There are more trucks than ever on roadways, and the economy depends on trucks transporting goods. The Coronavirus (COVID -19) pandemic has shown how essential delivery workers are to the economy, and trucks are needed to make sure goods are delivered.
When it comes to truck accidents, data from the 2018 Pocket Guide to Large Truck and Bus Statistics and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows that large trucks are involved in about one in every 10 highway fatalities, even though they make up only four percent of all vehicles on the road. Since 2009, the number of fatalities in large truck crashes has increased each year. Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for 2019 reveals that over the course of a decade, the number of deaths increased by 48 percent.
The reason for the rise is likely due to an increase in trucks on the road and miles traveled. From 2009 to 2018, the total number of registered large trucks increased by 21 percent, and the number of miles traveled increased six percent.
Have Truck Accident Injuries Also Increased?
The NHTSA reports that from 2009 to 2019, injuries in crashes involving large trucks increased by 115 percent, from 74,000 people to 159,000. When a truck crashes, it is almost always the occupants of the other vehicle or pedestrians that are injured or killed rather than the driver of the truck. A fully loaded tractor-trailer can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, whereas the typical passenger vehicle weighs 3,000 to 4,000 pounds.
Injuries from a truck accident are often severe, including head, neck, and back injuries. Truck accidents can also inflict catastrophic injuries, such as internal organ damage, spinal cord injuries, and amputations. Victims may be left paralyzed or otherwise unable to return to work, leaving them with no source of income.
Why are Truck Accidents so Dangerous?
The increase in fatalities and injuries reflects the danger inherent in truck accidents. As mentioned above, the size of a truck means that multiple passenger vehicles may be involved, increasing the number of victims. The weight of the truck makes it harder to maneuver or bring to a stop in an emergency situation. A tractor-trailer loaded with cargo needs 20 to 40 percent more space than a car to stop and even longer on wet or slippery surfaces. In an accident, the impact of a truck is much more than that of a car and results in more severe injuries to the occupants of the passenger vehicles.
The height of a truck can also result in an underride accident. In this gruesome type of truck accident, the impact of the crash can force a smaller vehicle under the body of the truck, resulting in instant death by crushing or decapitation. Those who survive may be trapped inside the car with severe head or neck injuries.
What are Common Causes of Fatal Truck Accidents?
Most fatal truck accidents are caused by driver error. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is responsible for regulating the trucking industry and is currently considering lowering the age for interstate truck drivers to 18 years old. Critics of lowering the age are concerned that younger drivers do not have the experience to avoid common causes of fatal truck accidents, such as:
- Distracted Driving: Truck drivers spend most of their time alone in a cab for hours at a time. Any number of distractions could cause them to lose control of the truck, including eating, drinking, reaching for a fallen object, texting or talking on a cellphone, checking social media, programming a navigation system, or interacting with dispatchers.
- Speeding: Many trucking companies put their drivers under unreasonable pressure to deliver goods on tight deadlines, which can lead to excessive speeding. Even drivers on a reasonable schedule may run into unplanned delays, such as traffic jams, road construction, and inclement weather. They may try to make up lost time by speeding to their destination.
- Drowsy Driving: Fatigue is a serious problem among truck drivers, which is why the number of hours a driver may spend on the road before taking a break is strictly regulated by the FMCSA. Still, drivers may overestimate their capabilities or just flaunt the hours-of-service rules and end up driving while fatigued.
- Impaired Driving: Some truck drivers use drugs to enhance their stamina and to combat drowsiness. Operating a commercial truck takes skill and alertness that is compromised when drugs and alcohol are used.
Some fatal truck accidents are not related to driver error and instead occur through mechanical problems, such as brake failure or a tire blowout. Truck drivers and trucking companies have a responsibility to ensure their trucks are in good working order by performing regular maintenance. These required inspections and maintenance must be recorded. Companies that skimp on maintenance to save money run the risk of a major truck accident down the road.
Can I Collect Compensation for Truck Accident Injuries and Fatalities?
With the number of fatalities and injuries from truck accidents increasing, how can victims collect compensation? The state of Virginia uses the principle of pure contributory negligence. The plaintiff or person bringing the complaint must prove that the other party is fully responsible for the accident that caused their injuries. If the plaintiff is even one percent to blame, they cannot claim compensation. Although this makes a case more difficult, an experienced truck accident lawyer will know what evidence is needed to build a strong case that holds the responsible party accountable for their negligence. Important evidence in a truck accident case may include:
- Data collected from the truck’s black box that shows how fast the truck was traveling at the time of the accident, evidence of hard braking, and acceleration and deceleration patterns.
- The truck driver’s driving history, including any records of arrest.
- Results of any drug and alcohol tests undergone by the driver.
- The truck’s maintenance records.
- The driver’s hours of service records.
- Weather conditions at the time of the accident.
- Photographs of the accident scene, such as any skid marks.
If necessary, a lawyer can have a court order issued to obtain access to the black box information. To receive damages for medical costs, rehabilitative therapy, pain and suffering, lost wages, and more, the state of Virginia requires that the plaintiff prove that the responsibility for the accident lies fully with the defendant.
The trucking company will likely have a team of lawyers to help with their defense with the sole goal of avoiding payment of any claims. A knowledgeable lawyer can help determine the best course of legal action.
Virginia Beach Truck Accident Lawyers at Anchor Legal Group, PLLC Advocate for Victims of Truck Driver Negligence
If you have been injured in a truck accident that was caused by a negligent driver, contact the Virginia Beach truck accident lawyers at Anchor Legal Group, PLLC. Truck accidents have seemingly increased, putting drivers at higher risk. Call us at 757-LAW-0000 or complete our online form for a private consultation today. Based in Virginia Beach, Virginia, we proudly represent clients throughout Chesapeake, Norfolk, Suffolk, Portsmouth, Newport News, Hampton, and Eastern Shore. We also serve our clients throughout the United States through our network of associated attorneys.