Large commercial trucks, such as 18-wheelers, are everywhere on our road systems. They are used to pick up and deliver products, and while very important to businesses across the country, they can be a serious threat to the average motorist. Commercial truck accidents often result in severe injury or death, and it is often the driver or passengers of smaller vehicles that are often the ones that pay the price.
Truck Accident Statistics
In 2017, 4,102 people died in large truck accidents. Of those fatalities, 68 percent of the deaths were the occupants of cars and other passenger vehicles, and 14 percent were motorcyclists, pedestrians, or bicyclists. In 2016, large trucks were involved in 11 percent of all motor vehicle crash deaths and 21 percent of passenger vehicle occupant deaths in multiple-vehicle crashes. Truck accident trends have not been improving either. The number of people who died in 2017 was 30 percent higher than in 2009.
Texas is particularly affected by large truck accidents. According to the Federal Department of Transportation, Texas had more fatalities involving a large truck or bus than any other state, with 1,183 deaths in 2015 and 2016. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Texas had more large trucks involved in fatal crashes from 2006-2016 than any other state.
These statistics are sobering, but they don’t even capture individuals severely injured in truck accidents – only fatalities- which reveals how devastating large truck accidents can be. It is important to understand what factors contribute to large truck accidents, what the potential consequences are, and how you can protect yourself if you are involved in an accident with a semi-truck.
Factors Contributing to Truck Accidents
Many factors affect how deadly truck accidents can be. One major factor is the increased stopping distance of a large truck. An 18-wheeler loaded with cargo can weigh up to 80,000 pounds according to federal and most states’ regulations. A large truck traveling under ideal conditions at 65 miles per hour takes approximately 525 feet, or almost two football fields, to stop. This is near twice the length that it takes a passenger vehicle to stop. Combined with a semi-trucks propensity for rolling over, this increased stopping distance can be deadly.
Other factors unique to truck accidents can include insufficient training or experience for commercial drivers. If companies hire inexperienced or poorly trained drivers, it is the public that can suffer. Some companies set unrealistic delivery schedules. This can lead to drivers staying on the road when tired or traveling at unsafe speeds. Improperly handled cargo can also present a danger. Overloaded trucks are more prone to accidents, and unsecured cargo flying off a truck presents a serious threat to other motorists.
Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol can also be a serious factor, especially for drivers who use drugs in an attempt to extend the hours they can stay awake to drive. For this reason, in Texas and many other states, the legal limit for blood alcohol content for commercial drivers is half the limit of other drivers.
Types of Truck Accident Damages
In addition to causing many fatalities, the size and nature of crashes involving 18-wheelers makes surviving crash victims more likely to have severe injuries. Common injuries in truck accidents can include traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord damage, fractures, and other serious injuries. Damages in Texas can include reasonable and necessary medical expenses for injuries including past and future medical bills, compensation for physical pain and mental anguish, wrongful death damages, lost earning capacity, and sometimes even exemplary or punitive damages.
Since these kinds of damages can arise from claims for not only negligent driving on the part of the driver, but also claims against the driver’s employer for negligent hiring or supervision, or negligent maintenance, it’s a good idea to contact an attorney experienced in truck accident cases to help you maximize your recovery from the trucking company.
How Are Truck Accidents Different from Car Accidents?
Many people are familiar with the rules and regulations regarding regular passenger vehicles because we deal with them every day. However, accidents involving 18-wheelers and other large commercial trucks have some different issues than a crash involving regular passenger cars. For example, evidence regarding the drug testing policies, tractor maintenance, and driver logs can be critical in a truck accident case. Additional federal state licensing and regulations, as well as unique insurance coverage issues, can make truck accident cases more complicated.
What to Do If You are In a Truck Accident
The first thing that you should do if you are in an accident with a large truck is to call 911 and make sure that you and the passengers in your vehicle are safe. It is essential that if you are injured that you seek medical attention. If you fail to do so, not only can you suffer serious injury by delaying medical treatment, it can affect your claim later on.
If you are able, get the driver’s information, which in this case would be not only their name and information but also the trucking company’s information. Taking photos or obtaining copies of licenses, registration, and insurance certificates are helpful. Again, only if you are able and it is safe to do so, take photos and videos of the scene and obtain the contact information of any witnesses at the scene.
Finally, it’s a good idea to contact an attorney experienced in personal injury cases involving big trucks immediately. It is of paramount importance for an experienced attorney to preserve evidence at the scene of an accident such as the length of skid marks. Also, an experienced attorney will know the importance of securing data from the 18-wheelers black box. Jeff Rasansky has years of experience in handling truck accident cases and has recovered tens of millions of dollars for his truck accident clients. Call Jeff today for a free consultation so he can help you maximize the value of your case.