Head-on collisions involving large trucks do not happen often, but when they do, they cause significant damage. The sheer size and weight of a large truck make any collision with another, smaller vehicle massively destructive. Fatalities and serious injuries are common.
Because head-on collisions involving large trucks are rare, they tend to get less attention from driving safety advocates than other, more common, types of accidents. To help shine some light on these catastrophic collisions, in this blog post we examine some of the ways head-on truck accidents can happen, the types of injuries they inflict, and steps California drivers can take to protect their wellbeing and legal rights after suffering injuries in one. If a head-on collision with a truck has upended your life, contact an experienced California truck accident attorney.
Case Studies Illustrate How Head-On Truck Accidents Happen
As the name suggests, a head-on collision involves two vehicles colliding front end to front end. They are thankfully rare, because it is highly unusual for vehicles to travel in opposite directions on the same stretch of road for any reason, let alone on purpose.
Though statistics concerning these accidents are hard to come by, an examination of individual head-on truck accidents on California roads suggests their most common scenario involves one of the two vehicles crossing a center-line into oncoming traffic. Less often, these accidents happen when, because of driver error or impairment, a vehicle travels the wrong way on a one-way street or highway.
It is possible to draw some basic conclusions about the causes of head-on truck accidents in California. Alcohol use is an undeniable factor in many of these accidents, causing drivers to swerve unpredictably into oncoming traffic or to drive the wrong way. Fatigue also plays a role, which is not surprising since the effects of driving while fatigued mimic those of drunk driving. Driver recklessness also contributes to fatal and catastrophic head-on collisions with trucks, particularly when making attempts to pass traffic on two-lane roads with a broken centerline. Finally, distraction likely also plays a role.
Injuries in Head-On Truck Collisions
The enormous size and weight difference between trucks and passenger vehicles contribute to the severity of injuries sustained by victims of these accidents, as the stories linked above attest. A truck weighs at least 10,000 pounds, and can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds fully-loaded. In stark contrast, the average passenger car weighs between 3,000 and 5,000 pounds.
At highway speeds, this weight difference (not to mention the difference in physical size) makes the occupants of the passenger car particularly vulnerable to injury and fatality, while truck drivers usually (but not always) escape these accidents with relatively minor injuries. Drivers and passengers of small cars, if they are lucky enough to survive a head-on collision with a large truck, frequently sustain one or more of the following types of severe, life-altering physical harm:
- Brain injuries. Safety features like airbags can only realistically provide partial protection from the extreme forces of a head-on collision with a large truck. Occupants of smaller vehicles often sustain impacts to their heads in these accidents. Those impacts can directly damage brain tissue, or indirectly cause intracranial swelling and bleeding that causes brain damage. The resulting traumatic brain injuries can cause lifelong impairments to a person’s ability to speak, reason, move, and think. In severe cases, these injuries leave victims in permanent states of unconsciousness or semi-consciousness, and leave their families emotionally and financially devastated.
- Spine injuries. A violent collision with a large truck exerts extreme forces on occupants of passenger cars. Even if these car occupants wear seat belts and have the protection of airbags, those safety measures only partially protect them from being twisted and thrown about in ways that damage the structures of the spine, including vertebrae and discs, as well as the spinal cord itself. Trauma to the spinal cord, in particular, can leave these accident victims paralyzed, facing a life confined to a wheelchair and treatments that may cost millions of dollars.
- Crushed limbs and traumatic amputations. The images accompanying the news items above reflect the sort of catastrophic damage done to smaller vehicles in a head-on collision with a truck. Often, these accidents cause the passenger cabin to collapse or crumple inward, pinning or severing the limbs of the car’s occupants. These are life-threatening injuries because they can cause massive blood loss and shock. Survivors of these injuries often face a lifetime of expensive, painful health complications and disabilities.
- Internal injuries. Because head-on collisions with trucks are so violent, they can cause significant damage to a person’s internal organs, including ruptures, punctures, and life-threatening internal bleeding. Quick emergency medical care is essential to save the lives of people who suffer this kind of trauma. Without it, they may not survive or may face lasting health complications.
- Burns. As the examples above illustrate, head-on collisions between cars and large trucks can lead to explosions and fires that inflict severe, often deadly burns. Burn victims endure agonizing pain and a long, difficult road to recovery often complicated by secondary health impacts.
The injuries above reflect just some of the damage a head-on collision between a car and large truck can do. These are some of the most catastrophic of all accidents on California roads. All types of injuries are possible.
How a Lawyer Can Help
Head-on collisions involving semi trucks should not happen. When they do, it is nearly always a sign that something unusual happened that needs investigating. The accident illustrations above show us that most of the time, some sort of error on the part of a driver lies at the heart of any car-on-truck head-on collision. When drivers make errors and harm others, they and others legally responsible for their behavior should be held accountable.
The first thing anyone should do after sustaining injuries in a head-on collision involving a truck is to seek appropriate medical care. Similarly, anyone mourning a tragic loss caused by a head-on truck accident should seek the support of family, friends, and mental health professionals to help them through the immediate aftermath.
After truck accident victims and/or their families recover a measure of stability, however, speaking with an attorney experienced in representing clients impacted by truck accidents can do a lot of good. Here are some ways a lawyer can help those whose lives have been disrupted by a head-on collision involving a large truck:
- Accident investigation. Head-on truck accidents initially seem inexplicable. Often, victims of these accidents cannot speak for themselves. It takes careful investigation to figure out just what happened, and why. The California Highway Patrol or local police investigate accidents, but their focus is not usually on serving the interests of a particular accident victim. An experienced truck accident lawyer can conduct an investigation that delves into whose actions harmed the lawyer’s client, specifically, to ensure that whoever should be held accountable, is.
- Insurance negotiation. Insurance companies play a role in the aftermath of virtually every motor vehicle accident, and head-on truck collisions are no exception. Accident victims and their families have little choice but to interact with their own insurance companies. But if the insurance company for the person(s) at fault for the accident comes calling, it’s best to let an experienced lawyer handle those discussions. Insurance companies for at-fault parties try to minimize their financial exposure. A lawyer who knows how to hold them to account levels the playing field.
- Litigation. In most cases where a person or company has legal liability for harming someone else in a head-on truck accident, the parties reach a settlement through negotiation. But not always. Sometimes disputes arise over whether someone has liability, or over how much they should pay. In those cases, going to trial in a California court may represent the best option for holding wrongdoers accountable for the devastation caused by a head-on truck accident. An experienced California truck accident lawyer who has years of experience in the courtroom gives victims and their families the best hope of recovering the compensation they deserve.
Head-On Collisions Involving Trucks: A Rare, but Real, Danger
Do not assume that just because head-on collisions involving heavy trucks are rare, one will never affect you. We hope that by reading this blog post, you will have gained some knowledge about how these catastrophic accidents happen, the risks they pose, and the help that’s available if tragedy strikes. If a head-on collision involving a heavy truck has caused devastation in your life, contact the Gomez Trial Attorneys with your questions, and learn the best strategy for moving forward.