Semi-Truck Accidents Don’t Need to Happen
October 18, 2021
Semi-trucks can cause serious injuries, and all too often, these injuries are fatal. The added weight and size of a large truck mean more momentum in a collision. This, in turn, increases the severity of the injuries that victims are likely to suffer.
Truck accident victims have the legal right to receive compensation for their injuries. The law requires a negligent defendant to pay for documented financial losses such as property damage, medical bills, and lost wages. The law also requires fair compensation for the victim’s pain and suffering.
Experienced truck accident lawyers know how to prove the fair value of an injury claim to get victims the compensation they deserve. Learn more about the common types of semi-truck crashes, who is at fault for a truck accident, and common injuries that occur in collisions involving semi-trucks.
Common Types of Semi-Truck Crashes
There are many reasons why a semi-truck might crash. Different types of collisions can produce different injuries, and accident victims need to understand exactly what injuries they have suffered – and how much these injuries are worth. Below are some of the most common types of semi-truck collisions.
Head-On and Rear-End
Head-on collisions make up about 3 percent of truck crashes, but they are among the most fatal of all truck accidents. This is because the full force of the momentum from both vehicles gets distributed directly to the passenger compartments. Unlike a sideswipe collision, there is no “glancing blow” to divert the force of the impact elsewhere.
Head-on collisions are especially dangerous for those inside the smaller vehicle. The larger vehicle can better absorb the smaller forces generated by the smaller vehicle. In turn, the smaller vehicle is less able to absorb the larger forces of momentum created by a large, heavy semi-truck. Drivers and passengers inside a smaller vehicle almost always suffer severe injuries when they are hit head-on by a semi-truck. All too often, these injuries are fatal.
Rear-end collisions are less likely to be fatal, which is good because they are the most common type of truck crash. Fatalities are less common because the force generated by the collision is from just one vehicle instead of both vehicles. The force of a rear-end collision also focuses on the back of the vehicle. This means that there is a chance for the vehicle to absorb some of the force of collision before it reaches those in the front section of the passenger compartment. (Indeed, today’s vehicles have strong steel frames designed to crumple in strategic places during a collision to divert the force away from the passenger compartment.) But rear-end collisions can still leave victims with incredibly painful injuries. Whiplash is a common injury in rear-end collisions.
Blind Spot Accidents
Large trucks have large blind spots. Most drivers have seen the familiar warnings on trucks: “If you can’t see my mirrors, I can’t see you.” Truck drivers must have the training and experience to know how to deal with their large blind spots. If they fail to change lanes safely, they can be at fault for causing a truck accident.
In some cases, semi-trucks are so tall that a smaller vehicle can become trapped beneath them. This was the cause of the tragic death of actress Jayne Mansfield. The car she was riding in got caught under the tailgate of a truck in front of her. This caused the death of all the front seat passengers, including Mansfield. Her children in the backseat were unharmed (including future TV star Mariska Hargitay.)
After this tragic accident, federal laws went into effect to require a bar across the back of large trucks. These Mansfield bars remain on the road today. Unfortunately, they are only mandatory on the back of semi-trucks. Underride accidents can still occur on the long sides of a tall truck. Truck drivers must take reasonable precautions to avoid underride accidents. This is especially important when changing lanes, taking curves in the road, or any other time that cars will be near the truck.
Rollovers are dangerous in any vehicle. When a fully loaded semi-truck rolls, the accident can be fatal for anyone in the vicinity. There is a huge amount of force created by the rolling of a heavy truck. Whether it is the cab, a trailer, or both that roll, everyone nearby is in the zone of danger.
Drivers must have special training to help them maintain control of their heavy loads. (This is a particular problem with tanker trucks because the sloshing of liquid cargo can create a strong force that makes it difficult for a driver to maintain control of the load.) Truck drivers who fail to take reasonable measures to prevent rollovers can be legally responsible for the injuries and deaths that occur as a result of their negligence.
A truck “jackknifes” when the back of the load swings around toward the front of the vehicle. The cab and cargo hold of the truck can then form a “v” shape – much like the shape of an open jackknife. Jackknife accidents are notorious for causing some of the longest traffic delays out of all auto accidents. But the minor inconvenience of being stuck in traffic is nothing compared to the injuries that can occur while the truck is jackknifing. Any vehicle in the area can suffer the effects of an uncontrolled cargo load.
Who Is at Fault for a Truck Accident?
There are many potential defendants in a truck accident claim. Any individual or company that was negligent can be liable (“at fault”) for causing your injuries. Liability means that the defendant will have a financial obligation to compensate all the victims of their negligence. Here are some of the most common defendants in a truck accident case.
The Truck Driver
Often, a truck accident happens because of the truck driver making an error. Large semi-trucks are difficult to manage. If a driver does not have sufficient training or experience, they can find themselves unable to control their vehicle. A driver might also cause an accident by distracted driving, driving while impaired, or driving while overly tired. All of these actions can be negligent if they cause the driver to crash their truck.
The Transportation Company That Hired the Driver
There is a general rule of law that holds employers vicariously liable for the negligence their employees cause while on the job. This means that a transportation company that hires a negligent driver should have to pay for the injuries the driver caused. Some transportation companies try to get around this by classifying their drivers as independent contractors.
Even if a driver is an independent contractor, the transportation company can still be directly liable for its negligence. For example, if the company hired an independent contractor whose commercial driver’s license was not valid or suspended, this can constitute negligent hiring. The transportation company will be liable for negligence in hiring – not the driver’s actions.
The Owner of the Truck
Vehicle owners can also be negligent for their actions. If a truck owner allows a poor driver to use their vehicle (whether that driver is an employee, an independent contractor, or just a friend), the owner can be liable for an accident the driver caused. This can constitute “negligent entrustment,” which is letting someone use a dangerous item when you should have known better. (Negligent entrustment also applies to hold parents liable when a teen driver causes an accident in the family car.) Owners of commercial vehicles must carry insurance coverage for any accident caused by a driver who had permission to use that vehicle.
A Construction Crew or Government Entity That is Responsible For the Road Conditions
Some truck accidents happen because of poor road conditions. Perhaps the city ignored potholes that caused a tire blowout. (Tire blowouts can quickly cause truckers to lose control of their large vehicles.) Or maybe a construction crew left tools in the road, and now drivers must swerve to avoid them until an inevitable accident occurs. These cases can be more difficult to prove, but it is possible to hold construction companies or municipalities liable for poor road conditions.
Any driver involved in an accident can be at fault. Just because a truck was in an accident does not mean that the truck driver is liable. If another driver is at fault, an injury lawyer can pursue compensation from their auto insurance policy. There can also be additional coverage through the truck driver’s commercial coverage—or even the victim’s medical payments. Cases involving multiple drivers and multiple insurance policies can quickly become very complicated. Injury victims need their own attorney representing their interests among these competing claims.
Common Truck Accident Injuries
There are many injuries a person can sustain in a truck accident. No matter how minor or severe a person’s injuries are, victims deserve compensation for their financial and emotional losses. Here are some of the most common injuries that occur in truck accidents:
The brain controls every function of the body. Because of this, even minor damage to the brain can cause permanent problems. A concussion might appear to resolve on its own after a few days, but later, the victim might notice difficulty with concentration, memory, motor skills, or other issues. More serious brain injuries can leave a victim permanently unable to work, enjoy their hobbies, or simply eat or dress on their own.
Injuries to the Neck
The neck is a relatively small structure that holds up the heavy brain and skull. This can make it particularly susceptible to injuries in a truck accident. A victim can sustain a painful broken vertebra or slipped intervertebral discs. The bony vertebrae should protect the spinal cord, but if they cannot, the victim may face permanent paralysis. Even minor spinal cord injuries can leave a victim with temporary paralysis, tingling, and numbness, or impaired function in the affected area of the body.
Internal Bleeding and Organ Damage
Truck accidents can also cause severe damage inside the body. Because these internal injuries are difficult to see, it often takes longer for a victim to realize a problem. This is why it is so important to see a doctor as soon as possible after a truck accident, even if you do not feel hurt right away. You can still be suffering from internal bleeding or crush injuries to your vital organs.
Broken bones might seem like a relatively straightforward injury. This is not always the case. A broken bone has shards that can damage the nerves, blood vessels, and soft tissue surrounding it. Some broken bones require surgical intervention and the insertion of pins or plates that will stay in the body for the rest of the patient’s life. Sometimes an underlying condition, such as osteoporosis, makes it difficult for the bone to heal at all. Insurers assess compensation on a case-by-case basis, and an injury lawyer will know how to prove the value of your unique injuries.
Soft Tissue Injuries
Insurance companies like to dismiss injuries to the muscles, tendons, and other soft tissues. Because the medical bills for these injuries are often lower than the bills for more dramatic injuries, like broken bones or brain damage, the insurance company might try to lowball you with a settlement offer that is not fair. You are entitled to compensation for all the pain and suffering you endure.
Often, soft tissue injuries cause the most suffering because the ongoing pain can last for years to come. Injury victims are entitled to fair compensation for these painful injuries. They are also entitled to compensation for the medical bills and suffering they will bear in the years to come.
No matter what type of injury you sustained in a semi-truck crash, contact a truck accident lawyer for help as soon as possible. The right law firm can help you recover from any liable parties in your case.
“These lawyers are not only very efficient, but caring as well. I would not hesitate to refer them to anyone.”
MATTHEW T. / FORMER CLIENT