Due to the large size and weight of tractor-trailers, semi-trucks and 18-wheelers, large truck accidents are more likely to result in severe injuries or even death.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a "big rig" truck can weigh 20-30 times more than a passenger vehicle. A fully-loaded truck traveling at a safe highway speed in good conditions requires a distance of almost two football fields to stop.
This means that truck driver error, vehicle maintenance problems or violations of truck safety regulations can easily result in catastrophic injuries or death.
Truck Accident Statistics
116,000 people were injured in crashes involving large trucks nationwide in 2015, and over 4,000 people were killed.
Notably, in crashes involving large trucks, occupants of the other vehicle are much more likely to be killed than the truck driver. In Georgia, occupants of a non-truck vehicle represented over 78% of truck accident deaths.
Truck Accident Negligence
Most truck accident lawsuits involve a claim of negligence. To prove negligence, you need to demonstrate that the responsible party had a duty, they breached that duty, the breach of duty caused the accident, and the accident caused damages.
A truck driver has a duty to follow the rules of the road, including the state and federal regulations governing trucking. A trucking company has a duty to properly hire, train and monitor its drivers and to properly maintain its vehicles. Cargo loaders have a duty to load cargo safely and not to exceed maximum truck cargo weight limits. If any of those duties are breached, a serious accident can occur.
A truck driver can commit any of the same negligent acts as a regular driver, but the consequences are often far worse due to the truck's massive size. In addition, truck drivers must follow specific state and federal regulations to ensure safe operation of their vehicle.
A trucking company could fail to properly hire, train or monitor its drivers. For example, trucking companies may pressure their drivers to violate safety regulations, for example, by pushing them to drive excessive hours or to drive a truck that is overloaded with cargo.
Leading Causes of Truck Accidents
According to the FMCSA's Large Truck Crash Causation Study, some of the major causes of truck accidents are:
- Speeding: Even when it is traveling at safe speeds, a truck takes much longer to stop than a passenger vehicle. If a truck driver exceeds the speed limit or is driving too fast for the road conditions, they may be unable to stop in time to prevent a serious accident.
- Fatigue: Federal law requires that drivers follow "hours of service" limits regarding the number of hours they can drive. They are also required to take periodic rest breaks. However, a driver may ignore those regulations because he or she feels pressured to complete the trip more quickly. A fatigued truck driver may have slower reaction times or worse judgment than an alert driver or could even fall asleep at the wheel.
- Drug use: Truck drivers may take over-the-counter, prescription or illegal drugs to help stay awake during long drives.
- Distraction: Just like regular drivers, truck drivers can be distracted while driving. They might send a text message, grab a bite to eat, or adjust the heat or air conditioning. Taking their eyes off the road for even a few seconds can have disastrous consequences.
- Mechanical issues: The FMCSA found that almost 20% of trucks failed a roadside inspection due to violating a vehicle safety standard in 2016. Common violations included not having required operable lamps (lights) on the truck, improper repair and maintenance, not having a recent inspection, unsafe brakes, and dangerously degraded tires. If the driver or trucking company knew about these types of mechanical issues and did not take steps to correct them, that can indicate that negligence contributed to a trucking accident.
- Cargo problems: if the truck's cargo was improperly loaded or exceeded maximum weight limits, it could shift suddenly or fall out of the truck, potentially causing an accident. An overloaded truck also takes longer to stop than a properly-loaded truck.In some cases, a separate person or company is responsible for loading cargo, and that person or entity may also be legally responsible for damages due to shifting or falling cargo.
- Violating safety rules: Both Georgia state law and federal law have strict standards for operating large trucks. A violation of those standards can contribute to an accident.
There are many other potential causes of truck accidents, and it can sometimes be difficult to determine whose negligent actions contributed to the accident. For example, if a truck failed to brake in time to avoid hitting your car, it could have been because the truck's brakes had not been properly inspected or maintained. A skilled truck accident attorney can thoroughly investigate an accident to determine who was at fault, whether the truck driver only or if there are other or multiple persons and entities at fault.
Georgia Truck Accident Lawyers
Due to a truck's large size, a truck accident is likely to be far more devastating than a regular passenger vehicle accident. Truck accident injuries often require extensive (and expensive) long-term medical treatment. If a truck driver, truck owner or trucking company's negligence caused the accident, it is possible to hold them financially responsible for medical expenses, as well as other damages, such as pain and suffering.
Trucking is governed by different laws than regular passenger vehicle activity. In order to receive the fair compensation you are due in a truck accident, you need an attorney who is familiar with the complex regulations governing trucking. Attorney John Hadden began his career defending motor carriers against claims brought against them. Now he uses that experience to represent the victims of motor carriers and truck driver negligence.
If you have been injured or lost a loved one in a serious truck accident, contact the Hadden Law Firm today.