Identifying the Cause of a Truck Accident
There are many causes of truck accidents that can lead to serious injury and subject the wrongdoer to liability. If you were involved in a truck accident, the first step is to determine what type of truck accident you were involved in and what caused it. This information will provide helpful guidance regarding the party responsible for the truck accident and the evidence needed to prove fault.
- Speeding semi trucks – Excessive speed is a major factor in 18-wheeler accidents. Despite being warned about the hazards of going too fast, truckers often disregard speed limits to meet schedules or to increase the number of deliveries. Speeding semis are a danger to everyone unfortunate enough to cross their paths.
- Distracted truck drivers– Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of injury and death on our roadways, claiming more than 3,000 lives in 2020. You cannot drive safely when you are distracted by other things. Texting is one of the most common distractions. Reading a text takes an average of five seconds. At 55 miles-per-hour, that is the same as driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed. Distracted driving can be in the form of physical distraction, mental distraction, or both together. Federal law strictly prohibits cell phone use by commercial truck drivers, yet many truckers continue to engage in this risky behavior.
- Fatigued driving – The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that nearly 800 fatalities and 50,000 injuries are caused yearly because of drowsy driving. However, the real number is likely much higher, given the difficulty of determining drowsy driving. Truck drivers are likely more susceptible to fatigued driving than other drivers, given the long distances they travel on a routine basis. This problem is worsened by trucking companies incentivizing drivers to deliver loads as quickly as possible. Recognizing the extreme danger of fatigued driving by truckers, lawmakers have enacted laws limiting the time they can spend behind the wheel without rest.
- Aggressive driving – Like many other motorists, truck drivers may drive aggressively, risking the lives of those around them. From following too closely to moving across traffic when unsafe to proceed, aggressive driving is a blatant and intentional disregard for the safety of others on the road. Aggressive driving by truck drivers is an unnecessary risk that often leads to serious accidents and fatalities.
- Failure to check blind spots – Blind spots pose a severe hazard for truck drivers. Avoiding road hazards is necessary for safe travel, and blind spots are a big impediment to a driver’s ability to detect a hazard. Adjusting mirrors as needed before every trip and checking mirrors before and after any maneuver can help truck drivers manage their blind spots. When a driver fails to check for blind spots while merging or changing lanes, tragic accidents can occur with passing cars.
- Looking ahead on the road – It is well-known that because of the time it takes to slow down or stop a big rig if a truck driver does not timely respond to a potential hazard, catastrophic consequences for the motoring public result. For this reason, truck drivers are trained to watch ahead a certain distance, depending on circumstances such as their speed, road conditions, and traffic. This requirement is put in place so the truck driver will have time to respond to potential hazards ahead by slowing down or changing lanes.
- Unfamiliarity with routes – When a trucker is driving in unfamiliar territory, they should always use extra caution. Sensible truck drivers and trucking companies plan the driver’s route before the trip to familiarize themselves with the roads and to make sure the route is safe with no road hazards or dangerous turns that would be difficult for the truck to travel.
- Driving under the influence – It is well known that intoxicating substances can impair judgment, reflexes, and reaction times, making driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol a very dangerous and deadly activity for the impaired driver, his passengers, and other motorists. Obviously, this danger increases exponentially when big rigs are involved. For commercial vehicle operators, including truck drivers, this limit is typically 0.04%—lower than the standard 0.08% BAC limit for motorists above the age of 21. It is not only illegal, but it is also highly negligent for a truck driver to be on the road while under the influence, and they are liable for any resulting accidents and the injuries they cause.
- Stopping or parking on the road – Stopping in and next to highways is extremely dangerous and routinely results in serious crashes. These accidents happen so often that, particularly with semi-trucks on the shoulder, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) has a rule requiring semi-truck drivers to place warning triangles or flares out even when they are stopped on the shoulder of the highway. Sometimes stopping on the road or shoulder may seem unavoidable, like when the truck breaks down or has a flat tire; however, if the truck had been regularly and properly maintained, it would not have had to stop in this unsafe place, to begin with. Thus, with some preventative maintenance, these dangerous collisions are entirely avoidable.
- Difficulty seeing – Federal and state regulations require the use of bright, easily visible materials on trailers and the rear of truck tractors, and Federal rules require trailer manufacturers to install reflective strips on trailers for enhanced visibility at night. The purpose is to decrease the number of motorists who collide with the sides or rear of trailers at night or when visibility is reduced for other reasons, like poor weather conditions. These regulations also serve to reduce the incidence of motorists running into the back of truck tractors being operated without a trailer.
- Unsafe maneuvers – Truck drivers are required to have a commercial driver’s license. To obtain a commercial driver’s license, they must know and adhere to specific rules for the safe operation of their tractor-trailers. But they don’t always follow the rules and sometimes drive recklessly. When drivers of big rigs don’t follow the rules for safe driving, there are deadly consequences.
- Dangerous road conditions – While truckers may not be responsible for poor road conditions, they are a fact of life, and not all roads are built or maintained as they ought to be. As such, truck drivers must be prepared for hazards such as potholes and sharp turns. Truck drivers must be trained to navigate unsafe road conditions. Unfortunately, truckers do not always pay attention to the road and slow down as needed.
- Poor weather conditions – Inclement weather can make it more difficult to operate a truck safely. Responsible and cautious truck drivers adjust their speed to account for snow, rain, dust, and other weather conditions, which can cause limited and impaired vision. If truck drivers ignore hazardous weather conditions, accidents are bound to happen.
- Poor maintenance and Repair – Trucks must be regularly inspected and repaired to ensure safe operation. Regular, scheduled maintenance is crucial to ensure a truck’s roadworthiness. Brake failure, tire failure, steering failure, and suspension failure are common causes of truck accidents.
- Brakes – Regular brake checks must be performed by those responsible for the truck’s brake performance, and any repairs or adjustments must be made as needed. Overusing the brakes on steep grades can lead to brake failure and should be avoided by truck drivers.
- Tires – It is critical to the safety of a truck that the tires be regularly inspected for wear and tear and other problems. Additionally, checking the tire pressure on a regular basis is very important. Performing routine maintenance and frequently inspecting the tires can go a long way toward preventing accidents and the severe and sometimes fatal injuries caused by them.
- Steering – Regular maintenance can also help prevent crashes caused by steering failure. By greasing the steering joints, replacing worn-out parts, and checking the power steering fluid as needed, many accidents can be avoided. When this is neglected, the results are collisions which often lead to serious injury.
- Suspension – Because trucks carry heavy loads, part of a regular maintenance check must include a check of suspension parts such as U-bolts and other spring suspension parts. It is also important that the truck not be overloaded during the trip to avoid suspension damage.
Working With a Trained Truck Accident Attorney
The Ammons Law Firm has prosecuted truck-related accidents for over thirty years and has successfully recovered over $1 billion in compensation from wrongdoers. We are committed to helping each of our clients recover fair compensation under the law so they can move forward with their life without financial worry. It is unfair for innocent victims to be financially hindered when their life is turned upside down by a wrongdoer’s actions. Our job is to rectify injustice and hold wrongdoers responsible for their mistakes.
Our Houston truck accident lawyers are prepared to fight for you. Call us at (281) 801-5617 or contact us online for help identifying the cause of your truck crash.