Commercial trucks operate on virtually every road in the United States. They serve an important role in the economy, but also pose a danger to other motorists. Every commercial truck accident — and especially a collision with a smaller vehicle—has the potential to cause extensive property damage, catastrophic injuries, and large financial losses.
Here’s an overview of the common causes, mechanisms, and losses associated with truck crashes, and how an experienced commercial truck accident attorney can handle the process of obtaining compensation for the victims harmed by them.
Common Types of Commercial Truck Accidents
The nearly 166 million registered commercial trucks in the United States can get into just about any type of accident imaginable. But the unique characteristics of large trucks compared to passenger vehicles make some crashes more likely — and more deadly—than others.
Blind Spot Accidents
Most commercial trucks have large blind spots. The blind spots on a typical tractor trailer extend 20 feet in front of the truck, 30 feet behind the trailer, 1 lane width the length of the truck to the driver’s left, and two lane widths the length of the truck to the driver’s right. Truck drivers who fail to pay attention to vehicles in their blind spots risk colliding with those vehicles or running them off the road.
Closely related to blind spot accidents, override/underride accidents occur when a commercial truck trailer traps a smaller vehicle or motorcycle beneath it or runs them over. Override/underride accidents frequently happen when a truck driver loses track of or does not see a smaller vehicle in the truck’s blind spot. These are frequently catastrophic accidents resulting in severe injuries or fatalities for the small vehicle occupants or motorcyclists.
Commercial trucks have a relatively high center of gravity that can make them liable to tip over. Rollovers can happen when trucks enter sharp turns or curves at unsafe speeds, swerve to avoid a road hazard, or drive in high cross winds. Rollovers pose high risks of injury or death for truck drivers. They also risk causing secondary accidents when the rolled truck blocks lanes or spills cargo.
A jackknife accident happens when the trailer of a semi-truck slides sideways against its tractor truck, like the blade of a folding knife. Jackknifes can occur when the weight of a loaded trailer overwhelms the truck’s braking system. They can also happen in slippery conditions.
Truck drivers lose control once their rig jackknifes. Only friction with the road, a rollover, or a collision with another vehicle or roadside object will stop its forward momentum.
Rear-end Chain Reaction Accidents
Commercial trucks often feature prominently in multi-car pile ups on interstate highways. It’s somewhat common for large trucks to rear-end smaller vehicles in these scenarios, usually when a truck driver fails to react in time to a sudden slowdown or traffic jam.
A commercial truck that rear-ends a smaller vehicle will typically cause catastrophic damage, severe injuries, or fatalities, especially if the truck runs over the smaller vehicle or pushes it into other vehicles in a chain reaction.
Spilled Cargo Accidents
Truck drivers, truck companies, and shippers all have a duty to ensure the safety and security of cargo, but they do not always live up to their obligations. Commercial trucks that spill their cargo create deadly road hazards. Spilled cargo can create obstacles that other motorists have little time to avoid. It can also make a road surface slick or unsafe for travel. Flammable cargo can ignite and explode, and toxic cargo can cause widespread illness or environmental damage.
Common Causes of Commercial Truck Accidents
Commercial trucks can crash because of a wide variety of factors. Many have to do with dangerous conduct by truck drivers and trucking companies. Some, however, can also be attributed to actions of other parties.
Causes Related to a Truck Driver or Trucking Company
Trucks are large, complex machines. It takes skill, experience, and attention to detail to operate them safely. Many commercial truck crashes happen because truck drivers and trucking companies fail to fulfill minimum obligations to the public to ensure safety on the road.
For example, accidents commonly occur because of:
- Speeding truck drivers who travel too fast for road or traffic conditions, often because they’re under pressure to meet tight pickup or delivery deadlines.
- Distracted truck drivers who allow radios, GPS systems, smartphones, and other in-cab distractions to pull their attention away from the complex task of driving a commercial truck safely.
- Impaired truck drivers who resort to using substances like alcohol or prescription, over-the-counter, or illegal substances to keep them awake and alert while driving, or to help them sleep during short rest periods.
- Drowsy truck drivers who, despite Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations, succumb to fatigue due to long work hours, high stress, or poor health.
- Inadequate truck maintenance by trucking companies, who forego essential fixes and upgrades to their fleet to save money, but end up putting the public in danger.
- Inadequate screening and training of truck drivers by trucking companies, who face a nationwide truck driver shortage that incentivizes cutting corners to keep fleets rolling.
These are not the only causes of commercial truck accidents linked to truckers and trucking companies, of course. But they illustrate the vast number of ways that a moment of carelessness by those parties can lead to a deadly accident.
Causes Related to Other Parties
Truckers and trucking companies aren’t the only parties who can trigger a commercial truck crash, however.
Fault for a catastrophic truck accident can also fall at the feet of others, such as:
- A motorist who fails to drive safely while sharing the road with a large truck.
- A manufacturer of car or truck parts whose defective products cause a mechanical failure leading to an accident.
- A shipping company that fails to secure cargo safely on a commercial truck, leading to a dangerous imbalance or shifting load that triggers a crash.
- A government road agency or contractor responsible for unreasonably hazardous road conditions that make truck travel unsafe.
Experienced commercial truck accident lawyers understand the critical importance of examining the circumstances surrounding a crash to identify all potential causes and at-fault parties. That is often the best way to ensure that an accident victim receives full, fair compensation for their losses.
What a Commercial Truck Accident Lawyer Can Do for You
A commercial truck accident lawyer’s job is to handle every aspect of getting you compensation for the losses you’ve suffered. A lawyer can also be a trusted advisor and advocate you can turn to for guidance during this difficult period of your life.
The sooner you hire a lawyer to take care of your truck accident damages claim, the better your chances of receiving the maximum payment available in your case, and the lower your risks of making a costly mistake that could interfere with your rights.
The right commercial truck accident attorney for you is one who has an all-star team and the breadth and depth of resources to handle any task your case throws their way.
When appropriate, that lawyer should, for example:
- Conduct an independent investigation of the truck accident to reach their own conclusions about how it happened and who should be held liable;
- Interact with official investigators and advocate for your interests in official proceedings;
- Analyze the organization and financial resources of commercial trucking companies to identify potential sources of payment for your damages;
- Review commercial liability insurance policies to determine whether and for how much they cover your losses;
- Answer your questions and advise you on making important decisions that could affect your rights;
- Collect evidence to prove your truck accident claim against at-fault parties or insurance companies;
- Prepare and pursue well-supported claims for damages on your behalf in and out of court;
- Negotiate settlements of your claims and advise you about whether to accept or reject settlement offers; and
- Take your case to court to seek justice and fair compensation before a judge or jury.
Commercial truck accident lawyers generally represent clients like you on a contingent fee basis. That means they do not charge you upfront fees or hourly rates. Instead, their fee only comes out of any money they succeed in securing on your behalf. You only pay them if they win for you.
Contact an Experienced Commercial Truck Accident Lawyer Today
As the victim of a commercial truck accident, you have potentially valuable rights to compensation for your losses. A truck driver, trucking company, third-party, or insurance company may owe you tens of thousands of dollars or more. You can learn all about your legal rights and options for getting that money by consulting with an experienced truck accident lawyer today, for free.
Just don’t wait to act. Events move quickly after a commercial truck accident and you’ll need to secure a seat at the table if you want fair compensation for your losses. Contact an experienced personal injury lawyer for your free case evaluation today, before it’s too late.
Mr. Finkelstein is the Managing Partner of Finkelstein & Partners, LLP. He has become a noted consumer activist through his representation of injured individuals against corporate wrongdoers and irresponsible parties.
An accomplished litigator, Mr. Finkelstein has represented Plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has successfully handled dozens of multi-million dollar cases.