Truck accidents can lead to the most severe injuries. Find out what they are and what you can do about compensation.
Truck accidents are especially scary because they’re more likely to result in death or serious injury than a collision between two passenger cars. A “big rig” tractor trailer or semi-truck can weigh more than 30,000 pounds, which means your passenger car is no match —the average passenger vehicle weighs only around 4,000 pounds.
Aside from the weight factor, the driver in a large commercial truck is usually riding high up in the cab, while the driver of the car is much lower to the ground.
These and other factors can lead to devastating results if you’re in a truck accident.
Common causes of truck accidents
Truck accidents are usually caused by driver error, either yours or the truck driver’s. Many of these accidents are preventable.
These are the most common causes of truck accidents:
1. Driver fatigue
Driving a truck is a high pressure, high-stress job. Often, trucking companies will require drivers to deliver goods to a certain destination within a short period of time. That means they’re driving long distances with few breaks and little rest.
Sometimes, the number of miles to be driven requires several days on the road at a time and the drivers have too few hours of sleep (and even less quality sleep). As a result, they lose concentration and coordination and are slower to react to road situations — not to mention the dangerous possibility of actually falling asleep while driving.
There are laws and regulations for how many hours a trucker can drive in one shift, how much sleep is required, and when rest breaks must be taken. However, many companies don’t follow these rules and driver fatigue remains a big problem.
2. Distracted driving
Distracted driving is a problem everywhere, and it’s as much an issue on your local roads as it is on the highways. Distracted driving is any activity that diverts attention away from the primary task of driving.
Let’s face it — driving for long distances can be boring. In rural areas, a driver might not have good radio signal, so there’s not much entertainment. That boredom might lead a trucker to risk texting, looking at their phone to find a podcast or playlist, eating, or doing something else to stay occupied. Even where there are good radio stations, the simple act of reaching over and playing with the dial takes the driver’s eyes and concentration off the road.
3. Alcohol and drugs
You might not think of trucking as having a high rate of alcohol and drug abuse, but it does. Some truckers use amphetamines and cocaine to stimulate themselves to stay awake while driving.
4. Speeding and overtaking
Sometimes it’s not possible for a driver to make a delivery in the time allotted by their employer but they might try anyway.
Because of the pressure to make tight deadlines, a driver might drive faster than what’s appropriate for a vehicle that size, or maybe faster than is suitable for the road conditions. If a driver thinks they might lose their job if goods aren’t delivered at a certain time, they’re more likely to speed to get there. And that might mean speeding right up behind a small passenger car.
If you’ve ever looked in the rearview mirror to see an 18-wheeler bearing down on you from behind, you’re going to do what it takes to get out of the way. Often, getting out of the way means swerving off the road or into another lane, which leads to accidents.
5. Poor training and maintenance
There are regulations and requirements for how many hours of training a driver must take in order to drive a commercial vehicle. Yet some drivers manage to get on the road without meeting those requirements.
Bad weather happens everywhere, whether it’s wind, rain, or snow. It takes ample experience and training to learn how to drive in bad weather safely, especially when maneuvering a large commercial truck. It’s crucial that a trucker drive even slower than usual (and slower than the posted speed limits) in poor weather conditions to prevent skidding, hydroplaning, or jackknifing. If the driver isn’t trained for how to properly manage poor conditions, they put themselves and other motorists at risk.
The trucking company is also required to inspect each truck before it gets on the road, but this often doesn’t happen. There are costs associated with maintenance, and it takes time — valuable time that the companies know can be used instead to make deliveries. So sometimes the routine maintenance falls by the wayside and a truck is on the road without being safe for the trip.
6. Improper cargo loading
You might be thinking: How does a truck’s cargo load affect me?
Each load has to adhere to specific weight, size, length, width, and height limits. If the truck is carrying hazardous materials, there are even stricter regulations for how it must be handled.
Still, mistakes happen and errors can mean that a load makes a truck too heavy or likely to tip over. If a load falls onto the road, it can cause a catastrophic accident. Likewise, hazardous materials could catch on fire or create other dangerous situations.
Common truck accident injuries
Truck accidents with passenger cars tend to result in more serious injuries than collisions between two or more passenger cars. Sometimes the aftermath of a truck accident can stick with a person for life, which is why it’s crucial that you receive the money you need to handle your ongoing and future medical and life care expenses.
These are some common injuries from truck accidents:
1. Back and neck injuries
Your back and neck include small and fragile bones and ligaments that can be easily injured from impact. Whiplash can happen when your head and neck snap forward but your torso stays in place. It’s an injury that might not appear immediately but you might experience pain and other symptoms hours or days after a crash.
2. Spinal cord injuries
A spinal cord injury could result in partial, temporary, or complete paralysis of your lower body and torso. Your spine is the information superhighway of your body—its nerves carry messages from your brain to all of your other body parts. If your spine is injured, there’s not usually an easy fix. It can involve many months or years of treatments, surgeries, physical therapy, adaptive devices, and you might be permanently disabled.
3. Head and brain injuries
Head injuries could be as minor as a bruise that goes away on its own or a mild concussion. But a traumatic brain injury can have long-lasting effects.
Since a truck is larger, it often causes more damage upon impact than a passenger car would, and there’s a high risk of rupturing fuel tanks. A fire can spread fast and engulf the truck or surrounding passenger cars. A driver or passenger in a nearby vehicle could suffer burns that are painful and leave permanent disfigurement.
5. Amputation and disfigurement
Amputation or disfigurement could happen because of the impact itself, or as a result of another injury like a severe burn. In a truck accident, an amputation could happen because of crushing from the collision. If you endured amputation or disfigurement, you likely require continuing medical treatment, and you might also require adaptive devices like prosthetics in order to function in your daily life.
You might also need caretakers to assist with daily needs, and those costs add up fast. Don’t sell yourself short — make sure that your legal team will work for the money you’ll need to be well-cared for throughout your life.
6. Internal injuries
Even if you’re fortunate enough to avoid spinal injury or head trauma, you might still suffer internal injuries that can be serious. Although an airbag is designed to protect you, strong force from an airbag can cause blunt abdominal trauma. You might experience injury to your bladder, spleen, liver, pancreas, or kidneys.
Torso and rib injuries are also common in truck accidents; they’re not considered internal injuries on their own, but harm to those parts of your body can be dangerous because they surround the vital organs. A broken rib could puncture a lung or create other internal damage.
7. Cuts, bruises, broken bones, and lacerations
You might hear that someone suffered “minor cuts and bruises” from an accident and think they got off easy. But while cuts and bruises are less severe than head or spine trauma, they still can require treatment and cause permanent injury. Cuts happen because of shattered glass, sharp metal, or unrestrained objects inside your car that become airborne in a crash. Sometimes a cut could result in a disfiguring scar or even life-threatening infection.
A truck accident usually involves blunt force trauma, and that can leave other motorists with broken or shattered bones. Often, this is a treatable but painful injury.
Fatal truck accidents
Sadly, thousands of people die each year in truck accidents. If you’ve lost a loved one in a truck accident, you might want to consider a wrongful death lawsuit. No amount of money can bring your family member back, but a wrongful death claim is intended to compensate survivors of someone who died prematurely because of another person’s negligence.
You might still have unpaid bills from medical costs associated with the crash, funeral expenses, or other damages, including your own pain and suffering. A truck accident lawyer can help figure out what you can claim in damages.
What to do after a truck accident
If you’ve been in a truck accident, your first priority is to get the medical attention you need. But the bills will begin to arrive, and you need a plan to cover costs. That’s why finding a truck accident lawyer is your next best step.
There are personal injury lawyers who specialize in truck accidents and who are experienced in determining long-term future costs associated with serious injuries. They’ll know how to handle the trucking companies or any other responsible parties and hold them accountable.
By getting the legal representation you need, you can be that much closer to physical and financial recovery.