Commercial truck accidents are some of the most devastating, destructive accidents that occur on roads and highways across the country. Most truck accidents are caused by unsafe driver behavior, including drowsy driving, distracted driving, speeding, and drunk driving. However, inclement weather conditions, such as rain, snow, and fog, can also make road conditions treacherous for truck drivers. Another weather-related hazard that is particularly dangerous for large trucks is heavy wind. Although truck drivers cannot control the weather, they can take safety precautions when inclement weather is expected. If they fail to do so, they can be held liable for injuries resulting from the accidents.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), winds that are greater than 25 miles per hour can have a significant impact on a truck driver’s ability to maintain control of a large commercial truck. Because of the large surface area, the trailer can essentially become like a large sail, increasing the wind resistance on one side of the truck. A heavy gust of wind can cause the truck to tip over and crash, resulting in massive property damage and devastating injuries and fatalities to other motorists involved. Areas that are particularly susceptible to high winds include highways, bridges, overpasses, and open prairies. Experienced truck drivers should be aware of these risks and take the appropriate precautions if winds are too strong.
What are Common Causes of Wind-Related Truck Accidents?
There are several factors that can increase the risk of a catastrophic truck accident during windy weather conditions, including the following:
- High crosswinds: A strong gust of wind can cause the trailer to sway as it travels along a road or highway. If the wind is particularly strong, it can cause the truck to tip over. If the truck driver is driving too fast for conditions when this happens, it can cause a catastrophic accident.
- Improperly loaded cargo: When a truck’s cargo is not loaded properly, the contents of the trailer can shift. A sudden change in weight distribution can affect the truck driver’s ability to safely navigate the truck, particularly during high winds. An empty trailer is also very susceptible to tipping over during windy conditions. In fact, local wind restrictions prohibit truck drivers from operating an empty rig on certain roads and bridges during heavy winds. If a truck is empty or improperly loaded, the truck driver may be held liable for injuries resulting from a truck accident.
- Failure to take appropriate action for weather conditions: Truck drivers have a responsibility to check the weather on a regular basis, including reports about windy conditions. If the weather report calls for strong winds, truck drivers must take the appropriate safety precautions, including slowing down to a safe speed, pulling over until the weather conditions improve, and planning an alternate route that avoids high-risk areas, such as bridges, overpasses, and highways.
What Types of Truck Accidents are Caused by Strong Winds?
Poor weather conditions can make it more difficult for a truck driver to maintain control of the truck or come to a complete stop to avoid a collision. High winds can increase the following types of truck accidents:
- Rollover accidents: This is the most common type of truck accident that is caused by windy conditions. If a gust of wind hits the trailer, causing the driver to lose control of the vehicle, it can roll over on its side. If this occurs on a busy highway, other vehicles can be crushed by the overturned truck.
- Underride accidents: If a truck driver hits the brakes in an effort to maintain control of the truck that has been hit by a gust of wind, a motorist who is following too closely can crash into the rear or side of the truck and slide underneath. These accidents often result in devastating injuries and fatalities.
- Jackknife accidents: This occurs when a truck driver hits the brakes too hard, or too quickly, causing the trailer to fold in on itself at the point of separation, forming a 90-degree angle. If other cars are in the vicinity of the truck when this happens, it can cause a serious accident involving multiple vehicles.
- Lost load accidents: When cargo is not properly loaded for windy conditions, contents in the truck can come loose and fall out of the trailer and onto the road. Other motorists attempting to swerve out of the way to avoid the debris can crash into the truck or other vehicles on the road.
What are Common Injuries Associated with Wind-Related Truck Accidents?
Truck accidents are usually quite serious and can require costly medical care. The following are examples of injuries associated with truck accidents, including those that are caused by strong wind:
- Back and neck injuries: Whiplash is the most common example of this type of injury. Like any injury, if it is not properly treated, it can cause chronic pain and discomfort.
- Spinal cord injuries: This can cause partial or complete paralysis, depending on the location of the injury. If a motorist suffers permanent paralysis, it can involve multiple surgeries, physical therapy, and adaptive devices, which can be very costly.
- Head and brain injuries: These can range from minor concussions to serious traumatic brain injuries. Serious head injuries can cause permanent physical and cognitive impairments that may require ongoing rehabilitation, therapy, or long-term care.
- Burns: If a truck’s fuel tank erupts in an accident, a fire can spread quickly, causing serious burns to motorists involved in the accident. These can be extremely painful and often require multiple grafting procedures.
- Amputation and disfigurement: If an injury to an arm or leg is too severe, amputation may be necessary. These injuries require continued medical treatment, as well as adaptive prosthetics to walk, drive, and complete daily tasks.
- Internal injuries: The extreme impact of a truck accident can cause a range of internal injuries, including those to the bladder, spleen, liver, and kidneys. These can quickly become life-threatening if not treated, particularly if a vital organ is damaged, or if the injured victim is having trouble breathing as a result of a punctured lung.
How can Wind-Related Truck Accidents be Prevented?
The FMCSA urges truck drivers to keep the following regulations in mind when driving during windy conditions:
- Check the weather report, as it affects the truck driver’s route.
- Pay attention to signage, flags, trees, and foliage that can indicate excessive winds in the area.
- Secure all loose cargo and make sure that it is evenly distributed and tightly fastened.
- Follow the speed limit and reduce speed if the weather warrants it.
- Understand the impact that wind can have on a large commercial truck, and that light or empty trailers are more dangerous to haul during heavy winds.
- Stop driving until winds have died down.
Why Should I Hire a Truck Accident Lawyer?
Even if a truck accident is caused by strong wind, the truck driver may bear some responsibility for the accident. For example, a truck driver may be considered negligent if he or she was speeding, driving while distracted, driving carelessly, or did not properly secure the load during windy weather. Experienced truck accident lawyers have a vast knowledge of the law as it relates to the trucking industry. A skilled truck accident lawyer will collect the necessary evidence to determine whether the truck driver was negligent, including the truck’s electronic control module, also known as a black box, medical records of injuries sustained, and property damage to the vehicles. In addition, an experienced legal team will ensure that victims are aware of all deadlines and federal regulations that may impact their case.
Freehold Truck Accident Lawyers at Ellis Law Secure Maximum Compensation for Victims of Truck Accidents
If you or someone you know was seriously injured in a truck accident that occurred during high winds, it is in your best interest to contact a Freehold truck accident lawyer at Ellis Law. We understand how devastating these accidents can be, and the physical and emotional trauma they can cause. Our dedicated and experienced legal team will investigate the details of your case and ensure that the negligent party is held liable for your injuries. We will not stop fighting for you until we secure the maximum financial compensation you deserve. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 732-308-0200 or contact us online.
Located in Freehold, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout East Brunswick, Toms River, Middletown, Jersey City, Neptune, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, and Ocean County, as well as Brooklyn and New York, New York.