Tractor trailer accidents are a common and often devastating occurrence on Utah roads and highways. These large, heavy vehicles can cause severe injuries to drivers and passengers in smaller cars when collisions occur. If you have been injured in a trucking accident, seeking legal assistance from an experienced personal injury attorney is crucial.
The Factors That Set Tractor Trailer Accidents Apart
Personal injury attorneys generally list truck accidents separately from other traffic accidents. Why is that? Passenger vehicle accidents typically involve privately owned cars for personal use. Meanwhile, tractor trailers operate as commercial vehicles and require special licensing and insurance. Review these differences.
Weight and Size
Tractor trailers can weigh up to 80,000, which can make it difficult for them to stop. The weight and height can cause them to crush smaller vehicles in auto accidents. Trucks can get up to 70 feet in length, posing a problem for stopping even when not full. The trailers tend to jackknife if the truck makes an emergency stop.
Longer Driving Hours
Trucks are required to have log books where drivers must record their hours of service. The hours a truck driver is permitted to be on the road are longer than those for an average motorist. This increases the risk of fatigue, especially as drivers get older or when traveling along bland routes.
The large pillars between the cab and trailer make it difficult to see smaller vehicles around these trucks. Truckers often cannot see cars passing on the left side or vehicles that drive too close behind it. These could put drivers in the blindspots at risk if it has to make an emergency maneuver.
Commercial insurance takes the value of the cargo on board and the much higher risk and cost of damage. Consequently, commercial insurance for trucks tends to reach the millions. The process of filing a claim also differs from the process involving accidents with passenger vehicles.
The Main Causes of Tractor Trailer Accidents
The same factors that cause accidents among passenger vehicles also affect tractor trailers. However, commercial vehicles also bring additional risks to the road.
Driver error is a leading cause of all accidents, which includes those involving tractor trailers. Here are some examples:
- Distracted driving (such as the use of cell phones)
- Fatigued driving
- Drunk or impaired driving
- Reckless driving
Truck Malfunction and Equipment Failure
The trucking industry has strict regulations regarding the maintenance and operation of vehicles. Failure to adhere to these standards can cause malfunctioning equipment or tires that have become dangerously worn. In addition, defective parts in a semi-truck may cause loss of control and prevent an operator from steering or braking safely.
Improperly Loaded Cargo
Many tractor trailer accidents occur when a truck is poorly loaded. Unsecured cargo can shift in transit and cause instability or complete loss of control. Even when cargo does not move, failing to properly load the cargo area can cause too much weight on the back end. That can result in instability, sometimes described as the tail wagging the dog.
The size and weight of trucks can make it difficult to avoid hazards. For example, truckers cannot dodge potholes on a highway as easily as other vehicles can. However, falling into that pothole can cause the trucker to lose control of the vehicle.
The Most Common Injuries After a Tractor Trailer Accident
Trucking accidents are the deadliest on the road. While most car crash fatalities do not involve truckers, trucking accidents have a higher likelihood of death when they do happen. When people survive, these are the most common injuries they might face.
Traumatic Brain Injury
The force of the impact often leaves trucking accident survivors with head trauma that can cause unconsciousness. They may also suffer other long-term damages due to lingering effects, such as loss of vision or hearing, speech difficulties and disorientation.
Lacerations and Broken Bones
Survivors can suffer from broken bones that may go unnoticed until the healing process begins or when a fracture sets in. Some survivors find that very painful. Failure to set broken bones properly and follow the care routine can lead to permanent disfigurement and issues with mobility.
Back Injuries and Paralysis
The force of a tractor trailer accident can lead to severe, long-lasting back problems that often require surgery and physical therapy. The spinal cord is a crucial part of the central nervous system. Therefore, even minor damage can cause problems with coordination, movement and feeling. Injuries to the spine are dangerous because they can lead to paralysis or other serious health issues.
The fear of financial loss and future medical bills can also cause emotional trauma. This can lead to depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, or other disorders that may require treatment by a psychiatrist or psychologist. Some people never fully recover, especially if they lost loved ones in the accident.
What To Do After a Tractor Trailer Accident
Being involved in an accident with a tractor trailer is frightening and feels confusing and stressful. Every case is different, but these steps may help you protect yourself and your rights.
- Call the police and seek medical attention immediately. Even if you do not feel that you have injuries, it is essential to get checked out by medical professionals. They can provide care and help document your damages for later use in any legal proceedings.
- Collect as much evidence at the scene of the accident as you can. This includes pictures, video and witness information. Everything is worth noting and collecting, no matter how trivial it might seem. Take photos of the surrounding areas and license plates of vehicles whose occupants might have witnessed the accident.
- Talk to a lawyer who specializes in trucking accidents immediately after an accident occurs. Call your insurance company about your policy coverage. Your attorney can help determine if pursuing legal action is the best option for you and guide you through the process.
How an Experienced Tractor Trailer Accident Lawyer Can Help
An experienced attorney provides peace of mind and assistance. You can focus on recovery while someone else handles the complex process of seeking justice. Here are some of the many tasks your attorney might take on.
Evidence is critical to a successful legal claim for compensation. An experienced lawyer has the skills and resources to gather witness statements, accident records and all other evidence necessary to prove your case.
Reconstruct the Accident
Accident scene investigators can reconstruct the accident to determine who is at fault. They utilize police reports, field evidence, witness statements and other data to find answers.
Negotiate With Insurance Companies
Your lawyer may be able to negotiate with insurance companies in a way that you cannot. Whether negotiating on your behalf or pursuing claims through litigation, an experienced attorney can be very persuasive in reaching a settlement.
Represent You in Court
If the insurance company refuses to cooperate, your lawyer might recommend taking the case to court. He or she will use the evidence found to prove negligence. The goal is to secure compensation to pay for your current and future losses related to the accident.
Do you have a potential tractor trailer accident case? At Siegfried and Jensen, we have recovered more than $1.2 billion for our clients. Our law office has fought hard for our clients for 30 years and we look forward to fighting for you. Book your free review to get started.