While driving, you can imagine that there are few instances more terrifying than looking up to see the trailer of a semi-truck swinging towards your vehicle. While accidents involving commercial trucks are less common than passenger vehicle accidents, when trucks are involved the consequences are more likely to be devastating. The sheer size and weight of commercial semi-trucks can cause extensive damage and serious injuries in the event of a collision.
When carrying a full load of cargo, commercial trucks can weigh more than 80,000 pounds. Because an average passenger vehicle weighs around 3,000 pounds, the impact of a commercial truck can be widely destructive. In just one year, across the United States, about 450,000 crashes involved large trucks. Over 4,000 of the accidents resulted in at least one fatality.
Due to limited maneuverability, semi-trucks must make particularly wide right turns, which is one of the most common causes of semi-truck accidents. Below we discuss how these accidents occur and why you should hire a San Antonio truck accident lawyer to do if you have been injured in an accident with a commercial truck.
How Should a Truck Driver Handle a Right Turn?
A well-trained and attentive truck driver will be prepared to handle a wide right turn in a way that optimizes safety.
To complete a right turn safely and properly, a driver should:
- Position the truck in the far right lane while staying aware of any vehicles within a close proximity;
- Indicate an impending right turn by using the turn signal well before the turn will occur;
- Assess the intersection to ensure there is sufficient space for the turn while also checking blind spots;
- Ensure the rear of the trailer stays in the far right lane to avoid the appearance of an open lane to vehicles behind the truck;
- Make sure that the truck does not cross any lane dividers when making the turn; and
- Avoid backing up to complete a turn; instead, allow other vehicles to pass until you have sufficient space to safely complete the turn.
Unfortunately, truckers oftentimes do not maneuver right turns in the appropriate manner, and as a result, accidents commonly occur.
Causes of Wide Right Turn Accidents
The difficulty in safely completing right turns is inherent in the size and limited maneuverability of commercial trucks. While a truck’s turning radius will ultimately depend on the specific size of the truck, commercial trucks commonly have a turning radius of 55 feet. Because local streets and intersections are not constructed to accommodate a truck’s wide turn radius, trucks often have to utilize multiple traffic lanes to safely execute a turn.
When completing a right turn, truck drivers must proceed with caution to avoid colliding with vehicles in adjacent lanes.
Truck driver failures and oversights, however, may result in an accident, including:
- Failure to check blind spots. Larger vehicles intrinsically have larger blind spots. Despite being equipped with various safety features, commercial trucks have large blind spots to either side, as well as in front of and behind the truck. As such, truck drivers must be acutely aware of nearby vehicles before turning. If a driver fails to adequately assess blind spots or missing or dirty mirrors hinder their ability to do so, an accident is more likely to occur.
- Inadequate turn warning. Turn signals are an important and often overlooked safety feature. Signaling in a timely fashion before a turn warns other drivers to avoid a truck’s blind spots. When other drivers are adequately warned, they can provide sufficient space for the truck to safely complete a turn. Failure to properly use turn signals is clearly the truck driver’s fault.
- Insufficient driver training. Operating a commercial truck requires specific education, training, and experience. Lack of sufficient training and skill can greatly increase the risk of a wide right turn accident. An inexperienced driver may initiate a right turn with the rear of the trailer too far from the curb. They may also unintentionally swing the truck’s trailer into adjacent lanes while completing the turn. Either situation increases the opportunity for a collision. A driver must comply with Commercial Driver License (CDL) requirements, which include necessary training.
- Distracted or drowsy driving. Truckers often suffer from fatigue and boredom due to long hours on the road without entertainment. Common driver distractions include using cell phones, eating or drinking, and adjusting vehicle controls. Fatigued or distracted drivers are less able to properly and safely execute a right turn. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations limit the number of hours truckers may drive each day and also restrict drivers’ use of mobile phones.
Drivers who have not received adequate training, fail to check blind spots or signal upcoming turns, or work more hours than permitted, have acted negligently in their duty as a truck driver.
Seeking Recovery After an Accident
Because accidents involving semi-trucks can cause extensive damage, serious injuries are not uncommon. Common injuries include cuts, bruises, strains, and sprains; broken bones; head injuries; and internal organ damage. Despite the severity of the resulting injuries, if a truck driver’s negligence caused the accident, injured victims may be entitled to compensation.
At times, more than one factor contributes to causing an accident. In accidents involving commercial trucks, other potentially liable parties may include:
- The driver’s employer: If the driver’s employer acted negligently in hiring or managing the drivers they employ, they may be liable for contributing to accident injuries. For example, employers may be responsible if they fail to ensure that drivers are qualified and undergo appropriate training. They may also be responsible for an accident if they require their drivers to exceed the daily driving limits prescribed by federal regulations.
- The vehicle manufacturer: If the vehicle malfunctioned in a way that contributed to the accident, the manufacturer may potentially be liable for resulting injuries.
Injured victims must first identify all parties that may have contributed to causing the accident.
Thereafter, victims must assess the extent of accident-related damages, including:
- Medical costs, such as hospital bills and long-term care requirements;
- Property damage;
- Loss of income and any restrictions on future earning potential;
- Ongoing emotional distress resulting from the accident; and
- Inability to participate in activities that were previously a meaningful part of your life.
Pursuing a claim against a truck driver requires knowledge of federal and local laws relating to commercial truck drivers. In addition, an understanding of the type of evidence required to prove a truck driver did not execute a right turn effectively may be necessary. When appropriate, a claim may require an investigation into the trucker’s driving history or the compliance practices of the driver’s employer. Due to the complexities associated with commercial trucking policies, injured victims may be contacted by multiple insurance agencies inquiring about the circumstances of the accident.
Experienced truck accident attorneys regularly fight for the rights of injured victims to seek the compensation they are entitled to. Contact one today for a free consultation and case evaluation.