Tractor trailer accidents with a motor vehicle are the most deadly traffic-related accidents that can occur.
On average, more than 4,000 people in the United States die each year in motor vehicle accidents involving a tractor trailer.
An accident is an experience no one wants to go through, but an accident involving a tractor trailer can be catastrophic.
Causes of Tractor Trailer Accidents
Tractor trailer accidents happen for many reasons. Here are two of the top reasons that they might occur.
Being Pushed by Management
Although the trucking industry is regulated by the federal government, many trucking companies still push their tractor trailer drivers to work long hours. They do this by providing drivers bonus pay based on the number of miles they drive, the number of deliveries they are able to make, or simply threaten the drivers with the loss of their jobs.
Drivers find it hard to say no to their employer under these types of threats which can lead to driver fatigue and deadly accidents.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the agency that oversees the trucking industry, driver fatigue, especially in tractor trailer accidents, is a serious problem.
Inexperience in Operating Heavy Vehicles
Driver inexperience is also another contributing factor to many accidents. There is a high demand for tractor trailer drivers due to the increase in demand of consumer goods and consumers expecting items delivered to their doorstep in a timely manner.
There are not enough drivers to meet the demand so many inexperienced drivers are on the road.
Tractor trailers weigh roughly 80,000 pounds and are often over 50 feet long, so it takes a long time and specialized training to know how to correctly operate one of these massive machines.
Given the size, a collision involving a tractor trailer can be a catastrophic event, and is why such a high number of deaths occur each year with these types of collisions.
What to Do After a Tractor Trailer Accident
Below you’ll find our guide to help you protect yourself and your loved ones if you are ever involved in a collision with a tractor trailer semi.
1. Get the right treatment for your injuries
Your health should be your top priority after an accident. If there are life-threatening injuries, excessive bleeding, unconsciousness, or breathing issues, you should call 911 and/or head to the emergency room right away.
Consider going to an urgent care center for less serious injuries that may require same day care for issues such as:
- Cuts and abrasions
- Minor broken bones
- Whiplash or bruises
It is important to ensure you are getting proper medical care to avoid aggravating or exacerbating your injuries. Getting this treatment is critical to protecting your legal rights.
2. Don’t Delay
If there is a significant delay between the date of the tractor trailer accident and the date you visited a health care provider, the claims adjuster will contest the severity of your injuries, regardless of the validity of your injuries.
The assumption by the insurance company is that you would have sought immediate medical treatment if you were hurt badly. An insurer could take advantage of the delay and use the information as grounds to offer a lower settlement amount.
The best rule of thumb is to seek care the same day of the collision or at least within 72 hours afterward.
3. Exchange Information with the Tractor Trailer Truck Operator
As with any crash, you should obtain basic contact and insurance details from the operator of the tractor trailer. However, with a truck accident, it’s also important to get information regarding that person’s employment if possible.
You may have a claim against the driver’s employer, trucking company, or other entities involved with operating the truck as a business. In an accident, often there is one company that owns the truck, one company that owns the trailer, and one company that employs the driver.
There may also be different entities involved based on the type of cargo. For example, one company may be hired to load the goods onto the truck, while another company may be involved in the actual production of the cargo.
Regardless, it’s important to get as much information from the accident as possible at the time of the accident.
4. Gather Information and Evidence
If you’re physically able based upon the nature of your injuries, try to get as much detail from the scene of the accident as possible. Use your cell phone to take pictures of the surrounding area, noting traffic signals, signs, lanes of traffic, obstacles to visibility, and other factors.
If there are individuals who may have witnessed the collision, obtain their contact information as well.
In addition, if there are businesses in the immediate vicinity, you may approach them regarding the presence of security cameras. The video footage may have captured important details that relate to the accident.
5. Don’t Make Statements to the Insurance Company
There are many DO’s involved with trucking accidents, and one very important DON’T. Other than notifying the truck driver’s insurance company about the crash, never make any other statements to the insurance company.
As mentioned, insurers are typically working against you as the victim of a crash. They don’t have your best interest in mind, so you put your rights at risk by discussing the accident and your injuries.
6. Consult with a Lawyer Experienced in Tractor Trailer Accidents
As soon as possible after the incident, you should reach out to a lawyer that focuses on truck accident claims.
Your attorney will handle the claims process with the insurance company, including:
- Conducting an investigation;
- Collecting and reviewing your medical records;
- Preparing claims forms and supporting documentation; and,
- Negotiations with the insurance company.
Attorneys know the tricks insurers use as a basis for denying payment or offering a low-ball settlement amount, such as blaming the accident on you or contesting the severity of your injuries.
If your lawyer cannot reach a fair, reasonable settlement amount with the insurer, the next step is taking the matter to court.
Litigation involves technical, complex areas of law, along with very strict court procedural rules. Your attorney will fight for your rights throughout the legal process when they are:
- Drafting the complaint to initiate the crash lawsuit;
- Attending all court hearings and conferences;
- Raising motions that favor your position;
- Defending motions brought by the defendant;
- Engaging in discovery, including requests for documents and written interrogatories;
- Taking the depositions of the truck operator, employer, witnesses, and other entities involved in the case; and,
- Preparing for and representing you at trial.
Learn More About Tractor Trailer Accidents
Full Episode Transcript
Welcome to Legal Squeaks. I’m Dennis VanDerGinst. If you haven’t already done so, please be sure to subscribe to Legal Squeaks on your favorite podcast platform.
Today I’m going to talk to you about commercial truck accidents. From a lay perspective, it may not seem important to distinguish these type of accidents from other traffic accidents, but they are very different and distinct from accidents that only involve passenger vehicles. So this is a topic that’s definitely worthy of its own discussion.
And I have a special passion about this topic because I have served on the Interstate Trucking Litigation Group of the American Association for Justice for many years, and I currently serve on the National Advisory Council for the Association of Plaintiff Interstate Trucking Lawyers of America.
As an attorney, I’ve handled numerous cases involving big rigs and other large commercial trucks. And on a personal level, I’ve had loved ones who have been involved in these accidents. So I, I know firsthand the devastation that these types of accidents can cause.
So the term commercial vehicle usually indicates any motor vehicle that’s used to transport goods or paying passengers, but when I use the term commercial trucks, I mean the types of vehicles that can really create havoc and serious accidents on the roadways. For instance, the vehicles that are sometimes referred to as big rigs or tractor trailers, semis, 18 wheelers.
Similar concerns would exist for tanker trucks, busses, box trucks, any large truck of that nature. These vehicles are held to a heightened safety standard due to that size and power.
Drivers are required to undergo specific training to operate them, and the vehicles themselves are subject to regular inspections. Accident cases involving those types of vehicles can be considerably more complex than a regular car accident might have been. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, between 2000 and 2018, nearly 90,000 people died in the United States because of crashes involving large trucks and busses. During that same period of time, over 1.8 million people were injured in accidents involving big trucks and busses.
Now, obviously, people can be injured or killed in regular traffic accidents as well. You know, it doesn’t have to involve a commercial truck, but the risk of death or serious injury resulting from these accidents is much higher due to the size and weight of these types of commercial vehicles. Don’t get me wrong, the overwhelming majority of truck drivers are safe and thoughtful drivers. In fact, I’ve got several family members who either are currently or have in the past been over the road truck drivers. In addition, most trucking companies adhere to the applicable state and national regulations regarding training and supervision of drivers and the inspection and maintenance of vehicles.
And accidents involving large trucks are often, you know, not their fault, often it’s the fault of people driving smaller cars around them who fail to take into account the size of the trucks, the lack of maneuverability, or the large blind spots that some, sometimes exist with trucks, especially older trucks. But having said that, large truck drivers do cause their fair share of accidents as well. And one of the main concerns with this type of vehicle is that given the fact that it has extremely high inertia, it means that it takes longer for it to stop.
And if a driver doesn’t leave adequate room between that commercial vehicle and the car in front of it, he or she might end up rear ending someone with disastrous consequences. So, like I mentioned, regular maintenance of big rigs and other large commercial vehicles is extremely important, and that’s because commercial vehicles are required to adhere to certain safety standards for their air brakes. Large commercial vehicles are notorious for brake problems, and inspecting the vehicle after an accident can reveal important information about the state of its braking system, including brake lining adjustments and durability tests.
Equipment malfunction is often a contributing factor in these types of accidents. Trucking companies have to keep a record of the vehicle maintenance, but they’re allowed to discard those records after a certain period of time, you know, and it’s very, very common that those records are crucial to evaluating accident cases. So it’s really important to gain access to them right away before all the relevant maintenance records are either destroyed or discarded somehow.
Another source of negligence might be the company who loaded and secured the cargo in the tractor trailer. Sometimes loads are too heavy or they’re not properly secured so that they shift when the vehicle is moving or making turns. And that causes the vehicle to become unstable and perhaps tip over or again, get the momentum going in such a fashion that they cannot, the driver loses control of the vehicle causing an accident.
Speaking of the driver losing control, driver error may be a cause, obviously, of big rig accidents as well. Truck drivers have the same distractions as other drivers on the roadways, including sometimes being distracted due to texting or phone usage. But in addition to those other typical distractions that we all face when we’re driving, truckers can have long hours on the road, which can cause fatigue, which often, often is going to contribute to accidents.
In addition, there’s there’s the stress of constantly rushing to meet deadlines with respect to deliveries, and that can play an adverse impact on physical and mental health. Intoxication can be a part of the puzzle. It’s always good to do an extensive search into the driving histories in order to determine what the exact nature of the delivery was, and that can be useful for building a case.
If an operator, for instance, has a poor driving record, it’s much more likely that the accident was a result of his or her human error. Speaking of drivers, a commercial driver’s license, CDL, is the driver’s license required to operate large, heavy or placarded hazardous material vehicles and commerce. The Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act established the minimum requirement that must be met when a state issues a CDL. And there are different classes of licensure and endorsements which are going to determine what types of vehicles a person is allowed to operate.
Sometimes there are other outside factors that contributed, that may contribute to these types of accidents, including weather conditions, road conditions, road work, dangerous roadways. These are all factors that need to be evaluated to see what impact they may have had on any given scenario when we’re talking about an accident involving a large truck, or a big rig or, you know, a tanker truck, for instance. Speaking of injuries from a commercial vehicle accident can also be complicated.
Obviously, there’s the risk of serious bodily injury or death, but if the vehicle was carrying a harmful substance such as chemicals, then the victims are at risk for suffering a myriad of other medical problems.
In the worst case scenario, sometimes the cargo might even increase the risk of cancer or respiratory problems, which could affect the person’s quality of life and employment opportunities for the rest of his or her her life. So there are a number of things that are pertinent to large truck accident cases that just don’t usually arise in your typical passenger vehicle car accidents.
That’s why it’s important that if you’ve had an accident that involves this type of consideration, that you have an attorney helping you, that is familiar with the rules and regulations that impact these types of accidents, I hope this information has been useful. And I also hope you never have to use it.
If you have any questions, VanDerGinst Law is always honored to help.
Again, please be sure to subscribe and review Legal Squeaks as well as our other podcast, Uncommon Convos.
Also, check out legalsqueaks.com, where you can suggest topics for upcoming podcasts.
So please have a great day. Stay safe. And I love you all.
How Contacting a Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help
Contacting a lawyer right away after a truck collision is an advantage in ensuring you get the compensation you deserve as an injured victim. With an attorney’s help, you’re in a better position to recover the full amount of monetary damages you’re allowed by law, including:
- Medical costs, such as surgery, emergency care, long-term treatment, rehabilitation, and others;
- Lost wages, if you’re out of work because of your injuries;
- Pain and suffering;
- Emotional anguish;
- Scarring and disfigurement;
- Decreased quality of life and enjoyment; and,
- Losses based upon how your injuries affect your personal relationships.
Contact VanDerGinst Law For Help
VanDerGinst Law has experience helping victims of tractor trailer accidents all across the country.
If you’ve been involved in such an accident, it may be time to call VanDerGinst Law.
We have a team of experienced attorneys ready to help you fight for your right to compensation.
We take care of everything on the legal side while you take the time to heal and recover from your injuries.
There is no attorney fee on your injury case unless we are successful in getting you compensation. That means not a dime out of pocket for you.
We would be honored to help.
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