Tractor-Trailer Truck Collision Causes
It can be the kind of stuff that wakes you up at night with your heart pounding: the image of a large truck bearing down on your mid-sized family car filled with loved ones, whether that truck is in your rear-view mirror or coming at you in your lane as you round a curve.
Of course, it’s only a nightmare, and you’ll wake up unharmed. But the nightmare does actually happen to some people—nearly 4,000 of them in 2014. And some of these folks are no longer with us: large-truck crashes caused 3,903 deaths nationwide in 2014. That number nationwide has been more or less stable since 2012. Of these fatal crashes, about 73 percent of the deaths occurred in the non-large-truck vehicle—in other words, in the passenger car, SUV, or pickup. Ten percent of non-occupants, such as pedestrians, died in such accidents, and 17 percent of truck occupants died. Nearly one in ten vehicles involved in deadly crashes nationwide during 2013 (more recent figures are not yet available) were large trucks.
In Maryland during 2013, there were 59 fatalities from large-truck accidents. In contrast to the stability of the national numbers, the Maryland number is up sharply from 2011, when there were 38 deaths in our state.
And the carnage isn’t limited to fatalities. In 2014, roughly 111,000 people were injured in large-truck crashes. That’s more people than live in Columbia, MD (where there are approximately 99,000 residents) — and that’s for only one year.
Because large trucks can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds, when you consider such an object hitting a passenger vehicle that might weigh a mere one-twentieth of that, can it be any surprise that large-truck accidents can be so serious?
Maryland Truck Accidents: Driver Error
We can probably all agree that large-trucks can pose terrible dangers to those of us in cars should something go awry. Just as there are many trucks on the highway, and many truck drivers, there can be many reasons for large-truck accidents. Truck crashes are often complex, and for that reason, something called a “critical reason” is often assigned the role of what caused the accident. It’s best thought of as the last failure in a chain of failures. A driver failure, a vehicular failure, or an environmental condition can all be critical reasons.
Let’s look at what kinds of things can go wrong. The top critical reasons for large-truck crashes that are driver-related are:
- “Failing to look,” meaning the driver either did not look or did not see something they should have seen before attempting a maneuver with their truck. Trucks have large “no-zones” which prevent the driver from seeing vehicles directly behind them or beside them.
- Driver distraction or inattention. This can include using devices with screens, such as cell phones, GPS systems, and so on.
- Exceeding the speed limit, especially when the weather conditions dictate caution.
- Actions that are illegal or show poor judgment, such as following too closely, taking a curve too quickly, and passing inappropriately.
- Driver fatigue, including falling asleep.
- Driver illness and taking medications for the illness (either over-the-counter or prescription) that impair judgment.
- Usage of alcohol and illegal drugs.
- Driver inexperience, including a lack of familiarity with the route.
Truck Accidents in Maryland: Vehicular Failure
While driver error tends to be the biggest cause of large-truck accidents, we want to emphasize that the driver is not always at fault. If the truck is owned by a company which is responsible for the maintenance, the driver can be unaware of its negligence. Such mechanical or equipment failures can cause devastating accidents. The most common critical reasons for truck accidents due to vehicular failure are:
- Tire failure or degradation, or wheel failures.
- Brake failure, as in a 2015 Philadelphia crash where five family members were killed.
- Steering, transmission, or engine failures.
- Cargo shifting from improper loading, or overloading.
Trucks are supposed to undergo numerous pre- and post-trip inspections. If a truck is not properly maintained, and if the appropriate inspections are not performed, tragedy can ensue.
Baltimore Truck Accidents: Environmental Conditions
The final causes of truck accidents are environmental, meaning weather conditions and roadway conditions. The majority of such accidents are caused by the road conditions:
- Slick roads
- Debris in the road
- Obstructions of the view ahead
- Bad signage or signals
- Poor road design.
Reasons that are called atmospheric or weather-related are what you might expect: snow, ice, fog, heavy rain (which can cause hydroplaning), high winds, and other weather-related situations.
Who Pays When Tractor-Trailer Accidents in Maryland Occur?
Truckers are required to obtain a commercial license (CDL) before driving cargo and must complete courses and training at a trucking school before taking to the road. An accident caused by a poorly-trained, insufficiently licensed or otherwise unfit trucker may push liability for negligence onto the trucking company itself. Trucking companies can also be held liable for negligence in maintaining their trucks and in forcing drivers to break hours-of-service rules and drive too long. If the party loading the truck is not the trucking company, in some cases they can be liable as well. Of course, the driver can be found negligent, too, if he or she drives carelessly or breaks the law while behind the wheel.
The fact that multiple parties may share in the liability for a truck accident is one of the reasons it is important for the accident victims to contact a lawyer who has previous experience handling tractor-trailer accidents, not just car accidents. A qualified trucking lawyer can help facilitate communication between the driver’s company, manufacturers, insurance companies, and related parties and help injury victims obtain compensation for their trucking accident injuries.
Truck Accident? Turn to Steve Heisler, The Injury Lawyer.
If you have been involved in a collision with a large truck, you may be concerned about how you’re going to make ends meet. You may be confused about how to go about seeking compensation from the negligent driver. That’s understandable. Not only are truck accidents likely to be serious due to the size of the vehicles involved, but they are more legally complex and may involve multiple parties, including the driver’s company, truck owner, truck manufacturer and others.
Steve Heisler has been helping injured people in Maryland for more than two decades with all types of vehicular accidents. That means he has won compensation for victims of car accidents, motorcycle wrecks, bicycle accidents, and, yes, truck wrecks. Steve’s thorough investigation will uncover all potential defendants in your case, demanding just compensation for your medical expenses, rehabilitation, loss of income, and pain and suffering. If you lost a loved one because of a big rig driver’s negligence, Steve can help your family recover through a wrongful death lawsuit.
You’d better believe the trucking company and insurer will have a team of lawyers to protect their interests. Call Steve Heisler, The Injury Lawyer, to protect yours. Call (410) 625-4878 for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation, or use our online contact form.
$5,500,000.00 - Steve represented a 33-year-old single mother of one whose vehicle was struck head-on by a construction truck in 2002. The client suffered life threatening injuries and was in a coma for six weeks. She required two months of brain injury rehabilitation. The client currently has serious permanent disabilities as a result of the accident including short term memory loss, impaired speech, double vision, and right side paralysis.
She is unable to return to her occupation as a dental hygienist or any other occupation. Steve Heisler and his associate Keith Kauffman negotiated a $5.5 million structured settlement at mediation. Should the client reach her life expectancy the payout increases to $9.5 million.
$250,000 - Steve represented the family of a 15 year old Anne Arundel County boy who was killed when the vehicle he was a passenger in failed to negotiate a curve and struck a tree. The defendant driver was also killed. Another passenger survived the crash. The defendant driver had a $300,000.00 liability policy. Steve negotiated a $250,000.00 settlement for the family. The remaining $50,000.00 was tendered to the surviving passenger.
$800,000 - Steve represented the estate and family of a 45 year old man who was killed when the motorcycle he was riding struck a guardrail and he was catapulted down an embankment. The estate and family alleged that a vehicle in the lane to the immediate left of the man swerved into his lane and caused a collision. The defendant strongly denied any wrong doing. The case was settled at a settlement conference for $800,000.00.
$325,000 - Steve’s client, a 45 year old Sr. Program Manager, was struck by a work vehicle that failed to yield the right of way while turning left in front of the victim in St. Mary’s County, Maryland. Steve’s client was thrown from his Harley Davidson and suffered multiple injuries resulting in two surgeries. Suit was filed and the case settled for $325,000.00.
$200,000 - Steve’s client, an elderly lady from West Virginia, was seriously injured when the car she was traveling in was struck by a negligent driver in Garrett County, Maryland. The lady suffered a broken back and detached retina. Steve negotiated a $100,000.00 settlement with the defendant driver’s insurance company and was successful in getting his client’s West Virginia insurance company to “stack” an additional $100,000.00 for a total settlement of $200,000.00.
$100,000 - Steve represented a five year old Eastern Shore boy who was struck by a vehicle driving on the wrong side of the road while the boy was riding his bike. Steve's client suffered a traumatic brain injury and serious fractures which required him to spend an extended period of time in a rehabilitation center. The boy now has permanent brain damage. The case settled for the driver's policy limits of $100,000.00.
$95,000 - Steve represented a 36-year-old Cecil County man who was rear ended while stopped at a red light. The force of the impact was severe and his client’s vehicle was totaled. Steve’s client suffered a cerebral concussion, a C5-6 disc herniation, and a L2-3 disc protrusion. He received a 30% whole-body permanent disability rating. Steve settled the case with the insurance company for $95,000.00.