Semi-trucks, tanker trucks, delivery trucks, and other tractor-trailers are a familiar site on our roadways, causing small passenger vehicles to share the road with them. Because these trucks are larger and heavier than the standard vehicle, occupants in smaller vehicles have the potential to be seriously injured in the event of a crash with a tractor-trailer.
Although commercial vehicles are only responsible for a small percentage of accidents on the roadway, the crashes are more severe between large trucks and passenger vehicles due to the size difference between the vehicles. As a result, survivors of truck accidents are often left with catastrophic injuries that can cause them a lifetime of pain and change.
Because victims of trucking wrecks are the “little guy” standing up to large trucking companies to get needed and deserved compensation for injuries and damages, most injured victims need all the help they can get when it comes to pursuing a truck accident injury claim. Also, truck crashes can produce some of the most serious injuries and dealing with those injuries and a personal injury case can be complicated. This is why our attorneys have put together the below information to help educate victims about truck crashes, injuries, their rights, and what to expect after a wreck.
Types of Truck Accidents
Wrecks with trucks can occur in a variety of ways, including:
- Head-on collisions take place when the front end of a large commercial truck collides with the front end of a passenger vehicle. This type of accident may occur when a semi crosses the center line and crashes into the front of a car heading in the opposite direction. Sadly, these types of crashes often produce fatal injuries and are often the result of drowsy truck drivers.
- Rear-end crashes occur when the front of a big rig collides with the back end of a smaller vehicle. Unfortunately, these types of collisions can cause serious injuries for those in the smaller car and are often caused when truck drivers take their eyes off the road and are distracted at the wheel.
- T bone / side-impact collisions take place when a truck impacts the side of another vehicle, forming a “T” shape. These types of accidents occur when drivers run red lights and stop signs or in multi-vehicle collisions when vehicles spin out of control. Common causes of these types of wrecks include distracted driving, aggressive driving, and speeding.
- Sideswipe accidents occur when a truck collides into the side of another vehicle. This often happens when truckers fail to check their blind spots and change lanes into the side of another vehicle in an adjoining lane. In some instances, truck drivers may collide into the side of a vehicle when running red lights or stop signs.
- Jackknife accidents happen when a large commercial truck and its trailer skid, causing the trailer to swing out to the side and form an angle that looks like the blade of a jackknife with its protective handle. Factors in these types of collisions include truck drivers taking curves too fast, swerving to avoid other cars or crashes, and braking improperly.
Common Causes of Virginia Truck Wrecks
Whether driving down a city street or a major highway, sharing the road with a big rig is a normal occurrence. While most of the time cars and trucks share the road safely, occasionally negligent truckers are in the next lane participating in dangerous activities or are driving dangerous rigs—both factors in trucking accidents. Here are some other causes of truck crashes:
- Drowsy driving. Truck drivers usually get paid by the mile, which gives them an incentive to drive longer than they should. Although there are rules in place to prevent drowsy driving crashes, many truck drivers ignore the federal laws governing the amount of time they are allowed to drive without resting. As a result, there are tired truckers behind the wheel with dulled reactions and poor judgment.
- Distracted driving. When a truck driver takes his eyes off the road, hands off the wheel or mind off of driving—even for a minute—it can lead to a distracted driving crash. Because truck drivers are on the road more often than they aren’t, they often eat behind the wheel, call home, multitask, and use their cell phones all while driving a vehicle that can weigh around 80,000 pounds.
- Impaired driving from prescription drugs. When truck drivers take medications for health issues—even over-the-counter medications that are used to control allergy and cold symptoms—their driving can be negatively affected. While most of the time, people assume impaired driving is the result of alcohol or illegal drugs, prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications can be just as altering and interfere with a truck driver’s ability to drive safely.
- Speeding and aggressive driving. Truck drivers are constantly dealing with traffic and negligent drivers and they sometimes get frustrated and act aggressively on the road. Also, sometimes they speed because they are in a hurry to make their delivery on time. Unfortunately, speeding and aggressive driving can lead to red-light running and needless crashes that can be catastrophic in nature.
- Failing to use turn signals and check blind spots. Large tractor-trailers have large blind spots or “no-zones,” which require truck drivers to carefully check them before changing lanes. In some instances, truck drivers fail to use reasonable care by not double-checking their blind spots or using turn signals. As a result, they can cause serious side-impact wrecks.
- Improper loading of cargo. It is important for a truck’s cargo to be secured so that the load cannot shift and cause the truck to roll over. Also, cargo needs to be secured so it doesn’t fall off of a flatbed trailer and cause a car to crash. When shippers are negligent in loading trucks, they can be held accountable for the crashes and injuries that result from their negligence.
- Truck equipment failure due to poor maintenance. When 18-wheelers crash due to brake failure, tire blowouts, tread separations, or defective parts, trucking companies can be held accountable for lack of maintenance or manufacturers could be responsible for defective equipment.
As you can see here, sometimes truck accidents are caused by truck drivers acting negligently behind the wheel or by truck companies making bad business decisions, prioritizing profits ahead of safety. The consequences in either situation are often serious injuries and fatalities for occupants in smaller vehicles due to the sheer size and weight of big rigs.
Types of Traumatic Injuries Truck Accident Victims Endure
Here are some serious injuries that occur in trucking accidents:
- Brain injuries. Accidents with tractor-trailers often cause traumatic brain injuries due to the force involved and enormous weight of a truck. Other types of brain injuries that occur in trucking wrecks include hematomas, contusions, concussions, and skull fractures, to name a few.
- Spinal cord injuries. When trauma to the head, neck or back occurs in a trucking accident, spine injuries can occur. This can result in paraplegia, quadriplegia, respiratory problems, and other permanent complications.
- Broken bones. When the impact of a crash against a bone is too strong for the bone to withstand, bone fractures occur. Types of broken bones that trucking accident victims sustain include broken legs, ribs, hips, pelvises, hands, arms, noses, jaws, and more.
- Limb amputations. Truck crashes can result in the loss of a limb due to the sheer size and weight of a truck. Sadly, sometimes the loss of a limb is a “traumatic amputation” and sometimes tissues and blood vessels are so severely damaged that amputation is necessary.
- Serious burn injuries. When a vehicle erupts in fire during a truck crash, occupants can suffer severe burns that can cause them disfigurement, scarring, and a lifetime of pain and disabilities.
- Wrongful death truck accidents. Many truck crashes end in fatalities because commercial vehicles are significantly heavier than passenger vehicles and will seriously damage anyone and anything they strike. Families who lost loved ones as a result of a negligent truck driver or trucking company have the right to pursue a legal claim for their losses.
Because trucking accidents can produce serious injuries and outcomes that cause victims or families of victims to be left in shock, it is important that victims and their families are educated about the process and know what to do after a truck crash.
What to Expect After a Virginia Truck Accident
In the days, weeks and months after a serious collision, it can be a confusing and overwhelming time. This is why it is crucial that you learn about:
- What to expect in the immediate aftermath of a truck crash. There are important things to know such as how to get a copy of your police report, why you need to take pictures of the crash scene, what to avoid doing after the wreck, and how to deal with the insurance company.
- What to expect when going up against a big trucking company. Trucking companies have teams of experts they send out to crash sites to limit their liability. They will often attempt to get recorded statements from victims and settle with victims very quickly before the full extent of the injuries is known.
- What to expect in terms of recoverable damages. When pursuing a financial recovery, it is important that victims of trucking accidents collect compensation for medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, and out-of-pocket costs related to the crash. Victims need to know they have a right to all damages—past, present, and future.
- What to expect when hiring an attorney. The attorney you want working on your case is someone who has successfully handled similar cases in the past and has the experience and resources to handle your case. Not all lawyers know about the federal laws governing tractor-trailers and what information they can request so that trucking companies don’t destroy key evidence in your case.
Hopefully, this information has been of some help to you while you are dealing with a personal injury case arising out of a truck crash. However, truck accident injury claims can be complicated because you might be fighting for your life at the hospital while the trucking company and its experts are at the accident scene looking for any evidence that could point the finger at you. This is why it is important to have someone on your side to investigate the accident, gather the facts and preserve the evidence—helping you prove the crash was not your fault.
To find out how you can level the playing field and make sure the trucking company or truck driver responsible for your injuries is held accountable, please call us. You can reach our Fairfax law firm at (703) 591-0067 for a free consultation of your case.