When a truck is involved in an accident, odds are that its driver won’t be shouldering the consequences — 82% of fatalities and 77% of injuries in trucking related accidents will happen to the drivers and passengers of the smaller vehicles involved in the crash.
After an accident involving a large truck, it is important to consider your options in seeking compensation for property damage, medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and permanent injury or disability. The best way to defend yourself from the variety of complex difficulties that truck accidents present is to hire a skilled lawyer who will work with you to get the compensation you deserve.
If you or a loved one has suffered a serious injury as a result of a truck accident, contact our team of experienced truck accident lawyers to properly investigate and prosecute your truck accident claim.
Why are Truck Accidents so Dangerous?
Large semi trucks can weigh up to 80,000 pounds when fully loaded, meaning a collision with one can be catastrophic for the smaller passenger vehicle. And while a passenger car needs about 306 feet to stop after braking, a tractor-trailer can take up to 600 feet. That’s almost two football fields! The distance can become even further if you factor in issues like rain or snow.
Large trucks cause a disproportionate amount of traffic accidents and traffic-related deaths in the United States every year. In fact, in 2019, over five thousand large trucks and buses were involved in fatal crashes, a 2 percent increase from the previous year, with injury rates rising by 6 percent. The rate at which trucks were involved in fatal crashes per 100 million miles traveled by large trucks also increased by 4 percent.
Other Factors That Increase the Dangers of a Large Truck Accident
Most of the time a collision between a large truck and passenger vehicle will result in catastrophic injuries for the driver or passengers of the smaller vehicle due to the sheer weight and size of the truck, combined with it’s long stopping distance. But of course, those aren’t the only factors that can make a collision with a large truck so deadly.
Speed can also make a crucial difference when the truck driver applies the brakes. The faster a vehicle is traveling — as well as the bigger and heavier it is — the longer it takes to stop. This is one of the reasons that one in eight traffic deaths involve large trucks such as big rigs, tractor-trailers, and other commercial vehicles. States set their own speed limits, often with interstate speed limits of 75 mph. Of course, many drivers will go over this speed limit, reaching speeds of 80 to 85mph, and creating a recipe for disaster.
Truck Accident Cases We Specialize In
Trucking accidents can occur due to a variety of reasons, and play out in a wide array of scenarios. At McEldrew Purtell, we have handled the following truck accident cases in the past:
- Rear-end accidents
- Head-on collisions
- Speed-related accidents
- Insufficient vehicle inspection and maintenance
- Unsafe lane changes
- Tire blowouts
- Unstable weight loads
- Wrongful death
The Reasons That Truck Accidents Happen
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration publishes accident statistics on large truck and bus accidents, as well as their causes. One way to analyze the cause of a large truck accident is to look at the first harmful event in the accident to determine the cause of the crash. According to the FMCSA, these are the first harmful events in a truck crash:
- Colliding with a vehicle driving on the road, 73%
- Colliding with a fixed object, 9%
- Colliding with a pedestrian, 7%
- Rollover, 4%
- Collision with a parked car, 1%
- Collision with a train, .3%
- Collision with another object, .2%
- Jackknife, .3%
- Cargo loss or shift, .2%
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration published accident statistics on large truck and bus accidents, as well as their causes from a comprehensive study that spanned the years 1994-2007. The following are the top causes associated with truck accidents — a list dominated by driver and vehicle error:
- 27 percent of trucks were found to have brake problems
- 19 percent of truck drivers were unfamiliar with the route
- 10 percent of truck drivers felt under pressure
- 7 percent were overly tired
- 3 percent experienced tire problems
- 5 percent were driving in an aggressive manner
- 1 percent were ill
- 0.4 percent were under the influence of illegal substances
- 0.3 percent had been drinking
Large Trucking Accidents in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, heavy trucks were responsible for nearly 7,000 accidents in 2019. The number of drunk drivers involved in those crashes increased from .6% in 2018 to .7% in 2019.
In Pennsylvania, just as it is nationwide, the primary factor in heavy truck crashes related to vehicle failures are the tires, wheels and brakes. In Pennsylvania, there were 116 crashes related to tires or wheels, and 77 related to brakes. Nearly 40 large truck crashes were caused by an unsecure or overloaded trailer.
The scene of a traffic accident on Highway 9 near New Britain, Connecticut. Source: Wikipedia
Trucking Accidents Are on the Rise
In the United States, the number of fatal crashes involving large trucks saw a 2% increase in 2019 from the previous year, but the increase since 2010 was up by 43%. This is a sobering increase over the last decade, and has an enormous impact on the safety of our roads and highways.
So what is driving this increase in trucking accidents? Experts point to numerous causes, including:
- High turnover rate: The American Trucking Associations reported that large carriers have a turnover rate of 96% annually. This means more inexperienced drivers on the road, creating more unsafe conditions for all drivers.
- More trucks: As more people turn to online shopping, there are more trucks than ever on the road.
How to Protect Yourself After a Truck Accident
If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident with a truck, it has likely been a traumatic ordeal. It’s important to stay aware of the next steps to take to secure just compensation for yourself — which is often not in the truck’s insurance company’s best interests.
To safeguard any potential claims, do the following:
- File a police report at the time of the accident. It’s important that an objective description of the accident be available for any future claims.
- Take photos at the accident scene. Make sure your photos cover multiple angles and include shots of your vehicle, the truck and your injuries. The police can even take photos for you if you request them.
- Be examined by a doctor. This is important even if your injuries don’t seem serious upon initial inspection — injuries to your back or organs can worsen later on. In addition, a doctor’s report will help you to properly document your claims.
- Don’t repair your vehicle until it is appraised. A mechanic should also be looking for any design defect in your car which may have contributed to the accident — for example, your steering wheel may have locked up while driving. In such a case, the car’s manufacturer may be at fault.
- Contact an attorney. The trucking company will have specialized attorneys working on their side, and so should you. A good attorney should conduct an investigation, gather evidence and witnesses, and handle communications with all parties involved.
How are Accidents Involving Large Trucks Different Than Other Types of Car Accidents?
If you’re involved in a car crash that involves two privately owned cars, you will typically file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company, or in no-fault states, with your own insurance company. A claims adjuster from the insurance company will be assigned to investigate the crash and determine the appropriate amount of compensation based on your injuries and damage to your vehicle.
But when your car accident involves a large truck, there will need to be a much deeper investigation. You will have to first determine how the driver’s negligence may have been responsible for the accident, but beyond that, you will also need to determine whether the company who hired the driver may also be liable.
A skilled trucking accident attorney will help you investigate the liability of the driver and the trucking company by looking at things like:
- Trucking logbooks
- Driving records
- GPS monitoring
- Truck maintenance
- Information on the trucks cargo
Our Track Record Winning Truck Accident Cases
McEldrew Purtell has won over $200 million for our clients in various personal injury cases. Below are a sample of recent cases we have taken on related to truck accidents:
- $4.5 million settlement on behalf of a young mother who was killed after a trucking company driver failed to stop at a stop sign. The driver and his company were found to be in violation of the hours of service laws, which are statutes governing the number of consecutive hours that drivers can be behind the wheel.
- $2.9 million settlement for a young woman’s survivors when a truck wheel came off the vehicle and struck the woman’s car, killing her. The truck driver had failed to properly perform a pre-trip certification and inspection of wheels.
- $1.8 million settlement for a 43-year-old woman whose vehicle was struck by a tractor-trailer that crossed the road’s center line, causing her multiple traumatic injuries and permanent disability.
- $925,000 settlement (the policy’s limits) for a 19-year-old passenger in a vehicle which was hit by a truck that illegally went through a stop sign. Both drivers tested positive for drugs.
- $650,000 settlement for a 56-year-old school teacher who sustained head injuries and cognitive deficits after a truck accident.
- $250,000 settlement for a woman who sustained a knee injury resulting in multiple surgeries and the inability to play sports after a truck accident.
- $1.35 million settlement for the estate of a 58-year-old man whose car was hit by a truck while waiting in traffic.
No Cost Unless We Win
At McEldrew Purtell, we take a vested interest in your case. You never pay a dime unless we win. In many cases, we can also advance the expenses necessary to work with experts. We like to view ourselves as partners in your case, and in the challenge of maximizing your claim.
The team at McEldrew Purtell understands the complexities that are associated with catastrophic trucking accidents, and we provide comprehensive counsel to those who have suffered injury in accidents involving speeding, driver error, aggressive driving, negligent maintenance, design defects and issues of corporate responsibility in commercial vehicle accidents of all types. We take care of all types of serious and catastrophic injury claims including brain and spinal cord injury, broken bones, burns, paralysis, and amputations or loss of limbs. We also handle wrongful death claims.
With 30 years of experience litigating truck accident cases, McEldrew Purtell welcomes clients from New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania communities near and far. To schedule a meeting for a free consultation, fill out our form or call us directly at (866) 721-8431.