Did an 18-wheeler hit your car? All the information you need to know if you or a loved one was hurt in a truck accident
Truck accidents are far less common than car accidents, but they’re almost always more serious.
Large trucks can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. What’s more, they’re often carrying heavy, toxic, or flammable materials.
Fortunately, passenger-vehicle drivers and occupants who are injured in an accident with a large truck can receive compensation so long as the truck driver or trucking company is partially at fault.
In this article, we’ll look at truck accident injuries from the perspective of the passenger-vehicle driver, including the most common injuries and how to prove liability to receive compensation.
Truck accident statistics
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), 4,761 people were killed in crashes involving large trucks (defined as trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating greater than 10,000 pounds) in the United States in 2017.
The vast majority of the people killed (72%) were occupants of passenger vehicles.
While these numbers are startling, Texans may even be more shocked to learn that the Lone Star state consistently ranks 1st among all states with respect to the number of large trucks involved in fatal crashes.
As was the case with car accidents, Texas ranked 1st with respect to the number of large trucks involved in fatal crashes (621) in 2017, as well as the number of truck occupants and occupants of other vehicles that were killed.
Of course, not all truck accidents are fatal. In 2015 (the most recent year for which data is available), 116,000 people were injured in truck accidents.
Common causes of truck accidents
It’s true that most truck accidents are not caused by truck drivers. Still, many serious truck accidents occur each year because of the negligent actions of truck drivers and trucking companies.
Common causes of truck accidents include:
- Alcohol and drug use. Truck drivers work long hours and some rely on alcohol or other substances to get through their shifts. According to one study, truck drivers in the United States had the highest frequency of positive alcohol tests worldwide. Many drivers also tested positive for stimulants like caffeine and ephedrine, though these haven't been linked to impaired driving. Nearly 1 in 5 drivers reported using marijuana and 3% said they used cocaine.
- Drowsy driving. A study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania found that 28% of commercial truck drivers have mild to severe sleep apnea (which results in excessive daytime sleepiness, difficulty focusing, and difficulty reacting quickly). The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that drowsy driving killed 795 people in 2017.
- Tire blowouts. The NHTSA estimates that tire blowouts cause roughly 400 deaths and 10,000 non-fatal injuries annually. Tire blowouts are sometimes the result of a defective design or the failure of the trucking company to perform proper maintenance.
- Rollover accidents. Large trucks are more prone to rollovers than small cars. Generally, a rollover occurs when a large truck fails to slow down sufficiently when rounding a curve.
- Unsecured loads. Federal and state laws require truck drivers to secure their loads in a certain manner. If a trucker or truck company fails to do so, the load can become airborne and injure others on the road. When a truck is traveling 55 miles per hour, an object weighing just 20 pounds that falls from the truck and hit a vehicle with the impact of a half-ton. According to data collected by the NHTSA, unsecured loads and road debris kill roughly 440 people and injure roughly 10,000 people every year.
Common truck accident injuries
Trucks are BIG. While this is good for the 10.77 billion tons of freight that need to be transported every year, it means that truck accidents often result in catastrophic injuries.
Common types of truck accident injuries include:
One of the most important things you can do to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve is to keep a detailed account of your injuries following a truck accident. Use our damages worksheet and post-accident journal to help keep track.
Damages worksheet to track expenses for your injury claim (medical treatment, property damage, lost wages, prescriptions)
Download in PDF format
Post-Accident Journal Form
Sample accident journal/diary to help you document the effect on your daily life
Download in PDF format
Legal options for Texas passenger-vehicle occupants
If you’re injured in a truck accident, you may be able to receive compensation for your injuries so long as you can establish that someone else was at fault for the accident.
In most cases, this means establishing that the truck driver was negligent. But, it could also mean establishing that one of the following parties was at fault:
- The trucking company. The trucking company may be at fault if they violated a federal or state law (such as requiring the truck driver to drive for a longer period than permitted). It’s also possible that the trucking company will be held liable for the negligence of the truck driver under the theory of respondeat superior. "Respondeat superior" is a legal theory that holds a company responsible for a traffic accident caused by a truck driver so long as the truck driver is an employee and was acting within the scope of their employment.
- The cargo company. One common cause of truck accidents is overloaded or improperly loaded cargo. In these situations, the cargo company is potentially liable.
- The manufacturer. Truck accidents may be caused by a defective vehicle or vehicle part. In these situations, the manufacturer of the defective product might be at fault.
Sometimes, both you and the truck driver are at fault for the truck accident. Texas follows the modified comparative fault rule. This means the degree to which you may recover damages is limited to your degree of fault.
For example, if you’re 30% at fault, you can only recover 70% of your damages. What’s more, if you’re more than 50% at fault, you can’t recover any damages.
If a loved one is killed in a truck accident, there’s still a legal option to receive compensation. A wrongful death claim is similar to a personal injury claim, except that it’s filed by certain members of the loved one’s family.
Trucking accidents are generally more complex than other types of motor vehicle accidents. The injuries are often more severe and there are additional laws and parties that come into play. If you’ve been injured in a truck accident, don’t feel like you have to pursue your claim alone.
Use our free online attorney directory to locate an experienced Texas attorney.
See our guide Choosing a personal injury attorney.