Large commercial trucks like 18-wheelers play a crucial role in the economy, hauling machinery, electronics, and even the food we eat across the country.
But like any other motor vehicle, they can crash, causing catastrophic — if not fatal — injuries.
But why are truck accidents so dangerous, especially compared to other types of accidents, and what should you do if you’re in one?
The Size And Weight Of A Semi-Truck
There’s no denying that car accidents can be horrific. Even a minor crash can leave you with injuries that require a lengthy recovery, and even then, you might be anxious about getting back out on the road. Then, there are more severe crashes, which can be deadly.
But while car accidents can range from a fender bender to a devastating multi-vehicle crash, a truck accident will almost always be severe, and that’s because of the vehicle’s sheer size and weight.
Commercial trucks like big rigs are large and heavy. Without a trailer attached, a semi-truck weighs in at 10 thousand pounds — and that’s the minimum. When you add on the weight of the trailer and cargo, that same truck can weigh as much as 80 thousand pounds.
To put that into context, the average car weighs 4,094 pounds.
It’s not hard to imagine the impact caused by a truck crashing into a passenger car, even at legal speeds. If a truck accident occurs because the driver is speeding, the situation can be far worse.
Many of us are familiar with road rage and the statistics surrounding drunk driving, but these aren’t the only threats drivers face on the road.
A host of other violations are either common in or specific to the trucking industry.
For example, while any driver can get tired behind the wheel, it’s especially common in truckers, with 13% of commercial truck drivers being fatigued at the time of a crash.
But Why Are Truck Drivers So Fatigued?
Truck drivers work long hours and have demanding schedules. While truck drivers can legally drive for 11 hours following a 10-hour break — which in itself is a long working day — some drivers end up driving for much longer.
They might do this because they’re under pressure from their employer to meet a slew of delivery deadlines, to make a delivery early to earn a work bonus, or simply to get home faster.
But these federal rules are in place for a reason — because driver fatigue is dangerous. If a truck driver falls asleep at the wheel or can’t react to a hazard in time because they’re running on empty, they might crash into the rear of another vehicle, collide with oncoming traffic, or veer off the road entirely.
But Driver Fatigue Isn’t The Only Worry
Truck companies are obligated to run stringent checks before they allow a truck on the road, but sometimes, they cut corners.
A truck company might hire a driver who isn’t qualified or doesn’t have experience with commercial trucks. They might neglect to carry out maintenance on a truck — because one less truck on the road might result in missed deadlines and cost the truck company time and money.
But if that same truck crashes because a tire blows, the brakes fail, or the driver doesn’t know how to handle the vehicle, it can cause disaster.
The Injuries Truck Accidents Cause
Truck accidents may not be as prolific as car accidents, but when they happen, they often cause devastating injuries.
This is largely due to the difference in size and weight between a truck and other vehicles. It’s rare for a truck accident to result in only minor injuries — except perhaps to the truck driver, as the truck’s cab offers some degree of protection. More usually, these accidents cause moderate or severe injury.
These can include broken bones, lacerations, burns, internal injury, scarring, spinal cord injuries, and traumatic brain injuries.
In some cases, accident victims face a long recovery, and some end up with permanent, life-changing injuries, such as a spinal cord injury resulting in paralysis.
What To Do If You’re In A Truck Accident
A truck accident can leave you unable to work — perhaps for months, years, or ever again — and facing mounting medical bills for treatment, but if your accident wasn’t your fault, you could be entitled to file a compensation claim.
But truck accident claims are complex, and one or multiple people or parties could be at fault (including the truck driver, the truck company, or a third party). That’s why one of the first things you should do after a truck accident — aside from seeking medical attention to treat your injuries — is to hire a truck accident lawyer.
They can not only help you determine who’s responsible for your crash so you know who to pursue compensation from, but they can also help you gather evidence to prove your injuries and negotiate a fair settlement.
The laws surrounding truck accidents are complex and vary by state, so if you’re in an accident in Texas, you may want to hire a personal injury lawyer in McAllen or another city to help you file your claim and get you the maximum compensation allowable by the law.
A truck accident can happen at any time, and it’s a frightening thought, but it’s encouraging to know that help is available so that if you are in one, you don’t have to suffer alone.