Truck Accidents: Understanding the Basics

Car Accident

It probably goes without saying that truck accidents are some of the most dangerous accidents on our roadways. When fully loaded, a semi can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, which ensures that the impact of even a relatively minor accident can be deadly.

The Statistics

The following statistics shared by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) highlights exactly how dangerous truck accidents are:

  • Most truck accident fatalities are the occupants of the other vehicles involved.

  • In 2019, 4,119 people were killed in truck accidents (97 percent of whom were the occupants of the other vehicles involved).

  • This number is nearly a third higher than the number of fatal truck accidents in 2009.

  • Semi accidents accounted for 11 percent of all fatal accidents on our roads in 2019.

The immense danger associated with truck accidents is only too real.

RELATED READINGS: Truck Accidents and Common Myths 

Factors that Make Truck Accidents More Likely

There is a wide range of factors that increase the likelihood that truck accidents will happen.

Increased Stopping Distances

Trucks are so heavy that they naturally require increased stopping distances on our roadways, and when truck drivers fail to account for this behind the wheel, they put everyone with whom they share the road at increased risk of being injured in truck accidents. The effects of bad weather increase stopping distances even more significantly, and the faster the trucker is driving, the longer the amount of time and the greater distance on the road it takes him or her to come to a safe stop.

Large Blind Spots

Truck drivers experience immense blind spots along all four sides of their rigs, which makes traveling near a semi that much more dangerous. Even a large SUV can get lost in a trucker’s blind spot, and when truckers pay inadequate attention to their blind spots, lift-threatening accidents can ensue. The fact is that we share our roads with massive semi-trucks, and you don’t always have the option of staying away from them on the road, but carefully avoiding their blind spots to the best of your ability is always well advised. Generally, if you can see the truck driver in his or her side mirror, he or she can also see you. Never tailgate a semi, cut in front of a semi, or pass a semi on the right.

Susceptibility to the Effects of Dangerous Loading Errors

The loads that tractors pull are immense, and semis are significantly affected by how they’re loaded. When a load is top-heavy, is not secure, bangs around, or shifts, it leaves the semi far more susceptible to swerving, fishtailing, or even flipping over when taking a curve, exit, or turn. Poor loading practices can make accidents more likely and can also make them more deadly.

A High Center of Gravity

Big rigs have a very high center of gravity, which leaves them less stable in very high winds, and anytime they lose traction with the road (such as in bad weather). This makes 18-wheelers more likely to flip due to the effects of bad weather.

While 18-wheelers are a fact of driving, allowing them as much space on the road as you possibly can is always the safest policy.

Truck Accidents and Truck Driver Negligence

A large number of truck accidents are caused by truck driver negligence, which can take a variety of deadly forms.

Exhaustion

The law recognizes how dangerous drowsy driving is – especially when it comes to truck drivers – and they implement exacting hours-of-service restrictions in response. Truck drivers are required by law to take scheduled breaks, to limit the number of consecutive hours they spend behind the wheel, and to limit the number of days they are on the road overall. Exhaustion causes some of the same forms of physical and cognitive impairment experienced by drunk drivers, which makes drowsy truck drivers extremely dangerous truck drivers.

Impairment

The law takes a dim view of impaired truckers. In fact, the law has zero tolerance for the practice. Truck drivers are professional drivers who are held to more exacting safety standards, and this is a prime example. Drinking can cause all of the following impairments (each of which is exceptionally dangerous behind the wheel):

  • Loss of physical coordination, which can affect a trucker’s ability to safely handle his or her truck

  • Slowed responses, which make driving safely far more difficult

  • Impaired vision, which can play with a truck driver’s ability to focus on the road ahead

  • Cognitive impairments, which can lead to unsafe decisions and moves

When you couple all these with the fact that alcohol decreases inhibitions and impulse control, you have a very dangerous truck driver on your hands.

Distraction

Trucking is a complicated job that requires a truck driver’s undivided attention, and when a truck driver is distracted by anything other than performing the job at hand, it can lead to unmitigated disaster. While there are any number of dangerous distractions available to choose from, the most dangerous of all is texting, which manages to commingle all three forms of distraction into one uber distraction. These three forms of distraction include:

  • One’s hands (holding and typing on the phone)

  • One’s eyes (viewing the phone)

  • One’s thoughts (reading or writing the text)

Consider the following common example to help you put the danger associated with texting behind the wheel of a big rig into perspective:

  • It takes an average of about five seconds to read or write a quick text.

  • When a trucker is traveling at highway speeds, he or she can cover about the length of a football field in five seconds.

  • A truck driver who is texting behind the wheel essentially does so blind for about the length of a football field.

If imagining the trucker next to you driving with his or her eyes closed for the length of a football field doesn’t terrify you, nothing will.

Excess Speed

When you combine the immense weight of semis with excess speed, you have a deadly accident waiting to happen. When truck drivers exceed the speed limit – or drive too fast for the condition of the road – they greatly increase the likelihood that they will cause dangerous accidents, and they greatly increase the chances that the accidents will be deadly.

The Insurance Company

It is important to know a thing or two about the insurance company that is handling your claim, but the most important thing to know is that it is not on your side. The insurance company has a number of tools at its disposal to help it keep your settlement as low as possible.

Outright Denial

The insurance company may get back to you with an outright denial of your claim, which is – admittedly – very discouraging, but there is no reason to walk away dejected (that is what the insurance company is hoping for). The fact is that you do not have to take the insurance company’s word on the matter because the law actually has the final say. If your truck accident attorney believes in your claim, you should, too, and filing a lawsuit against the insurance company is likely well-advised.

An Early Settlement Offer

If the insurance company gets back to you with a settlement offer right quick, it may seem too good to be true – and in a way, it is. These early offers tend to be lowball amounts that the insurance company hopes desperate claimants will accept out of their desperation. While it is difficult facing the expenses and pay loss you’re experiencing, settling for less than the amount to which you are entitled is unlikely to support your fullest recovery. Serious injuries have a way of requiring ongoing medical care, and if your earning potential has been affected, you could be looking at a lifetime of losses. Seeking just compensation is in your best interest.

Truck Accidents: FAQ

Having the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions related to truck accidents can help you make well-informed decisions regarding your own claim.

Do I have to hire a truck accident attorney?

No, there is no requirement that you have professional legal counsel on your side, but doing so can mean the difference between obtaining the compensation to which you are entitled and not managing to do so. Your truck accident attorney will apply his or her legal knowledge and experience to protecting your legal rights and skillfully advocating for compensation that covers your physical, financial, and emotional damages in their entirety.

Can I afford a truck accident attorney?

You have been seriously injured and are facing mounting medical expenses and lost earnings, and it is no wonder that you are concerned about the cost of hiring a truck accident attorney. Fortunately, however, this is an expense you do not have to worry about at this difficult time. Most reputable truck accident attorneys work on what is known as a contingency basis, and this means their pay is contingent upon (or based upon) your compensation. If your claim ultimately settles or receives a court award, your truck accident attorney will receive a prearranged percentage at that time.

How much is my truck accident claim worth?

Every truck accident claim is specific to the circumstances involved. While there is no way to put an exact value on your claim, a better understanding of the damages you can seek can provide you with a clearer idea of what your truck accident claim is worth. Consider the following:

  • Property damage to your vehicle

  • Medical expenses, which are likely to begin with emergency transportation and extend to surgery, hospital care, and beyond

  • Lost earnings, which can include a decrease in your earning potential

  • Your physical and emotional pain and suffering

What is pain and suffering?

The immense impact and terrifying violence associated with truck accidents can lead to significant emotional pain in addition to the physical pain they cause. The psychic costs can include all of the following negative consequences:

  • Sleep disturbances that include nightmares and/or night terrors

  • Fear of getting back behind the wheel

  • Increased anxiety which can include anxiety attacks

  • Bouts of depression

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Increased irritability

  • A tendency to self-isolate and/or push others away

  • Feelings of hopelessness

  • Emotional lability

Mastering the effects of your pain and suffering can be a considerable challenge.

RELATED READINGS: Your Guide to Calculating Pain and Suffering In a Car Accident Claim

How can I help protect my claim?

Three of the most important things you can do to help protect your claim include:

  • Seeking immediate medical attention (and following your doctor’s instructions carefully)

  • Consulting with an experienced truck accident attorney as soon after the accident as possible

  • Making it your policy not to talk about or post about the truck accident that leaves you injured until after your claim has been settled (or you have received a court award)

Together, these add up to the best way to protect your health and to protect your truck accident claim. The fact is that the insurance company handling your claim will be carefully watching what you’re up to and will be very interested in anything you have to say (in their effort to twist your claim to the company’s best interests).

Why won’t the insurance company just cover my damages from the start?

The insurance company that is handling your claim is paid to cover you for your losses, but it is a company – like any other company – which means that, at heart, it puts profits first. In other words, the insurance company is more interested in keeping its profits high than it is in covering your damages (or losses). In fact, keeping claimants’ damages to a minimum is its primary mechanism for keeping profits high.

An Experienced Killeen Truck Accident Attorney Is on Your Side

Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Killeen, Texas, is a distinguished truck accident attorney who is committed to fighting for your rights and for your rightful compensation. We are here to help, so please do not hesitate to contact us online or call us at 254-501-4040 for more information today.

RELATED READINGS: 

A Recent Texas Law Could Negatively Affect Victims of Truck Accidents 

Truck Accidents: Common Causes 

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