions cause a driver to be unable to stop fast enough.
- Rollover accidents. These frequently take place in extremely windy conditions because large semi-trucks are not as stable as are smaller cars.
- Broadside or T-bone accidents. These happen when weather conditions adversely affect a driver’s ability to stop at an intersection in a timely manner.
- Sideswipes. These occur when a driver fails to see a nearby driver and attempts to change lanes.
Although many of these scenarios can come about even on a calm and clear day, bad weather or extreme smoke have the potential to limit a driver’s ability to react effectively or see well. Sadly, the result can be a serious or even fatal accident.
Should you or someone you love ever be involved in a crash with a semi-truck, your first step should be to get medical attention immediately. Even if you feel well and do not believe you have been hurt, some injuries can take hours or even days to manifest. Additionally, going to a hospital or doctor also means that a record will be created that may later be used should you decide to take legal action.
Equally important, you should quickly get in touch with a personal injury attorney while the details remain fresh in your mind and you have ready access to all relevant evidence. A competent legal team with demonstrated experience litigating in this area can evaluate your case to determine if you have a viable case. If you do, the firm will assist you on every step of the way, ensuring that you receive the restitution to which you are entitled.