Commercial truck accidents: a primer

Commercial truck accidents kill and injure thousands each year.

Tragically, commercial truck accidents injure tens of thousands of people each year. Thousands more lose their lives in these often-preventable crashes. The federal government has, in recent years, taken notice of the number and severity of these accidents by passing new hours-of-service regulations governing truck drivers and also taking strides to have electronic data recorders installed on commercial vehicles. Safety advocates insist that more can be done, however, and point to the tens of thousands of annual injury-causing accidents involving semi trucks as proof.

Common causes of truck accidents

The drivers of 18-wheelers and other large commercial trucks involved in accidents often walk away with only minor injuries (if they are hurt at all). The drivers and passengers of smaller passenger vehicles unfortunate to be struck by these massive trucks aren't so lucky, however. Serious injuries, including broken bones, crush injuries, head injuries and paralysis are all-too-common in truck accidents. With such serious consequences, it is important to understand what often causes these crashes, and what you might be able to do to avoid being in one.

Negligence on the part of the driver - including being distracted by cell phones, laptops and other gadgets - as well as driver fatigue, inexperience and driving too fast for weather or road conditions cause a substantial portion of accidents where the truck driver is at fault. In particular, driver fatigue and distracted driving can be hazardous, as both can cause slowed reaction times and inattention akin to driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Trucking companies can be vicariously liable for the negligent actions of their drivers. In addition, independent negligence or wrongful action on the part of trucking companies contributes to a significant percentage of annual commercial vehicle accidents. Such actions include:

  • Failing to properly maintain trucks (particularly vital systems like brakes and transmissions, which, if they fail, can easily cause accidents)
  • Encouraging drivers to violate hours-of-service regulations or falsify logbooks
  • Not providing proper training or equipment to drivers necessary to load, unload or take adequate rest breaks (all of which can directly contribute to driver fatigue)

Other motorists sharing the road can also cause or exacerbate circumstances that lead to commercial vehicle crashes. For example, the driver of a passenger car who is driving while under the influence may cut in front of a speeding truck, thus causing the inexperienced driver to lose control and jackknife his trailer and strike other vehicles.

Legal claims might exist against all at-fault parties in an accident. To understand your rights and to explore options to recover compensation for your injuries, contact an experienced truck accident attorney like those at the O'Fallon, Illinois, law firm of Kujawski Marcus. The firm helps the injured in both Illinois and Missouri seek justice, so contact them today.