Accidents involving semi-trucks can lead to catastrophic consequences. If you were involved in an accident with a semi-truck, it is imperative that you seek representation and receive assistance to navigate the legal process.
What is a Semi-Truck?
A semi-truck is a shortened term for a semi-trailer truck. Depending on what area you are from, a semi-truck may be called by a different name; it can also be called an 18-wheeler or a tractor-trailer. A semi-truck is made up of two sections: a tractor and a trailer that carries freight.
Although the word “semi” may imply that it is smaller in size, it is one of the biggest types of vehicles found on the road. A semi-truck is often utilized to transport cargo and is used commercially. Even with an empty trailer, a semi-truck can weigh 35,000 pounds. According to federal standards, a transport with cargo typically can’t legally weigh more than 80,000 pounds.
The size and weight of these massive vehicles contribute to the extent of damage they can impose on passengers and vehicles.
Truck Accident Statistics
In 2020, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported statistics after a study on large truck accidents. This includes semi-trucks, buses, and other vehicles with a gross weight of over 10,000 pounds.
1. Truck accidents leave severe consequences
In the 2020 study, 4,965 people were killed and an estimated 146,930 people were injured in accidents involving large trucks. The majority of those killed or injured were passengers in vehicles other than the truck.
2. Truck accidents can involve multiple vehicles
Large trucks are more likely to be involved in multi-vehicle crashes. The study cited above reported that 80 percent of fatal truck accidents involve multiple vehicles. Thus, it is 19 percent more likely for large trucks than passenger vehicles to get involved in fatal multiple-vehicle collisions.
Cause of Truck Accidents
Determining the cause of an accident is essential when establishing a lawsuit case. Each incident is unique and multiple factors can be involved.
In a study conducted in 2007 by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association, the top 10 conditions associated with large truck accidents are:
- Brake problems
- Traveling too fast for conditions
- Unfamiliarity with roadway
- Roadway problems
- Over-the-counter drug use
- Inadequate surveillance
- Feeling work pressure
- Making an illegal maneuver
- Distracted driving
Although many different factors can contribute to an accident, it can be simplified into two major reasons: driver error and vehicle failure.
1. Driver error
When semi-truck collisions occur, law enforcement officers inspect and question truck drivers to examine whether their condition contributed to the accident. They will look into how alert the driver was prior to the accident.
Driving for longer hours beyond the legal limits can contribute to a truck accident. Driver fatigue was shown to be a factor in 13 percent of accidents in the 2007 study. According to federal regulations, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association established limits for the hours of service of a commercial motor vehicle.
Thus, semi-truck drivers can’t work for more than 14 hours nor drive more than 11 hours following 10 consecutive hours of off duty time. Drivers must keep records to prove that they follow these regulations.
A driver may also have been driving too fast for the current road or weather conditions. In fact, the study stated that 23 percent of truck accidents are because of speeding. Due to the weight of the vehicle, it may be harder for a truck to come to a full stop than a passenger vehicle. It is the responsibility of the drivers to be alert and ensure that there is enough space between the truck and the vehicle in front of them.
Semi-trucks have many blind spots and require more skill than when driving a passenger vehicle. Drivers usually go through extensive training to drive such a large vehicle. However, if any shortcuts were taken to rush the process, they may have passed without meeting adequate qualifications. A lack of training can also be a contributing factor to driving mistakes.
When negligence on part of the driver contributed to the accident, whether it is inadequate rest, distracted driving, or speeding, liability may be attributed to the driver.
2. Vehicle failure
The data in the same 2007 study showed that 29 percent of drivers claimed that brake problems were a contributing factor in their collisions. Another 6 percent attributed their accidents to tire problems. Clearly, proper inspection and care of semi-trucks could have prevented much damage and harm.
The trucking companies and the companies that maintain the vehicles have a responsibility to care for the semi-truck to ensure that the truck driver and passengers of all other vehicles that share the road are safe. Maintenance of these vehicles must be documented by the companies and can be used to prove liability if an accident was the result of improper care.
If there is a problem with the construction and design of the semi-truck or its parts, the manufacturing company may also be liable.
Another factor specific to semi-trucks is improper loading. If the cargo wasn’t secured and loaded according to the weight limits and other regulations, it could pose a safety hazard.
Even a cargo-shift can leave disastrous consequences for the truck driver and the surrounding cars. The cargo loader and its company could then share responsibility for the accident.
What to Do After an Accident With a Semi-Truck
Immediately following a collision with a semi-truck, there are a few vital steps that you should take:
- Assess your injuries. Seeking medical attention will ensure that your injuries are cared for by a professional and are also documented for your claim.
- Call the police. Law enforcement will start to document the accident which can become crucial evidence to support your case.
- Take your own photos to keep a record of what happened. It is also important to note the truck driver’s information and the company he or she works for.
- Contact a trustworthy lawyer for legal assistance and representation. An attorney who understands trucking laws can help establish liability.
Judd Shaw Injury Law Can Help
When you are involved in an accident with a semi-truck, you may suffer serious injuries and losses. Dealing with a truck accident can be a significantly different process than a typical passenger vehicle accident since there are usually more parties involved than just yourself and another driver.
For these complex cases, you need lawyers familiar with trucking laws to establish a strong case of liability. To address all the legal factors to win your case and receive the compensation that you deserve, contact the lawyers at Judd Shaw Injury Law.
Trust the lawyers who strongly adhere to the Judd Shaw Way, promising that you get the highest level of service we provide. Our New Jersey truck accident attorneys have many years of experience helping our clients and are dedicated to helping you.