A commercial truck can weigh as much as 30 times as a standard passenger vehicle. A vehicle that’s low to the ground can go right under a larger commercial vehicle. Even with federal regulations, a truck driver can drive up to 11 hours at a time (interstate commerce) before taking a 10-hour break. For intrastate driving, drivers can drive up to 12 hours before taking that 10-hour break. A tired commercial driver is one of the leading reasons for crashes with commercial trucks. Defective equipment and lack of visibility are others.
There are plenty of commercial trucks on the roads, but statistically, the number of fatal crashes with large trucks isn’t high. In 2018, just over 4,100 people were killed in this type of crash. That’s fatal crashes, there are also injury or no-injury crashes every day. While modern technology is helping with lane departure warnings, blind-spot detection systems, and collision warnings, there is still the chance you could be in a collision with a commercial truck. What do you do if you are?
Take Care of Yourself First
Take care of any injuries. If you’re in a crash and are injured, let paramedics check you out at the scene. Accept transportation to the hospital if it’s warranted. It’s best to have a doctor look you over, run scans if needed, and offer advice on what to watch for at home. You could have lacerations that need stitches. You might have a traumatic brain injury like a concussion. You may be fine. It’s best to have a doctor say so. Plus, you have the paperwork needed to prove your injuries if you decide to file a personal injury lawsuit against the company or driver.
File Accident Reports and Insurance Claims
Police were likely called to the scene. Make sure the accident report is filed. Get the officer’s name and accident report number. You need this information when you call the insurance company to file a claim. If you are going to file a lawsuit, the officer’s information is also helpful to the attorney who takes your case.
Start a claim with the other driver’s insurance company. Your insurance agent should be able to start this for you. You may be able to start the claim online if that’s easier and your insurance company has the technology. Give as much information as you can. If you have witness names and contact information, share it. If you were able to take photos of the scene or have dashcam footage, provide copies to the insurance company.
Wait for the Settlement Offer
At this point, you’ll spend time waiting. The insurance adjuster has to view your vehicle and determine if the car can be repaired or is a total loss. The value of the car is calculated. If it can be repaired, estimates from a mechanic and body shop/frame technician are collected. The value of the personal property you lost and lost wages or time out of school are also factored into the settlement offer. When it is ready, which could take a few weeks, you’ll be notified.
The settlement offer may not be enough to cover everything you’ve lost. An insurance company bases the offer on estimates and tends to go to the lowest end of the scale at first. Only an experienced attorney can help you determine if that offer is truly fair or if you’re being shortchanged.
Know the Six Common Types of Commercial Truck Accidents
When you’re driving, it helps to know what types of truck accidents can occur. Prevention is the best thing you can do when you’re out driving. It may be too late to help you now, but you can use the information in the future.
#1 – Unsecured Loads
There are federal regulations that set strict guidelines on loading cargo safely and securely. Despite these rules, unsecured loads do cause accidents across the nation. When an unsecured load shifts, it can lead to the truck rolling over. It’s likely to lead to a cargo spill that creates traffic hazards or leads to slick roadways. If a truck carrying logs spills the logs, you could hit one and find your car damaged or end up with serious injuries. If you’re near that truck, you need to be able to stop or swerve to avoid damage, but there isn’t always time. The more distance you leave between you and a commercial truck, the more reaction time you have.
#2 – Underride Accidents
As commercial trucks are usually higher than a car, if a truck jackknifes, comes into your lane, or stops suddenly, you could end up going under that truck. You face serious injuries. Even if you’re okay, you may not be able to open doors and become stuck. Keep a safe distance from trucks so that you have plenty of reaction time.
#3 – Tire Blowouts/Tread Loss
Tire blowouts do occur from time to time. If a commercial truck has a tire go, it can cause a truck to swerve into another lane or off the road. Tire retreads or pieces from a blown tire can travel and hit nearby vehicles, which may lead to damage to the windshield. Staying well away from commercial trucks is the best way to avoid being in this type of accident.
#4 – Rollovers
Several factors can lead to rollovers. A truck that’s going too fast may tip on a sharp curve. A jackknife can cause a truck to tip over. High winds, shifting cargo, driver error, or hitting a soft shoulder can also cause rollover truck accidents. With extra room left between you and the commercial truck, you can avoid getting caught up in it most of the time.
#5 – Jackknifes
A jackknife accident occurs when the trailer of an 18-wheeler swerves around and comes parallel to the cab. Equipment malfunction, speeding, weather, driver error, locked wheels, and loose cargo can all lead to jackknife accidents.
You don’t want to be near a big rig when this happens. If you’re side-by-side, you could get caught up in the jackknife. Stay back and keep a safe distance to avoid getting caught up in one.
#6 – Driver Error
A truck driver may make errors that lead to a crash. Changing lanes when there is a car in a blind spot is one way a driver may cause a crash. Running a traffic light or sign is another common one. Taking a turn too tight can cause a jackknife or sideswipe a car waiting at an intersection. Some of these are hard to avoid. If you’re at an intersection and see a truck will be making a turn, you can keep from being hit by stopping short of the line to give the truck extra room for a wide turn.
It’s likely that the accident you were in fits into one of those categories. Attorneys have seen them all and have the knowledge you need to ensure you are treated fairly. You don’t want to settle if it’s not going to cover all of your bills and losses.
Carpenter, Zuckerman & Rowley has 10 offices in California and Nevada. Our attorneys have won more than $1 billion for our clients. One of those cases involved a farmer who was killed in a crash with a commercial truck. If you’ve been hit by a commercial truck and need advice, give us a call at 1-88-CZR-FIRST or chat with us. We’re available for a free consultation 24 hours a day.