Whether they involve a tractor-trailer or a large box truck, crashes involving any truck can destroy lives and property. At 55 mph and a weight of 80,000 pounds with a length of about 70 feet, a tractor-trailer is likely to crush just about any passenger vehicle and anybody in it who is in its way. That’s why insurance policy limits for large trucks are at an absolute minimum of $500,000 per person for personal injury. Most trucking companies insure their vehicles for far more than that.
Common Causes of Truck Crashes
Like other types of motor vehicle crashes, the overwhelming majority of truck crashes are caused by driver error.
Here are some of the common causes of truck crashes that are caused by driver error:
Excessive Speed: As per the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), driving a truck at an excessive speed is the most common cause of truck crashes. This includes driving at a rate of speed that isn’t reasonable and proper given traffic and weather conditions. Truck drivers must always consider the weight of their load too. The heavier that the load is, the more that stopping distance is increased. Speeding, following another vehicle too closely and the weight of a load all contribute to devastating rear-end collisions.
Distracted Driving: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that every day, 9 people are killed and more than 1,000 are injured in distracted driving accidents. Driving a truck can become monotonous at times, especially when the driving involves cross-country trips. Phone calls, texting and inputting information into an infotainment center while in motion are all forms of distracted driving that divert the attention of truck drivers from their jobs. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, in the five seconds that it might take to read a text message at 55 mph, a driver has traveled the length of a football field without looking at the roadway.
Drowsy Driving: This form of driver error was around long before smartphones and navigational devices. The FMCSA recognizes the fact that long days and nights behind the wheel take their toll on drivers. That’s why the agency imposed maximum hours of service rules on drivers before they’re required to rest. Drivers are required to maintain logbooks to document their hours behind the wheel and rest periods. Logbooks can be easily manipulated though. Now, many drivers are compelled to use a digital device known as an electronic logging device that can supply more accurate information. Amended hours of service rules went into effect on June 1, 2020. They were purportedly implemented to “provide greater flexibility for drivers subject to hours of service rules without adversely affecting safety.”
Unsafe Driver Behavior: Truck drivers will travel millions of miles over the course of a career. Over time, some of them develop bad driving habits like tailgating other vehicles, making frequent lane changes, failing adequately check for other vehicles in their blind spots, not using turn indicators and road rage. Under no circumstances should a person with a history of poor driving behavior be behind the wheel of such a massive and potentially deadly machine.
Driving Under the Influence (DUI): When we talk about DUI, it’s usually in the context of intoxication from alcoholic beverages. That’s not very difficult for a police officer to spot with a traffic offender. What’s more difficult for a police officer to spot is the use of stimulants to keep a truck driver awake and help put more miles on the road. Amphetamines, methamphetamine and cocaine are all stimulants that a minority of truck drivers sometimes use to continue driving. An even smaller minority of truck drivers will operate their vehicles under the influence of a combination of alcohol and drugs.
Inadequate Driver Training or Inexperienced Truck Drivers: People are taking their first steps toward obtaining a commercial driver’s license (CDL) every day. Successful completion of truck driving school is a crucial hurdle. These schools are intended to help keep anybody operating or around a truck and trailer free from harm. With more than 130,000 large truck crashes every year in the United States, truck driving school must be taken seriously. Obtaining a CDL doesn’t mean that a truck driver is experienced though. At least a couple of years on the road are necessary to develop increased safety consciousness, confidence and sound judgment.
There are times when dangerous conditions might exist or be created on a truck and trailer before it even leaves the loading dock for a trip. Here are a few of those conditions.
Poor Maintenance: We’ve all seen large pieces of truck tires strewn about highways from blowouts. We’ve probably seen metal brake parts on roadways too, but they’re less conspicuous. The lack of proper tire and brake maintenance are two major safety issues that are involved with stopping and maneuvering large trucks to avoid accidents.
Shifting Cargo: To be pulled safely, a trailer’s center of gravity must be properly balanced. If cargo shifts, the center of gravity of the trailer shifts too. Once that happens, a sudden and unexpected loss of control can occur that results in a jackknife or rollover accident. When a rollover accident occurs, the danger of cargo spillage increases significantly. Spilled cargo can create mayhem on a highway with passenger vehicles traveling at high speeds swerving and braking to avoid cargo on the roadway.
Overweight Trucks: Trucking companies must meet tight pickup and delivery schedules and reduce their costs to remain viable. One way of meeting such demands is to load increased and illegal cargo weight into a trailer. When a truck is carrying too much cargo for its limits, it doesn’t just cause additional wear and tear on highways. Too much weight also increases the ability of trucks to stop or maneuver in order to avoid accidents. The chances of tire blowouts and brake failure at high speeds also increase substantially. The possibilities of jackknife and rollover accidents also increase.
Don’t Give a Statement of any Kind
Representatives from any number of insurance companies might contact you and ask for your recorded statement regarding how your accident occurred and your injuries. California law doesn’t require you to give any type of a statement without an attorney being present on your behalf. It’s likely that you’ll hurt your case if you do give a statement, so politely refuse to give one, and call us instead to obtain a free and confidential case consultation and review. If an insurance company representative tells you that your case won’t be considered or will be closed without that statement, don’t believe it. That individual is just trying to intimidate you.
Truck Crash Victims Need to Act Quickly
Upon being notified of an accident, trucking companies and their insurers move quickly by dispatching teams of investigators to crash sites. In urban areas, they’re often on location before the wreckage and mess are even cleaned up. You’ll be in need of a California truck accident lawyer who understands the complexities of truck crashes and the federal regulations that truck drivers and their employers are required to comply with. Because truck accident cases often pivot on the paper and electronic records that truck drivers and their employers are required to make and keep, you need to retain a California truck accident attorney early on who will move swiftly and decisively to preserve those records. Those can include data from a dash cam, electronic logging device, electronic data recorder (black box), maintenance and inspection records for the truck and physical evidence from the scene, including the physical damage to the vehicles and any other physical objects involved.
Crashes involving tractor-trailers or other large trucks can result in severe and catastrophic injuries or fatalities. It’s entirely possible that more than one person or entity might have caused your accident. Our California truck accident lawyer’s crash investigations thoroughly evaluates the potential liability of every possible person or entity involved in a crash. Don’t give any of the parties who might share liability the opportunity to try and misstate the facts surrounding your crash in order to attempt to minimize their liability. Whether you intend on retaining our law firm to represent you for your injuries and damages or the loss of a loved one, you’ll be giving yourself the best opportunity at obtaining the maximum compensation that you deserve. Contact us right away for that free and confidential consultation and case review with our California truck accident lawyer. Upon being retained to represent you, we’ll take on all of the financial risk. Not a penny’s worth of legal fees will be due unless we obtain a settlement or award for you. Our objective is to obtain the maximum compensation that you deserve.