According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 4,951 people died in commercial truck accidents in 2018. Because commercial trucks are so large, they can do a significant amount of damage when they crash, and when someone dies, it’s usually not the truck driver. Only 18% of commercial truck accident deaths were commercial truck drivers. The remaining 82% of fatalities involved other people, with 71% being drivers and passengers in other vehicles and 11% being non-occupants, such as pedestrians.
Commercial truck accidents are dangerous, especially for passenger vehicle occupants involved in them. Learn more about some of the causes of commercial truck accidents and how personal injury lawyers can help make your family whole again after an accident.
What Is a Commercial Truck?
There are many nicknames for commercial trucks: big rigs, 18-wheelers, semi-trucks, and tractor trailers. To be considered a commercial vehicle, the vehicle must be used for commercial purposes. While commercial trucks are often registered to businesses, individuals can own these big rigs as well. This means garbage trucks, dump trucks, box trucks, tankers, and other large vehicles are considered commercial trucks by law.
Why Do Commercial Trucks Crash?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) conducted a comprehensive study attempting to determine the reasons behind commercial truck accidents. The FMCSA’s Large Truck Crash Causation Study (LTCCS) aimed to clarify the causes of these types of crashes, with the goal of minimizing the number of accidents.
Commercial Vehicle Accident Statistics
The LTCCS spanned almost three years and evaluated approximately 141,000 crashes involving trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds that led to injuries or fatalities. The study found that 87% of commercial truck crashes causing injury or death were due to critical driver error, either by the truck driver or another driver, and that over half of the accidents involved a big rig colliding with a passenger vehicle, such as a sedan, pickup, or sport utility vehicle.
Some of the most common causes of driver error found in the LTCCS involved fatigue. Even though the FMCSA has strict guidelines for how many hours and days in a row a truck driver can be behind the wheel, the pressure to deliver on time is high. Sleep deprivation can not only result in an inattentive driver not recognizing road hazards, but in the worst case, can lead to a driver falling asleep on the road.
Fatigue and/or inattention were reported in 22% of the accidents studied in the LTCCS. Another 10% of crashes involved drivers who “felt under work pressure” from their employer.
Drug Abuse or Habit
A driver falling asleep behind the wheel isn’t the only problem stemming from chronically sleep-deprived truckers. While drug or alcohol use was only reported in 3% of the crashes during the LTCCS study period, the LTCCS found over-the-counter drug use to be a critical factor in an alarming 17% of injury or fatal commercial truck accidents. Some commercial truck drivers use stimulants like ephedrine found in common weight loss medications to help them stay awake on the road. The driver may have become overstimulated, leading to distraction, an inability to focus on the road ahead, or even heart attacks.
Insufficient Driver Training
Semi-trucks are large, complicated pieces of machinery. Operating one requires rigorous training and licensing. Companies are responsible for ensuring their drivers receive adequate training to handle a commercial truck and avoid causing harm on the road.
Despite the seriousness of this responsibility, drivers may continue to display poor training behaviors on highways across the country. Speeding is prevalent, with 23% of accidents investigated in the LTCCS citing negligent speed as a cause. Other training problems led to 41% of commercial truck injury accidents, such as being underprepared for the roadways, following other vehicles too closely, and not frequently checking their surroundings.
Improper Semi-Truck Maintenance
Even when drivers have adequate training and rest and they’re drug and alcohol-free and paying attention, truck accidents can still occur. Shoddy or improper maintenance of trucks was identified as a direct cause of at least 10% of the injury crashes covered in the LTCCS. Trucking companies often attempt to minimize costs, which can mean cutting corners when maintaining their fleet. Severely worn tires or old, ineffective brakes on a semi-truck can pose a serious threat to other drivers on the highway.
Why You Need a Personal Injury Attorney After a Commercial Truck Accident
If you or your family members are unfortunate enough to be caught in a semi-truck crash, you should contact a commercial truck accident attorney as soon as possible. Insurance companies (including your own provider!) will try to pay you as little as possible for your claim, so you need an experienced professional fighting for you to get the full compensation you’re warranted.
Insurance issues are even more complicated in semi-truck accidents because it’s more difficult to determine whose insurance should pay for damages and medical bills. Trucking companies that conduct interstate commerce are required to carry large insurance policies under the Motor Carrier Act. When facing substantial exposure, insurance companies for truckers send their best attorneys to try to pay you as little as possible. For this reason, it’s crucial that you retain a personal injury attorney with experience in successfully handling commercial truck accident cases.
To protect your right to receive compensation, you need your own experienced and talented legal team on your side. The professional Florida truck accident lawyers at GED Lawyers can fight for the compensation you deserve.
Dealing with a commercial truck accident can be a challenge, and you probably have many questions. Our skilled attorneys are knowledgeable in Florida law and known for their success in securing compensation for truck crash victims. To meet with a member of our team, contact our office at 844-443-3529 or online to schedule a free consultation to review and discuss your case.