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Truck Accidents

Trucking is Big Business

All vehicles can be potentially dangerous, but large, heavy trucks can pose particular safety issues. There are three main weight classifications for road trucks: light trucks (minivan, pickup truck); medium trucks (box truck, flatbed truck, motorhome); and heavy trucks (ballast tractor, cement mixer, dump truck, semi-trailer truck). There is also a category for very heavy trucks and transporters that are too large for highway use without escorts and special permits. Some ballast tractors and all heavy haulers are in this category. 2012 showed 10,659,380 registered heavy trucks, while in 2011, there were 408,782 for-hire carriers, 662,544 private carriers, and 168,680 interstate motor carriers. Many of those trucks belong to trucking company giants, J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Inc, YRC Freight, Con-Way, Swift Transportation, and Schneider National.

Ballast tractors and heavy haulers are designed to carry large amounts of cargo at a time, but even these vehicles have their limits. Heavy and very heavy trucks can be overloaded unsafely, presenting serious hazards for other vehicles on the road. An oversized load is a longer, wider, and/or heavier than the average load on an 18-wheeler.

Trucking Accidents

When a load is not secure, or there is too much cargo loaded onto a flatbed truck, that cargo may fall off and present obstacles for other vehicles that are driving at high speeds. This is particularly dangerous when the truck is carrying hazardous materials, like harmful chemicals or metal. Sometimes, overloading is the result of a trucking company putting profits over safety. Other times, it is the result of a driver’s haste and negligence in the loading process.

In some cases, an improperly loaded truck may have a load shift during travel, upsetting the center of gravity and tipping the truck over. Because of the unbalanced load, it is extra important to keep the trailer lights and safety equipment operational. Additionally, a truck with an uncoupled trailer, which offsets the vehicle’s balance, will make the chance of tip-over greater. It is important to remember that as the vehicle becomes heavier, the longer the stopping distance needed.

The sheer weight of a heavy truck can make the vehicle unable to travel on certain highways and bridges that cannot handle them. Many are also too high to go under certain bridges and overpasses. For this reason, all their routes must be pre-approved by the Department of Transportation.

In many states, very heavy trucks need pilot cars to guide them, and in most states they are not allowed to travel at night.

Considering that large trucks are already high-weight and hard to stop and control, adding an over-sized load to the equation can lead to an exponential increased risk for a serious truck accident. When the unexpected happens and these trucks have to try to maneuver or stop quickly, the results can be disastrous.

Truck Accident Statistics

Out of the 30,800 fatal crashes in 2012, 3,702 (12%) involved at least one heavy truck, and out of the 5,584,000 nonfatal crashes in 2012, 367,000 (6.6%) involved at least one heavy truck. The estimated total cost for heavy truck crashes in 2012 was $99 billion; $40 billion in fatal crashes, $38 billion in injury crashes, and $21 billion in property-damage only crashes. Sadly, 76,000 passenger vehicle occupants and 25,000 heavy truck occupants were injured in a heavy truck accident in 2012, while 2,843 passenger vehicle occupants and 697 heavy truck occupants were killed. This statistic makes truck driving America’s 8th most hazardous occupation.

According to a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) study, an estimated 32% of heavy truck crashes occur because the truck runs out of the travel lane, an estimated 29% occur because of vehicle loss of control (traveling too fast, cargo shift, vehicle system failure, poor road conditions), and an estimated 22% occur because of a collision with the rear end of another vehicle in the truck’s travel lane. Jackknife was also found to be present in 5% of crashes.

FMCSA also found that an estimated 87% of the fatal and injury crashes were caused by the truck’s driver. The reasons for the driver’s error were divided into 4 categories. The first reason was non-performance (12%)– the driver fell asleep or was physically impaired for another reason. The second was recognition (28%)– the driver was inattentive, distracted, or failed to observe the situation adequately. The third reason was decision (38%)– the driver was driving too fast, misjudged the speed of other vehicles, or followed the vehicles too closely. The last reason was performance (9%)– the driver panicked, overcompensated, or exercised poor directional control. Some other factors associated with the crashes were prescription drug use, over-the-counter drug use, driver fatigue, unfamiliarity with the vehicle, and light deficiencies, among others. Brake failure was cited as a problem in almost 30% of truck accidents, while problems with the roadway itself was found in 16% of crashes. Weather conditions and other factors limiting visibility were present in almost 13% of the studied accidents as well.

The Value of a Truck Accident Case

If you have been involved in an accident with a heavy truck, the value could – perhaps – be more than a traditional car accident.  The reason, explained below, comes down to two factors – insurance and juries.  However, with that caveat, a truck accident case calculates value in a way similar to any other motor vehicle accident.  Property damages are paid for by the insurance company for the at-fault driver.  Medical bills and lost wages form the basis for special damages.  The damages are then potentially multiplied by some factor to determine the pain and suffering.  The “multiplier” or “factor” is derived by other questions, such as accident severity, injury severity, and other surrounding factors.  A good truck accident lawyer has the ability to properly assign the multiplier.  This forms the basis for the value of the truck accident case, or, alternatively stated, the value of the truck accident settlement, assuming no lawsuit is needed.

How Much is a Truck Accident Case Worth?

This is the question we answer.  Use the accident calculator to get a rough idea of the value of your case.