A truck accident can alter your life in an instant. No matter how skilled the truck driver is, no matter how favorable the road conditions are, accidents happen, and they can happen anytime. A truck accident can leave you with permanent injuries. A truck accident can rob you of your ability to participate in the activities you love.
Truck accidents can be complex. They often involve multiple parties including the truck driver and truck company, and complicated state and federal regulations. At The Callahan Law Firm, we have more than 25 years of experience helping people injured in truck accidents. We understand how a truck accident can change your life, and we know how to successfully handle truck accident cases from beginning to end, with the goal of getting you full justice under the law.
If you have been injured in a truck accident, contact us today for a free case evaluation. Contact us online or call now.
Common Types of Truck Accidents
Common types of truck accidents include:
- Rear-end accidents – When a truck crashes into another vehicle from the rear, the people in the vehicle that is hit are at risk of injury or worse. Causes may include everything from the truck following too closely, truck driver inattention, truck driver fatigue, and brake failure. No matter the cause, these types of accidents are preventable by the truck driver. By practicing defensive driving, making sure they have had enough rest, setting aside distractions, and following the rules for safe driving, truck drivers can prevent these accidents from ever happening.
- Lane change/sideswipe accidents – On the road, your car might have blind spots, so any time you change lanes you must make sure it’s safe before you do so. With trucks, the same rules apply. Truck drivers are required to manage the space around their vehicles. This includes being aware of another vehicle near the tractor-trailer, signaling lane changes, making sure there is adequate space and time to safely change lanes before attempting to do so and checking their mirrors so they are aware of vehicles around them. When a truck driver fails to do any of these, the result is often harm to others on the road.
- Intersection accidents – A fully-loaded tractor-trailer is slow to start and stop, so a truck driver must properly judge the flow of traffic and how much time they will need to move through an intersection. When a truck driver errs, the result can be devastating to others on the roadway. Truck drivers must always be aware of their surroundings, do their best to be seen by other vehicles on the road, and yield the right-of-way when required to those around them.
- Right-turn accidents – Like the left turn accidents listed above, when a truck driver makes a right turn in the wrong circumstances, an accident may occur. A trucker’s poor judgment or poor awareness in a tight turn can result in those around them being injured. These preventable accidents don’t need to happen, but sadly they still do.
- Left-Turn Accidents – These accidents can happen in several ways, including when a truck driver makes a left turn across traffic or crushes a passenger vehicle while attempting to make a left turn.
- In a turn across a traffic accident, at times the truck driver is in a hurry and tries to beat oncoming traffic or perhaps the truck driver didn’t gauge the speed of oncoming traffic correctly. The result is that an oncoming vehicle crashes into the tractor or trailer, or swerves to avoid it, striking other vehicles or objects near the road. Truck drivers can often prevent these accidents by waiting until it is clear to make the left turn completely and safely as the safe truck driving rules require. Unfortunately, all too often they try to beat oncoming traffic and an accident is the result.
- In a squeeze-type accident, during the turn, the tractor or more often the trailer squeezes and crushes another vehicle on the inside of the turn. Causes include the truck driver turning left from the wrong lane, a failure to signal the turn, or a failure to properly manage the space around the truck as required.
- Under-ride Accidents – Under-ride accidents are those where a smaller vehicle collides with the side of a trailer and continues underneath, crushing the top of the vehicle. These are incredibly dangerous accidents that often result in catastrophic injuries or death. Truck drivers and trucking companies can help prevent this type of accident by ensuring that the truck is always visible and well-lit. In addition, safety advocates in the United States have argued for many years that trailers should have underride protection that prevents a smaller vehicle from going underneath the trailer. Many European countries require underride protection on trailers, the cost is minimal compared to the harm caused in an underride accident, and the technology exists to do it.
- Head-on collisions – A head-on collision with a truck is often fatal and at a minimum results in significant harm to anyone involved. Truck driver fatigue, inattention, distracted driving, or drug and alcohol use can result in these tragic accidents. But these crashes can also occur due to sudden unexpected equipment failures such as a tire failure because of an underinflated tire or worn out tire. No matter the cause, these accidents are all too often preventable through driver attention, driver training, routine inspections of the truck and its equipment as required, and generally following the rules for safe truck driving.
- Rollover accidents – When a truck rolls over, it can endanger the truck driver’s life and the lives of everyone else around. It could be that the truck driver was going too fast around a corner, but it could also be a result of improper loading causing a high center of gravity, or inadequate inspection of the load by the truck driver before driving. In a rollover accident, it’s important to understand not just what the driver was doing at the time, but information about the cargo including how it was distributed and its center of gravity in order to determine the cause of the accident.
- Cargo spills – While a truck driver is responsible for his or her vehicle and load, many accidents are caused by the company and its employees who loaded the cargo onto or into the trailer. All cargo must be safely secured, strapped down, secured in appropriate containers, and safely distributed. These preventable accidents can happen because those who loaded the cargo failed to block and brace it; they failed to balance it; or they failed to understand the cargo’s unique properties. These accidents also occur because the truck driver failed to inspect the cargo or ensure that it was safe before taking it on the road.
- Trailer breakaway accidents – Any time a truck hauls a trailer, the trailer must be attached safely and securely. When they are not, the trailer can break away or separate from the tractor leading to injury and death on the road. These accidents happen because of incorrect coupling procedures, damaged equipment, failure to use important items such as safety chains, inattention or inadequate training. Truck drivers can help prevent these accidents by inspecting the connection, making sure the hitch is in good condition, and by verifying that all equipment (such as safety chains) is in place and functioning.
These and many other types of accidents can lead to injury and permanent harm when you’re on the road. If you’ve been injured in a truck accident, contact an experienced truck accident attorney today.
Common Causes of Truck Accidents
The causes of truck accidents include:
- Speeding – Speed is a factor in too many accidents. Although licensed truck drivers are cautioned about the dangers of excessive speed, all too often truckers disregard speed limits in order to make up time if running late or to make sure their delivery is on time. The result can be a serious collision for unwary motorists.
- Distracted driving – Distracted driving is a growing cause of injury and wrongful death on the roads and highways. Distracted driving comes in many forms, including physical distraction, mental distraction, or a combination of both. Physical distractions include instances where the driver releases control and attention of the vehicle to do something such as grab an object. Mental distractions are those where the driver takes his or her mind off the work at hand and loses focus on the road. Combination distractions involve physical and mental distractions, such as using a handheld mobile phone or texting. Federal regulations strictly prohibit the use of cell phones on the road by commercial truck drivers. However, too many drivers engage in this dangerous behavior.
- Fatigued driving – Loss of control of a truck for even one sleepy moment can have devastating consequences, so it is important that drivers get enough rest. Truck drivers are required to follow strict government laws on how many hours a day they can drive each week. When truckers do not get the rest they need, they are more likely to make mistakes that lead to serious accidents.
- Aggressive driving – Truck drivers, like other motorists on the road, sometimes drive aggressively and operate their vehicles in an unsafe manner. They may follow other motorists too closely, take risks when moving across traffic, or disregard the safety of others on the road. When truck drivers act aggressively, other drivers and their passengers pay the price in a serious accident.
- Failure to check blind spots – For a truck driver, seeing and responding to hazards is one of the most important aspects of the job. Drivers should adjust their mirrors as needed before every trip. They should also check their mirrors before and after any maneuver. A truck driver may fail to check for blind spots during a merge or lane change, leading to an accident with a nearby car.
- Watching ahead – Truck drivers are trained to watch a certain distance ahead of their vehicles based factors such as speed, road conditions and traffic. One of the reasons for this requirement is so that the truck driver can identify potential hazards ahead and have time to respond by slowing down or changing lanes. This is because it is well recognized that if a truck driver does not timely recognize and respond to potential hazards, the hazard can become an emergency with catastrophic consequences for the motoring public.
- Unfamiliarity with routes – Drivers on a new road or a new route should always exercise extra caution. Too often a driver who is not familiar with the route can make a major mistake that injures other motorists on the road. In addition, prudent truck drivers and trucking companies will plan the driver’s route in advance of the trip to ensure the route is as safe as possible for the truck to navigate. Examples of this include planning a delivery route to minimize dangerous turns.
- Driving under the influence – It is never safe for a truck driver to be on the road while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. It is well known that these substances can impair judgment, reflexes, and reaction times, jeopardizing the truck driver’s safety as well as that of other motorists.
- Cargo shifts – Managing and inspecting cargo is an important part of a truck driver’s job. The truck driver has a responsibility to ensure that the cargo is properly secured with tie-downs or other restraints, check to see that the cargo is balanced, and make sure that any special handling needs are met. A truck driver should be familiar with the load he is hauling and any unique characteristics of that load and its tendency to shift during transportation. When truckers fail to take those safety steps, they may lose control of the vehicle and cause an accident.
- Unsafe stopping or parking – Sudden stopping or parking in an unsafe area can lead to dangerous accidents. Sadly, these accidents are often preventable. Truck drivers who practice defensive driving and make sure their vehicles can be seen by other motorists help prevent accidents. Trucks that must park in high-risk areas such as on the side of the freeway must follow state and federal regulations, which require timely and proper placement of cones and flares to warn oncoming motorists. By making sure their vehicle has the right safety equipment, including emergency flashers and reflective triangles, truck drivers can help warn other motorists about the danger of a stopped vehicle.
- Must be conspicuous – Federal and state regulations require the use of conspicuity materials on trailers and the rear of truck tractors. The rules are intended to reduce the incidence of motorists crashing into the sides or rear of trailer at nighttime and under other conditions of reduced visibility and to reduce the incidence of motorists rear-ending truck tractors being operated without trailers. Federal rules require trailer manufacturers to install either red and white retroreflective sheeting or reflex reflectors on their trailers.
- Unsafe maneuvers – Truck drivers who drive vehicles above a certain weight are professional drivers required to have a commercial driver’s license. They are required to know and follow certain rules for safe operation of their vehicles. Unfortunately, there are times when they don’t follow the rules and engage in dangerous behaviors such as backing across a road, making unsafe turns, failing to give the appropriate right of way to others, and failing to control the speed of their vehicle. When truck drivers don’t follow the rules for safe driving, other motorists pay the price.
- Poor road conditions – Not all roads are built or maintained as they should be. Truck drivers are trained to handle poor road conditions such as potholes, no road shoulders, or sudden sharp, banked curves. However, truckers do not always pay attention or down slow down as they should.
- Poor weather conditions – Snow, rain, dust, and other weather conditions can interfere with a truck driver’s ability to safely operate his vehicle. Part of being a responsible truck driver is understanding how different conditions may affect the truck and its speed on the road. Unfortunately, too many drivers fail to take weather into account when on the road.
- Equipment failure – Drivers and others responsible for a truck tractor and trailer must regularly inspect the vehicle for equipment problems and to make sure the vehicle is safe to drive. Brake failure, tire failure, steering failure, and suspension failure are common causes of truck accidents.
- Brakes – Those responsible for the truck tractor and trailer must regularly check brake performance and make any repairs or adjustments as needed. Drivers should also make sure that they do not overuse the brakes on steep grades, which can lead to brake failure.
- Tires – Tires should be regularly inspected for wear, tire pressure, damage, and other problems. By performing regular maintenance and inspection of the tires, truck drivers and others can help prevent accidents.
- Steering – Accidents caused by steering failure are often preventable through good maintenance. Those responsible for truck maintenance should grease steering joints, replace worn out parts, and ensure that power steering fluid is in the system as needed. When maintenance checks or driver inspections fail to catch these problems, steering systems can fail, leading to serious injury.
- Suspension – Trucks carry heavy loads and must be maintained and inspected regularly. Maintenance personnel and drivers must check suspension spring conditions, U-bolts, and other suspension parts. It is also important for drivers and cargo loaders to ensure that the truck isn’t overloaded during the trip.
Contact a Houston Truck Accident Attorney Now
If you have been injured in a truck accident, you want to have an experienced Houston truck accident lawyer on your side. With more than 25 years of experience representing people in truck accident cases, we know what it takes to win and get justice for our clients.
For a free case consultation, contact us online or call us today.