When it comes to crashes involving trucks, the people most at risk are often those in other, smaller vehicles such as passenger cars and motorcycles. In recent years, several high-profile accidents involving tractor trailers have made this truth even more evident.
Even when car drivers are practicing safe driving habits, they and their passengers can still fall victim to a semi-truck accident if the truck driver is not paying attention, gets distracted, or is driving under the influence. Given the much smaller size of cars and even SUVs compared to big 18-wheelers, the likelihood of severe injury or death is that much greater when an accident does occur.
Truck Accident Statistics
- Every year, there are over 500,000 truck accidents in the U.S.
- Over 4,300 trucks were involved in fatal accidents in 2015, an 8% increase from 2014.
- Most fatal accidents involving trucks result in passenger car deaths, not trucker deaths.
- Trucking is one of the most important industries in the U.S., transporting over 70% of all shipped goods.
- There are more than 3.5 million truckers in the United States.
- $9.5 billion is spent on trucker and civilian safety annually.
Common Causes of Truck Crashes
Due to the massive size and weight of many trucks, accidents and collisions can be deadly, with fatal crashes increasing in frequency every year. Accidents involving trucks are more likely to result in fatalities than car accidents, so it’s important to be extra cautious as a trucker.
Some common safety issues that truckers should be aware of include:
- Driver health
- Driver fatigue and drowsiness
- Weather conditions
- Obstacles and debris on the road
- Long driving hours
- Truck mechanics
- Driver distraction, such as texting and eating
What to Do After a Truck Accident
Some truck accidents are unavoidable no matter how careful you are. In the event of an crash, it’s important to stay calm. Truckers are professionals and go through training to prepare for incidents that occur while on the road. Other drivers may look to truckers to handle the situation calmly and authoritatively.
Pull Over and Turn Off the Vehicle
If you are involved in a crash, the first thing to do is stop. It is a felony to flee the accident scene. If possible, move to the side of the road to stay away from traffic. When safe, assess yourself and others for injuries. Unless it’s necessary to remove them from further harm, never move truck accident victims, as this can lead to further injuries.
Find Someplace Safe and Call Authorities
Some accidents can cause gasoline leaks, which can lead to dangerous fires and sometimes explosions. If this is the case, move yourself and others away from the leaking vehicle and to a safer location.
Once you are safe, call the authorities as soon as possible, and give as many details as you can to help them better prepare for the severity of the accident. When the officials (local police, state police, etc.) arrive, give a full and honest account of the motor vehicle accident.
Get Medical Attention
Even if you don’t have any obvious injuries, it’s important to seek medical attention, as some injuries are internal and can show symptoms later.
Most Common Truck Accident Injuries
- Cuts and bruises
- Head wounds / brain injury
- Internal bleeding
- Organ damage (especially abdominal)
- Neck and spinal injuries
Contact Your Insurance Company
Once everything is secure, take pictures of the accident, exchange information with the drivers of the other vehicle(s), and contact your insurance carrier. Trucking accidents can often lead to legal issues, and it’s necessary to have evidence and be transparent about what happened.
Find a Truck Accident Attorney
If you have been involved in a crash, you may want to talk to a trucking accident lawyer who can inform you of your legal rights. These may include seeking compensated related to any or all of the following:
- Personal injury
- Wrongful death
- Property damage
- Medical bills
- Other related costs
Hiring a law firm with extensive experience in tractor-trailer accident litigation is important to ensuring that you receive the appropriate compensation to cover costs caused by the crash.
Do Not Admit Fault for a Truck Crash
You may be tempted to apologize to the truck driver after being involved in a crash, even if it was not your fault. This is a natural response that many people have, but one that should be avoided. Instead, keep your focus on keeping yourself and others safe while you wait for medical and law enforcement officials to arrive.
When involved in a vehicle crash, you could be subject to certain types of amnesia that make it difficult (or even impossible) to remember specifics later. Obtaining a record of the facts and events of the incident are important to making sure nothing is forgotten later, especially if it becomes one person’s word against another’s in a courtroom.
After a crash, other parties involved may become belligerent and try to coerce you into admitting fault. In this case, try to remain calm and find someplace to be by yourself while you wait for law enforcement to arrive without speaking to the other person.
Injuries Caused by Truck Accidents
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the number of truck accidents has been increasing significantly since 2009. While the overall percentage of fatal crashes has not increased at the same pace, they are still higher than they were a decade ago.
Even in non-fatal crashes, injuries can be severe. Approximately 116,000 people were hurt in an accident involving a commercial truck in 2015 (the latest year for which data is available).
Most Common Injuries Caused by Truck Accidents
- Head trauma, including concussion, cranial swelling, or brain damage
- Nervous system damage, including spinal cord injuries or paralysis
- Bone fractures and joint dislocations
- Internal bleeding or organ damage
- Lacerations, abrasions, and punctures
Some of these injuries may not manifest immediately – in fact, certain injuries may take months or years before being diagnosed. Even when injuries do not lead to immediate death or disability, they can still cause lifelong health problems and shorten an otherwise healthy individual’s life expectancy. The costs of both immediate and long-term care can skyrocket, especially if the injured person is unable to work as a result of the accident.
Trucking Rules and Safety Regulations
Trucking companies and truckers are required to follow state laws, federal regulations, and local rules of the road. Generally speaking:
- The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a bureau of the Department of Transportation, regulates commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) by setting quality control measures, weight limits, and mandatory rest periods, and oversees federal laws.
- The FMCSA also sets commercial driver’s license (CDL) standards, though it does not actually issue licenses.
- State motor vehicle agencies issue CDL licenses and oversee vehicle registrations.
- State laws for operating commercial vehicles are passed by legislative bodies in each individual state.
- Federal, state and local police forces enforce road rules, such as speed limits and moving violations, based on where the truck is being operated.
Truck Accident Lawsuit FAQ
Below are answers to some of the most common questions asked about 18-wheeler truck accident lawsuits.
Should I Contact a Truck Accident Lawyer?
If you or a loved one are involved in a collision with a large truck, it is a good idea to seek the advice of a personal injury lawyer who can help you understand your legal rights and explain the trucking laws in your state. Even if you are not sure that the truck driver is at fault, your lawyer will be able to help you understand the responsibilities of truckers and trucking companies.
Given the dangerous nature of large trucks, both federal and state governments require truck drivers to have a valid commercial driver’s license (CDL). The very fact that such a license is required shows that truck drivers have a higher duty to drive safely and obey all of the rules of the road.
Types of Negligence in Truck Accident Lawsuits
- Inadequate maintenance – malfunctioning or ill-maintained parts
- Hours of service – failing to comply with mandatory limits on continuous driving time
- Insufficient training – hiring inexperienced drivers, failing to provide appropriate instruction
- Cargo stability – overloading or loading freight that isn’t properly balanced
- Impaired driving – operating a semi-truck while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Moving violations – Exceeding the speed limit or breaking other road laws, such as failing to signal while switching lanes
In many truck accident cases, lawsuits are filed against the truck driver’s employer – the trucking company – rather than the driver as an individual, since it is ultimately the company’s responsibility to ensure that its drivers and vehicles are operating safely.
A reputable lawyer will be able to help you understand whether these or any other preventable situations could have led to your accident.
What is the average semi-truck accident settlement amount?
Without talking to an experienced attorney who has handled a variety of trucking lawsuits, it is very difficult to know how much you could receive. Any truck accident settlement calculator that might be available on other websites is likely to be wrong, and you will still have to talk with someone who can weigh the various factors related to your specific situation.
A reputable truck injury lawyer will offer a free case review. During the initial consultation, he or she will provide you with a realistic idea of what you could win based on considerations like:
- Property damage
- Medical bills
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of wages/income
- Loss of future potential income
- Loss of companionship
The reason you should work with an experienced truck accident law firm is that they will be able to make educated calculations about how prior cases similar to yours have fared.