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Driving 18 wheelers or semi-trailer trucks has its inherent risks. The sheer size and speed at which these trucks operate can cause significant damage on the roads.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, 4,862 large trucks were involved in fatal crashes in 2018. Singles (which includes 18-wheelers) accounted for 55% of these large truck fatal crashes.
When a large truck accident occurs, many complications arise. That’s why you should consult with an 18 wheeler attorney immediately after the incident. From injuries to liability to insurance claims, an 18 wheeler accident attorney can help guide you through the legal process.
WHY ARE 18-WHEELERS SO DANGEROUS?
What exactly makes 18 wheelers so much more dangerous than an average vehicle? Let’s explore a few reasons:
- Combination of weight and speed: While the average consumer car weighs 1.5 tons, an average loaded tractor weighs 40 tons. That’s nearly 27 times heavier than your average car. Now imagine the 40-ton truck traveling 60 mph crashing against a small vehicle—the consequences can be disastrous.
- Stopping Distances: Large trucks need much more time to stop than a car. It takes an average passenger vehicle traveling at 65 mph 316 feet to stop under ideal conditions. In contrast, it takes 525 feet to stop for a 40-ton truck traveling at the same speed. Additionally, large trucks have to deal with brake lag. Due to how air brakes work, there is a lag time between when the driver hits the brake and when the brakes are applied. This means 18 wheelers require even more stopping distance.
- Blindspot: 18 wheelers have four large blindspots – the front, the two sides, and the back of the truck. Due to the truck’s size and height, drivers can have a difficult time spotting smaller cars when they are in these areas. Driving in these areas can be extremely dangerous for small vehicles, especially when the truck driver fails to check their blind spots.
- Hazardous material: Semi-trucks carry hazardous material all the time on American roads. Due to more stringent regulations, drivers require specialized training to become a hazmat driver. Hazardous material could include items that are flammable, explosive, radiological, or poisonous. These materials can cause significant damage to people and the environment if released in the open.
- Unsecured cargo: Not all 18 wheelers have enclosed trailers. Some semis have an open flatbed, which requires the driver to secure the cargo properly. If the driver was negligent in tying down the cargo, loose debris could cause accidents resulting in injuries and even deaths. Some common types of unsecured cargo can include raw materials, industrial tools, car parts, and more.
As you can see, there are many risks when driving an 18 wheeler. Failing to mitigate these risks can result in an accident. If an accident occurs due to another party’s negligence, you have the right to seek compensation. An 18 wheeler accident lawyer can advise on the best path forward in this situation.
COMMON CAUSES OF 18 WHEELER ACCIDENTS
Determining the cause for an 18 wheeler accident is not always obvious. The truck driver may not always be the primary party responsible for the crash. Often, there are multiple factors contributing to the cause of an accident. Here are some of the most common causes of 18 wheeler accidents.
Drivers are required to undergo extensive training before obtaining their Commercial Drivers License (CDL). The requirements for each state vary, but in general, drivers must pass a written exam, get a learning permit, and pass a driving test.
With the increasing demand for truck drivers in the industry, companies may be knowingly or unknowingly hiring under-qualified drivers. In addition, trucking license fraud cases where trucking schools are issuing fraudulent licenses can increase the number of inexperienced drivers on the roads.
According to the FMCSA, fatigue was a contributing factor in 13 percent of accidents involving commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers. Truck drivers can be on the road for many hours under grueling conditions. Therefore, falling asleep on the wheel is a real risk when operating a large truck.
To fight against this risk, hours-of-service (HOS) regulations are in place to limit hours of driving. For instance, drivers are limited to 11 hours of driving after 10 hours off-duty. There are also mandatory breaks that drivers must take during their shifts. However, even with these regulations, driver fatigue can still set in. Moreover, drivers may choose to violate HOS regulations to meet delivery demands, making it dangerous for all those on the road.
Distracted driving is a leading factor in truck crashes and near-crashes. Nearly 80 percent of crashes involve some form of truck driver distraction. Distracted driving can come in many forms.
It can be inside or outside of the cab, including things like:
- Using dispatch devices
- Food and drinks
- Glancing at billboard
- Adjusting the GPS
Technology today has made it more difficult for drivers to maintain focus on the roads. From tablets to mobile devices to in-cab displays—a momentary distraction is all it takes for an 18 wheeler crash to occur.
Under FMCSA regulations, trucking companies must comply with strict maintenance standards to ensure the vehicle’s safe operation. Some of these maintenance requirements include checking for the brakes, fuel systems, lights, tires, etc. These parts must undergo routine safety inspections to ensure compliance.
Trucking companies can sometimes cut corners with truck maintenance. Or, to save costs, they may do just the absolute minimum. Accidents due to improper maintenance like faulty brakes or worn-out tires can wreak significant havoc. Trucking companies, maintenance contractors, and truck drivers all have a role to play to ensure proper maintenance of the truck.
Poor weather conditions can be factors in an 18 wheeler accident. Some of these include high winds, snow or ice, rain, and fog. Because of the large blind spots and increased stopping distance, truckers must be especially attentive during inclement weather.
Under federal regulations, truck drivers have the right to refuse driving if they think it is unsafe to do so. However, drivers are often under immense pressure to meet delivery deadlines. As a result, they may still choose to continue driving under poor weather conditions, increasing the risk of an accident.
WHAT TO DO AFTER AN 18 WHEELER ACCIDENT
It can be overwhelming to figure out what to do after an 18 wheeler crash. Here are some basic steps to take following your accident.
1. Move to Safety
If the accident was minor and the car is drivable, move your vehicle to avoid a secondary collision. If it is safer to remain where you’re at or if you’ve sustained significant injuries, remain seated until help comes. Call 911 to inform authorities of the accident.
2. Exchange Information with the Truck Driver
Exchange details with the truck driver, including their name, contact information, license, registration, and insurance information. You should also obtain their trucking company name and any relevant contacts.
Limit your conversations with the truck driver. Never discuss issues of fault. Even a simple apology can be used against you.
3. Document the Scene
If you can, document the scene through photos. Take pictures of the damage, debris, injuries, and the surrounding environment. Ask witnesses for their contact information. Nearby businesses may also have video footage of the incident.
4. Seek Medical Attention
An accident with an 18 wheeler can be serious. Seek medical attention immediately. It’s a good idea to visit a doctor even if you don’t notice any symptoms. Symptoms like whiplash can arise a couple of days after the incident, so it’s important to get a checkup right away.
5. Consult with an 18 Wheeler Lawyer
Crash victims sometimes mistakenly give accident statements to insurance companies without consulting an 18 wheeler injury lawyer. It is not in the insurance company’s best interests to hand out money. Trucking companies backed by their insurance companies will aggressively defend every claim. Let an experienced lawyer deal with insurance companies. Doing so may give you the best chance of receiving compensation for your injuries.
HOW AN 18 WHEELER ACCIDENT ATTORNEY CAN HELP
Sorting out the aftermath of an 18 wheeler accident is not easy. An 18 wheeler accident law firm can help you with your case while you recover from your injuries.
They’ll address questions such as:
- Who’s at fault? There are a number of parties who could potentially be at fault in an 18 wheeler accident. It could be the truck driver, trucking company, truck manufacturer, another driver, or a third-party entity. Determining who is negligent is a key factor in receiving compensation. A lawyer will help identify the negligent parties to build your case.
- How much compensation can I get? Major injuries can result due to an 18 wheeler crash. It’s up to an experienced lawyer to ensure you are getting the compensation you need to recover. This includes enough money to cover your medical treatments, car damages, loss of income, legal fees, and pain and suffering costs.
- How to negotiate with insurance companies? It is in the insurance company’s best interest to settle quickly. And, most often, they will try to lowball you an offer. Most people do not have the expertise to negotiate with large insurance companies. An 18 wheeler accident attorney understands the tactics used by insurance companies as they deal with them all the time. They’ll level the playing field, so you can get the maximum settlement possible.