When you see a large truck starting to roll over, it looks like it’s happening in slow motion. You know you are going to end up under the truck, but you can’t seem to get away from it fast enough. In reality, it takes very little time for a big truck to roll over, especially if the driver was going too fast for a corner. And truck rollover accidents aren’t as rare as you might think, particularly in and around Boston.
According to the IIHS, 679 people died in truck crashes in a recent year—the newest data available. Of those, 319, or 47 percent, died because of rollover wrecks.
While it is not possible to avoid many rollover wrecks, you can help up your chances. If a truck enters a curve and it looks like it is going too fast, slow down until you are behind the truck instead of next to it on the outside of the curve. If you notice a truck swerving on the road, hang back quite a distance and be prepared to stop.
How Does a Truck Roll Over?
In most cases, rollovers happen in a curve. Because a tractor-trailer, dump truck, or other tall truck has a high center of gravity, the load could continue leaning into the curve when the driver straightens out. Wind could also blow a truck over, even on a straightaway.
The four main causes of truck rollovers in good driving conditions include:
- Not slowing down for curves. One of the most common places this happens is on on-ramps and off-ramps. Even though the ramps have speed limit signs, the driver often misjudges the speed he or she can safely take the curve. The driver might be going over or under the speed limit. The type of load and whether the load is properly balanced in or on the trailer contributes to the speed at which the load causes the trailer to tip.
- Not paying attention. If the driver is not paying attention to the road—he or she is distracted for one reason or another—he could take the curve too fast or might even misjudge the severity of the curve. Distracted behavior includes texting, talking on the phone, glancing in the rearview mirror, or even being distracted by another driver who is not watching what he or she is doing.
- Not steering safely. If the driver isn’t paying attention and starts going toward the edge of the road or drifting into another lane, then over-corrects, she could cause a rollover, especially at higher speeds. Even a slight overcorrection could cause a trailer tip if the load isn’t properly balanced in or on the trailer.
- Not accounting for load weight and how it is loaded. Sometimes, this is not the driver’s fault. If a load is sealed, the driver cannot inspect it—he or she does not know what she is hauling or how it will behave in curves. If a load is not sealed, part of the driver’s job is to inspect the load to ensure that the loaders properly installed and balanced the load. Whether the load is boxes in a van trailer, a large piece of equipment on a lowboy, or several items on a flatbed, the driver must make sure the load is balanced and properly tied down.
Other Reasons Trucks Can Roll Over
In some cases, a truck rollover wreck is not the driver’s fault, or only partially the driver’s fault.
When it is very windy, the wind could push a truck over, even on a straightaway, and even if the driver slows down. In this case, it might be hard to pin fault on the driver. However, if it is windy and the driver doesn’t slow down, especially in curves, the driver could be partially at fault for the accident.
Other weather conditions that could cause a truck to roll over include icy and wet roads, or even the sun shining in a driver’s face. If the sun blocks the driver’s view and he or she moves out of his lane, then over-corrects, the truck could flip.
Even if the driver is driving slowly because of weather conditions, the trailer could slide on black ice and knock the load enough so that it causes the trailer to tip.
Driving too fast for conditions, taking a curve too fast, or even changing lanes at a higher speed than what is safe could cause rollovers. All it takes is for the trailer to change direction, especially if a load isn’t balanced properly. The load continues going one way while the trailer moves in the opposite direction. The high center of balance causes the load to tip.
A truck driver doesn’t have to be breaking the speed limit to have excessive speed. If the speed limit is 55 mph for trucks, but the driver is doing 40 mph because it’s raining, all it takes is for the trailer to slide on a slick spot on the road.
Even if a driver inspects the cargo, he could miss a loose strap or might believe the cargo is balanced when it is not. When the cargo shifts, it forces the trailer to move in the direction of the shift, causing the trailer to tip.
Cargo shifts can happen in van trailers, in dump trucks, on flatbed trailers, and even on lowboy trailers. Trucking companies usually use lowboy trailers for hauling large, oversized equipment such as boats, cranes, or even large generators and other equipment. If these items are off-balance, the item is more likely to fall off the trailer rather than tip the trailer, since a lowboy sits close to the ground. However, it could cause the truck to jackknife if the weight causes the trailer to slide out of control.
Flatbeds and van trailers are more likely to roll over, especially if the loads are not balanced. Depending on how unbalanced the load is and the weight of the load, it could cause a driver to lose control with the slightest correction of the steering wheel.
This driver might or might not share in the responsibility for this. If a driver should have seen the issue in an inspection, the driver could share fault for the accident. If not, then the automotive technician, the trucking company, and others could hold responsibility for the accident.
What to Do After a Truck Rollover Accident
If you are conscious after a truck rollover accident and think it is safe to move without causing additional harm, carefully get away from the truck.
- Contact first responders.
- Check on others involved in the accident.
- Obtain the driver’s employer, contact information, insurance information, and CDL information.
- Obtain contact information from any witnesses.
- Take photos of the accident. Be sure to take photos of damaged property, including fencing, roadways, and signs. If you or the truck left skid marks, be sure to take photos of those. Finally, take photos from all angles if you can do so without endangering yourself.
- Get medical attention, even if you think your injuries are minor. Some injuries do not manifest for hours or even a day or two later.
- Contact your insurance company to let it know you were in an accident. The only information you should give the insurance representative is your name, policy number, date and location of the accident, and your attorney’s contact information.
- Contact a truck accident attorney if you have not already done so.
For a free legal consultation, call 833-552-7274
Injuries You Might Suffer in a Truck Rollover Accident
The injuries you might suffer in a truck rollover accident could range from minor cuts to death, depending on several factors, including speed, what you are driving, the type of load the truck is hauling, and more. Injuries include:
- Bumps, bruises, cuts, and scrapes.
- Sprains and strains.
- Pulled and torn muscles, and other soft tissue injuries.
- Burns, including road rash and chemical burns from gas, oil, or from chemicals the truck might haul.
- Simple and compound fractures.
- Face and eye injuries.
- Head, neck, and shoulder injuries.
- Traumatic brain injuries, including concussions and penetrating brain injuries.
- Back and spinal cord injuries.
- Amputation, whether you severed a limb in the accident or the doctor had to severe a limb because he could not save it or because you developed gangrene in an accident injury.
- Internal injuries.
- Secondary injuries, such as infections. Any open wound, whether received in the accident or during surgery to repair an accident injury, could become infected.
- Injuries made worse or caused by accident injuries. For example, if you have diabetes, an immunodeficiency, or are on medications that lower your white cell count, injuries might take longer to heal or could cause another injury. If diabetes caused neuropathy in the left knee and the accident caused damage to your leg so that you walked incorrectly and overextended the knee with the neuropathy, you might recover damages for the additional injury.
- Psychological injuries, including post-traumatic stress disorder because the accident was traumatic, and depression and anxiety, whether because of memories of the accident or because the recovery process is very slow, or because your doctor told you that your injuries caused long-term or permanent disabilities. You could receive compensation for cognitive and other psychological therapies.
Additionally, physical injuries could cause you to require physical therapy and/or occupational therapy to help in your recovery or to teach you to live with long-term or permanent disabilities.
Recovering Damages After a Truck Rollover Accident
After a truck rollover, you might collect compensation in the form of damages for your injuries. If you lost a loved one in a truck rollover accident, you might also collect compensation.
The court orders economic damages in an attempt to make you whole again.
Economic damages have a monetary value and include:
- Past and future medical expenses, including expenses for physical, occupational, cognitive, and psychological therapies.
- Past and future lost wages, including partial lost wages if you return to work but must take a position that pays less due to long-term or permanent disabilities. If you lost a loved one, you might also collect damages for the loss of household income.
- Replacement or repair of destroyed or damaged personal property.
- Burial, funeral, and/or cremation expenses.
As with economic damages, the court orders non-economic damages in an attempt to make you whole again.
Non-economic damages do not have a monetary value and include:
- Pain and suffering, including emotional distress for those who suffered injuries in a truck rollover wreck.
- Emotional distress for those who lost a loved one in a truck rollover wreck.
- Loss of quality of life.
- Loss of companionship if you can no longer enjoy outings, activities, and events with your family.
- Loss of consortium if you can no longer have a physical relationship with your spouse.
- Loss of use of a body part, such as a foot or a hand.
- Loss of a bodily function, such as your eyesight or bladder control.
- Inconvenience if you have to hire someone to do your normal chores, such as grocery shopping, lawn maintenance, and home maintenance and repair.
- Amputation, whether the amputation happened in the accident or after the accident because the doctor could not save a partially severed limb or because you developed gangrene from an infection in an accident injury.
- Disfigurement and/or excessive scarring.
During recovery, keep a journal of your recovery process, regardless of how fast or slow it is. If you need future medical expenses and/or lost wages, your testimony could have an impact on the amount you receive. Keeping a journal of how you feel, signs of progress and setbacks, and your well-being, in general, will help you remember information about your recovery should you have to testify about it.