A head-on collision with any type of vehicle can lead to severe injuries and suffering for the victim. A head-on collision with a big truck is particularly devastating. Syracuse truck drivers face unique challenges that can increase the risk that they will end up causing head-on collisions.
Why Do Syracuse Truck Drivers Face a Risk of Head-On Collisions?
Head-on collisions occur when one vehicle strikes another head-on. A head-on collision means that the vehicles collide with the combined force of both vehicles, which can lead to devastating injuries. Unfortunately, Syracuse does have some features that increase the risk of head-on collisions.
Downtown Syracuse has many one-way streets, including Clinton St and Bank St. Some truck drivers are not familiar enough with Syracuse to safely navigate those streets. If truck drivers or, for that matter, other drivers end up traveling the wrong way down a one-way street, it can substantially increase the risk of a collision. Big trucks may have a particularly hard time getting off of those one-way streets and pointing their trucks back in the right direction.
On tight roads, especially when lanes offer little extra room, vehicles of all sizes are more likely to drift into other lanes. When it comes to big trucks, this can prove disastrous. If a big truck crosses the centerline while another vehicle is in the opposite lane, it can result in a head-on collision. Since Syracuse has many tight, difficult-to-navigate streets, this is a constant danger.
Truck drivers spend hours behind the wheel every day, and they often become very comfortable driving. Unfortunately, that comfort behind the wheel can increase the risk that they don’t feel the need to pay close attention every moment behind the wheel. Driver distraction can involve cell phone use, despite that most drivers know the dangers associated with texting and driving, or eating and drinking to save time and avoid a longer break.
While distracted, a driver can easily drift across the centerline and collide head-on with another vehicle.
At a certain point, fatigued drivers become just as dangerously impaired behind the wheel as drunk drivers. Unfortunately, because truck drivers spend long hours on the road—they can spend up to 11 hours out of a 14-hour shift behind the wheel each day—they are more likely to drive while fatigued than other drivers. Fatigued truck drivers also face more challenges than other fatigued drivers, since they must control much larger vehicles.
The greatest danger a fatigued driver poses is that they may fall asleep behind the wheel. Some fatigued drivers microsleep, where they drift off for short periods. Others fully fall asleep, which causes the driver to completely lose control of the vehicle. Even during a microsleep, enough time can pass to result in a head-on collision if the truck slips out of its assigned lane and into another nearby lane of traffic.
Poor Passing Technique
Although truck drivers need more room to maneuver their vehicles and more time to stop or change lanes than passenger vehicle drivers, some truck drivers try to speed through the streets of Syracuse to reduce the time they need to finish their current job. As a result, they may find themselves weaving through traffic, trying to overtake another vehicle. Sometimes, that may mean attempting to pass on a two-lane road. Other times, it may mean that the driver simply swings too far into another lane while changing lanes. Any of these dangerous maneuvers can result in a head-on collision.
Ignoring Traffic Signals
Traffic signals exist to help guide drivers safely through intersections. Red lights and stop signs help control the flow of traffic. Unfortunately, some drivers ignore vital traffic signals, which can substantially raise the risk of collisions.
Who Bears Liability for a Syracuse Head-On Collision With a Big Truck?
After a head-on collision with a big truck, you may have questions about how to seek compensation for your injuries. To start, you will need to hire an attorney to conduct a full investigation of the circumstances that led to your accident. An attorney can examine the available evidence to determine who may share liability for your injuries. Keep in mind that truck accidents often require much more substantial investigations than other types of auto accidents, because injuries are usually more severe and more than one liable party may have contributed.
What act of negligence led to the accident?
In many cases, the truck driver bears liability for the accident, particularly if the driver committed an act of negligence that led to the head-on collision.
Driver negligence might include:
- Driving while intoxicated;
- Choosing to drive while fatigued;
- Driving while distracted;
- Ignoring the rules of the road, including speeding or ignoring traffic signals;
- Allowing the vehicle to drift into another lane of traffic;
- Changing lanes improperly or dangerously; and/or
- Aggressive driving.
Records from the head-on collision, including dashcam footage, can help prove that the truck driver was ignoring the rules of the road at the time of the accident. Sometimes, your lawyer may also have an expert witness take a look at the damage to the two vehicles or the positions of the vehicles at the scene of the accident, which may show how the collision occurred.
In other cases, the driver of another vehicle may bear liability for a head-on collision. For example, the other driver might have drifted into the truck’s lane, rather than the other way around, or ignored the rules of the road by speeding through an intersection without stopping for a red light or stop sign. An investigation may help reveal the details of the accident.
Did other outside factors contribute to the accident?
Sometimes, you may discover that the truck driver alone does not bear liability for the head-on collision. For example, a steering failure or a brake failure could make it impossible for the driver to control their vehicle, leading to a head-on collision. In the case of mechanical failure, your attorney may take a look at the component that failed and who might bear liability for that failed component and the accident that resulted from it.
Did the owner of the truck, usually the trucking company, fail to properly maintain the vehicle? If the driver noted a problem and the trucking company chose to put off repairs, for example, the company could bear liability for any accident caused by that problem. Likewise, if the trucking company failed to conduct needed maintenance and inspection on its vehicles, the company might bear liability for the accident.
Did the trucking company have the vehicle maintained by an outside mechanic, who failed to properly repair the vehicle or caused damage to the vehicle during their repairs? Did a mechanic fail to note a clear problem with the vehicle that they should have seen, given its proximity to recent repairs? If so, the mechanic may share liability for the accident.
If the vehicle had not received maintenance, was not due for maintenance, and the failure occurred due to a manufacturing error, the vehicle manufacturer may share liability for an error that led to a head-on collision.
Did the trucking company share liability for the accident?
Sometimes, after a head-on collision with a truck, you may find that the trucking company shares liability for the actions of its driver. Not only do trucking companies bear a strong duty of care to everyone who shares the road with their drivers when it comes to vehicle maintenance, they must also ensure that their drivers do not pose an undue danger to everyone around them.
The trucking company may share liability for:
- Pressuring or forcing a driver to get behind the wheel despite dangerous conditions, including bad weather, fatigue, illness, or inebriation. Sometimes, trucking companies may ignore a driver’s statement about their current ability to drive or to finish a load and push them to get behind the wheel anyway, even threatening job loss if they do not comply. If the driver then has an accident, the company may share liability for it.
- Breaking the law concerning the number of hours drivers can spend on the road each day. Not only does the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) limit the hour a driver can legally spend on the road out of each shift, the FMCSA also limits how many hours out of each week, on a rolling schedule, truck drivers can get behind the wheel. If a trucking company forces its drivers to break the rules, the company may share liability for any accident the truck driver causes.
- Employing a driver who routinely causes accidents, drinks and drives, or has a history of ignoring the rules of the road. Trucking companies must carefully screen their drivers and keep up with their driving records. If a company fails to watch the driver’s record or if they hire a driver who causes accidents regularly, the trucking company may share liability for any accidents the driver causes.
What to Do After a Head-On Truck Collision in Syracuse
Did you suffer a head-on truck collision in Syracuse? Even at low speed, head-on truck collisions can cause devastating injuries. Make sure you take the right actions to protect yourself after a head-on collision with a truck.
- Report the accident. Obtain a police report, which will be an official record of when the accident took place and provide some basic information about what happened.
- Seek medical attention. Even if you do not believe that you sustained serious injuries in the accident, keep in mind that even a minor head-on collision with a truck involves a great deal of force. Always have your injuries evaluated by a medical professional so that you can get the treatment you need.
- Contact a Syracuse truck accident attorney as soon as possible. A personal injury attorney can help go over the circumstances that led to your accident, evaluate the compensation you deserve, and provide you with information about your rights.
A head-on collision with a big truck in Syracuse can cause immense damage, injuries, and lifelong effects on the victim. After a head-on truck collision, having a truck accident attorney on your side can be critical in pursuing the compensation you deserve.
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.