Although the saying goes, “accidents happen,” there are typically causes for these accidents, many of which may not be your fault. Each trucking accident, like any type of accident, is different and unique. However, there are some very common causes of truck accidents, which can be put into a couple of categories.
Just like with any other vehicle collisions, when drivers fail to follow the rules of the road, including speeding, accidents can occur. What makes speeding so particularly dangerous for big trucks, however, is the fact that they are so large and heavy. This means they cannot brake as quickly and when a collision with such a large and heavy object occurs at a high rate of speed the damages and injuries are more likely to be severe.
Typically the rate of speed at which the truck was traveling, along with how, when, and if the truck attempted to brake, is a potentially important piece of information in truck accident litigation. Often some of this information can be found both by the investigation of the crash scene, from police reports, and also from a device called the truck’s “black box,” which is found in the tractor. Often attorneys will engage an expert to download and explain the data from this device.
Truck drivers make their living driving, and as such they or their employers may want them to work, i.e., drive, as much as possible. However, if you’ve ever driven while you are very tired, or for too long of a period, you will know that fatigue makes it much harder to concentrate and drive safely. Therefore, there are regulations and laws in place, both on the federal and state level, for how long a truck driver can be behind the wheel driving, and/or engaged in on-duty work for the trucking company within certain periods of time.
The driver is supposed to keep track, in a log book, of both on-duty non-driving hours, on-duty driving time, and off-duty time to make sure he or she complies with such regulations. Further, an employer can be held liable for allowing or requiring drivers to drive more than allowed by the regulations. Whenever a trucking accident occurs attorneys will typically examine this log book to make sure the driver complied with all regulations and was not driving more than allowed, which could easily contribute to accidents. Learn about the laws that govern truck accidents here.
As we all know, it is unsafe to consume too much alcohol, or any illegal drugs and then drive. This is, of course, especially true of truck drivers because the vehicles they operate, because their large size and weight make them more dangerous for passenger cars anyway. Therefore, federal law lowers the legal definition of drunkenness for these drivers to a lower limit.
In addition to problems with driving while intoxicated truck drivers, because of the nature of their work, may also resort to the use of illegal drugs to try to improve their concentration and focus for long hours of driving, and to stay awake. There are laws and regulations requiring truck drivers to have a substance abuse screening before they are hired, and many trucking companies also periodically require these screenings during employment. If, however, after an accident a truck driver is tested and found to have illegal drugs or other substances in his system this can be additional evidence of liability against both the truck driver and his or her employer.
Proper maintenance of any vehicle is important, and will generally increase safety on the road for the vehicle and those around it. However, just like many other things, this proper maintenance and inspection is even more important for the truck and trailer because of the size and weight of the vehicle, and because of the long distances it typically is driven. Further, there is a legal duty to prevent any known hazards on the roadway, so inspection and maintenance is generally required as part of fulfilling that duty. Typically trucking companies have very specific inspection procedures that they require their driver to perform before hauling a load, or even after beginning to drive again after each stop. When these inspections are not performed properly, and an accident occurs a trucking company may be held liable.
As discussed previously, trucks are very heavy, which is one reason they are more dangerous than many other vehicles out on the road. A lot of the weight from trucks is often in the trailer, which is what hauls its load. When a trailer is not loaded properly it can adversely affect the handling of the truck by a driver, or even cause the trailer to tip, both of which can cause an accident.
Starr Austen and Miller, specialized truck accident lawyers in Indiana, focuses on representing individuals and their family members in serious personal injury and wrongful death cases, such as those often involved in Indiana truck accidents. If you or a loved one have been in a truck accident you can contact us for a free consultation to discuss your case.