If you spend any time out on the road (especially on freeways and other major thoroughfares), then you’ve probably seen your fair share of large trucks driving around. There are lots of commercial trucks on the road—and lots of different kinds of them, too.
If you or someone you love was injured in a commercial truck accident, it’s important to understand your legal rights. It may also benefit you to have an understanding of some of the most common causes of commercial truck accidents. You may qualify to pursue compensation for your injuries, depending on the circumstances of your accident. An attorney can help you understand your options.
Types of Commercial Trucks
There are lots of different kinds of commercial trucks, some of which you may not be familiar with. Some of the different types of commercial trucks include:
Tanker trucks are very common. You can likely head out and see one on its way to your local gas station. These trucks transport hazardous gases and liquids. They also transport non-hazardous materials at times.
Dumb trucks carry loose materials. More often than not, dump trucks are part of construction projects and headed to construction sites. It’s common for people to get into backup accidents with dump trucks. The trucks create a lot of blind spots, so drivers are prone to backing into other cars nearby.
Everyone knows what garbage trucks are for, and you’re not going to escape them on the road any time soon. You may not have considered the possibility of getting into an accident with a garbage truck, but it can and does happen.
Tractor-trailers usually have eighteen wheels, so they’re frequently called eighteen-wheelers. Sixteen-wheeled tractor-trailers are called sixteen-wheelers.
These large vehicles consist of two separate but connected parts. The trucks have front segments that drive and support their back trailers, and truck trailers that are loaded with cargo at the rear.
Here’s a little more information about how tractor-trailers work as one unit:
- A tractor is a truck designed with the intent of hauling a semi-trailer; these trucks have five wheels. The fifth wheel is mounted over the rear axles.
- A semi-trailer is a truck trailer that a tractor hauls behind it.
Tractor-trailers present some unique risks on the road, even in comparison to other large trucks. This is because of tractor-trailers’ two-part construction. They may prove difficult to control because their back sections can move independently of their front sections.
Injuries After Truck Accidents
What are the most common injuries after truck accidents?
There’s no way to predict or summarize the injuries that happen after a truck accident. Every commercial truck accident survivor’s experiences are different. Some people are fortunate enough to walk away from very serious accidents with relatively “minor” injuries. In other cases, someone may be involved in an accident that appears minor, but results in permanent and catastrophic injuries.
Some examples of injuries after commercial truck accidents include:
- Broken bones
- Spine injuries
- Back injuries
- Neck injuries
- Head injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Loss of limb
- Internal bleeding
- Loss of a sense or senses
This list does not include every injury that is possible in a commercial truck accident. Individuals involved in such accidents can sustain almost any type of traumatic injury. If you have questions about how your injuries may impact your legal case, reach out to an attorney for more information.
Commercial Truck Driver Fatigue
What happens when truck drivers drive fatigued?
It’s very difficult to safely operate a vehicle that weighs up to 80,000 pounds. This is just one of the many reasons why truck drivers are required to have special licensing to drive their trucks.
The difficulty of navigating a commercial truck is also the cause for another rule: the limit on how much (and when) commercial truck drivers may actually drive. There are countrywide restrictions that limit how long truckers may drive.
Despite this, American truck drivers still clock a lot of hours. Federal driving guidelines and work hour restrictions essentially imply that most truckers drive between two- and three-thousand miles per week. Each shift can last hundreds of miles and many hours.
Federal hours of service regulations for commercial truck drivers
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) publishes Hours of Service (HOS) regulations. These regulations are intended to keep truckers and other people on the road safe. Ideally, following these standards prevents truck driver fatigue. Recall that many commercial truck drivers work more than these maximum limits.
The HOS regulations include the following provisions:
- Commercial truck drivers cannot drive for more than 11 hours following a 10-hour break.
- Commercial truck drivers must not drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after returning to duty (following an off-duty period of 10 hours).
- Commercial truck drivers may only drive if 8 hours or less have passed since the end of their last off-duty or sleeper-berth period (the period needs to be a minimum of 30 minutes).
- Commercial truck drivers may not drive after 60/70 hours on-duty in 7/8 consecutive days.
Commercial truck driver fatigue is common
It’s more common for truck drivers to engage in practices that lead to fatigue than you may think. Even though it makes sense for a truck driver to want to avoid fatigue (to minimize the risk of an accident and encourage better driving performance), there are lots of reasons why these professionals drive fatigued.
The Journal of Public Health Policy interviewed more than 1,000 commercial truck operators and found:
- About 75 percent of respondents violated hours-of-service rules.
- Roughly 66 percent of those interviewed said that they regularly drove more than the weekly maximum hours allowed.
- Another 66 percent of interviewees said that they under-report work hours in their logbooks.
Commercial truck driver fatigue puts other drivers at risk
If you’re on a roadway near a fatigued truck driver, you run the risk of being involved in an accident.
Most statistics indicate that commercial truck drivers who drive while fatigued puts everyone at risk:
- Overworked and/or fatigued truck drivers are the leading cause of commercial truck crashes.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published findings that show truck drivers are more likely to drive fatigued than the general population, which makes them riskier to drive near.
- Around 13 percent of commercial truck accidents each year are caused or influenced by driver fatigue.
More Frequent Causes of Commercial Truck Accidents
Why do truck accidents happen?
Commercial truck accidents happen for lots of reasons. One truck accident may look different from the next, and their causes will have a big impact on how they play out in the legal field.
- Improper cargo loading: The amount and type of cargo on a commercial truck will directly impact the severity of a truck accident. When cargo is improperly loaded, it automatically becomes riskier. Improperly loaded cargo can and does lead to truck accidents. Cargo can spill into roadways, cause trucks to lose balance, and more.
- Improper truck maintenance: It’s very important for truck drivers and companies to properly maintain their large commercial trucks. Even a small sedan is risky to drive if it’s not properly maintained. It’s even more important for huge commercial trucks to be well-serviced. Sometimes, it’s difficult to track every truck in a fleet’s status or to complete required maintenance; such failure puts everyone at risk.
- Driver errors: Anyone driving a vehicle can make an error, but it’s especially dangerous when it happens in a commercial truck. Commercial vehicles are large and pose a lot of risk on the road. Someone driving a commercial truck can make the same mistakes anyone driving a car can: driving under the influence, acting aggressively, driving distracted, etc.
Common Types of Commercial Truck Accidents
What are the different types of commercial truck accidents?
There are several different types of commercial truck accidents. Most are named for how or why they occur.
Here are two of the most common types of commercial truck accidents:
- Jackknife accidents occur when commercial truck drivers lose control of their vehicles. Usually, this leads to swerving off of the road or into other vehicles. Jackknife accidents are common on slick roads and also tend to happen when truck drivers take turns too quickly.
- Rollover accidents happen when, as you may imagine, a truck rolls over. Large trucks are prone to rollover due to their weight distribution; semi-trucks, in particular, are at high risk of rollovers. Sometimes, truck drivers who try to turn or swerve too quickly experience rollover accidents
Don’t forget that a commercial truck can get into virtually any type of accident. It doesn’t need to have a certain name or pattern for it to cause damage and devastation.
What You Should Ask a Commercial Truck Accident Lawyer?
Questions to ask a truck accident attorney
There are certain questions that you should ask attorneys that you meet with to discuss your accident. It’s like a job interview; it’s always best to ask your own questions to make sure that the person you’re talking to is the right fit for you.
How do I know if I have a truck accident claim?
You can’t know for certain that you have a valid truck accident claim until you win. However, the best way to ensure that you succeed is to partner with a qualified truck accident lawyer.
Here are some things you should consider when meeting with prospective lawyers:
- The right lawyer for your case should clearly explain why (or why not) he or she believes that you are eligible to pursue compensation.
- You should never assume that you don’t have a claim.
- Provided you were involved in a commercial truck accident, you must determine whether you meet the primary requirements to file a truck accident claim.
- Your accident doesn’t need to have involved significant damage or loss for your claim to be valid.
How long do you think it will take to settle my truck accident claim?
Keep in mind that a lawyer can’t actually tell you how long your truck accident claim will take, as that will depend on the specific circumstances of your accident and injuries.
You want to have some idea of a timeline, though, so feel free to ask, but remember that an attorney can only offer an estimate regarding the length of time that your case will take and whether you will succeed.
- Your case may take longer than the average accident case if it involves a commercial truck. Commercial trucks often cause more damage than standard vehicles when involved in accidents, and more damage may mean more time.
What damages do you think I can recover after my commercial truck accident?
A seasoned commercial truck accident attorney will help you calculate your losses and determine how much compensation to pursue. Nothing is a guarantee, but a good lawyer will help illustrate what he or she sees as the best path forward when it comes to pursuing damages.
Examples of the damages that you may recover after your accident include:
- Previous and current medical expenses necessitated by the truck accident: You can pursue compensation for a wide range of medical expenses after a commercial truck accident. Medical expenses often include emergency transport, surgeries, rehabilitation, therapies, and equipment.
- Future medical expenses: You should also pursue future medical expenses in your claim, if applicable. Your attorney can tell you more about how this process works.
- Lost earning capacity: If someone’s tractor-trailer accident permanently changed his or her ability to earn an income in the future, he or she should pursue compensation to account for the lost earning capacity
- Lost wages: Some accidents cause a person to miss time from work and, thus, miss out on wages. These lost wages are compensable following a crash.
- Pain and suffering: Nobody wants to endure physical pain and suffering, but unfortunately, people who are involved in tractor-trailer accidents don’t always have a choice. You may have the right to pursue compensation for pain and suffering following your accident.
- Mental anguish: It is often difficult to recover from a tractor-trailer accident on a mental level. Mental anguish damages are meant to account for some of that process, even though no amount of money will completely repair the emotional damage that you’ve already suffered.
Patino Law Firm
1802 N 10th St
McAllen, TX 78501