Large commercial truck accidents are, unfortunately, a common occurrence on U.S. roadways. And, contrary to popular belief, the majority of accidents involving large trucks happen on rural or local roads. When smaller passenger vehicles collide with large trucks, vehicle occupants often sustain significant injuries, or even fatalities.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in a recent year, over 150,000 people suffered injuries in collisions involving large trucks, and more than 4,900 fatalities were reported.
Determining the underlying causes that contributed to a truck accident can be a difficult process. However, investigating how and why a truck accident occurred may be necessary when identifying all potentially liable parties and establishing legal responsibility for accident-related damages.
Different Types of Truck Accidents
There are a variety of types of truck accidents that frequently occur on the nation’s roadways. Each type of truck accident poses different risks of damage and injuries to motor vehicles and their occupants. Depending on the circumstances, the type of accident may provide victims with valuable information about the underlying causes that led to the collision.
A few of the most common types of truck accidents include:
- Underride/override accidents – Underride and override accidents occur when a passenger vehicle becomes trapped underneath the rear end, side, or front of a large truck. A driver may not see a truck when changing lanes, and accidentally slide underneath the truck. On the other hand, an override accident occurs when a truck driver is unaware of a smaller vehicle and runs over it.
- Head-on collisions – Head-on collisions typically involve a forceful impact between the vehicles involved, oftentimes resulting in severe injuries and fatalities.
- Jack-knife accidents – A jackknife accident occurs when the trailer portion of a truck loses control and swings towards the driver’s cab, forming a 90-degree angle. When a truck and its cabin move in opposite directions, the truck can fold across multiple lanes of traffic causing damages to any nearby vehicles.
- Rear-end accidents – A rear end-accident happens when a truck collides with the rear end of another vehicle.
- Tire blowouts – Tire blowouts are accidents that occur when debris from a tire blowout impacts other vehicles or a driver loses control following a blowout, causing the truck itself to collide with other vehicles.
- Rollover accidents – A rollover truck accident happens when a truck driver loses control of the vehicle and it rolls onto its side or causes another vehicle it collides with to roll over.
Most Common Causes of Truck Accidents
A truck accident can occur for the same reasons as other motor vehicle accidents. However, most motorists may not know the dangers in the trucking industry.
Additionally, truck accidents typically result from a combination of contributing factors. After an accident, victims must investigate and research all possible factors to determine which parties may be liable for their injuries and the damages resulting from an accident. Hiring an attorney with knowledge of and experience handling truck accident cases can thoroughly consider all potential causes to determine the liability of each party involved.
Distracted Driving & Other Reckless Behaviors by the Truck Driver
Distracted driving may involve anything that takes a driver’s eye off the road, hands of the wheel, or mind off driving. Using a cell phone while driving, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, driving recklessly through traffic, or speeding are all driver behaviors that may directly or indirectly contribute to causing a truck accident.
Improper Hiring of Drivers
Trucking companies have a legal responsibility to not only verify proper licensing for commercial truck drivers but also conduct background checks on prospective employees before hiring. A trucking company may share liability for an accident when negligent hiring practices or a failure to research a driver’s driving record or background leads to an employee causing an accident.
Violations of Labor Rules by Trucking Company
The trucking industry as a whole is well-known for pressuring drivers to meet delivery deadlines within unforgiving time windows. Federal and state regulations have developed protections for drivers so they are well-rested between shifts to ensure safe operation of commercial vehicles. However, in the interest of gaining profit, some companies will blatantly violate or try to circumvent time restrictions on driving hours provided by the regulations.
Trucking companies that overwork their drivers increase the risk of accidents because driving while fatigued may lead to slower reaction times or drivers falling asleep at the wheel. Should fatigued driving lead to an accident, trucking companies may be held liable if they require their employees to work beyond what the regulations permit.
Negligent Loading of Cargo
Cargo must be properly loaded and adequately secured to ensure the truck can operate safely. A trucking company itself or a third party shipping company may be responsible for loading cargo onto a truck for shipping. If the improper loading or securing of cargo causes an accident, the parties responsible for loading may be liable for the resulting injuries and damages.
Transport of Hazardous Shipments
In some situations, the shipment may involve dangerous or hazardous materials. And, when a truck accident occurs, injuries and damage can be worsened by the presence of these dangerous materials. In these scenarios, the individual or company distributing dangerous materials may be liable for any injuries and damages resulting from the truck accident.
Improper Maintenance or Faulty Truck Equipment or Parts
Proper maintenance of trucks used for transport and distribution is imperative to maintain safety for all motorists sharing the roadways. Truck drivers, as well as trucking companies, are responsible for adequately maintaining their vehicles, including timely performing repairs for any issues that may create dangerous conditions for vehicle operation. Beyond the need for repairs and maintenance, manufacturers may share liability if truck parts or equipment are faulty or negligently designed and contribute to causing an accident.
Truck Accidents Resulting in Injuries Require Specialized Knowledge
As mentioned, determining causation and identifying all potentially liable parties after a truck accident is a complicated and difficult process. If you sustained injuries in a truck accident, contact a truck accident attorney with experience and knowledge of truck accidents to discuss your case.
Several factors may have contributed to causing the accident. Discovering all the possible factors, as well as the parties that may be liable, is an integral part of strengthening a claim and ensuring injured victims receive the compensation they deserve.