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?
What Should I Do After a Truck Crash?
The most important thing you can do after a collision with a large commercial truck or vehicle is to make sure that the injured receive immediate medical care. Call 911 and request the emergency help you need. Saving lives is always your first priority. Once an ambulance or other emergency assistance is on the way, here are additional things to do at the scene of the crash:
- If anyone is in an unsafe situation such as in an active traffic lane, and they are able, move them to a safer location off the road to prevent additional harm. However, do not leave the scene of the accident.
- From the driver of the truck, get their name, contact information, insurance information, state driver’s license number, CDL driver’s license number, the employer or company that they contracted with, and license plate number. Also find out exactly what material(s) were being hauled.
- Obtain similar information from any other drivers involved in the crash.
- Other than the material you need to gather, do not speak further with the truck driver or any other persons involved in the accident. Never discuss the accident or say anything that could later be misconstrued as admitting fault.
- Use your phone to take photos of everything you can: the road conditions, damage to the truck, damage to your and other vehicles, the final resting positions of all vehicles, and so on. You might consider taking photos of driver’s licenses and CDL licenses, and license plates if that is convenient.
- If you can locate witnesses, request their contact information.
- When police and other emergency personnel arrive, cooperate fully with them. The police will use the material you give them in their report, so be sure you provide accurate information. If you can, take down the names and badge numbers of those who responded to the scene.
At the scene, other than taking care of those who are injured, documenting what happened and preserving the evidence is crucial. Once evidence is lost, misplaced, or even purposefully destroyed by others, it is gone forever.
When the immediacy of the collision is past, there are other tasks we recommend you take care of as soon as possible:
- Make sure you and everyone else in your vehicle seeks medical attention, even if you believe afterwards that you are all right. Some types of injuries can take a while to appear.
- Any injury, regardless of how small, should be documented with photos and written commentary. Keep a record of all your medical visits and procedures, as you heal.
- Fill out and file police reports and any other reports required of you.
- Keep copies of everything from police reports to medical correspondence and files, as well as medical bills, vehicle damage repair estimates, repair bills, and any correspondence with insurance companies.
- While you are usually required to contact your insurance company after an accident, do not reveal anything to them other than the bare minimum.
- Do not discuss what happened with anyone other than your doctor and your attorney.
If your collision took place in Maryland, a truck accident lawyer at the Law Offices of Steven H. Heisler would be happy to provide you with a free consultation.
What Should I Do If the Trucking Company Calls Me?
If anyone from the trucking company or their insurance company calls you, or says that they are a representative acting for the trucking company or their insurance company, do not speak to them. You are under no obligation to talk with them, and anything you say can and will be held against you if it’s possible to do so. Resist the urge to talk and hang up, even if doing so seems rude. If you can’t manage that, simply refer those who call to your truck accident attorney. If you do not have an attorney, under no circumstances should you tell them that.
The same goes for the truck driver’s insurance company—do not speak with them.
Never make any type of statement: recorded statement, official statement, or anything similar. Never discuss a settlement, and never say you will accept a settlement. Do not discuss anything, or give your opinion on any matter.
If someone knocks on your door, do not let them in and do not talk with them. Shut the door with no comment other than that they should speak with your Baltimore truck accident attorney.
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: 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.
Why Trucking Industry Practices Might Be Making Our Roads Less Safe
Being a truck driver once ranked among the best jobs in the nation. The pay was good. The work was steady. Truck driver unions even carried a degree of political influence. But times have changed in an industry fraught with wage stagnation and high turnover rates, among other labor problems.
We drive alongside large trucks virtually every time we drive a major road, and we rarely think about the job requirements of those inside the big rigs. But we probably should. Around 4,000 fatal crashes involving heavy trucks happen every year in the United States. Most of those fatalities were the occupants of smaller vehicles, not the driver of the large truck. Continue Reading
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 Truck 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.
Contact an Experienced Baltimore Truck Accident 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 an experienced Baltimore truck accident attorney to protect yours. Call (410) 625-4878 for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation, or use our online contact form.