How are Truck Accidents Different from Car Accidents?

Large trucks are ubiquitous on the road. Because car drivers encounter large trucks frequently, they need to be careful when maneuvering around them. At the same time, truck drivers need to be careful because they are in charge of large vehicles and heavy loads. All motor vehicle accidents have negative consequences. However, crashes involving commercial trucks are more likely to result in death for the following reasons:

  • Cars weigh an average of 4,000 pounds, whereas a fully loaded tractor trailer can weigh up to 80,000 pounds.
  • Trucks may be carrying flammable liquid, hazardous chemicals, or other dangerous cargo.
  • Trucks have reduced maneuverability and take much longer to brake than cars. It is also far more difficult for trucks to maneuver, especially on poor road conditions.

When an accident involves only two cars, ascertaining liability is primarily a matter of determining which driver was at-fault. It may be much more complicated to determine liability in accidents involving commercial trucks, since multiple parties may have been negligent.

Truck accidents can also spill into other lanes on the highway, take down power poles or lamp posts, and truck cabs can detach from their trailers. An otherwise benign load could spill onto the road, crash into another vehicle, or stop traffic. Therefore, it is important for both truck and car drivers to look out for one another on the road.

Trucks are also very tall, and the tailgate or undercarriage of a standard cargo trailer can trap a car that has changed lanes or swerved to avoid another accident. A car could be completely crumpled when it crashes into the rear of a large truck, and a large truck can cause considerable damage to another vehicle in a rear-end accident.

The New Jersey truck accident lawyers at Ellis Law are available when an accident occurs because compensation may be required for everyone involved to make a full recovery. We will investigate the case, determine what happened, and hold all responsible parties liable for the damages that were incurred.

What Should I Do After a Truck Accident?

It is important for drivers to know what to do if they are involved in an accident with a large truck. Although some people may be injured, it helps to know what should be done. Anyone who can handle the following steps should take charge of the accident scene until the police and ambulance arrive:

  • Seek medical attention. Drivers should turn on their hazard lights, call 911, and wait for help to arrive. It is best to go to the hospital even if there does not appear to be an obvious injury. A medical evaluation is critical for making a strong claim, and injuries may not appear until later. This is especially true with whiplash and internal injuries.
  • Exchange information. Drivers should cooperate with police officers and provide their driver’s license, insurance card, and car registration information to everyone who is involved in the accident. Also, it is helpful to write down the badge number and name of the officer who handled the report. The officer can tell everyone the report number and where to obtain a copy.
  • Gather evidence. If it is safe to do so, someone should take pictures of the accident scene. It is important to reach out to anyone who might have seen the accident. Eyewitness accounts from people who saw the accident, but were not involved, can be critical.
  • Contact the insurance company. The driver should tell the insurance company the location of the accident but not agree to a settlement or offer a recorded statement. The insurance company should be informed only that the accident is being handled and a claim will be filed at some point.
  • Hire a truck accident lawyer. A truck accident lawyer can explain everyone’s rights, as well as the coverage provided by any applicable insurance policy. This will be critical to maximizing compensation. An adjuster works on behalf of the insurance company, not the victim. The attorney’s job is to represent the victim’s best interests. Clients should allow the lawyer to collect evidence and speak with all parties involved in the case. If a lawyer, insurance company, or other driver reaches out, all communications should be forwarded back to our office. We will speak on behalf of the victims.

There are also a few things that should not be done at an accident scene or in the aftermath of an accident, including:

  • Not admitting fault. Drivers should not say anything to other drivers or the police that suggests admitting fault. Also, drivers should not say anything about feeling physically fine; it is best to simply say that everyone in the car wants to see a doctor to be evaluated. Admitting fault or commenting on a lack of injuries may reduce the value of a personal injury
  • Not agreeing to a quick settlement. The trucking company’s insurance agent may arrive at the scene. The company has an incentive to settle as soon as possible because they want to minimize the amount they pay for the crash and close the case rapidly. Therefore, it is important to contact an attorney as soon as possible.

Truck Accident Injuries and Fatalities

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), there were nearly 165,000 crashes involving large trucks in 2018; almost half of them involved injuries. Nearly 5,000 of those truck accidents were fatal. Although there are more car accidents than truck accidents each year in the U.S., the fatality rate for truck accidents is more than four times higher. In 2018, there were approximately six million car accidents per year, resulting in nearly 40,000 fatalities.

Because it is the most congested state in America, New Jersey can be an especially difficult place to drive. People driving in and out of New York City add to the congestion. High speeds and large vehicles can cause a range of injuries, including the following:

  • Amputations: These can occur after an accident because severe injuries may require an amputation. The immense weight and power of large trucks could even cause amputations during the accident.
  • Brain injuries: These injuries can cause the victim to lose their motor skills, experience headaches, mental issues, or even death. Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) may require a lifetime of care because of the severity of the injury.
  • Broken bones: These may not seem so severe in the wake of a crash. Someone who has aches and pains may believe that those aches and pains will subside in time. Therefore, victims should go to the hospital immediately for X-rays.
  • Broken ribs: These can be caused by the impact of the crash and the pressure that the seat belt puts on the body when it pulls someone against the seat. Broken ribs can be mistaken for aches and pains to the chest, but they can puncture lungs and make it difficult to walk, sit, or sleep.
  • Burns: Burns can occur in a car crash, but they might look like rub burn. These burns should be treated by a medical professional because they could become infected.
  • Cuts and scrapes: These injuries should be treated because they may be more severe than accident victims believe. Glass that shatters can cut anyone at the accident scene, and these cuts could leave glass embedded in the skin and result in infection.
  • Musculoskeletal damage: These injuries can include tendon and ligament damage, which often occur in the legs and feet. Victims might feel as if they cannot walk properly, or they may need physical therapy because they have torn muscles, tendons, or ligaments.
  • Whiplash: This one of the most difficult injuries for a victim to pinpoint. Whiplash can cause severe neck and shoulder pain. It can be difficult to sleep or focus, and the victim should be checked as soon as possible. Whiplash claims that come up weeks or even months after an accident may look suspicious. Therefore, victims of an accident are urged to seek immediate medical attention.
  • Spinal cord injuries and paralysis: These injuries can occur during any type of crash. Anyone who has been severely injured should be left in place until EMTs or firemen can move them safely. These injuries may not be severe when the accident occurs, but they can worsen over time without proper medical treatment.

All injuries require medical treatment; some may be permanent and/or life threatening. That is why it is important for accident victims to reach out to a skilled truck accident lawyer who can obtain the financial compensation needed to pay for medical bills, therapy, and other expenses.

Types of Truck Accidents

Owing to the size, weight, and design of commercial trucks, accidents involving these vehicles can take several forms, including the following:

  • Jackknifed tractor trailer: This occurs when the trailer ends up in a position that is at a 90-degree angle to the truck cab. Secondary accidents can occur when cars attempt to stop quickly. The trailer could detach from the cab, and the vehicle could continue to slide for several yards before stopping. The trailer might also snake back and forth, depending on how the truck driver reacts to gain control of the vehicle.
  • Tall trucks tipping over: A truck may tip over if the driver tries to turn too fast and the truck is empty or improperly loaded. When these trucks tip over, they might fall on other vehicles. High winds can also tip over trucks, and poorly maintained roads can cause the driver to overcorrect and tip the vehicle over.
  • Sideswipes: This is a potentially fatal type of accident that occurs when a car is pushed under a truck. A truck could change lanes without seeing the other vehicle, or a driver who is zipping through traffic could slide under the truck and get stuck.
  • Accidents caused by blind spots: Trucks have several blind spots; when a car is in a truck’s blind spot, the truck driver cannot see the car. Blind spot accidents may occur when a truck turns or changes lanes. Drivers who are riding alongside large trucks should pass or fall back to avoid these crashes. Drivers on residential roads should not try to make turns with big trucks because the trailer cuts the corner tighter than the truck cab itself.
  • Load spill: A truck may overturn and lose its cargo if it is overloaded or the freight is not balanced properly. The driver may not have secured the load, or the crew may not have loaded the truck properly. Erratic driving and poor road conditions might also jostle the truck that the load spills or becomes imbalanced.

In many cases, the driver of the truck is not hurt because they are protected by the weight and size of the truck. However, if the accident also involves a car, those drivers or passengers face a larger risk of injury or death. More than four out of five truck accident fatalities were passengers in other vehicles, bicyclists, or pedestrians, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). A truck accident lawyer will help clients determine how the truck driver failed to maintain a safe rig, as well as consider other variables that might have caused the accident.

What Causes Truck Accidents?

Driver error is the biggest cause of motor vehicle accidents. However, there are underlying factors that are unique to accidents involving trucks, including the following:

Truck Malfunction

Some trucking accidents are caused by a defect or malfunction that is not the fault of any one person. However, the trucking company may still be responsible for any damages caused to innocent victims. Like traditional automobiles, common malfunctions in large commercial trucks include faulty air horns, brake malfunctions, tire defects, gas tank explosions, and broken trailer hitches. Any defect in a large truck can potentially cause accidents that result in serious injuries or even death of others on the road. The injured party may be entitled to financial compensation from the truck’s owner, manufacturer, or repair shop.

Additionally, truck parts may have caused the malfunction. If this occurs, the manufacturer of those parts may be held liable; the parts may not have been recalled properly or the mechanic may have known that the parts were faulty.

Blind Spots

As mentioned, one of the biggest hazards of a large commercial truck involve its large blind spots. Entering the blind spot of a large truck should always be avoided if possible as some truck drivers are not aware of their own blind spots. These areas should be clearly marked with warning stickers. In some cases, the driver of the truck or trucking company can be held responsible if they do not properly warn other drivers on the road of their blind spots. Despite blind spots, truckers are still responsible for safe driving.

Adverse Weather Conditions

Adverse weather conditions can cause drivers to slide off the road, swerve, and crash. High winds can tip over a vehicle and slippery roads can cause the trailer to jackknife. Heavy snow might cover ice that will cause a truck to slide and heavy rains might reduce visibility. Truck drivers are encouraged to pull over and use their hazard lights during inclement weather. However, some drivers may be too concerned with getting to their intended destination. Drivers of other vehicles should also pull over and turn on their hazard lights when they cannot see or if they feel unsafe because of weather conditions.

Poor Road Conditions

Poor road conditions can cause trucks to crash because potholes, rutted roads, and shifting lanes can cause problems for drivers. Truck drivers should be aware of road conditions, slow down when necessary, and try to avoid roads that they know are difficult to drive. Drivers should forward this information to their dispatch team so that these roads can be avoided in the future.

Speeding

Large truck drivers must slow down and be aware of how much they are using their brakes. In like manner, car drivers should not cut off large trucks or force these drivers to slam on their brakes. The problem is even more pronounced on roads with steep inclines. The brakes on a large truck can easily overheat.

Determining Liability After a Truck Accident

Accidents caused by tractor trailers result in many injuries each year. Truck drivers and the companies they work for are responsible for operating their vehicles with the utmost care and safety and may be held liable for any accidents caused. The following are potential parties that can be held liable for a truck accident:

Truck Drivers

It is reported that 87 percent of truck accidents can be attributed to driver error or negligence. Truck drivers are trained to operate their vehicles safely and submit to roadside checks when required. Truck drivers are also responsible for maintaining a log of their driving hours to ensure they obtain enough rest to not fall asleep at the wheel. New regulations are now being implemented requiring electronic log devices (ELDs). Drivers are responsible for properly using and maintaining apps and other systems to ensure the ELDs are capturing the required data. Drivers must also be aware of the condition of their vehicles and stop if any equipment is malfunctioning.

Drivers should check their brakes before they start driving for the day and check their loads if they have been driving for several days. Truck drivers must stay off their phones, keep their eyes on the road, and use wireless systems to speak to dispatchers or make phone calls. Truck drivers might also drive while drowsy because they are trying to reach their intended destinations as quickly as possible. If this occurs, they are breaking federal regulations. Drivers may also abuse alcohol, prescription drugs, or illegal drugs. When a driver is impaired, they cannot control such a large vehicle.

Trucking Companies

An accident involving a large commercial truck is not always the fault of the driver. In many cases, the trucking company may be held responsible for any injuries sustained. The trucking company is responsible for properly maintaining vehicles, obtaining necessary inspections, and ensuring that drivers are properly trained. A trucking company is a business and is therefore under pressure to produce a profit. Sometimes trucking companies compromise safety by cutting corners. Various examples of this type of negligence include the following:

  • Negligent hiring: Trucking companies must ensure all employees have clean driving records, proper licensing, no history of substance abuse or criminal activity, and are able to perform all job requirements safely.
  • Violating hours of service rules: Because of increased accidents due to drowsy driving, strict legal guidelines were enacted to limit truckers from working too many hours. At the same time, the trucking company might simply put pressure on its drivers to move as quickly as possible, violating these guidelines.
  • Failure to properly maintain vehicles: Just like all vehicles, trucks need to be properly maintained for peak performance and to protect against mechanical failures. Trucking companies might compromise on maintenance to save money, and their vehicles could fail at any time. Trucking companies might also pay for substandard parts that are not suitable for vehicles that drive long distances every day of the year. Commercial trucks sustain great amounts of wear and tear, and failure to provide proper maintenance may result in brake failure, burned out headlights or taillights, or tire blowouts. The trucking company should regularly inspect its vehicles to ensure that wear and tear does not cause accidents.
  • Failure to train employees properly: The employer must make sure each driver can operate an 18-wheeled vehicle. An under-trained driver may be unprepared to operate commercial trucks, which are difficult to maneuver, have considerable blind spots, and can be difficult to stop. This is especially true when drivers who just received their commercial licenses are put into service without any assistance.

Other Liable Parties

There may also be other parties involved that bear responsibility for the safe operation of a truck. Depending on the circumstances of the accident, the following parties may be held liable for damages resulting from a truck accident:

  • Leasing companies: If the truck is owned or maintained by a fleet leasing company, that firm may be held liable for the condition of the vehicle. These companies can be guilty of the same things for which an owner-operator could be guilty.
  • Vehicle manufacturers: Manufacturers may be held liable for defective tires, brakes, or headlights that contributed to the cause of the accident. Any vehicle that is not recalled could cause an accident, and the company can be held liable for covering up any defects of which it was aware.
  • Loading crews: A loading crew employed by someone other than the trucking company may load cargo into a truck when it pulls up at a loading dock. If they load the truck improperly and this contributes to an accident, the loading crew may be held liable. These companies have a responsibility to the public that they must uphold every time a vehicle is loaded or unloaded.

Additional information, such as the speed of the truck, the precise accident location, and other circumstances, may be captured by video cameras or black boxes installed in the truck. The multiple layers of potential liability in a truck accident increase the complexity involved in pursuing a successful personal injury claim. Therefore, we ask our clients to take pictures of the accident scene. A truck accident lawyer will delve into every possible form of liability to understand how the case should proceed.

How are Wrongful Death Cases Filed After a Truck Accident?

A wrongful death suit may be filed on behalf of the estate of the deceased. These claims should be filed by our lawyers as soon as possible so that we do not miss the statute of limitations of two years. We will help anyone who depended on the deceased recover damages, such as burial expenses, final tax filings, and medical expenses that were incurred before the death.

New Jersey Truck Accident Lawyers at Ellis Law Obtain Maximum Recovery for Truck Accident Victims

Speak to the New Jersey truck accident lawyers at Ellis Law if you were involved in an accident involving a large truck. We are committed to protecting your rights and will hold the negligent parties accountable for your injuries. Call us today 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.

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Herb and Jon Ellis

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You will be assigned a team of seasoned attorneys and dedicated support staff who take the time to listen to you and learn every detail about your accident. Your team will be available 24/7. You will never be left in the dark about the status of your case!

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Next, we collect all available evidence including medical records, insurance policies, police reports, witness testimony, dashcam footage, security video, and more. We will thoroughly investigate all available evidence to build a solid case.

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We will then send a demand letter to the other party stating the facts of your case and the amount of compensation sought. We will negotiate aggressively to strike the best deal as fast possible, without going to court.

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If negotiations do not produce the compensation you deserve, we will go to court. We are trial lawyers, fully prepared to litigate on your behalf!

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