Most drivers know the feeling… a large truck approaching from behind, traveling a little too fast for your comfort. Your discomfort might be for good reason — truck accidents are a problem nationwide.
But let's take a deeper look at Maryland truck accident statistics.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) publishes data that reflect the types of vehicles involved in fatal crashes. Here's what they found in 2018 (the most recent year for which information is available):
The NHTSA separates large trucks and small trucks for statistical purposes but combined, there were 315 fatal truck accidents in Maryland in 2018, as compared to 350 car accidents. (source)
One of the ways you can avoid a truck accident is to know what causes them. A truck accident can be either the fault of the truck driver, the passenger car driver, or another party. How the accident happened can help determine who's liable (or at fault) for the crash.
There's one big difference between how a truck accident and a car accident might be handled by the courts. While Maryland's pure contributory negligence laws will apply to any personal injury lawsuit, the trucking industry is largely regulated by the federal government.
That's significant because it can change how a judge or jury determines who's liable for an accident.
For instance, if 2 cars are in a crash and one driver was speeding, it might seem fairly clear-cut that the driver who exceeded the speed limit caused the crash. Both drivers are treated equally under the law, the decision is based on the evidence, and each driver has the same legal obligations.
But if one of those vehicles is an 18-wheeler, it could have a different outcome.
One driver is responsible for their own actions and behavior while driving. But what if the other driver — the truck driver — was speeding because their employer put unreasonable pressure to deliver a load within a tight timeline that required the driver to travel faster than the speed limit? Or what if the driver was required to work a longer shift and spend more hours on the road than permitted by federal law?
There are strict regulations for how many hours a driver may spend behind the wheel without a specific amount of hours for sleeping or breaks. If a crash happens and the driver wasn't within the federal guidelines, the liability could be on the trucking company instead of the driver.
Maryland is an at-fault state. That means the person who causes an accident is financially responsible for the injured person's expenses. They could pay by using their insurance policy, out of pocket, or could be subject to a judgment from a personal injury lawsuit.
Maryland also follows a pure contributory negligence standard. Under this fault system, a plaintiff (the injured person) cannot recover any damages from a lawsuit if the plaintiff had any responsibility for the accident. In other words, even if you didn't cause the accident, you can't recover damages if the court finds that you could have prevented it, or if your action or inaction contributed in any way — however small — to your injury.
There are several parties that might be liable for a truck accident. Sometimes, there's 1 party that's at fault, but in other cases there could be 2 or more parties who are jointly liable for an accident.
These are some of the possible liable parties:
|3 types of truck drivers|
|Owner-operator||The driver owns the truck they drive and either is an independent contractor or leases vehicles to a trucking company.|
|Company driver||The driver is an employee of a trucking company and only drives that company's trucks.|
|Independent owner-operator||The driver operates their own truck to haul goods from their own company.|
Though passenger car occupants are most often injured when involved in truck accidents, sometimes the truck driver can be hurt, too.
Injured truck drivers may be eligible for workers' compensation benefits if they're injured in a work-related accident.
Workers' compensation is a no-fault system of insurance, which means you only have to prove that your injury happened while you were doing your job. Some independent contractors can receive workers' compensation.
If you were injured in a trucking accident, you should contact a workers' compensation lawyer to determine whether your injuries are covered.
Understanding the common types of accidents that happen is one way to prevent being involved in one. Though you might never be behind the wheel of a truck, you should know what to look for when you're on the road and how to leave enough space to avoid a collision.
You can't anticipate every accident, but here are some of the ways truck crashes most often happen:
A "jackknife" is when the cab and trailer portions of a big rig fold at the joint. If the back of the trailer moves faster than the cab, it creates a sharp angle that causes the truck to face 2 directions. If this happens, the driver no longer has control over the vehicle. A nearby car could collide with the swinging trailer or wedge underneath the rear of the truck.
Both cars and trucks can have tire blowouts, which can cause the vehicle to swerve into another lane, rollover, or jackknife. A tire blowout is usually caused by wear and tear, defective manufacturing, or routine maintenance deficiencies.
If a truck tire blows out, the debris from the broken tire could hit other cars, or the truck could collide with other cars if it swerves out of its lane.
A passenger car can slide underneath a truck, either from the rear or the side. The height difference in the vehicles means that the top or front of the car could be crushed and its occupants seriously injured. Underride crashes are some of the most deadly truck collisions.
There are many federal regulations for loading cargo, and the main consideration is that the haul must be immobile and secure. The truck's restraint system must be strong enough to keep cargo from sliding or shifting.
There are 2 ways an unsecured load accident could happen:
"Hazmat" stands for hazardous materials. This classification could include anything from gasoline to pesticides, to lithium batteries, to dry ice. What classifies cargo as hazardous is if it's either highly flammable or could become harmful to breathe if it becomes airborne.
A hazmat accident can affect not just the drivers on the road, but also anyone in surrounding areas. If a toxic substance is released into the air or certain bodies of water, it can affect the health of people in nearby communities.
If you've been involved in a truck accident, Enjuris offers a variety of resources to help you navigate the legal system. For starters, our free, downloadable Truck Accident Ebook includes worksheets and guides to prepare for your first meeting with a lawyer, along with additional detail about how to handle your truck accident.
It's also important to contact a Maryland truck accident lawyer. A trucking company, manufacturer, or another potentially liable party in a truck accident likely has deep pockets and a team of lawyers who defend these cases every day. Their sole objective is to pay out as little money as possible to an injured person. Your insurance company, alone, might be no match for that because your claims adjuster handles hundreds of other cases a day, too.
Your lawyer will work with all parties to make sure you recover the compensation you need and deserve after an accident.
A personal injury lawyer helps individuals who have sustained injuries in accidents to recover financial compensation. These funds are often needed to pay for medical treatment, make up for lost wages and provide compensation for injuries suffered. Sometimes a case that seems simple at first may become more complicated. In these cases, consider hiring an experienced personal injury lawyer. Read more