The Dangers Of Large Commercial Vehicles
Large trucks are inherently dangerous and can cause serious damage when they crash into other vehicles. Unfortunately, truck accidents are a common occurrence on our roads. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), truck accidents caused 3,921 fatalities and approximately 104,000 injuries in the U.S. during 2012 alone.
The State of New York is no stranger to truck accidents either. Data from the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (NYSDMV) suggests that there were an estimated 11,452 large truck crashes in New York during 2013.
Types Of Trucks Involved In Accidents
Many different types of trucks travel on the roads of New York each day. The size and design of a particular truck, as well as the cargo that it is carrying, can all factor into causing a truck accident. Additionally, these factors can also have an effect on the consequential damages. A few types of trucks that are commonly involved in accidents include:
- 18 wheelers, Tractor Trailers, Semi-trucks
- Delivery Trucks
- Garbage Trucks
- School and Coach Buses
- Flatbed Trucks
- Large Vans
- Box Trucks
- Concrete Trucks
- Dump Trucks
- Tank Trucks
Common Types of Truck Accidents
When it comes to truck accidents, it is by no means “one size fits all”. In fact, there are many different types of truck accidents that can occur. The type of accident that occurs can have a direct impact on the severity of the accident and can often help in determining the cause of the accident. Some of the most common types of truck accidents that we see include:
- Jackknife Accidents: These accidents occur when the back end of an 18 wheeler swings, sometimes 180 degrees in the opposite direction, causing the truck to lose control.
- Brake Failure Accidents: Large vehicles require an enormous amount of braking power to stop. Brake failure occurs when a truck is not able to stop in time to avoid an accident. Many of these crashes are the result of defective brakes or truck driver negligence.
- Truck Rollovers: Rollovers occur when a truck “rolls over” on its side. These incidents typically happen when drivers make sharp or sudden turns at high speeds, causing the truck’s center of gravity to rise.
- Head on Collisions: Head on collisions can multiply the force of impact, resulting in much more severe injuries.
- Tire Blowouts: There are two potential hazards when a tire explodes. First, the exploding tire can cause deadly force injuring passengers of nearby cars. Secondly, a blown tire can cause a truck to lose control at high speeds. These accidents typically caused by the negligence of drivers or companies who fail to adequately inspect their vehicles.
- Lost Loads: These accidents occur when the cargo, or load, being transported becomes detached from the truck. Improper loading by the carrier company is often to blame for these accidents.
Common Truck Crash Injuries
An 18 wheeler or semi-trailer truck can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds when fully loaded. The massive size of large trucks combined with their high speeds can make for dangerous situations. With this in mind, it may not come as a surprise to know that passengers involved in truck accidents have a higher rate of injury compared to passengers in accidents that only involve smaller passenger vehicles. Furthermore, passengers in smaller vehicles are much more likely to suffer injuries than truck drivers and passengers of larger vehicles. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), of the 104,000 people injured in truck accidents during 2012, about 73% were occupants of smaller standard passenger vehicles.
Crashes involving commercial motor vehicles can cause a number of serious injuries. However, the unique dynamics most truck accidents make victims highly susceptible to specific types of injuries including:
- Neck Injuries: Whiplash is a very common neck injury
- Spine Injuries: Often caused by crushing accidents such as rollovers
- Head Injuries: Commonly due to blunt force trauma
- Internal Injuries: Also typically resulting from blunt impact
- Burn Injuries: Often caused by car fires and explosions involving flammable cargo
After being involved in a truck accident, it is important to seek professional medical attention from a preferred doctor to assess for injuries. Sometimes injuries are difficult to detect right away and could surface months later.
Truck Accident Lawsuits & Personal Injury Claims
Many truck accidents are caused by truck driver negligence or trucking company negligence. In the unfortunate event that you were injured in an accident caused by the negligence of others, you may be able to recover compensation for damages by filing a trucking accident lawsuit. Truck accident victims are often entitled to recover compensation for certain damages such as medical expenses, lost wages and loss of enjoyment of life. (LINK OUT to truck accident lawsuit page).
Who or What Caused The Crash?
When considering a personal injury lawsuit for a truck accident, one of the most important questions that must be addressed is: “what caused the accident?”. There can be several causes for any particular accident, however, negligence is often one of the main factors. Some parties that can be found negligent in a truck accident include:
- Truck Drivers
- Carrier Companies
- Loading Companies
- Manufacturing Companies
- Other Third Parties
How Can They Be Negligent?
Truck Driver Negligence
Due to the dangerous nature of accidents involving large trucks, such as 18 wheelers or semi-trailers, drivers who operate Commercial Motor Vehicles (CMV) are held to much stricter safety standards and regulations compared to the average driver.
Technically, truck drivers operating under a CMV license are considered “professional” drivers because they are specifically trained and certified to drive very large vehicles safely, while the average roadway motorist is considered a “non-professional” driver. As with many other scenarios in life, the professionals on our roads are held to higher standards than the amateurs.
Unfortunately, many truck drivers disregard the stricter safety regulations imposed on them, or act negligently in some other way, endangering the lives of other New York drivers. When a truck driver does not follow standard procedures or behaves recklessly, we call this negligence.
Truck driver negligence is one of the most common causes of trucking accidents and can appear in many different forms. Some of the most common types of truck driver negligence which often lead to crashes include:
- Drunk or Intoxicated Driving
Operating small vehicles while intoxicated is dangerous enough, however, those dangers are compounded when operating large trucks. As a result, trucking laws restrict truckers to a much lower legal limit than average drivers.
- Fatigued Driving
Statistics suggest that truck driver fatigue caused 18% of the truck accidents involving driver error in 2012. Many trucking companies actually encourage fatigued driving through incentives for quicker delivery times.
- Reckless Driving
Reckless driving occurs when a truck driver operates a vehicle in a manner that shows complete disregard for the safety of others. Speeding is a common type of reckless driving that can result in serious accidents.
- Distracted Driving
A small lapse of attention can have serious consequences when operating a large vehicle. Truck drivers often cause serious accidents when they become distracted by the use of cell phones or other objects.
- Inadequate Inspection
The FMCSA requires that a truck inspection report be completed by drivers of commercial motor vehicles each day. Additionally, periodic maintenance inspections are required as well. When proper inspection standards are not followed crashes can occur.
- Improper or Inadequate Maintenance
Generally speaking, it is the combined responsibility of truck drivers, trucking companies, and inspection companies to ensure adequate maintenance on vehicles. Unfortunately, many trucks on New York’s roads are under-maintained for various reasons.
- Violation of FMCSA Regulations
The FMCSA sets regulations for the trucking industry which are designed to improve overall roadway safety in the United States, however many truck drivers do not comply with these regulations and endanger the lives of others.
Negligence Of A Motor Carrier Company
In many instances, the negligence of motor carrier companies, commonly referred to as trucking companies, can cause serious accidents.
When victims are injured in a truck accident caused by the negligence of a motor carrier company, they may be able to sue to recover compensation for damages. Common types of trucking company negligence include:
- Failure to Maintain Vehicles and Equipment
It is often the responsibility of trucking companies to maintain its fleet of vehicles. Lack of maintenance on the part of a trucking company can cause serious crashes.
- Violation of FMCSA Standards
Motor carrier companies are required to comply with certain safety regulations set forth by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, however many disregard these regulations.
- Improper Scheduling
When trucking companies schedule routes that exceed Hours of Service regulations they endanger the lives of their employees as well as other New York drivers.
- Negligent Hiring
Many trucking companies do not take the required effort to ensure that a new or potential hire is qualified to operate its fleet of commercial motor vehicles. Additionally, some motor carrier companies knowingly employ under-qualified workers to operate their vehicles. These inexperienced drivers pose a threat to others each time they take the wheel.
Defective Products & Malfunctioning Equipment
Negligence is not just limited to drivers and carrier companies, but can also include a number of other parties such as the manufacturer of truck parts. Even when trucks are properly inspected, maintained and operated, there is still the chance that products or equipment can fail.
When a defective product or malfunctioning piece of equipment causes an accident, it is possible that the product manufacturer can be held responsible under a product liability claim.
Two types of defective products that frequently lead to accidents include brakes and tires.
- Defective Brakes
Crashes from brake failure occur frequently on our roads.
Data from The Large Truck Crash Causation Study (LTCSS) found that over 29% of all large truck accidents involved some sort of brake-related issue such as brake failure. When brake-related issues cause an accident, there are several parties who could be responsible including the truck driver or the trucking company.
However, complete brake failure is typically the result of a defective product and can be attributed to the manufacturer of the products.
- Defective Tires
Another product that commonly causes semi-truck crashes are defective tires. Bad tires can blow out or cause a truck to lose control by not providing the appropriate amount of traction.
When filing a defective product liability case for a bad tire, it is usually the producer that is pursued. But it’s also the responsibility of the truck driver to properly inspect each tire, so these accidents can also be caused by driver negligence.
Although defective brakes and tires are the most common product-related issues that cause truck accidents, there are hundreds of other pieces of equipment that must work together in order for a truck to operate safely.
When any of these products fail to perform as designed and cause an accident, the manufacturer may be held accountable for damages.
Truck Accident Laws & Regulations
Due to the dangerous nature of accidents involving large trucks, operators of commercial motor vehicles are required to adhere to much stricter rules than the average driver.
One of the leading agencies that regulates trucking laws and industry regulations is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) whose primary goal is to prevent commercial vehicle-related injuries and fatalities.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
The FMCSA sets several regulations for the trucking industry. These laws are intended to diminish the number of truck accidents that occur each year and ultimately the number of subsequent injuries.
- Hours of Service Regulations (HOS)
One of the leading causes of truck accidents is fatigued truck driving. To improve the overall safety of our roadways, the FMCSA implemented Hours of Service Regulations which limit drivers of commercial vehicles to a maximum number of daily and weekly hours on the road.
Unfortunately, many trucking companies do not adhere to these regulations for various reasons such as faster delivery times. In the State of New York, truck drivers are required to log every hour of their work week, whether on or off duty.
When a truck accident investigation finds that logged time exceeds the regulations, or there is no record of logged time, there may be a case for negligence.
What Should I Do After A Truck Accident?
If you or loved one suffered an injury in a truck accident it is important that you speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer. Many insurance companies will discourage victims from speaking with an attorney in an attempt to settle out of court. However, an experienced lawyer will assist you with gathering relevant information about your accident and will help you consider all of your legal options before making a rash decision. Unfortunately, many truck accident victims do not discuss their legal rights with an attorney and as a result, do not receive the maximum compensation that they deserve.
Legal Representation For Your New York Truck Accident
When it comes to truck accident lawsuits, time is of the essence. The statute of limitations in the State of New York allows victims of truck accidents to file a personal injury claim within three years of the date that the accident occurred.
If you suffered an injury in a truck collision you should contact the experienced attorneys at Banville Law as soon as possible. Although it may seem like there is plenty of time, truck accidents can be complex and it can often take a long time to build a good case. Contact our New York office today for a free consultation on your legal rights!
Unfortunately, it is not always easy to uncover negligence in a truck accident, much less prove that that negligence caused your accident in some way. Many truck accident victims are understandably overwhelmed by the thought of standing up to large trucking and insurance companies. As a result, victims who are entitled to fair compensation for their accident do not take legal action.