California Truck Accident Attorney
A 13-year-old boy died in a collision between the SUV where he was a front-seat passenger and a semi-truck in North County. The accident happened when both the SUV and the semi attempted to enter the intersection at the same time. The boy’s mother and a six-year-old girl who was also a passenger in the SUV were seriously injured in the crash. The accident sparked a small brush fire and prompted the closure of the intersection for investigation and clean up.
The economy of the United States is largely dependent on these commercial vehicles. According to a report from Popular Mechanics, 68 percent of all the goods sold in this country are delivered by semi-trucks—around 60,000 pounds of products per each American each year. There are currently about 2.8 million commercial trucks registered across the nation, according to 2016 data.
However, for all the good that these vehicles—also known as tractor-trailers, 18-wheelers, or big rigs—bring, the downside is the danger they pose to the occupants of passenger vehicles who are sharing the road with them. If you’ve been injured or have lost a loved one in an accident with a tractor-trailer, you may be eligible for compensation. An experienced truck accident lawyer can advise you about your legal options.
Why Are Semi-Trucks So Dangerous?
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration 4,889 fatal accidents involved large trucks and buses in the United States in a single year. The number of fatal truck accidents has increased by 42 percent since 2009. In California, the number of fatal crashes involving large trucks has increased every year. In 2017, there were 361 fatal semi-truck crashes.
The survivors of these accidents are often left with catastrophic injuries. Why, though? There are several features of the semi-truck that make it dangerous to the drivers of other vehicles, including:
- Their size: Tractor-trailers, when fully loaded, can weigh up to 80,000 pounds—20 to 30 times more than the average passenger car. They are many times longer than a passenger car and taller, as well.
- Blind spots: Because of their length, semi-trucks have extraordinarily large blind spots, which are places in which the driver of the truck cannot see from his or her side mirror if another vehicle is approaching. This is why directly in front, directly behind, and along both sides but particularly the right-hand side of the truck is considered a “no zone” and drivers are encouraged to stay out of those areas. A good way to gauge whether you’re in a truck’s no zone is to look for the reflection of the driver in his or her side mirrors. If you can’t see his or her reflection, then the driver likely can’t see you either.
- Braking capability: Because of the weight of the vehicle, it takes a tractor-trailer more distance to stop than smaller vehicles. This poses a particular risk to motorists who cut into the lane of travel in front of the truck or come to a sudden stop when a truck is following too closely behind them.
- Acceleration: The weight of the truck also impacts its ability to accelerate quickly. Accidents can be caused when the truck is attempting to merge onto a roadway or into a lane of traffic and either underestimates the speed of other vehicles in the lane or other motorists refuse to slow down or speed up for the truck to merge safely.
- Hazardous cargo: The cargo carried within the trailer of the truck can be hazardous in a few different ways. If improperly loaded and secured, cargo can shift, causing the vehicle to become unbalanced and make it harder for the driver to control the vehicle. Additionally, if the truck is involved in an accident, the cargo can spill out, creating obstacles for other travelers. Finally, many of these trucks handle hazardous materials, including fuel and other chemicals. These materials increase the chance of a fire if an accident does occur, as well as toxic spills on the roadway and the accident scene.
- High center of gravity: As previously stated, tractor-trailers are much taller than other vehicles and have a larger ground clearance. Their high center of gravity makes them prone to tipping over and the ground clearance creates enough space for a small vehicle to slide beneath the truck during an accident.
What Causes Truck Accidents?
There are a lot of different reasons why a truck accident can occur. While not all of these reasons are the fault of the driver, many are. Some of the driver-caused reasons include:
- Driver fatigue: The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration notes that a study of large truck accidents and their causes revealed that 13 percent of commercial motor vehicle drivers involved in accidents were considered to be fatigued at the time of their crash. Truck drivers work long hours, often traveling hundreds of miles a day. Additionally, the FMCSA reported that almost one-third of commercial truck drivers have sleep apnea, which is a breathing-related disorder in which the sufferer briefly stops breathing while asleep. Because apnea affects the individual’s sleep, it also affects their alertness during waking hours. While the FMCSA—which regulates the U.S. trucking industry—prohibits drivers from working if they have a medical condition that impacts their ability to drive a truck safely, it is believed that many drivers who have this condition are undiagnosed.
- Drug or alcohol impairment: While truck drivers are required to undergo alcohol and drug testing to detect cocaine, marijuana, opiates, amphetamines or methamphetamines, or PCP in their systems, there are many other drugs—including prescription and over-the-counter medications—that may cause impairment. The type of impairment depends on the drugs that were consumed, but any impairment may slow the truck driver’s reaction time, make him or her inattentive to the task of driving, cause difficulties with controlling the vehicle, and impact decision making.
- Speeding: Truck drivers face tight deadlines and may be tempted to speed to make up time lost for breaks or by driving in congested areas. However, a speeding semi-truck may spell doom for others. The faster a vehicle moves, the more distance it takes to stop and the less time a driver has to react to hazards. As big rigs are already known to require more distance to stop safely, speeding only increases the risk that the driver cannot avoid an accident. In addition, truck tires are not rated for excessive speeds. Driving too fast can increase wear on tires and blown tires pose a risk to other travelers in the form of debris on the road and a truck that is difficult to control.
- Poor training: The United States is facing a truck driver shortage of epic proportions. Because of this, many trucking companies may be tempted to reduce the amount of training spent on new drivers. Though all drivers must acquire a certain level of knowledge and skill to obtain a commercial driver’s license, the course they take likely doesn’t train them as to how to deal with real-world situations that may cause an accident.
- Poor truck maintenance: Because of the miles that commercial trucks travel, along with the strain of additional cargo on the vehicle’s systems, regular maintenance is required. Unfortunately, many drivers or companies do not perform this maintenance as often as they should, creating a risk of a malfunction that may cause an accident. Truck parts that must be maintained regularly include the tires, braking system, steering system, and electrical system.
- Improperly loaded cargo: As previously mentioned, improperly loaded and secured cargo may cause an imbalance that makes it harder to control the truck.
- Distractions: With so many hours alone in the truck, often with long stretches of desolate roadways, many drivers distract themselves with activities such as texting, browsing the internet, posting on social media, messing with their GPS or other systems, talking on the phone, eating or drinking. Distracted driving is a major source of accidents with all vehicle types. According to a 2009 study, 71 percent of crashes involving commercial trucks occurred when the driver was doing something else in addition to driving the truck. The FMCSA prohibits truck drivers from texting while they are driving, and the administration notes that texting while driving increases one’s chances of being involved in a safety-critical event by 23 times.
- Unfamiliar roadway: According to the FMCSA, 22 percent of large truck crashes occur where the driver is unfamiliar with the roadway he or she is traveling. Truck drivers who are in an unfamiliar area may try to suddenly correct a missed turn or exit, causing them to perform an illegal or unsafe maneuver that places the driver as well as other motorists at risk.
- Following too closely: Around 5 percent of large truck crashes occur when the truck driver is following another vehicle too closely. Large trucks should be no less than four seconds behind the vehicle they’re following, and even farther away in inclement weather. Driving closer than that hampers the driver’s visibility and ability to scan the roadway and places them at risk of causing a rear-end accident if the lead vehicle should stop or slow down suddenly.
- Defective truck parts: The best maintenance program in the world won’t necessarily reveal to a truck driver that his or her truck is being run on defective parts. Manufacturers and distributors have an obligation to produce parts that are designed to be safe when used properly. If they fail in meeting this obligation, they can be held responsible for the injuries and damages that are caused.
You Can’t Always Avoid a Truck Accident
If a trucker is engaging in the above activities, you can’t always avoid a truck accident—too many factors lie beyond your control. However, these tips can lessen your risk of an accident with a big rig truck:
- Stay out of the truck’s blind spot. If you must be there to pass the truck, do so carefully and be sure to allow plenty of space before re-entering the lane of travel in front of the truck.
- Don’t cut a truck off or turn in front of it. It isn’t easy to estimate the speed at which a truck is traveling, and they may not stop in time to avoid hitting you.
- Avoid distractions that may draw your attention away from the task of driving while you are traveling in front of, behind, or alongside a commercial truck.
- Pay attention to a truck’s turn signals and avoid being alongside it when it turns.
- Don’t follow a truck too closely. Give enough space to appropriately react in the case of blown tires, the truck stopping suddenly, or high winds that may cause the truck to roll over.
Call Our Truck Accident Attorneys if a Truck Accident Injured You or Took the Life of a Loved One
If you or a loved one suffered catastrophic injuries due to a truck accident in San Diego, or you lost a loved one in this type of accident, you need an experienced truck accident lawyer to help you navigate the legal process involved with obtaining compensation for your injuries. Trucking companies and those who insure them often employ powerful defense teams that make pursuing a claim on your own very difficult.
One out of eight fatalities in motor vehicle crashes is due to accidents between passenger cars and tractor-trailers. The Gomez Law Firm are well versed in the issues that surround trucking accidents, including federal and state traffic and truck laws, regulations that trucking companies and their drivers are required to uphold, issues surrounding vehicle registrations, and issues surrounding liability.
We know the considerations that must be made when filing a personal injury claim in a trucking accident case. Some of those considerations include obtaining electronic logbooks, GPS data, black box or engine control module, pre-trip inspection logs and compliance with regulations. Additionally, we attempt to identify all sources of liability for your accident and insurance policies that may be available to provide compensation.
For a free, no-cost consultation and case review, contact us online or by calling (619) 237-3490.