Commercial trucks are a vital part of the nation’s economy. Transporting goods across the country, trucks allow people to receive the things they need and want in a timely manner. Yet there is a dangerous element to all this commercial trucking traffic, namely blind spots. Truck blind spots or so-called no-zones cause upwards of 400,000 truck accidents across the United States every year. More than 150,000 of these accidents involve fatalities. Victims of an accident involving a truck are urged to contact an experienced truck accident lawyer for expert assistance.
A Closer Look at Truck Blind Spots
The average 18-wheeler truck weighs anywhere from 20,000 to 80,000 pounds and can be as long as 70 feet or more. Their immense size creates large areas where the truck driver is unable to see smaller vehicles traveling in those blind spots. Blind spots in different areas of the truck increase the chance of an accident.
In front of the truck: Truckers are positioned in cabs that are elevated well above the ground. That creates a space directly in front of them, which is blocked by the truck’s hood. This no-zone can be as large as 20 feet. A vehicle that cuts directly in front of the truck may not be visible and is at risk for a tragic collision.
To the rear of the truck: Because the distance from the truck driver’s cab to any vehicle following them is so great, a significant blind spot exists behind the back of the truck. Also, the truck driver’s rearview mirror is not especially effective for viewing cars traveling directly behind the truck. To ensure smaller vehicles can be seen in a trucker’s side mirrors, drivers should try to stay at least 20 car lengths, or four seconds, behind them.
On both sides of the truck: Blind spots on both sides of a large commercial truck are the most dangerous areas in which other vehicles can travel. To the right of the truck, the no-zone can run the entire length of the trailer and extend across three additional lanes. Therefore, whenever possible, other motorists should always try to pass trucks on the left side.
Tools to Help Truck Drivers Prevent Blind Spot Crashes
Every driver has a responsibility to make good decisions behind the wheel to prevent devastating motor vehicle accidents. Commercial truck drivers undergo extensive training to operate these enormous vehicles, and that training covers how to use equipment to minimize the risk of blind spot accidents and other collisions. Some of these tools include the following:
- Blind spot detection: This consists of a light that illuminates on a driver’s side mirror when an object is detected in a blind spot.
- Blind spot mirrors: These are small mirrors that easily attach to existing side mirrors, creating a larger view of the rear and side of the trailer.
- Front and rear-facing cameras: These cameras are hard wired or use a Bluetooth connection to send ground-level images to the driver.
- Lane assist and departure systems: These systems employ collision avoidance technology that either alerts the driver if they drift out of the lane or engages the brakes and reduces speed when a collision is imminent.
How can I Avoid Blind Spot Truck Accidents?
There is a simple way for drivers in passenger vehicles to know if they are in a trucker’s no-zone. If a driver cannot see a truck driver’s face in their side mirror, it is likely the truck driver cannot see them either. Beyond that tip, there are a few other good habits drivers can master when traveling in the vicinity of commercial trucks:
- Avoid lingering in a truck’s blind spot.
- Never tailgate a tractor-trailer, or any vehicle for that matter.
- Before passing a truck, the motorist should look for the truck driver’s face in the side mirror to ensure the trucker can see them.
- Safe passing means signaling early and passing quickly on the left, where the blind spot is shorter.
- Drivers should stay alert for a truck’s turn signals and be mindful to allow plenty of space, as trucks make wide, sweeping turns.
In short, drivers in passenger vehicles should never assume a nearby truck driver can see them. Erring on the side of caution is always a good idea.
Are Serious Injuries More Likely in a Truck Accident?
The average passenger car weighs approximately 2,000 pounds. That is no match for the size and weight of a typical commercial tractor-trailer. Therefore, when the two make impact during a crash, the chance of passengers in the smaller vehicle being injured is high, far more in fact than if two cars collide. In many cases, the injuries are catastrophic. Examples of catastrophic injuries caused by truck accidents include the following trauma:
- Broken bones
- Organ and tissue damage
- Spinal cord damage
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
These conditions often have a severe impact on a person’s quality of life and ability to earn an income. People with catastrophic injuries may have chronic pain and permanent disability that keeps them from going about their daily activities.
What Recourse Do Victims Have in Truck Accidents?
The law allows people injured in traffic crashes to hold reckless truck owners and operators liable when their actions lead to a devastating blind spot accident. The goal with a legal claim is to recover financial compensation for all the ways an injury has impacted one’s life. Damages from a personal injury lawsuit generally compensate for the following:
- Economic losses: Economic losses include medical bills, lost wages, and property damage.
- Non-economic losses: These losses include physical pain and suffering, and mental anguish.
Some lawsuits also award punitive damages, which are strictly used to penalize a defendant who acted with extreme recklessness.
What Should I Do After a No-Zone Truck Accident?
Many truck accidents involving collisions with smaller vehicles in a blind spot will result in serious injuries. Insurance adjusters for the truck owner or trucking company often attempt to skew the facts of a crash claim to save money. A driver accepting even partial fault for a blind spot accident will impact the outcome of a claim. Regardless of how the accident transpired, the first step for anyone involved in a serious accident is to enlist the counsel of a lawyer before moving forward with the insurance company. A truck accident lawyer’s job is to do the following:
- Gather the facts of the case
- Assess liability
- Calculate financial losses
- Recommend the most sensible legal course of action
If it is shown the truck driver could and should have avoided the accident with the smaller vehicle, their insurance company will likely offer a financial settlement. The injured person’s lawyer reviews the settlement and advises the client if the offer seems fair and reasonable.
What Defense Strategies are Commonly Used in Blind Spot Claims?
When it comes to blind spot accidents involving trucks, the truck driver’s insurance company might make the following assertions:
- The other driver passed unsafely.
- The other driver caused the accident by following too closely.
- The other driver was traveling too fast or too slow for the truck driver to see them.
If these accusations do not reflect how the blind spot accident transpired, they will likely be disproved during the litigation process. To resolve a negligence lawsuit against a truck driver successfully, the injured person, the plaintiff, must satisfy four separate elements:
- Duty: The defendant, the truck driver in this case, owed a legal duty to the plaintiff to operate the truck safely.
- Breach of duty: The defendant breached that duty by failing to detect and avoid the other vehicle.
- Causation: The defendant’s actions, or failure to act, directly caused the blind spot accident and resulting injury.
- Damages: The plaintiff suffered losses because of the defendant’s actions, or failure to act.
Navigating around enormous tractor-trailers can be quite disconcerting, especially after learning more about how limited the driver’s visibility can be. Although drivers in smaller vehicles must do their part to avoid these blind spots, ultimately, truck drivers must ensure no one is in their path as they travel along the highway.
It is not easy to go up against the legal teams representing large trucking companies. It takes a skilled and determined lawyer to advocate effectively for the injured party and prove these four essential elements to recover damages. For someone whose life has been irrevocably changed by a devastating physical injury, that compensation offers much-needed peace of mind.
Freehold Truck Accident Lawyers at Ellis Law Offer Premium Legal Guidance for Clients Injured in Serious Truck Accidents
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident involving a truck, the Freehold truck accident lawyers at Ellis Law have considerable experience resolving complex personal injury claims and achieving justice for injured clients. We advocate for you and will not back down when dealing with formidable truck fleets and their insurance companies. You can trust us to manage every detail of your claim so you can focus on recuperating and moving on with your life. Call us at 732-308-0200 or contact us online for a free consultation. 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.