How Are Truck Accidents Different from Car Accidents?
Learn What Sets Trucking Accidents Apart from Other Traffic Collisions
The reason truck accidents are so much worse than passenger vehicle collisions comes down to physics. Tractor trailers can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, while most passenger vehicles weigh below 4,000 pounds.
The difference in weight means a truck will collide with far more force than even the most massive passenger vehicle can withstand. That is why 97% of deaths in fatal truck crashes are passenger vehicle occupants.
A semi-truck or big rig can literally crush a smaller vehicle. Their larger size also increases the changes of an underride accident, which is one of the most devastating types of truck collisions. The smaller vehicle may get trapped underneath the truck or have its top sheared completely off. In any trucking accident, the chance of significant property damage, serious injury, and death is higher than a passenger vehicle crash.
Lack of Visibility & Immediate Stopping Power
It is also more difficult for a truck to see the road and other cars than it is for a standard passenger car, making poor visibility a leading cause of trucking accidents. For example, 18-wheelers have huge blind spots, which can prevent the driver from seeing if another vehicle is present. Entire vehicles can fit inside a truck’s blind spot, putting them at risk when the truck makes a lane change or a turn.
Cars are crushed or forced off the road if a truck driver can't see them. If the driver of a car is unable to see another passenger vehicle, the damage is often far less significant.
Another contributing factor to severe truck accidents is the truck's stopping power. Drivers are unable to respond to sudden accidents, even if they see them in time. Due to a truck’s size and weight, stopping requires 20% to 40% more distance. As a result, collisions with trucks often means the truck is traveling at a far higher speed than a vehicle would be. Higher speed and higher weight mean catastrophic levels of injury.
Rollover Accidents & Jackknifing
Unfortunately, trucks are also more prone to rollover accidents than standard passenger cars. Tractor-trailers all have a higher center of gravity. In emergency maneuvers (like swerving at high speeds to avoid an obstacle), trucks are far more likely to roll over—crushing passenger vehicles.
Tractor-trailers also have a feature that leads to unique accidents. Because most of their weight is being pulled rather than steered, trucks can lose control of their cargo under certain circumstances. This is known as jackknifing, where the trailer travels in a different direction than the truck itself.
Trucks are especially vulnerable to jackknifing on slippery or icy roads. Drivers have to compensate by driving slower on wet roads. What will often happen is a truck driver may attempt to swerve his truck out of the way of an obstacle or another vehicle, causing the trailer to skid. The sudden swerve will take the truck on a different course while the trailer has too much momentum and continues on the same path. This causes the trailer to pull the truck, potentially trapping passenger vehicles between the truck and trailer or causing a major pile-up within seconds.
The other key difference between a car accident and big rig accident has to do with legal considerations.
Understanding Federal Trucking Regulations
A large body of laws and regulations governs the trucking industry, affecting how truck accidents are investigated and how liability is determined. Furthermore, trucking companies often put forth a vigorous defense for claims made against them in an effort to minimize the amount of compensation they pay to a truck accident victim.
Federal trucking regulations are put in place to keep motorists safe. They outline rules on everything from the height and weight of a vehicle to the number of hours a trucker is permitted to drive.
For these reasons, it is vital for anyone who is injured in a large truck accident to be represented by outstanding legal counsel. At Arnold & Itkin, we are committed to providing top-quality representation to injured clients throughout the United States. Our Houston big rig accident attorneys take care of investigating the crash, identifying the responsible party, and holding them accountable.
Learn more about trucking regulations and what they mean for accident claims.
Investigating Accidents Involving Big Rigs & Tractor-Trailers
An early, thorough investigation is critical to the outcome of your case. After an accident, a trucking company immediately dispatches a team of experts to the scene to begin collecting evidence and planning a legal defense.
However, a skilled lawyer from our firm can take steps to counter such actions:
- Visiting the accident scene to take photos of all evidence
- Locating and interviewing witnesses
- Documenting current road and weather conditions
- Recovering information such as meal and gas receipts, which can be used to prove speed
- Obtaining cell phone and other records to prove negligence
- Sending a preservation of evidence letter and obtaining a temporary restraining order
The sooner you speak with an attorney, the sooner they can begin their investigation to preserve crucial evidence. In addition, once a lawsuit is filed, the process of legal discovery is equally important to the outcome of your case. At this time, your lawyer may request evidence and information from the defense and directly question the truck driver. For example, an experienced lawyer knows how to dig into a driver's records and obtain information about their training, employment history, and accident history.
The Difference Between Truck Accidents & Car Accidents
Truck accidents are different than car accidents because the recovery process after one is usually more complicated for multiple reasons.
The three primary differences relate to the following categories:
- Financial Liability
- Driver Responsibility & Federal Regulations
- Injury severity
One of the most common aspects of any serious truck accident is the severity of injuries they cause those involved to sustain. While car accidents have the potential to cause serious injuries, they’re almost guaranteed during truck accidents. This is because of their difference in size and weight when compared to other cars.
Truck accident injuries are often severe enough to receive the label of catastrophic. Legally and medically, a catastrophic injury is one that changes the rest of a person's life. These injuries require extensive treatment and have permanent repercussions that survivors must deal with. Besides being difficult medically, these injuries place a financial strain on people because of costly medical treatment and how they often force a person to lose their ability to work as they once did.
In short, truck accident claims can have significantly larger settlement amounts because they are more destructive to the health and property of the people they affect.
Determining & Proving Negligence
In a typical car accident, it is fairly easy to determine the party that is liable for financial reparations. This is not true in commercial truck accident cases. In fact, there are often many possible defendants and a complicated web of liability. Understanding these can give you a better picture of how truck accidents are different from car accidents.
Defendants in a truck accident claim can include the:
- Truck driver or their employer
- Manufacturer of a defective part
- Retailer of the truck
- Loading facility
- Repair facility
- Government entity responsible for roads
Insurance considerations in a truck accident are also very different from a standard car accident. A trucking company is required to carry insurance, but the insurer has no obligation to reveal how much coverage there is until litigation begins. Another unique aspect of commercial truck insurance relates to the MSC90 endorsement, which states that an insurance company must provide coverage even to vehicles that are not listed on a policy. While such legal intricacies may sound confusing to the average person, they are routine matters to a truck accident attorney. If you have questions, our law firm can help. Call now.
Regardless of the circumstances of the accident, truck drivers are liable for the damage their equipment, their driving, or their state-of-mind causes. Trucking companies can also be held liable for their drivers’ accidents, as they are responsible for hiring skilled drivers and meeting federal safety regulations. When they fail to meet these regulations, regular people pay the price with their well-being—even their lives.
Truck Accident Cases Require Experienced Counsel
We've established how truck accidents are different from car accidents. As such, it makes sense to work with an attorney who has specific experience with trucking accident claims. That's Arnold & Itkin. We are known nationwide as leaders in truck accident litigation, holding trucking companies and others accountable for causing the most serious collisions on America's roadways. Our attorneys know how to approach truck accident cases and have the resources, manpower, and dedication to seek the best result every time. No matter what.
Discuss your truck accident claim with a legal professional who can help you make the right choices. Call (888) 493-1629!