America runs on trucks. If it were not for the men and women who drive the flatbed trailers which carry cargo to manufacturers, the semi-trailers which bring goods to market, and the box trucks that deliver directly to consumers, the United States economy would grind to a halt.
That said, trailer and box truck traffic in the United States is one of the many dangers facing drivers on the highway. That danger will only become more widespread as e-commerce and online ordering drive up the need to increase the number of shipping and delivery vehicles on the road. Understanding just a bit about the kinds of accidents likely to occur between a passenger vehicle and a truck, what causes them, and how to protect yourself if you have been involved in an accident with a truck, should provide drivers in Washington State with an increased sense of security.
Types of Accidents
Every accident is different, but after years of working with clients injured in traffic collisions, it is easy to see how certain types of accidents involve these larger trucks:
- Jackknife. This common type of semi-trailer crash occurs when the trailer being towed swings around the side of the truck itself, while still remaining hitched to that truck. When this happens, it looks as if the semi is folding in on itself like a jackknife. This type of accident typically occurs when a truck driver has to brake quickly. The brakes on the truck may lock up or slow the cab too quickly, while the forward momentum of the long trailer behind continues to move forward and out of alignment with the cab, causing the driver to lose control.
- Rollover. As the name implies, this type of accident occurs when a semi-trailer, delivery truck, or even garbage truck attempts to take a turn too quickly. These big trucks are designed to carry heavy loads, which makes their center of gravity higher than a passenger vehicle. When the driver makes a sharp turn while moving too fast, that center of gravity pulls the truck onto its side opposite the turn.
- Blowout. While an exploding tire on any vehicle can cause an accident, when one of the huge tires like those on big trucks has a blowout, it can cause serious damage and injury to other vehicles. One reason is that the loss of one or more tires in these large vehicles will make them difficult to control, causing the driver to crash. Another risk of a truck tire blow-out is the damaged tire hitting the surrounding cars and motorcycles with large fragments of steel-belted rubber as it breaks apart.
- T-bone. Also known as a broadside collision, this type of accident typically occurs when a driver is passing through an intersection and is struck directly in the side by cross-traffic which drove through a stop sign or red light. Because large trucks have so much more weight than passenger vehicles, this type of accident has the potential to cause extensive damage and serious injury.
- Head-on. As the name implies, a head-on collision happens when two vehicles are traveling on the same road, moving in opposite directions. If one of the vehicles crosses the center line and crashes into the car moving in the opposite direction, the combined weight and speed of the two vehicles can result in devastating injuries. When one of these two vehicles is a large truck using a powerful engine and carrying a heavy load, the results can be catastrophic.
Causes of Truck Accidents
The immense proportions, weight, and size of trucks can make them more difficult to steer and control, which is why truck drivers are required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to earn a special license in order to operate these larger vehicles. Earning a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) requires a driver to undergo a background check of their driving record, pass a written knowledge test, and a driving skills test; some states also require drivers to complete an entire CDL course before earning their license.
Even with all this training, many accidents involving commercial vehicles are the result of the reckless or negligent behavior of the person behind the wheel of the large truck. Common causes of trucking accidents include:
- Inexperience. While individuals who drive trucks for a living may have to pass tests of skill and knowledge before they can earn a CDL, virtually any driver with a valid license can rent a large truck to use on public roads. Large box trucks, like those rented to the public by U-Haul and other companies, are more difficult and dangerous to handle than the cars most drivers are used to. Putting these inexperienced drivers on the road is a risk to other motorists.
- Distraction. Every driver has been told that driving while distracted—by their phone, another passenger, or something else—is dangerous. This is especially true for people driving commercial vehicles, who have the added distraction of complicated gear shifting, information screens that help them communicate with dispatchers, and the steep inclines and frequent turns that make Washington State Highways famous. When a trucker’s eyes are off the road, the accident that follows could be devastating.
- Stress and fatigue. Many long-haul truck drivers have strict schedules they need to meet, and those drivers frequently feel pressure from their bosses as well as their clients to complete deliveries quickly, which motivates some drivers to stay on the road too long without rest. Drivers of box trucks that deliver packages ordered online are frequently given an enormous number of packages to deliver, which may cause them to drive aggressively for too many hours without rest, impairing their judgment and threatening the safety of other drivers.
What to Do After an Accident With a Commercial Vehicle
Injuries sustained in a crash with a commercial vehicle can be catastrophic, may require extensive medical support, and could result in permanent disability with loss of employment. If you have been seriously injured due to a crash with a commercial or industrial vehicle, the most important thing you can do after receiving medical care is to contact a trial-tested attorney with experience in defending injured motorists against negligent drivers and the companies who employ them.
Do not let the lawyers for a trucking company or their insurance providers bully you out of the full and fair compensation you deserve. Contact our offices today for a free consultation to learn what the Max Meyers legal team can do for you.