How do Semi-Trucks Cause Accidents?
Commercial trucks contribute to the nation’s economy by transporting goods along major interstate highways. Sharing the road with other drivers is essential for everyone—truck drivers and passenger vehicles alike—to arrive at their destination safely. When a truck driver falls asleep, speeds, or drives with faulty brakes, the results are often catastrophic for other drivers. If you or someone you love has been seriously injured due to the reckless actions of a commercial truck driver, contact a Florida personal injury lawyer without delay.
Key Reasons for Truck Accidents
There are a variety of reasons for truck accidents and no matter how defensively you drive, one can happen at any time. A trip to the mall or your commute to work can turn tragic and change your life forever when a truck collides with your vehicle. Here are just a few of the key reasons for truck accidents on our nation’s highways:
Underride Semi-Truck Accidents
Sometimes referred to as passenger compartment intrusion (PCI) crashes, underride crashes are just that—a crash where a passenger vehicle goes under a semi-trailer. This type of crash is especially dangerous due to the trauma victims experience
The chassis, or underneath, of a semi-truck sits higher than the hood of a passenger vehicle. When a passenger vehicle collides with the side of a semi-trailer, the trailer brakes the vehicle windshield and enters the passenger compartment. While rear guards are a federal requirement, there are currently no laws requiring side guards. Even a rear impact guard may not protect you as recent highway inspections found many rusted and unsafe.
According to the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO), approximately 219 fatalities from underride crashes take place every year. The GAO believes that the number of crashes is underreported due to inconsistencies in how law enforcement documents them. Suggestions recently made by the GAO to the U.S. Department of Transportation include:
- Developing a standardized definition of underride crashes
- Train law enforcement on how to identify underride crashes
- Create data fields on accident report forms for underride crashes
- Establish annual inspection requirements for rear impact guards
- Conduct research on side underride guards
Advocates for side underride guards are tirelessly working for federal laws to improve highway safety. Until such laws are in place and there are stronger inspection requirements for rear impact guards, all drivers remain at risk for serious harm.
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Semi-Truck Accidents Caused by Distracted Driving
New technologies are helpful to truck drivers while at the same time, distractive to their driving. Navigational devices and in-cab fleet management and communication systems, along with personal smartphones can divert attention from the road.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that distracted driving has three main elements: visual, manual, and cognitive. Any behavior that takes your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel and your mind off driving is dangerous and often deadly. A distracted truck driver can dramatically change your life in terms of catastrophic injuries that require a lifetime of care.
Rear-end Semi-Truck Crashes
A fully loaded semi-truck, traveling in ideal conditions and at 65 miles per hour, requires 525 feet to stop. That is the equivalent of two football fields. It is twice the distance required for a passenger vehicle to reach a complete stop at the same mph.
Semi-trucks have air brakes, unlike passenger vehicles that have hydraulic brakes that are much faster at stopping a car. When a truck driver pushes on the brake, air must build-up and reach throughout the truck, resulting in lag time. Semi-trucks with poorly maintained brakes may result in complete brake failure, making a rear-end crash all but certain during a rush-hour traffic jam.
Speeding and Semi-Truck Accidents
The speed of a truck is traveling when it hits your vehicle determines the impact and the severity of your injuries. Road Safe America reports that an 80,000-pound semi-truck traveling at 70 miles per hour is the equivalent force of a car traveling at 361 miles per hour. The sudden and violent impact of a semi-truck colliding with your vehicle can result in catastrophic injuries and possibly death.
Truck driving is a professional that bases pay on miles driven rather than an hourly rate or a salary. Speeding is among the many risks some truckers take to reach their destination faster. Motivators for this reckless behavior include returning to their families or to start another run.
Fatigued Truck Drivers are an Accident Risk
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) sets the Hours-of-Service Regulations for the trucking industry. Truckers may drive no more than 14 hours a day. During that time, truckers must rest for a minimum of a half-hour.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep a night. Drowsy driving is often as dangerous as drunk driving due to the impairment of a driver’s judgment and reaction time. Sleep-deprived drivers and those with undiagnosed sleeping disorders result in the following statistics:
- One out of 10 drivers has fallen asleep behind the wheel in the past year
- One out of eight crashes require hospitalization due to drowsy driving
- One out of six deadly traffic accidents is a direct result of drowsy driving
While mandatory electronic logging devices (ELD) help track truck driver activity, drowsy truck drivers continue to take risks. With more than three million truck drivers in the United States, encountering one who is sleep-deprived is a real possibility every time you drive.
Driving Under the Influence (DUI)
The FMCSA standard for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) for commercial truck drivers is 0.04 percent. Most states follow the federal standard, which is lower for commercial drivers than the 0.08 many states set for other drivers.
Truck safety advocates and government legislators are at work to change trucking regulations involving speed and hours. For example, many trucks have speed-limiting technology and legislation is underway to cap truck speeds at 60 mph. Other government initiatives involve allowing exceptions for the half-hour break requirements. No matter what legislation becomes law and how many regulations exist, truck drivers who drive recklessly continue to place you and your loved ones at risk for serious harm.
What to Do After a Truck Accident
A sudden and violent impact is a shocking and upsetting experience. The most important first action is to seek medical attention immediately. If you can, take pictures of the scene and collect the contact information of witnesses. If you are unable to do so because of your injuries, ask a witness to help you. Having the presence-of-mind to collect evidence like phone numbers and pictures can greatly assist your case later.
Do not speak to the truck driver. While it is unlikely they will attempt to approach you, it is their career on the line. If they are uninjured, they may attempt communication with you. Only speak with law enforcement and witnesses willing to help you.
Once admitted to the hospital, numerous doctors and medical personnel will enter your room. Keeping track of your medical information, and reuniting with your family, is your top priority. Aggressive insurance representatives may try to contact you during the first few days of your accident. Your best course of action is to not speak with them but rather to contact a personal injury lawyer.
Common Injuries in Truck Accidents
Once a medical team evaluates your injuries, you may find that your life has indeed, changed forever. The sheer force of the impact from a semi-truck can result in one or more of the following serious injuries:
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI) – The CDC defines a TBI as a bump, blow, or jolt to the head, or a penetrating head injury, that disrupts normal brain function. A severe TBI can result in cognitive and motor function issues and behavior and emotional changes. A person with a severe TBI may never return to the person you once knew, and severe TBI patients usually require a lifetime of care.
- Spinal cord injury – The spinal cord performs an important function for transporting messages to and from the brain regarding sensation and movement. There are two types of spinal cord injuries: complete and incomplete. A complete spinal cord injury means there is no sensation or movement below the point of injury. An incomplete spinal cord injury means there are limited sensation and movement below the injury point. Spinal cord injuries involve paralysis and require power chairs for patient mobility. Other needs include possible home modifications for the chair and vehicle modifications or an accessible vehicle that accommodates a power chair.
- Broken bones – With more than 200 bones in the human body, there is a real chance of breaking one or more in a collision with a truck. Breaking bones in your leg and/or arm can affect your ability to perform basic tasks. Broken bones in your neck or back may require future surgeries and extensive physical therapy.
- Internal injuries – Injuries that aren’t visible to the naked eye are especially dangerous. It is for this very reason that seeking medical attention is imperative, even if you feel fine. Internal injuries like that of internal bleeding are only detected through lab work and diagnostic testing. Always err on the side of caution and go to the hospital after an accident.
A Truck Accident Lawyer Can Help You
Truck drivers perform an essential service in transporting goods. It is when a truck driver places his immediate needs over his regard for the safety of others that it results in negligence. No one should suffer physical, financial, and emotional stress due to the reckless behavior of a truck driver.
All Florida drivers have a responsibility to drive safely. A Florida driver’s license is a privilege and not a right. The same is true for a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Adhering to the standards and regulations that accompany a CDL is a truck driver’s responsibility. Losing their CDL impacts their career and the ability to provide for their family. When a truck driver fails to handle his commercial truck responsibly, it can derail your life and career. When a reckless truck driver crashes into your vehicle, life will never be the same for you and your family. You may face a job loss, massive medical bills, and strained relationships, all due to no fault of your own.
The uncertainty of your future is why you should not speak with insurance representatives. Chances are their offer to settle your case is not enough to cover your future medical needs and lost wages. Their number one priority is not you but rather their bottom line. It is important not to settle for less than you deserve. Truck accident lawyers understand the stress their clients face when it comes to their injuries and financial futures. It is unfair and unjust to experience serious injuries due to a negligent truck driver. You will want an attorney who will work hard to secure fair compensation for you, and who is unafraid to go to trial if he or she cannot reach a settlement you deserve.
Fight for the justice you deserve by reaching out to a truck accident lawyer today. While every case is different, you may be entitled to financial compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Time is of the essence, so don’t delay. The sooner a truck accident attorney reviews your case, the sooner he or she can determine the best course of action for you. Collecting evidence and interviewing witnesses takes time as does skillful negotiations. Act quickly before any statute of limitations expires.