What Happens When a Truck Driver Has an Accident
Getting into an accident with a commercial truck or tractor-trailer can be absolutely devastating. The sheer size and weight of such vehicles can contribute to catastrophic injuries and other extreme losses in the event of a collision.
Truck accident cases are often much more complicated than crashes involving regular passenger cars. This may be in part due to the severity of such incidents, but there may also be more than one potentially liable parties involved in a single collision, including the driver, trucking company, and insurance companies.
In the aftermath of a serious truck accident, an experienced personal injury lawyer can help you navigate the legal system and pursue fair compensation for your pain and suffering.
Below, we will consider different types of truck accidents and the various possible causes of such incidents. Then, we will discuss the steps you should take if you are involved in this kind of collision.
Common Types of Truck Accidents
No two truck accidents are exactly the same. However, certain types of accidents are especially seen time and again.
What happened to you? After being injured in an accident involving a large truck or tractor-trailer, understanding exactly how the accident unfolded is essential to resolve your claim successfully. For instance, consider the following commonly reported types of truck accidents.
Jackknifing occurs when the front cab and rear trailer of a semi-truck get out of alignment. Oftentimes, the truck driver has been forced to slam on the brakes, which then causes the trailer to swing left or right, typically crossing into other lanes of traffic.
Common causes of jackknifing are:
- Equipment malfunction
- Locked wheels
- Brake failure
- Loose cargo
- Road debris
- Poor weather conditions
- Truck driver error
Jackknife accidents can be especially dangerous. When a truck driver loses control of the vehicle, there is a high risk of a multi-car collision.
Rollover truck accidents
Rollovers happen when a vehicle tips or flips over onto its side or roof in a crash.
Various factors can lead to rollover accidents, such as:
- Disregarding the speed limit
- Improper lane changes
- Aggressive driving
- Improperly loaded cargo
- Narrow, winding, or slippery roads
- Failure to perform proper or routine maintenance
When large trucks or tractor-trailers roll over in heavy traffic, the results can be catastrophic.
T-bone or side-impact accidents happen when one driver fails to yield the right-of-way of another driver. Often occurring in the midst of intersections or when someone attempts a left turn, these accidents result in one vehicle crashing into the side of another, forming a “T” shape.
Due to the size and length of commercial trucks, there is a need for heightened awareness any time a truck driver approaches an intersection or must turn against traffic. Large trucks need far more space and time, compared to a passenger vehicle, to maneuver through traffic safely.
Tire blowout truck accidents
A tire blowout could cause a truck to veer into another lane, jackknife, or rollover. Additionally, tire debris may fly all over the road, causing other vehicles to swerve or lose control.
Blowouts may occur because the truck driver or trucking company was negligent in performing routine tire maintenance. Significant wear and tear or defective manufacturing could also be the root cause of the tire failure.
In order to avoid being in a tire blowout accident with a large vehicle, it is wise to keep significant space between your car and the truck. Whenever possible, avoid driving alongside a truck for an extended distance.
Underride truck accidents
An underride truck accident happens when a passenger vehicle collides with a large truck by sliding underneath the truck, either from the rear or along the side. Since commercial trucks are significantly higher than most cars, smaller vehicles can be crushed underneath a large truck in such collisions.
Severe injuries are often sustained by car passengers in underride truck accidents, which may take place when a truck has poor markings or is moving slowly. Other drivers may not realize how slowly a large truck is moving until it is too late to brake properly.
Unsecured load accidents
Federal regulations are in place to ensure that trucking companies safely load their freight. When transporting goods, truck drivers and cargo loaders need to make sure that it is stationary, anchored, and secure.
When cargo spills out or flies off of a moving vehicle, this can be extremely dangerous for other drivers on the road. If the truck was carrying hazardous materials, the cost of failing to secure the load properly could be that much higher.
Potential Liability in a Truck Accident Claim
In a typical car accident, it is usually clear who is involved, and the liable party is the driver who hit you. However, it is not that straightforward in a truck accident. Depending on the circumstances of your accident, you may be able to hold multiple parties accountable for your injuries and losses.
The following parties could potentially be held liable under truck accident law:
- The truck driver: When establishing fault in any kind of vehicle accident, the drivers are the first to be considered. Confirming that the truck driver was driving legally, with a commercial driver’s license, is important. If it can be determined that the accident was due to drunk driving or that the truck driver was using illegal drugs, distracted, fatigued, speeding, or otherwise negligent, then he or she could be liable for the accident.
- The trucking company: The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) imposes extensive safety regulations on the trucking industry. Trucking companies are required to enforce these rules and any state laws that may apply. Companies must closely monitor each driver’s safety records and driving schedules and ensure that their drivers have sufficient training and experience to handle the vehicle safely. If a trucking firm fails in this respect, it could be held liable for an accident.
- The truck’s owner: Trucking companies don’t always own the trucks they use. Typically, truck owners are responsible for the inspection and maintenance of the vehicle. If the owner (the third party in this situation) failed in this regard, he or she could be found at fault for the truck accident.
- The truck manufacturer: Trucks are made up of thousands of components. A problem with an integral part, such as the truck’s steering or brakes, could lead to a serious accident. In such cases, the manufacturer of the truck or the failed part could be accountable for a product liability claim.
- The truck mechanic or maintenance provider: Large commercial trucks require frequent and continual maintenance. If mechanics and repair shops are less than diligent, critical upkeep or repairs could be overlooked or put off. In such cases, key components could fail, leading to serious accidents.
- Cargo loaders: A truck’s cargo must be loaded and secured properly to guarantee it is safe for the road. Freight loaded or secured incorrectly could shift when the truck is moving. This can affect the truck’s stability, or the load could come loose and fly off the trailer, causing an accident.
Establishing negligence and liability in a truck accident case can be complicated and stressful. An experienced truck accident attorney can review the facts of your case and help you pursue compensation from all potential at-fault parties.
Steps to Take Following a Truck Driving Accident
After a serious truck driving accident, you may feel overwhelmed and unsure of what steps to take in order to move your personal injury claim forward. When you find yourself in this situation, you can take control and make the most of your legal options by taking the following steps.
Contact emergency services and law enforcement
You are required to stop at the accident scene if you are involved in a traffic collision. Call the police and other emergency services right away, which ensures that any serious injuries are immediately looked after.
Also essential to your well-being, you can start building your legal case right away. The responding officers will write a police report detailing what they observed at the accident scene. This will set in motion an investigation into how the accident happened and who was responsible, thereby helping you establish the particulars of your personal injury claim later on.
Seek medical attention
Many truck accidents may not seem serious at first. You may not think that you have sustained any significant injuries. That being said, seeking medical attention as soon as possible after a truck accident is in your best interests.
Some life-threatening injuries show few immediate symptoms. If injuries related to the truck accident come to light after the fact and you did not seek an initial medical evaluation, the insurance companies involved may refuse to cover your medical expenses.
Official documentation by a healthcare professional of your physical and emotional state immediately after the truck accident is an important part of the legal process. By obtaining prompt medical treatment for your injuries, you will put yourself on the best road to recovery and gain peace of mind.
Get the contact information of everyone involved in the truck accident
The scene of an accident can be chaotic. Truck driving accidents can be that much more so. You must make sure that you can identify and locate all involved parties going forward. Ask for detailed information from all drivers involved in the traffic accident.
At the scene of the accident, gather the following information from the truck driver:
- The full name, phone number, address, and email of the truck driver
- The truck’s license plate number
- The truck driver’s commercial driver’s license number
- The insurance company and policy number of the commercial driver
- The truck driver’s trucking company and his or her direct contact information
By obtaining this information at the scene of the truck accident, you ensure that you will be able to contact and hold responsible every party that contributed to your losses.
Get the contact information of any witnesses to the truck accident
In addition to gathering contact information from those directly involved in the accident, you must be able to contact and seek testimony from the eyewitnesses as to what took place that day.
Accident scenes are often messy and emotionally charged. A level-headed eyewitness account can be helpful in establishing what really happened in the moments leading up to your truck accident.
Document the scene of the truck accident
If at all possible, take pictures and video footage of the scene of the collision and any factors that contributed to the accident, such as:
- Vehicle damage
- Traffic conditions
- Weather conditions
- Other property damage
- Anything else that may have contributed to the truck accident
Additionally, video from the accident scene may be telling about the mental and emotional state of the other party. It could reveal which driver caused the accident and if distracted driving or other negligent acts were the cause.
Get the help of a personal injury lawyer after a truck accident
Truck accident claims can be complicated. The idea of trying to prove the truck driver’s fault and pursue a legal claim while recovering from your injuries may seem like too large of a burden to bear. That is where a knowledgeable truck accident lawyer comes into play.
An adept truck accident attorney will work to establish the evidence in your case, figure out which parties are responsible, and use the legal system to attain your rightful compensation. He or she will negotiate with the insurance companies on your behalf and argue your case at trial if necessary.
When you hire a truck accident lawyer, you have an advocate on your side. He or she will focus on your claim and getting the restitution you deserve while you focus on your recovery.
Contact an Understanding Truck Accident Lawyer for Support
Truck accident victims are often hurt physically and traumatized emotionally. If this is the situation you find yourself in, please don’t try to go it alone. When the truck driver causes an accident, the law can be put to work to protect you.
The legal team at Harker Injury Law is here to support you during this difficult time. Our compassionate personal injury lawyers truly care about each and every case we take on. Our client’s best interest always comes first.
If you or a loved one have been involved in a car accident with a commercial vehicle, get the help you deserve today. Click here to fill out our online contact form, or call 760-INJURED to schedule a free consultation. Every accident victim deserves a voice.