What causes 18-wheeler accidents?

The most common cause of trucking accidents across the United States is driver error. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) found that drivers’ actions or inactions were the direct cause of 88% of trucking crashes in 2011.

Driver fatigue and sleep deprivation are overwhelmingly to blame. Many drivers violate federal regulations called “hours of service” rules and work longer than permitted to increase revenue. These violations often come at the urging of the companies they work for, putting profits above safety.

Trucking Accidents

The trucking industry plays a major role in the economy of Texas and the United States. Trucks in America are responsible for the majority of freight movement over land, and are vital tools in manufacturing, transportation and warehousing industries.

18-Wheelers are large trucks used in the trucking industry. They are also often referred to as tractor trailers, big rigs and semis. 18-Wheelers can weigh up to 80,000 pounds and be up to 80 feet long. An 18-Wheeler’s engine is up to 6 times larger than a car engine and an 18-Wheeler needs 40% more time to stop than a car.

Truck drivers are required to have a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Obtaining a CDL requires extra education and training beyond that required to operate a passenger car.

Truck drivers are also subject to Federal and State regulations regarding safety. For example, truck drivers must pass a physical exam and keep a log of their driving hours. These and other safety regulations regarding interstate commercial driving are issued by the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Administration (FMCSA), a division of the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT).

The Texas Department of Transport (TXDOT) issues rules and regulations in compliance with FMCSA rules and regulations and works to provide safe and reliable transportation within the state.

Driver-related trucking accident causes

As the leading cause of truck accidents, driver negligence can come in many forms. The most common errors our Texas 18-wheeler injury attorneys note include:
  • Distracted Driving

  • Driver Fatigue

  • Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol

  • Failure to check blind spots

  • Speeding

  • Aggressive or otherwise reckless driving

When a truck driver fails to operate his massive vehicle in a safe and prudent manner, critical injuries and fatalities can result. For those who survive a truck accident, the road to recovery can be long, painful, and costly. Some will never fully recover from truck accident injuries.

Trucking equipment failures

After driver negligence, the next most common cause of trucking accidents is equipment failure. Examples of common failures and defects include:
  • Brake Failure

  • Defective side or rear lighting

  • Defective Steering

  • Improper securing or load distribution

  • Improper trailer attachment

  • Removing or depowering the front brakes

  • Tire blowouts

  • Transmission failure

These equipment problems can be the result of faulty design, poor manufacturing, improper maintenance or other factors.

Types of collisions

There are several different types of collisions that 18 wheelers may be involved in, including:
  • Rear-end: One of the most common types of truck accidents. It is caused by tailgating and sudden stops. If a vehicle is traveling too close behind another vehicle it will not be able to avoid a crash when the driver in front of them puts the brakes on suddenly and unexpectedly. Rear end crashes can result in whiplash and other serious neck injuries
  • Head-on: A head-on crash can be caused by reckless driving, drug and alcohol use and failing to control the truck properly. Head-on collisions are often the cause of substantial injuries and death.
  • Sideswipe: Sideswipe accidents occur when two vehicles are driving next to one another in the same direction and the sides of the two vehicles make contact with one another. Sideswipe accidents often happen when a driver is trying to make a lane change without first looking to make sure there is no car already in the other lane. Sideswipes can also occur when a vehicle strays out of its lane of travel.
  • Driving off road: The condition of the road can cause a truck to leave the roadway. An example would be ice on the road. Anytime a truck leaves the road, a rollover is possible and serious injuries can occur.
  • Jackknife: Jackknife accidents are one of the most dangerous types of truck accidents and occur when a truck’s trailer skids, the trailer can swing around, forming a 90-degree angle with the tractor. While the trailer is skidding, the truck driver has no control over the vehicle. That loss of control is a danger to all other motorists sharing the road. Jackknife crashes often cause pile-ups of multiple vehicles.
  • Rollovers: When truck tires fail to “grip” the road, the driver can lose control while the truck slides sideways. This sliding with the momentum and weight of the truck can cause a rollover.
  • Air Brake Failure: When a truck’s brakes fail, the truck will be unable to stop when on a downgrade. The truck becomes unmanageable and various types of accidents can happen including rollovers, jackknifes and rear-end crashes.
  • Tire Blowouts: When a tire blows on an 18 Wheeler or other large truck, the truck becomes incredibly difficult to safely manage. Due to the sheer size and weight of the truck, the driver’s ability to control the truck is limited or disappears altogether.
  • Load Shifts: If the load is packed or secured incorrectly, a load shift can happen, causing the driver to have difficulty controlling the truck. The load shift may cause the truck to leave its lane, jackknife, or go off the road.
  • Lost Loads: If the trailer is packed incorrectly, some of the load may be ejected from the trailer onto the roadway. The loss of the load will cause the trucker to have difficulty controlling the rig. The loss of some or all of a load can also cause problems for drivers behind the who swerve to avoid hitting it. Crashes involving lost loads can lead to multiple vehicle pile-ups and multiple serious injuries and deaths.

Types of injuries caused by 18-wheeler accidents

There were 3,921 people killed and 104,000 people seriously injured in crashes involving large trucks in the United States in 2012, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Texas Department of Transportation statistics note that there were 453 fatal crashes and 4,125 serious injury crashes involving large trucks in the state in 2013.

Serious injuries that occur as the result of a large truck crash include:

  • Permanent disabilities such as loss of, or loss of the ability to use, an arm or a leg
  • Spinal cord injuries resulting in paralysis/quadriplegia
  • Permanent brain damage resulting from sudden, severe impact to head
  • Massive burns/scarring resulting from explosion/fire
  • Multiple broken bones
  • Serious internal injuries

Differences between car crashes and 18-wheeler crashes

Why are trucking accidents and car accident claims so different? Trucking accidents are often much more complicated to navigate than car accidents because of the complex web of players, including the truck driver, the trucking company, the truck owner, and truck maintenance companies.

Due to the enormous size and weight of an 18-Wheeler, they can and do cause more deaths and serious injuries per crash than cars do. The air brake system on a large truck can take significantly longer to engage than the hydraulic system on a car, and the weight of the truck creates far greater momentum than a car does. This extra momentum means the truck will continue further and faster than a car does even after the driver hits the brakes.

Determining liability is also usually more complex in a truck accident claim. Answering the questions of who is responsible and what actually caused the accident require a thorough truck accident investigation by experienced professionals.

That is where Liggett Law Group’s experienced attorneys come in. You need someone with industry know-how, and our attorneys have more than 25 years of experience navigating the trucking industry to determine which parties were negligent.

An insurance company offered a settlement. What should I do?

Insurance companies will almost always try to downplay their liability and your damages. When a claim is made, the Claims Department will immediately begin to investigate. They will get the police report and will interview as many of the witnesses as they can. They will identify any weaknesses in proof of their liability and in a number of damages claimed.

Insurance companies are not charitable organizations. They will always try to limit the amount they have to pay. They will argue that other people, including you, are responsible for the crash. They will try to prove that their insured was not to blame, or that their insured is less responsible for the crash than you or parties.

These liability insurers and their attorneys typically start out offering a settlement of less than what a case is worth. Experience has shown these insurers that many people will accept lowball offers rather than having to go through the uncertainty of a trial. Most people injured in a crash will also be struggling to make ends meet and feel they are in need of an immediate payout. Terrible as it may be, insurance companies will prey on this uncertainty and financial difficulty.

The fact is that a claims adjuster and an insurance defense attorney are paid to limit a liability insurer’s payments. Success in doing so will benefit them. They will advance and will be paid more money.

This is where having an attorney on your side can benefit you. An attorney who has experience in claims similar to yours will know how to determine what damages you should be entitled to and be able to evaluate whether the insurance company’s offer is reasonable based on the circumstances of the crash, the nature of your injuries, and the extent of the damages you suffered.

Proving an truck accident claim

In every personal injury case, there are two essential elements that have to be proved. They are referred to as liability and damages.

In order to prove liability, the evidence must show that someone’s negligence caused or contributed to the crash or that there is another basis for a finding of liability. Your accident attorney must demonstrate that there was a failure to use the amount of care that a reasonably prudent person would have used under the circumstances and that this failure directly caused or contributed to the crash.

When liability is based on product liability rather than negligence, liability is proved by showing a defective product caused or contributed to the crash and that the defective product was made by a particular manufacturer.

Damages must be proved, and have to be shown to be the result of the crash. Damages include medical expenses, lost wages, the pain caused by the crash, how long disability will continue, and the amount of suffering the crash has caused. Pain means physical pain. Suffering means mental anguish.

How will a truck accident attorney help?

A good truck accident attorney should answer all of your questions, be honest about the chances of successfully filing a claim, and be responsive throughout the course of your case.

Your attorney will also gather all the evidence needed to prove your case. This will include:

  • Your account of how the crash happened
  • Eyewitness statements
  • Police report
  • Medical reports and bills
  • Document all medical expenses and loss of income
  • Reports from accident reconstructionists

The trucking company and driver records, including dispatch records, data recorders, Hours of Service logs, maintenance logs, vehicle inspection reports, weight reports, driver employment application and employment history, records of prior collisions, and safety records.

Your attorney will make a reasonable assessment of the value of your case based on the facts of the case, his/her experience and knowledge, the settlements and verdicts that have been obtained in similar crashes in your area, and the amount of insurance coverage available to pay for your damages.

If a settlement is offered, your attorney will negotiate on your behalf. Should your case need to be tried in court, your attorney will prepare you to testify; present your case to a jury in a professional and persuasive way, conduct jury selection; prepare opening and closing statements; direct and cross exam witnesses; and prepare and submit the exhibits relevant to the case.

Get help today

At Liggett Law Group, we handle personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis. This means our clients pay nothing until and unless we have recovered money on your behalf.

Call our toll free number (855) 955-HURT (4878) to schedule a consultation with an experienced accident lawyer at our firm and get the integrity, advocacy, and results you deserve from a legal representative.

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