Truck Rollovers: How and Why They Happen

September 5, 2019 | Attorney, Matthew Dolman
Truck Rollovers: How and Why They Happen

The Dangers of Semi-Truck Rollovers

Driving a semi-truck with a trailer or cargo tank requires skill and lots of training. For truck drivers with a commercial driver's license (CDL), learning how to control large loads and how to carry liquid freight is essential for safe transport. When a load shifts, it is typically because of driver error. Failing to maintain control of an 80,000-pound vehicle can lead to harm that forever alters another driver's life. If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a truck rollover accident, contact a Florida Auto Accident lawyer without delay.

What Causes a Truck to Rollover?

Commercial trucks like semi-trucks with trailers or cargo tanks have a high center of gravity. When the load in a trailer or tank shifts, it causes the vehicle to become unbalanced. When you turn too quickly in your passenger vehicle, your grocery bags may tip over and spill. When a commercial truck turns too quickly, the results are on a much larger scale with great risk for serious harm. A truck is much more dangerous due to its size, weight, and types of material it may be transporting. Trucks with cargo tanks are especially susceptible to rolling over due to the possibility that a quick turn can cause a “slosh and surge” of the liquid in the tank. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), 90 percent of cargo tank rollovers occur when the tank is partially full. This is because:
  • The slosh happens when the liquid runs up the sides of the tanker, changing the tank's center line of gravity.
  • The surge follows, when the liquid shifts from either side to side, or back to front, then front to back due to sudden maneuvers or braking.
Semi-trucks carrying other types of material are also at risk for unbalanced or shifting loads. In an analysis of large truck rollover crashes, the FMCSA discovered three key contributors to these types of accidents:
  • Failure to adjust speed to curves in the road
  • Driver inattention, drowsy or distracted driving
  • Over-steering or under-steering the truck
All of these actions involve sudden driver actions or reactions. The knee-jerk reaction to going off the shoulder of the road is to overcorrect by quickly steer back onto the road. Inattention, such as reaching for a drink or their smartphone may require the driver to then have to brake suddenly. The FMCSA warns drivers about complacency behind the wheel. For drivers with years of experience, it is very easy for them to become comfortable with their driving skills and to not remain as alert as they should. The FMCSA study found that speed is the largest contributor to rollover accidents. Speed accounted for 45 percent of the accidents included in the federal study. While a majority of the accidents involved speeding on entrance and exit ramps, other factors for speeding included:
  • Misjudging the appropriate speed for a particular curve or stretch of road
  • Hurrying to make up miles and ignoring posted speed limits
  • Aggressive driving
  • Oversight; not paying attention to posted speed limits
Other factors that contribute to rollover accidents are suspension damage, poor brakes, and low tire pressure. Trucks that are not kept up with proper and regular maintenance are at risk for rolling over on wet roads or due to sudden movements. Worn tire tread is something that is easily spotted on a pre-trip truck inspection, but only if the driver takes the time to look over their truck. A truck rollover can happen suddenly and without any warning. Large trucks may harm more than one vehicle if the accident occurs on a busy highway. If you are stuck in a traffic jam, there is no place for you to go to escape the impending collision. This makes the accident all the more tragic and inexcusable.

Rollovers Involving Hazardous Material

With a maximum weight of 80,000 pounds and a length of 73 feet, a truck rollover anywhere near your vehicle puts you at risk for serious harm. The impact of tanker rollovers is especially concerning when they carry hazardous materials. When a tanker rolls over, it can catch on fire, compounding the danger of the situation. Trucks transport a majority of the more than three-billion tons of hazardous materials shipped around the country every year. Many of these materials are flammable liquids, such as gasoline. The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) developed specific classes for hazardous materials with a specific warning label for each class. The classes created by DOT include:
  • Class 1: Explosives
  • Class 2: Gasses
  • Class 3: Flammable liquids
  • Class 4: Flammable solids, spontaneously combustible, dangerous when wet
  • Class 5: Oxidizer, organic peroxide
  • Class 6: Poison (toxic), position inhalation hazard, infectious substance
  • Class 7: Radioactive
  • Class 8: Corrosive
  • Class 9: Miscellaneous hazardous material
Hazmat training for first responders is necessary due to their potential for exposure to these dangerous substances. For accident victims, it is vital for their survival for first responders to be able to reach them quickly. Flammable liquids and explosives are scary things to consider in addition to accident-related injuries. When it comes to truck rollovers, first responders are the true heroes in getting you safely removed from the crash and quickly transported to a medical facility.

Catastrophic Results of Truck Rollovers

A truck rollover can cause catastrophic injuries for you and your passengers. Common injuries from truck rollovers include but are not limited to the following:
  • Burns - Recovery from a burn injury is often long and difficult. Depending upon the severity of the burn, you may have permanent scars. Medical professionals classify burns by how deeply and severely they penetrate the skin. Classifications include first, second, third, and fourth degree burns.
  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI) - Experiencing a TBI in a truck rollover can be a life-changing injury. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) describes a TBI as a bump, blow, or jolt, or penetrating head injury that disrupts normal brain function. A severe TBI can disrupt cognitive and motor function and result in behavioral and emotional changes. Someone with a severe TBI often requires a lifetime of medical and personal care.
  • Spinal cord injury - A truck rollover can affect your ability to walk if you experience spinal cord damage. These types of injuries sometimes cause paralysis, where the patient must rely on a power chair for mobility. The need for assistance with daily tasks, home modifications, and transportation are just some of the expensive challenges victims of this type of injury can face.
  • Broken bones - In a devastating accident involving a truck rollover, victims rarely walk away without broken bones. Dealing with fractures or even crushed bone is extremely painful and often requires surgery. Recovery is slow and many patients find they need help with basic tasks like getting dressed. Patients often need to wear braces to support their neck or back during recovery.
  • Internal injuries - The injuries that you can't see are of special concern. You may feel fine after the accident but seek medical attention anyway. Only a medical professional using lab work and diagnostic medical equipment can detect internal bleeding or internal organ damage.
A truck rollover can cause more than one of these devastating injuries. Experiencing severe burns from a tanker that catches fire, in addition to experiencing the pain of broken bones, will require months, if not years, of recovery. No one should experience physical, financial, and emotional stress due to a truck driver's reckless actions. If you experienced severe trauma from a truck rollover accident that was no fault of your own, contact an experienced truck accident attorney for help.

Important First Steps After an Accident

A truck rollover accident is an incredibly frightening experience. A sudden and traumatic event such as this requires an immediate 911 call. Witnesses may place calls to 911, however, but you should, too, if you can. Connecting with a 911 operator—especially if you remain trapped in your vehicle—can alert them to your location. Chances are that the operator can also help you stay calm until first responders arrive on the scene. Responding to law enforcement questions regarding the accident is another important step. If you can communicate, answer their questions as clearly as you can. A well-documented police report can serve as a valuable resource for your case. Statements from witnesses are also valuable pieces of information that can support both your statement and the police report. Not everyone can communicate after a serious accident and thinking straight in the chaotic aftermath is nearly impossible. The best you can do is to remain as calm as possible and to follow first responder and law enforcement instructions. Be cautious about aggressive representatives from insurance companies. In the days following your accident, these persistent representatives may contact you to offer a settlement. While the initial settlement offer may seem like a lot of money, it is most likely not enough to cover long-term medical expenses. As soon as possible, contact an experienced Florida personal injury lawyer. When you experience catastrophic injuries due to no fault of your own, you need someone on your side. Looking out for the best interest of our clients is what we do. At the Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, we fight for fair compensation for our clients. If we are unable to negotiate the settlement our client deserves, we are unafraid to go to court.

Why Hold Negligent Truck Drivers Accountable?

When a driver with a CDL neglects the rules and regulations of the road and fails to implement their training, they are being negligent. While every case is different, you may be entitled to compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Sharing the road with trucks is something we do every day as we travel along Florida highways. We never know what the trucks carry and we trust that the truck drivers aren't drowsy, drunk, or distracted. Sadly, all too often drivers are taking some sort of risk behind the wheel that endangers us all. Trucks provide a valuable service to the nation's economy by transporting goods. Most truck drivers drive safely and they take care to avoid the passenger vehicles that surround them. All it takes for a tragic rollover accident to occur is one reckless truck driver. When that driver is in a hurry and misjudges an intersection, tragedy can strike. Speeding and improper steering can take the truck from upright to upside down in a matter of seconds, damaging everything—and everyone—in its path. Government regulations regarding trucks are only as good as the drivers and companies that follow them. When a driver's only focus is on their bottom line, they must be held accountable for any harm they cause others.

If You Need More Information, Call a Truck Accident Lawyer

Having a law firm that treats all of its clients with the respect they deserve after such a traumatic event on your side can afford you the peace of mind you need to rest and recover. Time is of the essence, so don't delay. The sooner you reach out to a truck accident attorney, the sooner that lawyer can review your case. Your truck crash attorney will need time to interview witnesses, review the accident report, and to negotiate your case. If your lawyer must proceed to court, he or she will need time for filing paperwork and for trial preparation. Your truck accident lawyer must complete all these tasks before the statute of limitations expires. Be proactive in demanding justice for yourself and your family. A truck rollover is a tragic event with serious and life-long consequences. A small settlement offer is not acceptable and usually will not cover future surgeries, medicine, and care. Reach out to a highly skilled legal team get to work for you. Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA Clearwater Office 800 N Belcher Rd Clearwater, FL 33765 Phone: (727) 451-6900


Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has successfully fought for more than 11,000 injured clients and acted as lead counsel in more than 1,000 lawsuits. Always on the cutting edge of personal injury law, Matt is actively engaged in complex legal matters, including Suboxone, AFFF, and Ozempic lawsuits.  Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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