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Large commercial trucks are incredibly difficult to maneuver. For that reason, they are extremely susceptible to serious traffic accidents that cause devastating and often fatal injuries. These trucks are certainly vital to the nation’s economy. However, due to their sheer size and weight, they take a high degree of skill and experience to operate safely. Even one careless mistake can be catastrophic.
The federal government tightly regulates the trucking industry to ensure companies prioritize the safety of other motorists. This includes requiring that drivers must meet special licensing and insurance requirements before they are given the responsibility of handling a large truck. Truck drivers also hold a higher duty of care toward others on the road to avoid accidents.
In most cases, truck drivers are well-trained, competent, and cautious when operating their vehicles—but accidents can and do happen, typically with deadly results. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration reports 538,000 large trucks are involved in accidents each year, resulting in nearly 160,000 injuries and approximately 5,000 fatalities. Not only are trucking accidents more dangerous than passenger vehicle accidents, but for the victims that survive, the personal injury cases that arise from these accidents are incredibly complex. They involve more severe injuries and require complicated investigations to demonstrate the full extent of damages. In addition, it can be difficult to determine the parties who may be held liable for the accident.
If you have been injured in a truck accident, review the information below, then contact Ayers, Whitlow & Dressler to discuss your case. A Charlotte commercial vehicle accident attorney with our firm can help you navigate the personal injury claims process to secure the compensation you need to move forward after a debilitating truck accident.
You can encounter a wide variety of commercial trucks on North Carolina roadways, including tractor-trailers, flatbed trucks, construction vehicles, garbage trucks, commercial buses, moving trucks, delivery vans, tow trucks, and tanker trucks. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is the main governmental agency responsible for safety oversight of the nation’s commercial motor vehicles. This agency establishes data-driven regulations focused on balancing motor carrier safety with efficiency, enforcing these regulations, identifying high-risk carriers, and providing educational information to carriers, drivers, and the public. It also works with various other federal, state, and local agencies with the mission of reducing accidents, injuries, and fatalities.
Commercial truck drivers in North Carolina must also abide by the guidelines developed by the North Carolina Governor’s Highway Safety Program. This program places several strict requirements on both trucking companies and individual drivers. Trucking companies must carry a mandatory minimum insurance coverage ranging from $50,000 to $750,000 to cover any personal injury or property damage claims. Companies must also submit vehicles for regular inspections and follow specific weight and load limits.
For their part, truck drivers must acquire a commercial driver’s license and the necessary endorsements for their specific vehicle class. They must follow strict rules about work and rest time as well as submit to biannual medical exams that detect conditions capable of posing safety hazards. Truck drivers must sometimes submit to drug and alcohol screenings, as well.
While the typical passenger vehicle weighs around 2,000 to 5,000 pounds, large commercial trucks that have been fully loaded with cargo can reach up to 80,000 pounds. Because these trucks are bigger and heavier than regular vehicles, they also have larger blind spots, lower visibility, and longer stopping distances, especially if the cargo has not been properly and evenly loaded. A regular passenger car may need 300 feet to come to a complete stop after hitting the brakes, but a large truck can take twice that. The combination of these factors makes it extremely difficult for drivers to quickly maneuver their vehicles to avoid obstacles in the roadway.
Due to simple physics, a truck’s greater mass produces a higher velocity, and the force of a collision is much more intense. This force is transferred to the smaller car upon impact, significantly increasing the chance of injury and death for the car’s occupants. The risk is further intensified if the truck is carrying flammable or hazardous materials.
Beyond weight and size, other features of large trucks cause certain unique dangers that do not exist in ordinary passenger vehicle collisions. Semi-trucks are difficult to turn, and their high center of gravity can cause dangerous rollovers. These vehicles are also prone to jackknifing, which occurs when the truck suddenly slows down and stops while the trailer skids and pushes the truck from behind at a 45-degree angle. Sometimes this occurs due to slippery road conditions, but other times the driver’s inattention is a contributing factor.
Research shows that for every 100,000 large trucks registered in the US, there are 906 injury-causing crashes and 38 fatal crashes. Unfortunately, these truck accidents can cause a wide range of severe injuries, including broken bones, traumatic brain injuries, back and neck injuries such as whiplash or herniated discs of the vertebrae, spinal cord damage, paralysis, internal organ damage, amputation, and permanently disfiguring soft tissue injuries from lacerations and burns. Many of these injuries can be fatal or require immediate medical attention.
In two-vehicle collisions involving semi-trucks, occupants of other vehicles are injured and killed at significantly higher rates than the truck drivers themselves. Around 130,000 people are injured in a trucking accident each year, and 97% of deaths in two-vehicle crashes involving large trucks are from the occupants of the passenger vehicle. Approximately eleven percent of all motor vehicle fatalities occurred in heavy truck accidents, 74% in crashes with tractor-trailers, and 28% in crashes with single-unit commercial trucks.
The specific type of accident affects fatality rates, as well. Recent data reports that 31% of passenger vehicle occupants die after being hit head-on by an oversized truck, 25% die after being struck from the side, 5% die after being struck from behind, and 22% die when they rear-end a truck in front of them.
Contrary to popular belief, intoxicated driving is not one of the leading causes of accidents. According to the Large Truck Crash Causation Study conducted by the FMCSA, the most common cause of these accidents is mechanical difficulty, particularly the failure of tires, wheels, brake, and steering wheel defects. Tire failure alone is responsible for 30% of truck accidents, and the modern electronic systems installed in large trucks can also cause issues.
Some people mistakenly assume that accidents primarily result from the truck driver’s actions, but statistics show that drivers of passenger vehicles are often to blame for collisions with large trucks. The most common unsafe acts committed by other drivers while in the vicinity of a large truck include:
When an accident is directly caused by the truck driver, it usually occurs due to one of the following factors or a combination thereof:
Trucking companies are held to strict standards to ensure the safe operation of their vehicles. Unfortunately, in some cases, these companies contribute to serious trucking injuries because they prioritize profit over public safety. Common causes of accidents related to corporate negligence include:
Insurance claims and personal injury settlements from a truck accident can be incredibly complex, and attempting to handle a claim on your own is not recommended. Hiring an experienced Charlotte truck accident attorney is crucial to navigating the necessary legal requirements and achieving the best results in your case. An attorney can help you in the following ways:
If you or a loved one was injured in a truck accident, you are likely experiencing a mounting pile of medical bills. Unfortunately, the time off work you need to heal can make it impossible to cover these expenses and continue supporting your family. Truck companies often carry multi-million-dollar insurance policies, and their insurance providers are motivated to minimize your damages, find you at fault for the accident, or deny your claim altogether. Immediately obtaining legal representation is necessary to fight against these tactics and secure the optimal outcome in your case.
At Ayers, Whitlow & Dressler, we believe that no one should be forced to worry about their financial situation when they are recovering from serious injuries. Our experienced, award-winning team of Charlotte truck accident attorneys can help you file a personal injury claim to cover the damages you sustained due to your injury. With our services, you can get back on your feet as soon as possible. We are dedicated to offering the highest quality legal counsel to ensure you can face your personal injury claim with confidence and peace of mind. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with our team and obtain the compensation and justice you deserve.
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