Truck accidents killed 4,102 people across the United States in 2017, the last year for which statistics are available. Unfortunately, Texas is one of the top 10 states for truck accident-related deaths, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Approximately 107,000 large trucks were involved in collisions that caused injuries nationwide. Deaths as a result of truck accidents rose 30 percent during the 2009-2017 period.
By far the majority of people killed in truck accidents, 68 percent, are drivers or passengers in cars. Seventeen percent are truck drivers or passengers, and 14 percent are pedestrians, bicyclists, or motorcyclists.
Truck accidents are extremely dangerous to everyone concerned. Trucks outweigh passenger cars by 20 to 30 times, so any collision with a passenger car can cause death and severe injuries. Trucks can overturn, spreading a large rig into several lanes. Cars can crash as a result of debris spread throughout the area. Truck fuel also poses a safety risk, because trucks have larger gas tanks than most vehicles on the road. An overturned truck can catch fire, increasing the risk to both the driver and other motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists. Trucks are higher than many passenger cars, which increases the risk of an underride accident, in which a vehicle is caught underneath the truck and potentially crushed.
The Most Common Types of Truck Accidents
Trucks are more prone to roll over than passenger cars because their center of gravity is higher. Forty-eight percent of truck occupant fatalities are the result of the truck rolling over, more than double the 22 percent of deaths caused by cars rolling over. Many factors can cause a truck to roll over.
Perhaps the most frequent reason is the truck traveling at too great a speed for road conditions, either because of weather, changes in road conditions, or inadequately slowing for a traffic change, such as entering an on or off ramp. However, rollovers can also stem from too heavy loads or improperly loaded cargo, brake maintenance, or road conditions themselves. Drowsy or distracted driving has also been proven to be a factor, as has improper steering.
Collisions are also a leading cause of fatalities in truck accidents. Thirty-one percent of passenger car deaths are the result of head-on crashes with a truck. Twenty-five percent are caused by T-bone accidents (when one vehicle is struck in the side by the other—these are called T-bones because the position of the vehicles resembles the T-bone in a steak). In 22 percent of cases where passenger car occupants are killed in a truck accident, the car struck the rear of the truck.
Collisions can be caused by multiple factors. Driver error is one cause, and the driver at fault can be either the truck or other vehicle driver, or both. Speeding, improper vehicle handling, or even cutting into another lane without appropriate caution can all be factors.
Driver fatigue is also known to be a concern in the trucking industry, and fatigue itself can cause driver error. While truckers are mandated to spend no more than 11 consecutive hours driving, they may be tempted to drive longer, as a result of company or self-imposed pressure to make deadlines.
Improper maintenance can also be an issue in collisions. Once loaded, trucks can take from 20 percent to 40 percent further to stop than cars do—and the amount can be even greater in wet or stormy weather or if the brakes are poor or defective. Finally, improper loads can make trucks hard to handle, and contribute to collisions.
A jack-knife refers to the type of accident in which part of the truck swings around to be perpendicular to the rest of it. The term is used because the truck looks like an open jack-knife from the air. While a jack-knifing truck can be dangerous to cars and other vehicles because of the potential collision involved, they can be dangerous to all people in an area as well. Jack-knifed trucks turn into obstacles that can cause traffic pile-ups, spread debris, and often cause spilled loads all along the roadway and surrounding areas. Jack-knife accidents can be caused by a host of factors, including speeding, inclement weather, improper braking and steering, inadequate maintenance, and driver fatigue.
How Can People Be Injured in a Truck Accident?
Given the types of truck accidents, people can be injured in a wide variety of ways. Some injuries are catastrophic, creating conditions that may lead to death or require around-the-clock care for the rest of the victim’s life. They may be rendered unable to work. The force of a truck accident, the weight of a truck, the potential for a car to underride a truck, and the potential for fire all increase the types of potential injuries and their potential severity.
Some of the most common truck injury accidents include:
- Brain injuries, including traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Damage to internal organs, such as the liver, pancreas, bladder, spleen, lungs, and kidneys
- Crush injuries, such as nerve damage and fractures
- Neck injuries
- Back injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Wrist injuries
- Loss of limbs
- Severe lacerations
- Scars and disfigurement
Who Is at Fault for Truck Accident Injuries?
The fact is, determining fault in a truck accident is rarely simple. In vehicle crashes generally, the at-fault party is usually the one whose actions or failure to follow traffic laws caused the accident. While truck accidents can be caused by imprudent or unsafe driving as well, they can also be caused by a company’s failure to maintain or service their vehicles properly, by a crew not loading the truck correctly, by road conditions, by weather, by driver fatigue, and by the interplay of driver actions on the road.
If improper maintenance or improper loading is at fault, the company who was responsible for maintenance or loading can be responsible, and thus liable for injuries. They may also be responsible if their drivers were habitually denied or pressured to avoid adequate breaks or sleep. The company who owns the truck may bear these responsibilities, but many truckers subcontract training, maintenance, and loading work. Subcontractors can be responsible for injuries caused in an accident if their actions or inactions led to the injury.
Potential Damage Compensation in Texas
In Texas, victims of a truck accident can receive compensation for:
- Medical costs related to the accident, including doctor and other healthcare provider bills, hospitalizations, surgeries, medications, emergency room treatment, and more.
- Prospective medical costs that cover medical needs you are likely to have in the future, for multiple surgeries or other medical interventions, physical therapy and rehabilitation, treatment for long-term disability, and more.
- Loss of use, if you have lost a limb or it is no longer functional.
- Property damage, if your car or other property is damaged in the accident.
- Lost wages if your injuries or treatment for them have caused you to miss work.
- Lost earning capacity if you are made unable to work completely or unable to return to your former job by your injuries.
- Non-economic damages, including such as pain and suffering, loss of consortium with a spouse, and scarring and disfigurement.
Truck accidents can cause harm and damage to you or your loved ones. If you need further information or assistance on a truck accident, an experienced Texas truck accident attorney can help.