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Helping People Injured in Large Truck Crashes

The rise in e-commerce in recent years has meant more large commercial trucks on the roadways. The trucking industry employs approximately 3.9 million commercial drivers and delivers 70% of all freight, as reported by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA). With so many big rigs on the roads, truck accidents have increased. In a recent year, large trucks were involved in 118,000 injury crashes, as reported by the National Safety Council (NSC).

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What Happens When a Large Truck Collides With a Passenger Vehicle?

A fully-loaded 18-wheeler can weigh up to 80,000 lbs. or more. The average weight of a passenger vehicle is 4,000 lbs. In a collision between a large commercial truck and a car, occupants of the passenger vehicle are more likely to suffer serious or fatal injuries, per the laws of physics. In a recent year, 4,119 people in the U.S. were killed in crashes involving large trucks, as stated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Of these large truck accident fatalities:

  • 16% were occupants of large trucks
  • 67% were passenger vehicle occupants
  • 15% were motorcyclists, bicyclists, or pedestrians

In the fatal crashes involving a large commercial truck and a passenger vehicle, 97% of the people who died were occupants of passenger vehicles.

How Do Truck Underride Accidents Happen?

Big rigs are much taller and have greater ground clearance than cars. Lower-riding vehicles can slide underneath truck trailers in underride accidents. When a passenger vehicle slides partially or completely under the trailer of a truck, it significantly increases the likelihood of serious injury or death for vehicle occupants. The truck can shear off or crush the top of the car, causing catastrophic or fatal injuries, including decapitation in some cases. Underride accidents can occur when vehicles slide under the rear or the side of a truck’s trailer.

What Is the Responsibility of Truck Drivers and Trucking Companies to Prevent Accidents?

Trucking companies and commercial drivers are regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Federal and state regulations that govern the trucking industry have the goal of preventing deadly truck accidents. Responsibilities of drivers and the trucking companies that hire them include matters pertaining to:

  • Driver distraction: Under FMCSA regulations, truck drivers can only use a hands-free phone located in close proximity while driving. They are prohibited from texting or reading a message from any electronic device while driving. Trucking companies are prohibited from requiring or allowing their drivers to text and drive.
  • Driver fatigue: Truck drivers are limited in their hours of service by federal regulations. They are only allowed so much time behind the wheel without a rest break or time off. The Large Truck Crash Causation Study conducted by FMCSA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that 13% of commercial drivers involved in accidents were fatigued at the time of the crash, according to FMCSA.
  • Truck equipment and operations: Every component of a semi tractor-trailer is regulated by the FMCSA. For example, federal regulations address brake systems, tires, wiring, vehicle size and weight limits, cargo loading and securing, and special requirements for transporting hazardous waste. Trucking companies are responsible for ensuring their trucks are up to standards. Drivers are responsible for inspecting the truck, and documenting the inspection, each time they get in a truck to drive it.

Who May Be Held Liable for Truck Accident Injuries?

Truck accidents are complex cases involving multiple potentially liable parties. The truck driver, the trucking company, a defective parts manufacturer, a company responsible for maintaining the truck or loading the truck may have contributed to the crash. If you or your loved one has been seriously injured in a trucking accident, call Allen Law at (843) 882-5005 to speak with a Charleston auto accident attorney. We can investigate your accident to determine liability and help you pursue the compensation you deserve.