Large truck drivers have a huge responsibility on the road. The legal weight for an 18-wheeler in the United States can be up to 80,000 pounds including cargo, and that huge load can’t stop on a dime. Semi and other large truck operators have to follow the rules of the road just like any other motor vehicle driver, but the consequences if they mess up can be way more dangerous.
Because of the tremendous difference in size, a large truck does not have to be going very fast to make a massive impact. In fact, even at a low-speed accident classified at under 20 mph these huge vehicles can cause severe damage to a car and its occupants, and it can even be fatal.
Large truck accidents are on the rise, due to a multitude of factors. From 2009 to 2016, the number of fatalities from these types of collisions rose 27% and the number of occupants in the truck itself that died rose 47% from that initial year. Large truck crashes caused almost 4,000 deaths just in 2016 alone, and hundreds of thousands of injuries.
These vehicles are in a league of their own size-wise and the potential for damage is so much greater than with any other motor vehicles. If you were injured in an accident that involved a large truck, your recovery, insurance process, and lawsuit if you choose to file one will be very different than it would have been if you had been in a collision with a regular sized vehicle.
Still, you are not alone. These accidents are quite common and, although every individual case is different, there are some familiarities that are standard with just about every large accident claim.
Why are Large Truck Accidents So Common?
One thing that we at Hershey Law see quite regularly are clients with injuries caused by truck accidents, and they almost always were due to one of the following reasons:
- Speeding. Whether it was on the part of the large truck driver or the other vehicle, speeding is responsible for close to one in four of these types of collisions. The problem is that whether the small car or the truck was the one speeding, the force of impact is extra dangerous when a large vehicle is involved. But the sad ratio tends to be that the more excessively fast the semi was going, the larger the potential for fatalities to be involved.
- Distracted driving. The trend is moving towards distracted driving as being responsible for more accidents than driving under the influence of alcohol. When truck drivers are distracted by their phones, the radio, food, or anything else, the slightest veering off of the road can become a major problem. And when other drivers are distracted and cut in front of a large truck, it’s close to impossible for the driver to avoid the collision.
- Driving under the influence. Although the illegal use of alcohol remains a problem, an even bigger concern is the rise of large truck accidents caused by prescription and over-the-counter drug use. Illicit drug use is also a factor in many of these accidents, but legal drugs have become almost as dangerous as distracted driving.
- Lack of proper safety precautions. When other drivers don’t signal early enough, a large truck can’t prepare for the necessary braking to avoid them. Drivers traveling in unfamiliar areas also have to pay extra attention to their surroundings, and if they don’t do this, accidents are bound to happen. Truck drivers also have huge blind spots and have to carefully check all sides of their vehicle before they turn or pass. Neglecting to do so is the cause of many accidents.
- The driver’s mental state. Large truck drivers are often required to drive for many hours without stopping for a break. This contributes to driver fatigue, but it also increases their potential for road rage, which shows up in the form of dangerous and deadly aggressive driving.
There are other reasons for large vehicle collisions, but these are predominantly the most commonly seen causes.
So What Should You Expect to See in Your Truck Accident Case?
Regular passenger vehicle accidents are night and day different than large truck collisions, so it stands to reason that what you see after your crash, throughout your recovery, and during your lawsuit would be different as well.
Here are a few things that are unique to large truck accidents that you should know about after your accident:
1. Your injuries, or those of your passengers, may be more severe than had you had a collision with a passenger vehicle. Trucks carry up to 80,000 pounds and when this much weight collides with a 3,000-pound car, the damage is extensive. Injuries to passengers in a passenger car accident tend to run the gamut from whiplash to herniated discs with the occasional more severe injury or fatality.
However, injuries from large truck collisions generally include severe back issues, broken bones, injuries to the brain, and, quite commonly, fatalities. Large truck accidents are almost always life-changing events.
2. With more severe injuries come pricier medical bills. After a large truck collision, you may end up staying in the hospital for days or even weeks. By this time, your own insurance company’s medical payments may be exhausted, and you still have months or years of recovery ahead of you.
The reason so many people turn to legal help after a large truck accident isn’t that they want to sue – it’s because financially they have no other choice. When your medical bills are piling up because of your injury, often the only way to continue to receive treatment without incurring massive financial debt is to hire a lawyer to help you.
3. Large trucks are required to follow different regulations than other vehicles. Trucking companies and individual truck drivers must follow the regulations set forth when they registered with the Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Since when you file a lawsuit in a truck accident you are not only suing the driver but the trucking company and possibly others responsible, these extra regulations and defendants can make a large truck lawsuit very complex and complicated.
4. Large trucks are required to carry big insurance policies. Whether the driver is an independent owner of his or her truck or works for a trucking company, they are required to have extensive insurance. This is because of the potential for significant damage caused by their truck.
Not only are the likelihood of severe injury and fatality greater with semis, but the property damage is greater, too. Commercial truck accidents can destroy homes, buildings, utility poles, and anything in their path.
With all of this possible destruction, it isn’t uncommon to see large trucks with insurance policies in the million-dollar range. This sounds great in theory, but with so much at stake, the defendant in a case like this is going to go all out to try to limit or eliminate their liability.
This makes it extremely important for you to work with a knowledgeable attorney and avoid the insurance adjusters completely. A skilled adjuster knows how to word questions to try to pin liability on you and reduce or deny your rightful benefits. He or she may also offer you a tempting settlement that, in the long run, isn’t even going to cover your medical bills.
5. You need to carefully consider the attorney you choose to fight for your rights. Large truck accidents are almost polar opposite from passenger car accidents. Because of this, they have different procedures that need to be followed, laws that have to be understood, and a myriad of complex investigating and questioning that needs to be done.
An attorney without experience in these types of collisions might not know what tricks the insurance adjusters like to try to use on clients or understand the complexities of the insurance policies. When the defendant’s attorneys try to limit their liability, your attorney needs to know the legal history of previous lawsuits similar to yours that could help you solidify your case and even get you more compensation.
6. Large truck accidents rarely settle quickly. The length of time it takes to settle accidents involving semi-trucks depends on the severity of the injuries, for one thing. But the lengthy aspect of it usually comes in the form of determining and proving fault.
With large trucks, the fault of an accident could lay anywhere from the driver to the distributor of the products if faulty parts were determined to have partially caused the crash. Tracking down who is at fault and then proving them negligent can make your case last anywhere from months to years.
If You Were Involved in a Large Truck Accident, We Can Help
You don’t have to go through this process alone, and if you were in an accident with a large truck, you shouldn’t. There’s a lot at stake for you and we want to help you get the benefits and compensation you are entitled to receive. Call us at Hershey Law for your free consultation.