Accidents between commercial trucks and passenger vehicles often result in catastrophic injuries and death. The average weight of a fully loaded tractor trailer can total 80,000 pounds. The average weight of a passenger vehicle is just under 4,000 pounds. It is obvious why so many people are killed or permanently disabled when they get into an accident with a commercial truck.
There are many types of injuries that can result when a tractor trailer and a passenger vehicle collide. Understanding what causes truck accidents is vital to preventing them from happening. An experienced and knowledgeable truck accident lawyer can determine the cause of a truck accident and hold those responsible liable for injuries and damages that occur.
What are the Most Common Causes of Truck Accidents?
The most common causes of truck accidents vary, but the most surprising fact is that most of these accidents can be prevented. Knowing what causes truck accidents can help reduce the number of truck accident fatalities that occur each year.
- Distracted Driving: It is a well-known fact that distracted drivers take the lives of thousands of people each year. When a commercial truck driver engages in distracted driving behaviors, such as making a phone call or texting, using onboard navigation systems, and even completing electronic logs, they willingly put all drivers on the road at high risk for a serious or fatal truck accident. Commercial truck drivers know the rules of the road and fully understand how dangerous distracted driving is for everyone. When a truck driver willingly chooses to engage in distracted driving behaviors, they can be held liable for injuries, fatalities, and damages that occur.
- Driver Error: Truck drivers, like all other drivers, are human beings prone to making errors. Unfortunately, when a truck driver makes an error, such as speeding, failing to obey traffic signs or signals, or tailgating, the results are often catastrophic. Many serious and fatal truck accident injuries happen as a result of driver error, those of both the truck driver and drivers in passenger vehicles. When the truck driver is at-fault for an accident, injured victims are eligible for compensation.
- Poor Truck Maintenance: Truck drivers and fleet owners have a legal responsibility to ensure that their rig is safe and free from unnecessary hazards. Frequent inspection of the truck and routine maintenance are essential. Failure to do so can leave the truck driver and fleet owner liable for injuries, fatalities, and damages that may happen in an accident. Truck drivers are also responsible for inspecting their rig before departing on a trip, filling out a safety checklist, and completing a vehicle inspection report. Failure to do this is an example of driver negligence, which can leave the driver liable for an accident.
- Equipment Failure: Truck drivers, fleet owners, and manufacturers of mechanical truck parts can be sued when a truck accident happens as a result of faulty equipment. Not all routine inspections and maintenance tasks will reveal dangerous mechanical parts. Manufacturers are responsible for recalling dangerous or defective parts, and fleet owners and truck drivers must stop driving the rig until the defective parts are repaired or replaced. All three parties can be held liable when a truck accident occurs as a result of faulty mechanical parts, such as brakes, tires, and engine components.
- Cargo Shift: When the truck is not loaded correctly, or when maximum weight limits exceed safety standards, cargo can shift and cause a truck to jackknife, rollover, or cross into adjacent lanes. Passenger vehicles can be crushed and sustain catastrophic damage when an improperly loaded truck collides with them or rolls over their vehicle. Truck drivers and warehouse workers on loading docks have the responsibility to ensure cargo is packed securely and fastened within the truck’s bed or tractor to eliminate the risk of it shifting during transport.
- Inclement Weather: Bad weather conditions are hazards to all drivers, but when a commercial truck is driving through inclement weather, the risk for a serious and fatal truck accident increases dramatically. High winds can cause a tractor trailer to become unstable. Heavy rain and snow can impede a driver’s vision, causing them to rear-end or drive head-on into another vehicle. Icy roads decrease traction and make it more likely for a truck to swerve, skid, or have the brakes malfunction. Truck drivers are responsible to adjust their route and driving schedule when inclement weather conditions are present to ensure the safety of everyone on the road.
- Lack of Proper Training: Truck companies and fleet owners have a legal responsibility to ensure their drivers are properly trained before they are permitted to drive. Safety training that includes education on the dangers of distracted driving, drowsy driving, and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs can make the difference between a productive driver and a dangerous driver. Training on trucking laws and regulations will ensure that drivers fully understand their responsibilities when operating a safe vehicle.
- Unrealistic expectations from trucking companies: A commercial truck driver is motivated by incentives. At times, incentives encourage drivers to break rules and engage in unsafe driving practices to make unrealistic delivery schedules. Trucking companies must ensure that their drivers are adhering to consecutive driving hour rules and enforce safe driving practices, such as frequent breaks.
- Health problems: Truck drivers are often sleep deprived, which results in drowsy driving accidents. Truckers are also prone to eating on the road, often stopping at fast food restaurants for high-fat meals. This type of unhealthy lifestyle can lead to diseases, such as sleep apnea, heart disease, and obesity. Trucking accidents are more common among drivers with these types of health complications.
Who is Liable for Injuries and Damages from a Truck Accident?
A truck accident typically results in severe injuries or death. These injuries can be devastating, often requiring hospitalizations, surgery, cognitive and physical therapy, prescription medications, and long recovery periods. Injuries can result in victims having temporary or permanent disabilities that leave them unable to work. The high cost of medical bills resulting from a truck accident combined with lost wages can quickly devastate the financial health of a victim and their family.
Determining who is liable in a truck accident is essential to claiming compensation. In some cases, truck drivers can be held liable for negligence or reckless behavior. In other cases, fleet owners and truck manufacturers can be held liable when their drivers fail to perform as expected.
A thorough investigation into a truck accident and hard evidence are necessary to prove liability. Unfortunately, large truck companies and fleet owners often have large legal teams on call, ready to fight truck accident liability claims. It is often a daunting task for an average person to take on one of these large legal teams. Consultation and representation by an experienced truck accident lawyer can prevent victims from becoming overwhelmed by the legal process.
How Can I Avoid a Truck Accident?
Commerce depends on the trucking industry. It is inevitable that passenger vehicles and commercial trucks have to share the road. Learning how to prevent a truck accident can help save lives.
- Be cognizant of a truck’s blind spots. If the driver of a passenger vehicle cannot see the face of the truck driver in the truck’s rearview mirror, the truck driver cannot see them.
- Keep a safe distance between the car and the truck. Tailgating truck accidents can be catastrophic for passenger vehicles.
- Yield to the right of way for trucks, and do not attempt to speed up to pass in front of them.
- Keep a safe distance between you and a truck traveling in an adjacent lane.
- Be sure to use turn signals when attempting to change lanes.
- Slow down or move over into an adjacent lane when a truck is trying to change lanes.
- Give a truck the room it needs to make right hand turns, even if this means backing up or pulling over.
- Avoid making a left hand turn by crossing over in front of a truck.
- Yield to large trucks when merging into traffic.
- Pass safely, leaving plenty of time to clear a commercial truck when heading into oncoming traffic.
- Make sure you have enough time to properly accelerate when pulling onto a roadway in front of an oncoming truck.
- Avoid driving between two commercial tractor trailers.
- Steer clear of all disabled trucks on the side of the road and pass with caution to ensure you are not heading into oncoming traffic when your vision is blocked by the truck.
In all situations, proceed with caution. Commercial truck drivers are often under pressure to meet delivery schedules and can be intimidating to passenger vehicles. Never engage in aggressive or risky behaviors when sharing the road with a tractor trailer. It is always best to yield to commercial trucks to avoid collisions that can result in serious or fatal injuries.
New Jersey Truck Accident Lawyers at Ellis Law Represent Victims of Truck Accidents
If you or someone you love was injured in a trucking accident, you may be entitled to compensation. The New Jersey truck accident lawyers at Ellis Law represent injured victims while fighting for their right to claim the maximum amount of compensation available to them. Call us at 732-308-0200 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation today. Centrally 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.