What You Need to Know About Semi-Truck Accidents
There’s no question that the commercial trucking industry plays a vital role in our nation’s economy. Sharing the road with commercial trucks, however, is often scary and dangerous. Their large size and weight capacity are no match for passenger vehicles. A crash involving a semi-truck and a passenger vehicle can result in catastrophic injury and even death. If you or someone you love has been seriously injured due to the reckless behavior or negligent maintenance of a semi-truck, or any other type of commercial truck, contact a Florida personal injury attorney without delay.
Common Causes of Commercial Trucking Accidents
Just as with any type of vehicle, a serious accident can occur anywhere and at any time. The difference is when a crash involves a commercial truck. Here are some quick facts about semi-trucks when compared to passenger vehicles:
- Commercial truck engines are up to six times the size of car engines.
- The legal weight for commercial trucks is 80,000 lbs compared to the average weight of 5,000 pounds for cars.
- Most commercial trucks are 70 to 80 feet in length.
- The turn radius for a commercial truck is 24 feet while the average turn lane is 12 feet.
This data shows the enormity of what is traveling around you every day on Florida highways and major roadways. In 2017, nationwide, there was a 9 percent increase in large truck fatalities. Of the 4,761 deaths, 72 percent occurred in the passenger vehicle involved in the collision.
Truck Driver Fatigue Can Cause Semi-Truck Accidents
Commercial truck drivers face long hours on the road and tight deadlines. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) sets the guidelines for what they term as “hours of service.” These set hours limit how long commercial truck drivers may drive at one time. Current regulations allow for 11 maximum hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty. Drivers must also take a rest break consisting of a minimum of 30 minutes after 8 hours of driving. Electronic logging of hours helps the industry keep better track of any hours-of-service violations. A driver’s log may show they were off duty for the required amount of time—what it doesn’t show is how well they rested. Commercial truck drivers deal with abnormal sleep patterns involving changing environments and conditions. A noisy parking lot or an untreated sleep disorder can leave they feeling fatigued and drowsy.
A recent study found that in most crashes where the truck driver was at fault and determined to be sleepy or fatigued occurred at least 20 miles from a rest area or truck stop. Truckers claim a lack of safe and accessible parking as major contributors to driver fatigue. When a large commercial truck drifts into your lane due to a sleepy driver, it leaves you with nowhere to go. Sleep deprivation is a serious matter, especially for those behind the wheel of large commercial trucks. No one should experience serious injury or death to a commercial truck driver’s loss of sleep.
Faulty Brake Systems are an Accident Risk
One of the most important features of a commercial truck is its brakes. Wet and slippery roads make it harder for large trucks to stop in an emergency. Combined with faulty or poorly maintained brakes, it is a recipe for disaster. In dry, regular road conditions a semi-truck requires 40 percent more time to stop than a passenger vehicle. Another important factor when it comes to faulty brake systems on commercial trucks is that it is a hidden danger, not visible to the driver of a passenger vehicle. While a driver may notice a semi-truck drifting into their lane, they are unlikely to know that the truck behind them has faulty brakes. This places everyone in great danger as they are unable to predict the truck’s inability to stop in time.
Speeding Contributes to Many Semi-Truck Accidents
Commercial truck drivers are in a hurry to get from point A to point B with their freight. Many feel the time pressure from those sending the goods and from those on expecting the goods. In order to get the job done faster, many commercial truck drivers choose to drive faster. Younger drivers entering the industry are bringing their bad driving behaviors with them, such as distracted driving, in addition to speeding. With a critical shortage of drivers, the American Trucking Association is reaching out to millennials to fill the nearly 100,000 anticipated openings.
Proper training before allowing someone behind the wheel of a commercial truck is crucial. Time may be money for many large trucking companies but the urgency to get inexperienced drivers on the road and to their destinations quickly, is dangerous and irresponsible. If you’ve experienced serious injury or lost a loved one due to a speeding or distracted truck driver, contact a truck accident lawyer as soon as possible.
Semi-Truck Underride Accidents
When an underride accident occurs, a passenger vehicle goes partially or completely under the trailer of a semi-truck. For those who survive such an accident, the injuries are often extremely serious and sometimes deadly.
A recent report by the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO), estimates the number of fatalities from underride crashes at about 219 victims a year. The true number of accidents involving large trucks and passenger vehicles isn’t known because these types of accidents are often underreported by law enforcement. The inconsistent manner in which various law enforcement agencies record underride crashes prevents researchers from gathering accurate data. No matter what the numbers, the lack of underride protection on semi-trucks is of real concern to anyone who travels Florida highways. Federal regulations require rear-guards, however, there is no required inspection, resulting in poorly maintained guards that offer little protection in a crash. Until stronger regulations are in place for rear guards and underride guards become required by law, these types of crashes will remain a threat for everyone.
Semi-Truck Blind Spots
Commercial truck drivers rely on their side mirrors while traveling the highway. There are no rearview mirrors, making the visibility of what’s around them very limited. Blind spots, more commonly known as the no-zones, are the areas all around the truck: the front, both sides, and the back.
If you can’t see the driver, then the driver can’t see you. Use the following safety tips for safer driving around commercial trucks:
- Pass steadily through a left side no-zone and do not linger there.
- Never pass a commercial truck on the right side no-zone. This is the largest no-zone of the four with cars all but invisible to truck drivers.
- Avoid cutting in front of a truck too soon after passing it. Wait until you see the entire truck in your rearview mirror before changing lanes.
- Don’t tailgate a commercial truck. Allow enough room that the driver can see you in his side mirror.
Sharing the road with commercial trucks is essential for your safety and for the safety of your passengers. Commercial truck drivers have a responsibility to also share the road and to maintain proper maintenance and control of their truck. Failure to do so, no matter what the reason, is negligence that demands accountability and the skills of a highly experienced Florida personal injury attorney.
Potential Serious Truck Accident Injuries
A collision with a commercial truck is a sudden and traumatic event. It only takes a second for your life to change forever. A large, heavyweight truck can cause a multitude of serious injuries such as:
- Traumatic brain injury – The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) defines a traumatic brain injury (TBI) as a sudden bump, blow, or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts normal brain function. Depending upon the severity of the TBI, long-term effects might result in memory loss, speech, hearing, and vision problems, and difficulty with coordination and balance.
- Spinal cord injury – The spinal cord controls body movement and sensation. When damaged during a traumatic event like a car accident, the spinal cord loses the ability to send and receive messages to the brain regarding movement. Most patients with spinal cord injuries experience paralysis and require extensive care and expensive medical equipment. A spinal cord injury is perhaps one of the most devastating outcomes of a violent car accident due to the permanence of the injury.
- Internal bleeding – With no outward symptoms, internal bleeding is extremely dangerous. This is due in part to the loss of blood and the pressure misplaced blood places on the organs. Internal bleeding is detected using an imaging test, like that of a CT scan.
- Neck and back injuries – Serious neck and back injuries may require future surgeries and lengthy rehabilitation.
- Broken bones – Like neck and back injuries, broken bones take time to heal and once healed, may require physical therapy in order to regain use.
Serious injuries result in medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If you’ve been seriously injured in an accident involving a commercial truck, and the accident was no fault of your own, contact a truck accident attorney today.
Your Right to Safety From a Semi-Truck Accident
Commercial trucking companies provide a valuable service to the economy, but they must do so in a safe manner with safe equipment. Poorly maintained trucks, untrained truck drivers, and drivers who take risks such as speeding, place us all at risk for serious injury. All Florida residents and tourists deserve to travel the state’s highways and major roadways without experiencing serious injuries. When a commercial truck accident occurs, it is important to contact us to discuss your options as soon as possible.
Representatives from aggressive insurance companies will offer you low dollar amounts to settle the case quickly. While their offer may sound like a lot of money, it most likely will not cover your future expenses. The insurance companies are not looking out for your best interests but rather their own. A collision with a commercial truck is a very serious matter that demands justice. While each case is different, the law may entitle you to compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Contacting a Florida Personal Injury Attorney
When a trip to the grocery store or to work turns tragic due to the negligence of a commercial truck driver, don’t wait to take action. Seek medical assistance immediately then reach out to an experienced legal firm. Don’t delay, as time is of the essence. The sooner an attorney reviews your case, the sooner your lawyer can decide upon the best course of action, interview witnesses, and collect evidence. Look for a law firm that takes great pride in customer service, that will provide you with the personal attention you deserve, and that always keeps the lines of communication open so that you know what’s happening with your case throughout the process.
You also want someone who is unafraid to go to trial if the trucking company or insurer won’t agree to a fair settlement. You and your family have enough to deal with during this stressful time. Your life as you knew it changed in seconds due to the reckless behavior or defective equipment of a commercial truck. Focusing on your health and family is the best use of your time and energy after the accident. Start your road to recovery and justice by contacting a truck accident lawyer without delay.
Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 N Belcher Rd.
Clearwater, FL 33765
Phone: (727) 451-6900 Fax: (727) 451-6907