Did you know that a cargo-laden tractor-trailer weighs 20 times more than your car (80,000 pounds vs. 4,000 pounds)? And that in 2015, among the 263 million registered U.S. vehicles, 8.4 million were single-unit trucks, and 2.7 million more were combination trucks (tractor-trailers) (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration). That’s a lot of commercial vehicles on the roadways.
Although they may share common aspects with car accidents, truck accidents are often more serious and complex.
In its most recently published data, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports over 4,000 people killed and an estimated 116,000 people injured in crashes involving large trucks. In 2016, there were almost 12 million large trucks registered in the United States (about 4 percent of all vehicles, including motorcycles).
If you’ve been involved in an accident with a commercial truck, you may be entitled to significant compensation. At the Hughey Law Firm, we will evaluate your case at no cost and let you know whether we believe you have a claim. To schedule a free consultation with a Myrtle Beach truck accident lawyer, call our office today at (843) 881-8644 or contact us online.
How Do Truck Accidents Differ From “Regular” Car Accidents?
For starters, with a car accident, it’s usually easy to point fingers – who is the responsible (at-fault or liable) party who caused the accident? Usually, it’s the driver. He is the most obvious.
But with a truck crash, there’s more to it. Besides the driver, other responsible (culpable parties) may include:
- The trucking company: Sometimes known as respondeat superior or vicarious liability, the truck company may be liable simply because they hired the driver. In addition, the truck company may have been negligent in hiring or training its employee, may have not followed the law, or may not have properly maintained the vehicle.
- The truck manufacturer and/or dealer: Did a defect cause or contribute to the accident? Did the manufacturer build the truck wrong? Was it designed wrong?
- The customer: Commercial trucks carry loads—products, merchandise, goods, commodities, packages, food, furniture, equipment, inventory, etc. Were those loads hazardous? Properly packed? Was there anything unique to disclose to the trucking company and driver?
Importantly, more than one party may be liable for an accident.
What Other Differences between Truck Accidents and Car Accidents?
Other differences with truck accidents:
- More insurance coverage. Commercial trucks usually have more insurance coverage than typical cars. That’s no surprise given the size and nature of trucking.
- More laws apply. All those tractor-trailers (or semis) you see on the roads? They are usually delivering between states (interstate). They must be registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Department of Transportation (DOT). They are subject to many more regulations than car drivers (for example, maintenance, special licenses, inspections, keeping logbooks to track driving hours).
- More property damage. Size and speed cause damage.
- More injuries. Size and speed maims or kills.
- More expensive medical bills. Truck accidents often cause more severe injuries than car accidents. There’s a greater possibility of a catastrophic accident, with lengthier hospital stays, more diagnostic tests, longer recovery and rehabilitation, longer missed work.
- More likelihood of death. Uncomfortable and unpleasant to think about, but a harsh reality.
Main Truck Accident Causes
The most common causes of truck accidents are:
- Driver error
- Driver impairment (drugs, alcohol, prescription medicines, stress)
- Poor vehicle maintenance
- Equipment failure
- Inclement weather
- Improper cargo loading
- Driver distraction (for example, texting)
- Driver fatigue
Too Many Crashes Result from Trucker Fatigue
According to one government study, fatigue causes 13 percent (13%) of commercial motor vehicle (CMV) collisions. And that figure may be even higher: per the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), truck driver fatigue is probably underreported and may contribute to nearly 40 percent (40%) of heavy truck accidents.
More than Lack of Sleep
Besides insufficient (or inadequate) sleep, truck drivers often are tired because they:
- Drive late at night (often after midnight)
- Eat poorly or rely on caffeine
- Are angry or distressed
- Are ‘out of synch’ with their bodies’ natural rhythms
- Drive long uninterrupted stretches (“highway hypnosis”)
- Work too many hours
- Face relentless demands
- Took medication
- Feel pressure to perform
- May have an underlying sleep disorder
- Are inexperienced or unaware of local conditions / hazards
- Are overstimulated (including from electronics)
- Do not take enough rest breaks
Although the government and industry have regulations and recommendations (for example, Hours of Service Rules), they are often ignored or misunderstood.
Trucker fatigue doesn’t necessarily mean falling asleep or dozing behind the wheel. Tired drivers react slower, have impaired judgment, and may not recognize (or appreciate) hazardous weather or road conditions. They are less attentive and more easily distracted—all of that a recipe for disaster.
Catastrophic Injuries and Staggering Costs
Truck accidents often result in substantial lifelong, catastrophic injuries—or death. Injuries include lost arms or legs, head injuries, brain damage, deep cuts, bruises, broken bones, dental/jaw injuries, paralysis, spinal cord damage, impaired motor coordination, significant pain, and emotional trauma. They take a huge toll not only on the person involved in the crash but also on their family members, caretakers, coworkers, and employers. Injuries can cost millions, require multiple surgeries and rehabilitation, and last months, years or a lifetime. Some never recover.
Sadly, the wreckage is avoidable. The financial, emotional and physical pain takes a huge toll. Although drivers (and their companies) have made strides to improve, it’s not enough.
A Commercial Truck Accident Requires an Experienced Truck Accident Attorney
Tractor-trailer accidents are complex. Who is at fault? What insurance is available? What should I discuss? How long will does a case take? What are my injuries worth? Will I be properly compensated? What tactics will the other parties use to force an early settlement? These are just a few of many questions your truck accident attorney will handle.
Call Us Today to Discuss Your Case with a Myrtle Beach Truck Accident Lawyer
If you or someone you know was hurt in a truck accident, don’t delay. You may lose important rights. Our experienced team of attorneys at the Hughey Law Firm is dedicated to helping accident victims get the compensation they deserve throughout South Carolina. To schedule your free consultation, call us today at (843) 881-8644 or contact us online.