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Common Causes of Semi Truck Accidents

improper_trainingAccidents involving large trucks and tractor trailers often have catastrophic consequences. When a semi truck collides with a passenger car, the individuals in the smaller vehicle are extremely vulnerable to severe injury and even death. 

A semi-truck with a trailer can weigh more than 30,000 pounds, which means a normal passenger car is no match. The average passenger vehicle weighs only around 4,000 pounds. This size and weight difference is what contributes to such serious outcomes when these vehicles are involved in a crash.

Truck accidents are often caused by driver negligence, either on the car or truck driver’s part.

Truck drivers spend a long amount of time on the road. In some cases, they might spend days or weeks driving, only stopping for breaks and sleep. Because they spend so much time on the road, the odds of engaging in negligent driving escalates.

Investigations into truck accidents reveal that truck drivers were commonly engaged in some type of negligent behavior, such as speeding or distracted driving. These factors are what lead to the most common causes of truck accidents. 

Have You Been Injured in a Chicago Truck Accident?

Semi trucks drive more miles on Illinois roads every year than most passenger vehicles. Yet, they account for a small number of crashes. Many reasons for this have been suggested, including the fact that:

  • Trucks drive slower than most traffic on highway
  • Truckers must undergo more intense training to become licensed
  • Some truckers are more aware of the dangers associated with driving and therefore more careful of safety procedures

However, our Chicago truck accident lawyers know that even though they aren’t involved in as many accidents, semi-trucks are involved in a large number of crashes with serious injuries and fatalities.

Our lawyers have experience with seeking compensation for semi truck accident victims. We can help you and your family recover. Contact us today for a free consultation at (312) 924-7575 or by filling out our online form.

Why do semi trucks get into accidents?

Due to their size and the relatively long time it takes to slow or stop a semi, it is easy to see how the driver of a small passenger car would likely suffer injuries in a semi crash. Semi truck crashes can happen for all of the same reasons as other vehicle collisions. However, there are a few types of truck accidents that are among the most common. In the experience of our attorneys, the following list comprises some of the most common causes of semi truck accidents:

Driver Error

Driver error on the part of a trucker accounts for a significant percentage of all semi crashes. This category includes crashes caused by a speeding driver, a driver who fails to check a blind spot before switching lanes, and driver confusion. Any mistake made while operating such a large vehicle can have devastating results for those that are struck.

Driver Fatigue

Truck drivers work long hours and they have demanding schedules. The hours they drive are limited by the law. However, many drivers continue behind the wheel when they are exhausted or otherwise should be resting. Long haul drivers may be in a cab for days or weeks at a time. There’s little to break up the monotony of the road. This can lead a driver to lose focus on the road and to ignore safe driving techniques, causing a crash. 

Driving Under the Influence

It is illegal in every state to drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In Illinois, commercial drivers are held to a higher standard than the public. They can only have very little alcohol in their system. This is because the size, weight, and force of a semi-truck make them an inherent danger to others on the road. There’s a need for the utmost safety. Drivers who operate a semi under the influence pose an extreme danger to themselves and everyone else on the road.

Failing to Secure Loads

Semis in the Chicago area are often hauling trailers that are full of products. Big or small, this product needs to be properly packed and secured so the weight is distributed across the truck. Failure to properly distribute the weight makes it more likely that a truck will cause an accident. This is especially true when turning or when trying to stop. When a product is not properly tied down or stored on a flatbed trailer, it can fly off the trailer and into the path of another vehicle, causing that other vehicle to crash.

Low Filled Liquid Loads

Many trailers are designed to transport liquids, including gas and oil. These tanks can hold a certain amount of liquid before they are full. However, leaving the hold partially full can be more dangerous than you may realize. If a trailer has less than ¾ fill, the liquid can splash around inside the trailer and cause the truck to sway back and forth, especially with turns or changes in speed. When the liquid makes a sudden movement, a driver can lose control of the truck and can cause an accident.

Rear-End Crashes

One of the deadliest types of crashes in Chicago is a rear-end semi truck crash. This can occur when a semi truck driver fails to slow or stop their vehicle in time to prevent a crash with a car in front of them. The truck strikes the rear of the car, often with significant force. A car is not capable of taking this heavy of an impact and will likely crumble. All vehicle occupants are at risk for injuries in the event of a rear-end crash. However, backseat passengers, who are often children, have a particularly high risk of injury or death.

Wide Turns

Whether turning right or left, a semi truck will make a wider turn than a standard passenger vehicle. This is because of its length, size, weight, and limited turning radius. However, this does not give a truck a right to turn as wide as they please and cross other lanes of traffic. Trucks still have to remain in their lane of traffic while turning and to exercise due care for others in the area. Failure to do so may result in a crash.

Distracted Driving

Many truck drivers focus on the road and nothing else while they drive. Unfortunately, not every driver takes this approach. As modern technology continues to improve, more and more drivers carry cell phones, tablets, GPS, and other gadgets. These can all be a source of distraction. Aside from technology, eating behind the wheel, conversing with a passenger, or even getting lost in a song on the radio can be a distraction. Many companies have rules about what their drivers can and cannot do behind the wheel. That being said, it is up to an individual driver to comply with these rules and with any local and federal laws. However, in many instances, these rules and regulations are not followed.

Lack of training

With the demand for truck drivers being so high, sometimes commercial truck companies do not do enough to train and check on their drivers’ skills. This can lead to dangerous and severe accidents, especially since trucks are so heavy and large. In order to operate a truck of this size, a different skill set is needed. If drivers do not have the time necessary to learn the proper techniques, they will be prone to getting into dangerous accidents.

Lack of Maintenance

Trucking companies and owners are required by law to maintain their vehicles and keep them in a condition that ensures safety. However, there are costs and time involved in maintaining semi and commercial trucks. This cuts into profits and time that could be used to make deliveries. Thus, poorly maintained trucks are one of the biggest causes of truck accidents in Illinois. Operators who display this blatant disregard for safety are liable for the damages they cause to other drivers while out on the road. 

Common Injuries Associated with Truck Accidents

Truck accidents usually yield more serious injuries than car accidents, simply because of the size of commercial trucks. They’re much heavier than passenger vehicles and take a much longer time to come to a complete stop, so the injuries associated with these accidents can be much more debilitating and severe. 

A more severe injury leads to more treatment, and more treatment means a higher medical bill and more time off work. With these serious injuries, many people end up more stressed about paying back their bills. However, an experienced attorney can help you recover the compensation that you need to pay back your medical bills and more.

Back and Neck Injuries

A back and neck injury from a truck accident is a serious and potentially life-altering personal injury. Trauma to the cervical spine, lumbar spine, or thoracic spine can damage or sever the spinal cord, which can cause major problems in nearly every aspect of a person’s life.

Back and neck injuries are extremely common in truck accidents because of the rapid back and forth motion that occurs when a car is struck by another vehicle. In fact, nearly 40% of neck and back injuries are caused by vehicle accidents. These injuries can include spinal cord injuries, whiplash, and herniated discs. Complications can arise because of these injuries as well. In some cases, these complications may lead to nerve damage, life-long pain, difficulty breathing, and weakness in the affected area.

The treatment involved in a spinal injury can have important implications on a lawsuit. In particular is the high cost of medical bills, the need for a life care plan, and future damages based on life-altering consequences.

Head and Brain Injuries

Head injuries, like a traumatic brain injury, are common in a truck accident. As a car is hit by a truck, the rapid deceleration can cause a person to hit their head, get ejected from a car, or suffer a brain injury during the whipping motion.

Head and brain injuries caused by truck accidents can range from mild to severe. This can include a concussion, mild TBI, moderate TBI, and severe TBI, as well as other head and brain injuries. These include diffuse axonal injuries, contusions, coup-contrecoup injuries, and open head injuries.

Brain injuries can lead to complications like prolonged recovery times, trouble with various aspects of everyday life, cognitive and emotional issues, learning disabilities, coma, vegetative state, and even death.

You should always be checked by a doctor after a major accident so that you can be properly examined to determine severity and to look for additional injuries.

Broken Bones

Truck accidents are powerful and the force of the collision can be devastating. These accidents can result in broken and fractured bones for the car driver or their passengers. 

A human bone breaks when the force exerted on it is stronger than the force it can bear. Car crashes are responsible for a high number of fractures because your body absorbs a large amount of impact during a collision. During a truck accident, you could suffer a break from being thrown from the vehicle, being compressed inside the car, hitting a hard object, or twisting violently.

Any bone in your body can break from a truck accident. Common car crash fractures include the lower leg and thigh bones, arms and wrists, clavicles, hips, ribs, and facial bones. Fractures to the bones in the spine and neck are also common in truck collisions. When a person suffers a break from a motor vehicle accident, they usually have multiple broken bones alongside other serious injuries

Broken bones often heal in a cast, but they can still cause complications like infection or necessary surgery. This treatment can become costly very quickly. And if complications arise, treatment costs can get into the tens of thousands of dollars.

Lacerations

Lacerations are common in vehicle accidents because of broken glass, sharp metal, and jagged plastic objects. The force of a truck hitting a passenger vehicle may cause windows or a windshield to break, and cause other objects to protrude in hazardous ways. Many lacerations heal properly with the right care, usually stitches or staples to keep the wound closed. However, if not treated properly or if other complications arise, lacerations can lead to infection. Further, many lacerations lead to disfiguring scars.

Internal Injuries

After a truck accident, it is possible to have no visible injuries, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you are not seriously hurt. Internal injuries, such as internal bleeding and internal organ damage, are incredibly common with any type of vehicle accident.

Symptoms can appear immediately, hours later, or even days after the accident occurs. This is why it’s so important to get medical treatment right away after a car or truck accident. 

Mental and Emotional Trauma

Being in a truck accident can be emotionally jarring. Accident sufferers may develop depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder after the incident. These conditions may never go away, but with the proper care like therapy and medication, it can get better. Mental health treatment is often overlooked after an accident, and it can be difficult to recover these damages in court.

Wrongful Death

Because truck accidents can be so severe, they can cause death at the scene or later when someone succumbs to their injuries. In truck versus car accidents, the car occupants are more likely to suffer a fatality when compared to common car versus car accidents. This is because of the sheer size difference in the vehicles.

If someone you love died because of a truck accident, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit on their behalf. A wrongful death claim will allow you to get compensation for your deceased loved one’s medical bills and funeral costs, along with any other losses caused by the death like pain and suffering and lost income.

How is a Truck Accident Different from a Car Accident?

Truck accidents and car accidents share many similarities, but they do have a few key differences. While car accident cases are usually between two parties and their corresponding insurance companies, truck accident cases can include multiple third parties. Hiring an attorney is a crucial step in any accident case, but especially so if you’ve been involved in a truck accident because of this difference.

If you’ve been involved in a truck accident, you may have to deal with various different liable parties. This can include the trucking company, the driver, the loaders, the manufacturer, and the owner of the truck. The involvement of these parties can make the case more complex, but an experienced attorney can help you to navigate the various issues and challenges.

When dealing with a car accident, you’re often dealing with the other driver’s auto insurance and your own carrier as well. This means that the value you can collect for damages is typically limited to the coverages of the at-fault driver and your own policies. With a truck accident, you’re often dealing with the insurance companies of multiple parties. Further, these are typical high limit commercial insurance policies. Usually, this means you can often get more of the compensation you need to recover in higher value injury cases.

And finally, as noted above, truck accidents often result in more serious injuries in comparison to car accidents. This means a longer recovery time, more potential complications, more pain and suffering, longer periods away from work, and higher medical bills.

Determining Truck Accident Liability

Determining liability for your truck accident can be complicated, as there are often many different parties that could be liable for your injuries, depending on how the accident occurred and what your attorney finds during the investigation.

For example, the driver may be liable if they were drinking and driving, texting and driving, driving recklessly or aggressively, or driving while tired. In many of these cases, the accident would be the driver’s fault for acting negligently behind the wheel.

However, if the driver was driving while drowsy or tired because the trucking company was overscheduling the driver or not allowing proper breaks, then the trucking company could be liable for the injuries you sustain. If the accident occurred because of lack of training, it could also be the fault of the trucking company. Finally, the trucking company may be liable under an agency theory if the driver was an employee.

The manufacturers of the truck could be at-fault for your accident if a defective part caused the accident to occur. Likewise, the truck owner or the company they work for could be responsible if the accident could have been prevented with proper safety checks.

Investigating the accident is the first step in determining who is liable for your injuries. Your truck accident attorney will investigate how the accident occurred and who is liable while investigating your case.

Multiple Parties May Be Liable for a Truck Accident

Determining liability is a little bit different in a truck accident case compared to a passenger vehicle car accident case. Because there are many different parties that can be liable (driver, trucking company, manufacturer, loaders), it can be much harder to determine who was actually negligent in causing your accident. In some cases, there can be multiple liable parties, also known as third-party liability.

Truck Driver

If the truck driver was acting negligently, they could be liable for your case. That can look like texting while driving, speeding, driving under the influence, driving while fatigued or exhausted, or driving recklessly. A truck driver may also be considered negligent for illegal maneuvers, such as making an improper u-turn and not staying within their lane or failing to properly change lanes.

Trucking Company

If the trucking company is liable it could be because they didn’t properly train the driver, they instructed the driver to ignore trucking regulations, or overscheduled the driver. They could have passed on safety evaluations for the sake of maximizing profits or even mistakenly or intentionally skipped a scheduled maintenance. Finally, a trucking company will often be liable under a theory of agency, as the driver was its employee.

Manufacturer

The manufacturer of the truck, trailer, or certain parts could be held liable if the accident was caused by a defect. This is something that should have been caught in safety testing by the manufacturer. On the flip side, if the part was recalled and the trucking company continued to use it, that would be considered the fault of the trucking company.

Loaders

Trucks have to be loaded a specific way in order to spread the weight out properly. If the weight isn’t distributed properly, this could cause an accident. Certain measures are also required to ensure loads are properly secured to the trailer, which if done improperly, can cause an accident. In these cases, it would be the fault of the loading company and anyone who was in charge of checking the load to make sure it was safe before the driver started their trip.

Commercial Trucking Regulations

There are many regulations in place to avoid truck accidents from occurring. Truck drivers aren’t allowed to drive more than a certain number of hours at a time and are required to take a break in between each shift. Drivers must perform certain safety checks and document maintenance. They’re also expected to be free of any alcohol or drug influence before getting behind the wheel of the truck.

These regulations also state what kind of licensing and safety training a driver needs to have before they’re able to drive a commercial vehicle. Drivers must have a relatively clean driving record, complete a certain number of hours of training, pass a written test, and be able to obtain medical verification that they’re in good health. If any of these steps are skipped or if a driver breaks any regulation rules and an accident results, they could be liable. 

What Compensation Can I Receive?

After a truck accident, you may be overwhelmed by the amount of financial debt you’ve accumulated or will accumulate. You are likely stressed about receiving enough compensation to cover the cost of any bills or money you’ve lost because of your accident. 

A personal injury attorney who is skilled at handling truck accident claims can make all the difference. The experienced attorneys at Abels & Annes can help to ensure that you receive the compensation that you deserve for your injuries.

When it comes to damages in your injury claim, you can receive compensation in two different categories, economic damages and non-economic damages.

Economic damages (also called special damages) refer to direct monetary values associated with your case. This includes medical bills, including any surgery costs, ambulance rides, hospital visits, therapy, or other medical treatment you may have needed.

You can also recover damages for any wages you lost while you were out of work or any wages you may lose in the future because of your injury.

Economic damages also include additional financial losses, like costs for necessary in-home care, childcare, and medical devices.

Non-economic damages (also called general damages) refers to losses you suffered that are not necessarily related to a financial loss. This includes pain and suffering, loss of consortium, permanent disability or disfigurement, loss of earning capacity, and compensation for any permanent disability or disfigurement.

These damages are calculated based on the amount that your life has changed and what you’ve had to go through because of your accident. 

An experienced attorney will be able to calculate the proper amount to demand for your pain and suffering based on their past experience with settlements, jury verdicts, mediations and arbitrations, the severity of your injuries, and your prognosis.

Should You Contact a Chicago Semi Truck Accident Lawyer?

When an accident with a truck in the Chicago area occurs, there is likely going to be injuries or fatalities. If the truck driver or the company the driver works for are wholly or partially to blame, those victims with injuries may be able to make a claim for their losses with the assistance of a personal injury lawyer.

Due to the large differences in damages collected on a case to case basis, it’s best to get in contact with a lawyer who has experience dealing specifically with truck accidents and who has a track record of getting their clients what they deserve.

When a person who has been involved in a serious accident attempts to represent themselves, they face the experience and zeal of insurance companies who are looking to protect their profits. Insurers know that when someone is handling a case on their own, they have the upper hand. They may exploit this power difference by diminishing your injury and claim, delaying your claim, and in some cases outright denying it.

Chicago, Illinois Truck Accident Lawyer
Dave Abels

One of the biggest tactics that these insurance companies use is offering quick cash. If you were involved in a truck accident and you are injured, getting $5,000 today may seem helpful in the present. But of course, once you find out you need multiple surgeries and will be out of work for a month, everything changes. 

Hiring proper legal representation can make all the difference between being stuck with piles of medical bills and being compensated fairly for your injuries.

At Abels & Annes, we work on your behalf so that you don’t have to worry about all these legal obstacles. We will negotiate with the insurance carriers to get you a fair settlement and ensure that your case runs smoothly. You should focus on getting better while we focus on your injury claim.

If you or a loved one was injured or killed in an accident with a semi truck, we are here to help. We never charge a fee unless a recovery is made on your behalf and our consultations are always free.

Call Abels & Annes, P.C. today at (312) 924-7575 or contact us online.

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