Thousands of truck accidents occur yearly, leading to severe injuries and fatalities.
In this article, we delve into the causes of truck accidents, exploring everything from driver errors and equipment failure to the role of trucking companies and government regulations. We also discuss how an experienced Atlanta truck accident lawyers can secure compensation for you after a truck accident.
Overview of Truck Accidents
A truck accident occurs when a collision, rollover, or any event leading to property damage, injury, or death involves a truck (typically a vehicle weighing more than 10,000 pounds, such as a semi or box truck). The consequences of truck accidents are often severe. With commercial vehicles often being a significantly larger size and weight than regular passenger cars, a crash typically causes extensive property damage and severe, catastrophic, or fatal personal injuries to numerous victims.
Common Causes of Truck Accidents
Truck accidents have numerous causes. Many truck accidents are preventable and involve human errors or miscalculations from truck drivers, trucking companies, and other truck industry operators. Here is an overview of some of the most common.
The term driver error refers to mistakes that truck drivers make while on the road.
Common driver errors leading to truck accidents include:
- Fatigue: Long hours on the road and tight deadlines can cause truck drivers to become exhausted, leading to reduced alertness and slower reaction times.
- Distraction: Any distracting situations inside and outside the truck can also lead to accidents. Distractions include using phones, eating, or even zoning out amid long hauls.
- Speeding: Rushing to meet deadlines can result in speeding and reduce the ability to react to unexpected situations.
- Driving under the influence: Some truck drivers, unfortunately, use substances to cope with job demands, increasing the likelihood of accidents.
These truck driver errors represent how a driver can fall short of safely operating a vehicle and cause a truck accident.
A truck's sheer size and complexity means that equipment failure can lead to catastrophic accidents. Common failures include:
- Brake failures: Poor maintenance can lead to brake failures, which can be fatal given a truck's weight and speed.
- Tire blowouts: Overuse or lack of regular maintenance can cause blown-out tires and lead to control loss.
- Defective parts: Defective parts can occasionally cause a truck to malfunction, leading to accidents.
These are just some examples of equipment failure. Trucks are extremely complex machines that can fail in catastrophic ways without proper operations and maintenance.
The loading of a truck's cargo can sometimes lead to accidents. Truck loading accidents include:
- Overloading: Trucks carrying more than their designated capacity can tip over or experience equipment failure.
- Unbalanced loads: Uneven cargo distribution can unbalance the truck and cause control difficulties.
- Loose cargo: Loose cargo can cause havoc to the truck, potentially causing loss of control or road hazards for other vehicles.
Proper cargo loading is a highly technical exercise. If truckers and trucking companies do it without appropriate care, they put the public at risk.
Weather is a common contributor to accidents for all vehicles, and trucks are no exception. Heavy rain, snow, and fog can significantly impair visibility and make roads slippery. Truckers cannot control poor weather conditions, but they can decide when and how to drive in them. Accidents happen when trucks take to the road or operate unsafely in bad weather.
Poor Road Conditions
Poor road conditions, such as potholes, lack of signage, and construction zones, can also increase the chance of a truck accident. Truckers and trucking companies do not cause poor road conditions, but their actions upon encountering them can significantly increase the chances of a devastating accident.
How Trucking Company Operations Can Lead to Truck Accidents
Trucking companies' policies, training protocols, and maintenance practices can significantly influence the probability of trucks crashing. Companies guilty of the following lapses, shortcomings, and poor decisions can increase the risk of accidents that cause brain injury, death, and widespread property damage.
Negligent Hiring Practices
Trucking companies are responsible for hiring competent and safe drivers. Negligent hiring practices can put unqualified or dangerous drivers on the road, increasing the risk of accidents. Neglecting to conduct proper background checks, ignoring poor driving records, or hiring drivers without adequate experience or licensing are dangerous hiring practices.
Truck drivers should receive comprehensive training to prepare them for the specific challenges of operating large commercial vehicles. Training should cover everything from safe driving practices and handling equipment to coping with fatigue and weather conditions. Trucking companies that fail to provide this necessary training are setting their drivers—and the public—up for potential disaster on the roads.
Excessive Pressure on Drivers
Trucking companies and customer demands often impose tight—even unrealistic—deadlines on their drivers. Pressure to meet those deadlines can incentivize drivers to engage in unsafe behaviors, such as speeding, ignoring necessary rest stops, or loading cargo improperly. These actions increase the likelihood of accidents.
Insufficient Truck Maintenance
Trucking companies are also responsible for ensuring their fleet is safe and roadworthy. This responsibility includes regularly maintaining the vehicle and checking essential components, such as the brakes and tires. Failing to do so can lead to equipment failure and severe accidents. Neglecting necessary maintenance or using substandard parts can put everyone on the road at risk.
How Non-Compliance With Trucking Industry Regulations Leads to Accidents
The trucking industry has heavy regulations that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) (interstate trucking) and state-level agencies (intrastate trucking) oversee. Truckers and trucking companies must comply with the agencies’ regulations to promote public safety. Industry operators do not always live up to their obligations, however. Industry regulation violations can significantly increase the risk of a truck accident. These include:
Hours of Service Regulations
Hours of service (HOS) regulations limit the number of consecutive hours and days a driver can be on duty and operate a truck. The HOS mandates adequate rest periods for drivers and bars long stretches of uninterrupted driving to prevent fatigue-related truck accidents. It also requires drivers to keep logs of their driving hours, breaks, and rest periods, which trucking companies and regulatory authorities will check to ensure compliance.
Truckers or trucking companies do not always comply with HOS regulations, resulting in dangerous, drowsy truck drivers on U.S. highways and byways. An FMCSA survey of truck drivers reveals that a troublingly high percentage of drivers report routinely taking the wheel while feeling excessive fatigue.
Weight and Size Limits
Regulations restrict the size and weight of trucks to protect road infrastructure and maintain safety. Overloaded or oversized trucks are more difficult to control and can cause severe accidents, such as jackknifes and rollovers. Over-limit trucks can also cause significant damage when they exceed the maximum height or weight specifications for roads and bridges, resulting in driving conditions that endanger all motorists.
Regular Vehicle Inspections
Trucking regulations mandate regular inspections of commercial trucks to ensure safety and roadworthiness. Missing vehicle inspections or ignoring identified repair needs, such as a defective brake system or worn tires, can lead to equipment failure and accidents. If, for example, a truck's cargo-securing equipment needs replacing, not doing so could result in an accident from spilled cargo.
Driver Licensing Requirements
All truck drivers must carry a commercial driver's license (CDL). This requirement ensures that only trained individuals can operate these large, complex vehicles.
Drivers may let their licenses lapse or fail to maintain the qualifications to hold them. These violations increase the risk of accidents due to lacking the skills, health requirements, or understanding of safety protocols to operate a commercial truck. Trucking companies have a crucial responsibility to regularly verify and ensure the validity of their drivers' CDLs.
Seeking Compensation for Truck Accident Injuries
Recovering from a truck accident physically, emotionally, and financially can be daunting. As a truck accident victim, you have the right to seek compensation for your damages. Multiple parties, including individuals, businesses, or entities, may have an obligation to compensate you.
Liability for a Truck Accident
Liability for a truck accident can fall on multiple parties. Every truck accident differs, but parties that are commonly liable for victims' damages in a crash can include the negligent truck driver, the trucking company employing the negligent driver, the manufacturer of a defective truck or truck component, the company responsible for improperly loading the truck's cargo, or a public or private entity at fault for creating unreasonably hazardous road conditions.
You can typically seek compensation from several parties simultaneously after getting hurt in a truck crash. A truck driver, for example, could face liability for causing a crash while driving fatigued; however, the driver's employer could also be liable for forcing the driver to work excessive hours in violation of HOS regulations.
Truck accidents are notoriously complex. It is not always obvious who should owe damages after a truck accident. The most reliable way to find out who is accountable for your losses in a truck accident is to contact an experienced attorney.
The Role of a Truck Accident Lawyer in Obtaining Compensation
A truck accident attorney's primary goal is securing maximum compensation for your damages. Lawyers use their experience, knowledge, negotiation skills, and advocacy to ensure you receive adequate compensation for your expenses and trauma. Your lawyer can handle every aspect of your truck accident claim, allowing you to concentrate on your recovery.
Truck accident lawyers perform various functions to ensure you get maximum compensation. The specific steps they take depend on your needs and priorities.
An experienced lawyer will often begin with a thorough investigation of the accident to determine its causes, liable parties, and other potential sources of compensation (such as liability insurance coverage). They may examine various pieces of evidence, including police reports, witness statements, photos and videos of the accident scene, your medical records, and the official investigation results.
An experienced truck accident lawyer can also interact with insurance companies on your behalf. You can rest easy knowing you no longer have to worry about fielding calls from aggressive insurance adjusters or missing an upcoming deadline for filing a claim.
Your lawyer can also advise you of your rights and guide you through your options, ensuring your main focus is your recovery.
Once your lawyer has all the necessary information about a crash and your injuries, they can prepare and file the claims paperwork and initiate a lawsuit. They can also negotiate with the insurance company and at-fault party to explore settling your claim on favorable terms.
If negotiations fail to produce a fair settlement, your skilled truck accident lawyer can pursue compensation and justice in court. Lawyers use their litigation skills to present a persuasive case and convince the judge or jury to award you maximum damages.
Affordability of Hiring a Truck Accident Lawyer
You may think it costs a lot of money to hire a lawyer to perform your claim; however, that is not always the case.
Most truck accident lawyers offer free initial consultations. During your consultation, they will assess your accident and determine your potential legal options for seeking compensation.
Truck accident lawyers routinely work on a contingent fee basis. Working on contingency means you will not receive any upfront fees. Their fee is typically a percentage of your compensation, meaning they only charge a fee if they win your case or successfully negotiate a settlement.
Contact an Experienced Truck Accident Lawyer Today
Truck accidents have many causes and can result in severe injuries, property damage, and death.
If you or a loved one sustained injuries in a truck crash, contact an experienced truck accident lawyer today for a free consultation about your rights to compensation.