Truck accidents can result in devastating and life-threatening injuries. While causes of truck accidents vary greatly, a victim of a crash may collect compensation from the at-fault party.
Many factors can contribute to truck collisions, including bad weather, poor road conditions, mechanical failures, and many more. However, driver error is responsible for the vast majority of accidents involving trucks. When investigating a truck accident, it is critical to determine what caused the collision and who can be held liable for the crash.
While the causes of truck accidents vary from one crash to another, the majority of fatal accidents occur on major roads. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), 51 percent of crashes involving fatalities occur on major roads, followed by interstates and freeways (34 percent) and minor roads (15 percent).
If you sustained injuries or your loved one died in a truck accident, consider contacting an experienced lawyer to manage every aspect of your claim and help you pursue the compensation you deserve.
Driver Negligence in Truck Accidents
Driver error and negligence are to blame for the vast majority of all accidents involving large trucks. A study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) estimated that about 87 percent of all truck accidents occur due to driver error, while mechanical failures in the vehicle account for ten percent of such crashes, and the remaining three percent are due to the environment.
The FMCSA recognizes four types of driver negligence:
- Non-performance (12 percent). Non-performance refers to a driver’s impaired ability to operate a vehicle due to a physical problem (e.g., falling asleep behind the wheel).
- Recognition (28 percent). This type of negligence refers to a driver’s distraction by something that diverts their attention from the road (e.g., using a cell phone while driving).
- Decision (38 percent). If a driver makes poor decisions while operating a vehicle, they are likely to cause a motor vehicle accident (e.g., misjudging the speed or the distance between vehicles).
- Performance (nine percent). If a driver makes a driving-related mistake, they can end up causing a preventable crash (like poor steering or bad maneuvering).
While a driver’s negligence is the primary cause of truck crashes, there can be other factors that contribute to accidents involving large trucks.
10 Common Causes of Truck Accidents
While there are dozens of causes of truck accidents, we have shortlisted ten of the most common causes of crashes involving large trucks.
A large number of truck drivers exceed the speed limit or drive too fast for weather/road conditions in an attempt to meet delivery schedules quicker and make more money. However, exceeding the speed limit can put the speeding driver and others at risk of injuries. Speeding is especially dangerous for large trucks due to their increased braking distance. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the average stopping distance of loaded trucks is 196 feet when traveling at 55 mph. The average stopping distance of a passenger vehicle is 133 feet at the same speed.
2. Fatigue and Drowsy Driving
Hours of service regulations exist for a reason. These rules aim to prevent truck drivers from operating trucks while fatigued. Hours of service regulations set the maximum amount of time truckers are permitted to be on duty.
When a truck accident occurs due to the trucker’s fatigue, the trucking company that employs the driver may also be liable for the collision. It is not uncommon for trucking companies to push their drivers to their limits or set unrealistic deadlines that force truckers to violate the hours of service rules.
3. Distracted Driving (Texting and Driving)
Distracted driving and failure to pay attention to the road are some of the most common causes of trucking accidents. Research shows that writing a text message on a handheld cell phone while operating a motor vehicle slows the driver’s reaction time by 35 percent. For the sake of comparison, the reaction time of motorists driving under the influence of alcohol might slow by 12 percent.
4. Impairment by Drugs or Alcohol
Many trucking accidents occur as a result of the trucker’s impairment by drugs or alcohol. According to a study, 30 percent of truckers admitted to taking amphetamines when being on duty, while 20 percent admitted to taking marijuana, and three percent used cocaine in the course of employment.
A truck driver’s ability to operate a truck can also be impaired by prescription drugs. Because truck drivers live solitary lives and spend countless hours on the road, many of them choose to fight boredom by consuming alcohol. Driving while intoxicated increases the risk of an accident due to slower reaction times, poor judgment, and lower vigilance.
5. Bad Maneuvering Decisions
Driving a large truck is no easy task because of the vehicle’s limited maneuverability and sheer size. Devastating collisions are likely to occur when a driver makes just one bad maneuvering decision, such as turning too sharply or failing to signal when changing lanes. When truck drivers make poor decisions, they are likely to cause catastrophic injuries and fatalities.
6. Inadequate Vehicle Maintenance
Some truck crashes have nothing to do with driver error. A truck accident can also happen due to a failure to maintain a vehicle in good condition. When a collision occurs as a result of a mechanical failure, the owner of the truck, the trucking company, or the company responsible for maintenance can be held liable.
However, if a truck accident occurs because of a manufacturing or design defect, the injured party can bring a lawsuit against the vehicle’s manufacturer. Brake problems are some of the most common defects in large trucks.
7. Overloaded Trucks
Many truck drivers and trucking companies violate federal regulations regarding the maximum cargo weight to increase their profits. As a result, many trucks on our roads are overloaded. When a truck is overloaded, it is less stable and more difficult to control.
8. Aggressive Driving
Truck drivers are on the road for days and weeks. Due to being on the road for long periods and being pushed by their employer to meet delivery schedules, truckers are more likely to become aggressive behind the wheel. As a result, we often see truckers who refuse to yield the right of way, cut other vehicles off, tailgate, change lanes without signaling, and run red lights. All of these behaviors increase the risk of a collision.
9. Nighttime Driving
Many trucks prefer to drive at night because there is less traffic. However, since roads can be poorly lit and drivers are more likely to be drowsy when driving at night, nighttime driving presents an increased risk of devastating accidents.
10. Bad Weather
Bad weather is a contributing factor to many truck accidents in the United States. Adverse weather conditions such as snow, ice, sleet, and fog, make truck accidents more likely to occur. However, the vast majority of weather-related collisions are preventable by taking extra precautions.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Truck Accidents
How Common Are Truck Accidents in Phoenix, Arizona?
According to the Arizona Department of Transportation (DOT), large trucks and buses account for nearly six percent of all motor vehicle accidents in the State of Arizona. Accidents in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, accounted for 72.50 percent of all crashes in the state in 2020.
What Are the Most Common Truck Accident Injuries?
Truck accidents are likely to cause devastating and fatal injuries due to the sheer size of large trucks. Trucks with loaded trailers can weigh up to 80,000 pounds in the United States, which means the likelihood of serious injuries and deaths is considerably high.
Common types of injuries suffered by victims of truck accidents include:
- Spinal cord injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
- Fractured and broken bones
- Internal organ damage and internal bleeding
- Back and neck injuries
- Loss of a limb
- Severe burns
A truck crash victim can incur hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical expenses because many victims require lifelong treatment, and some may never fully recover or walk again.
Who Is Responsible for Truck Accidents?
Since a significant number of truck accidents occur when the truck driver is driving for work purposes, there may be more than one party that can be held responsible for the collision.
Responsible parties may include:
- The driver of the truck
- The trucking company that employs the driver
- The owner of the truck
- The company that leases the truck or trailer
- Vehicle manufacturer
- Manufacturers of vehicle parts
- The company responsible for loading the truck
- The company responsible for maintaining or repairing the truck
- A government entity (such as in crashes due to inadequate road design or negligent road maintenance)
Identifying liable parties can be complicated, which is why injured victims might benefit from seeking the legal counsel of a skilled lawyer to investigate the crash and determine who can be held responsible. A lawyer will review the truck driver’s logbooks, data from the truck’s black box, photos and videos from the scene of the crash, witness statements, and other pieces of evidence to determine every responsible party.
How Much Is Your Truck Accident Claim Worth?
As with determining liable parties, the value of your claim depends on the circumstances of your truck accident.
Many factors can contribute to how much your claim is worth:
- The severity and nature of your injuries
- Whether you suffered a temporary or permanent disability
- The available insurance coverage, if any
- The cost of vehicle repairs
- The cost of your medical treatment and other bills related to your recovery
- The laws in your state
Consider contacting an experienced lawyer who will evaluate the circumstances of your crash and determine the amount of money that will fairly compensate for your damages and losses.
How Long Does It Take to Settle a Truck Accident Claim?
It is practically impossible to estimate how long it will take you to settle your claim following a truck accident without evaluating your unique situation. Depending on many factors, a victim can successfully settle their claim within weeks or months after the crash. In complex cases, the settlement and litigation process can take a year or even several years.
Having a Phoenix truck accident lawyer representing you can help streamline and expedite the legal process. The timeline and outcome of your truck accident case greatly depend on your lawyer’s negotiation skills and expertise and the responsiveness and willingness to cooperate on the part of the insurance company and the at-fault party.
Will You Have to Take Your Truck Accident Case to Court?
According to The Law Dictionary, only about 4 to 5 percent of all personal injury cases in the country go to trial.
While most personal injury cases after truck accidents settle out of court, some end up in the courtroom. Typically, injured victims have a right to file a lawsuit against the liable parties, but litigation can be a long and expensive process where compensation is not guaranteed.
Another advantage of settling a claim out of court is that the parties can keep the details of their accident private. However, litigation may be necessary in cases where the parties cannot agree to a mutually acceptable settlement amount.
Do You Need to Contact a Truck Accident Lawyer?
Lawyers know trucking regulations and all applicable state laws like the back of their hand. A lawyer can help you navigate the claims process and ensure that you understand the actual value of your claim.
A truck accident lawyer will investigate and gather evidence to determine what caused the collision and identify liable parties. In some cases, it may be necessary to hire accident reconstruction experts to determine how the accident happened and who can be held responsible for causing it.
A lawyer will also negotiate with insurance companies on behalf of the victim to maximize the settlement amount and ensure that the insurer acts fairly and honestly when handling the injured victim’s claim.