More than 4,100 people died in truck accidents nationwide in 2017, the last year for which statistics are available. The overwhelming majority, 68 percent, were in cars or other passenger vehicles, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the Highway Loss Data Institute. Seventeen percent of the people killed in these accidents were in trucks, and 14 percent were either on foot or on motorcycles or bicycles.
Truck accidents of any type can be fatal or cause devastating injuries simply because of the size and weight of commercial trucks. An eighteen-wheeler can weigh 40 tons. A specific designation, light truck, is something of a misnomer when it comes to thinking about the weight vis-à-vis a car. Light trucks can be five-ton vehicles. Cars, by contrast, weigh about one and a half tons. Even a pickup or van weighs just over two tons.
One of the most common types of truck accidents is caused by a wide right turn. Wide right turns can be especially dangerous as they can result in head-on collisions or side-impact collisions, or even cause cars to be trapped between the truck and the other side of the lane. If you or a loved one has been a victim of a truck related incident contact a trusted truck accident attorney today to discuss your legal options.
Here’s Why Wide Right Turn Truck Accidents Take Place
It’s easy to understand why wide right turn truck accidents are common if you visualize what a truck has to do to make a right turn. Both shape and size make a commercial big rig very hard to maneuver in a right-hand turn. A car driver is turning a compact shape right, and it’s a fairly simple maneuver. A truck, however, can extend for 50 feet or more—much longer than a car.
To make a wide right turn, a driver needs to swing the truck to the left first. The first type of wide right turn accident occurs if the truck swings too far to the left. It can actually go into the left lane and hit vehicles there.
The second type of accident stems from the driver’s not going far enough to the left before making a right. Failure to swing left sufficiently can cause a rollover—another type of potentially calamitous truck accident in which the vehicle tips over. (Rollovers themselves can have devastating consequences, such as spillage of cargo over the roadway or fire, either from flammable cargo or the truck’s large fuel containers.) Not swinging left sufficiently can also cause the truck to go off the road.
The third type can occur on a road with two right turn lanes. As the truck turns, it can veer into the second turn lane. If a car is in that lane, it can be crushed by the turning truck or trapped by it.
The truck’s driver should use a turn signal, of course, to indicate an intention to turn right. But many car drivers don’t fully realize that a right turn on a big rig or tractor-trailer necessitates them swinging left first. As a result, they might not realize the prudence of giving the truck a wide berth.
The possibility of wide right turn accidents can be exacerbated by a trucker not knowing the area well, especially if they are driving on smaller roads rather than highways. Trucks carry up to 80 percent of all the freight moved in the United States, and truckers often drive across states. The route may be across areas they have never been in. Maps will not always let them know that a relatively wide country road suddenly becomes narrower through a residential or business area. Truckers can find narrow roads very difficult to navigate.
Wide right turns are a difficult maneuver, even for a well-trained and experienced driver. These turns are significantly different than they are on a car, so making them should always be part of obtaining a commercial driver’s license (CDL).
Drivers are specifically instructed in how to turn a truck right as part of the CDL application in Florida, which requires testing on the contents of the Florida CDL Handbook. Obtaining a CDL license in our state requires passage of skills testing and a series of hands-on observations of the driver, including testing and observing their right-hand turn proficiency. A driver with a CDL should, therefore, fully understand how to make a wide right-hand turn safely.
However, trucking companies are increasingly turning to non-licensed drivers, for several reasons. First, there is a nationwide shortage of truck drivers. The industry is currently short 50,000 licensed drivers, and the number is expected to grow in the future. Companies who can’t find CDL-qualified drivers may turn to drivers who aren’t qualified. Second, some companies may feel they can pay drivers without a CDL less, and hire the unlicensed drivers for economic reasons.
For both reasons, trucking companies may be trying to make their runs with drivers who are not licensed and not necessarily even experienced in driving a truck. In areas where trucks differ significantly from cars and other vehicles, such as making a right-hand turn and operating a truck’s complicated air brakes, the consequences can be deadly. Both can cause wide right-hand turn truck accidents.
How to Determine Liability in a Wide Right Turn Truck Accident
If you or a loved one has been injured or even killed in a truck accident, you may be eligible to receive compensation for the harm done. Who would pay the compensation? It depends on who is legally liable for the accident.
In all accidents, liability is determined by who or what caused the accident. If the driver didn’t turn properly, failed to use his right turn signal, or didn’t check blind spots appropriately, for example, the driver could be responsible.
But responsibility in a truck accident is often very complicated. If the driver doesn’t have a CDL, for example, the trucking company could be deemed partly or wholly responsible for not screening or training its drivers properly.
Wide right turn truck accidents can also be caused by poor maintenance of the truck. Trucking companies have a Federal requirement to regularly maintain and inspect their trucks. They need to repair any element needing repair. Failed or inadequate brakes, inadequate tires, or faulty steering mechanisms can all contribute to a right turn accident, as can other inadequate maintenance.
Trucks also need to be properly loaded. Cargo that is either too heavy for the truck or unbalanced can make the truck very hard to operate and even harder to stop or slow down. Improper loading can contribute to right-hand turn accidents, and can also be a cause of rollovers.
If either maintenance or loading caused the accident, the trucking company or subcontractors hired to do maintenance or loading could be responsible for the accident.
Accidents can also be caused by poor design or defects in elements and components of the truck. Tire blowouts, for example, can be caused by defective tires. If accidents are caused by these factors, the manufacturer or supplier might be responsible for the accident.
All of these parties have what the law terms a duty of care to people on the nation’s roads. A driver’s duty of care is to drive safely at all times, obeying laws and regulations. A company’s duty of care is to operate safe trucks. They need to consistently inspect, maintain, and repair trucks to fulfill the duty of care. A manufacturer’s duty of care is to produce safe and reliable products. A supplier’s duty of care is to supply safe and reliable products.
When any of these parties don’t fulfill the duty of care, they have legally breached their duty of care. If the failure of duty of care caused the accident, they can be legally liable for damages.
How Can a Lawyer Help Me Recover Compensation for Damages From a Wide Right Turn Accident?
By Stepping Outside of No-Fault
As most Floridians know, our state covers vehicle accidents with no-fault insurance. The question of responsibility and liability is not significant when using no-fault insurance, because your own insurance carrier pays for damages under no-fault.
All Florida drivers are mandated to carry $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP). In case of an accident, your insurer reimburses you for economic damages such as medical bills. If you are unable to work due to injuries sustained in the accident, PIP also compensates you for lost wages. Florida law also requires drivers to have $10,000 in property damage liability (PDL) for damage to your vehicle or other property caused by the accident.
But questions or responsibility and liability do become very important if your injuries are severe. Severe injuries can result in medical bills and lost wages much higher than $10,000—and truck accidents often cause much, much more than that.
Florida law allows victims with a severe injury to step outside of no-fault and bring a legal claim for both economic damages and non-economic damages such as pain and suffering. Non-economic damages are not covered under no-fault, and people cannot bring a claim for them unless they have a severe injury as the law defines it and bring a suit.
A severe injury must be at least one of the following:
- Fractured bone(s)
- Significant disfigurement
- Permanent limitation of use of a body member or organ
- Significant limitation of use of a body function or system
- An injury causing substantially full disability for 90 days
If you were injured in an accident, retain records of all medical visits related to the accident. These can include emergency rooms, ambulance transport, doctor’s offices, hospitals, pharmacies, physical therapy, and more.
By Negotiating With Insurance Companies
Victims with a severe injury as defined above can also choose to bring a third-party claim against the responsible entity’s insurance company.
Negotiating with an insurance company can be very difficult in a trucking accident, for several reasons. First, all insurance companies have a vested interest in paying out as little as possible. They are interested in protecting their insured from liability, because to do so maximizes their profits. As a result, insurance companies are very sophisticated at both denying claims and minimizing claims. They may claim that the injured party is wholly or partly responsible, that the accident happened differently than it did, or that the injuries may have occurred, but didn’t occur as a result of the accident.
Second, insurance in trucking accidents is often extremely complex. Each potentially responsible party—including company, subcontractor, manufacturer, and driver—may be insured with a different carrier or a different line of insurance. The terms of each can be very different from each other.
It’s as important to have an attorney on your side in negotiating with an insurance company as it is in a court case.
By Investigating the Accident and Its Causes
Because the cause of a truck accident can be so complex, it’s often necessary to investigate the causes. Lawyers frequently have investigators and expert witnesses on call as part of their team. Investigators can gather records (including those by Federal and state authorities, who frequently investigate truck accidents), such as police reports. They can interview witnesses. They can review the area for any surveillance cameras and obtain footage if it exists. Expert witnesses can testify to how accidents occur and elements involved in an accident.
By Protecting Your Interests
Even though trucks can do devastating damage in accidents, it is still possible for the injured party to be at fault, either wholly or partially, for the accident. Even if you aren’t at fault, both defendants in a court case and insurance companies can try to portray you as at fault. Did you suddenly move your vehicle into an area that the driver couldn’t see because of a truck’s large blind spots? Opposing sides can try to argue that the abruptness of the action means you are to blame.
In an insurance claim, allegations of victim responsibility can be used to deny or minimize a claim.
A lawyer can successfully argue and negotiate using the facts of the case. You can protect your interests by contacting a licensed attorney with experience in wide right turn truck accidents today.
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Clearwater, FL 33765
Phone: (727) 451-6900