According to the national transportation research group TRIP, $2.8 trillion in goods are shipped to and from California every year, and most of it by truck. This massive freight movement puts increasing strain on the state’s already congested roads, leading to serious and sometimes fatal accidents.
When a large commercial truck, like a tractor-trailer or 18-wheeler, collides with a passenger vehicle, the injuries and damage can be devastating. An average car only weighs around 3000 pounds. A fully-loaded big rig can weigh over 80,000 pounds. Take that weight and multiply it by the vehicle’s speed, and the force of impact will often result in severe, catastrophic, or fatal injuries.
If a negligent truck driver, trucking company, maintenance company, or another entity caused you harm, contact an experienced Sacramento truck accident attorney right away. You could be owed compensation for your pain, suffering, medical costs, lost wages, and more.
To schedule a free consultation to discuss your case, call Demas Law Group today.
Common Causes of 18-Wheeler Accidents
Although the rates of passenger car accidents have dropped over the past few years, the number of accidents involving large trucks has actually increased. Some of the most common causes of 18-wheeler accidents include:
- Driver fatigue
- Distracted driving
- Drunk or drugged driving
- Reckless or aggressive driving
- Improper hiring, training, or supervision
- Improper maintenance
- Trucks that are imbalanced or improperly loaded
- Road defects
- Inclement weather
The Need for Speed
Many of these factors are actually caused by the same underlying problem: employers pressure truck drivers to transport their loads as quickly as possible. They tempt truckers intro breaking the federal rules about how many hours they can drive, causing them to suffer extreme fatigue.
Some drivers resort to using drugs to keep themselves going and drive while impaired. Drivers eager to deliver their loads as quickly as possible may speed, tailgate, or maneuver aggressively to pass slower-moving vehicles, or they may not exercise appropriate caution in inclement weather.
Boredom Takes Its Toll
Driving for long periods can become monotonous. Truck drivers are not immune to the distractions that also affect passenger vehicle drivers. Texting, scrolling social media, surfing the web, and talking on the phone can cause a driver to take their eyes and mind off the road. It takes a lot of space for a fast-moving 18-wheeler to safely maneuver, so a driver whose reaction time is impaired from distractions is unlikely to be able to adjust to changing road conditions quickly enough to avoid a catastrophic collision.
The federal government has implemented laws aimed at reducing the number of fatigued truck drivers on the road. They require that truckers drive only for a maximum of 11 hours in one day. Further, drivers can only be on duty for 60 hours per week. After hitting their 60-hour limit, a driver has to take 34 hours off from driving. Unscrupulous drivers and trucking firms ignore these limits to speed up their delivery times and get in more miles.
Trucking firms sometimes try to cut corners by skimping on maintenance. A truck with malfunctioning brakes, worn tires, or other mechanical problems is an accident waiting to happen. Although the state of California requires yearly inspections for all commercial trucks, a lot can happen in a year.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the average passenger vehicle travels about 15,000 miles per year, while a typical 18-wheeler covers as many as 2,500 miles per week. Some commercial trucks driven by a team of drivers can travel over 1,000 miles per day. It’s not surprising that tires and other parts on commercial trucks can wear out long before their yearly inspection rolls around.
When loading a big rig, it is crucial to load and balance the trailer properly. A heavy load that moves around when the driver tries to stop can cause the truck to swerve out of control, jackknife, or even roll over. An unbalanced load can result in similar handling issues. If a tired, unskilled, or careless worker loads a truck improperly, it is only a matter of time they cause an accident.
Ways Big Rig Accidents Are Different
Big rigs are massive, complex vehicles. They can measure 80 feet long and weigh as much as 40 tons when fully loaded. Their sheer size makes it difficult for them to come to a stop. A typical passenger car traveling at 60 mph can come to a complete stop over 300 feet. A typical 18-wheeler traveling at 60 mph needs slightly more than 500 feet to come to a stop.
Unlike a one-piece passenger vehicle, most 18-wheelers have a tractor hitched to a long cargo trailer. Since a passenger vehicle is one piece, it can more easily swerve quickly to get out of the way of another vehicle or obstacle.
An 18-wheeler’s hitch seriously compromises the mobility of the big rig. While the tractor can swerve suddenly, the cargo container can’t follow as quickly. If a truck driver acts recklessly, the truck can jackknife around the joint of the hitch, turning the truck into a rapidly moving, uncontrollable, 40-ton piece of debris sliding down the road.
The weight involved makes truck crashes destructive. A tractor-trailer crashing into another car at 50 miles per hour hits with 27 times the force of a car crashing into another car at that speed. Cars are designed to withstand collisions with other cars or with stationary objects. They aren’t designed to withstand the force of a huge, quickly moving truck crashing into them.
Unlike passenger vehicles, commercial trucks are subject to many federal and state regulations. If they don’t fully comply with these regulations, they may be found liable for any accidents that result. When passenger vehicles crash, one of the drivers may be found to have caused the accident through reckless or negligent behavior in order for the other driver to collect damages.
When it comes to accidents involving commercial trucks, the actions and in actions of people and companies other than the driver may be found to have negligently caused the accident. If any of the federal or state regulations were violated, your attorney can easily establish liability for the accident.
Any or all of the following could be found to be liable for a truck accident:
- The driver – If the driver was impaired, texting at the time of the accident, or otherwise negligent, they may be found at fault for the accident.
- The trucking company – Trucking companies may be held liable for the negligence of their employees. Even if the driver was an independent contractor, the company could be liable if, for example, it pushed or forced the driver to violate hours of service laws or failed to maintain the truck properly.
- The cargo company – If a cargo company overloaded or improperly loaded the vehicle and thus contributed to the accident, they may be found partly or fully liable for the accident.
- The truck manufacturer – Sometimes manufacturers produce defective parts or use defective designs that cause accidents. They can be found liable for doing so.
- A third-party maintenance company – If a third-party company responsible for maintaining the vehicle failed to do so responsibly, they could be held liable for injuries that occur.
Claims for 18-Wheeler Accidents in Sacramento
To file a claim for compensation after a truck accident, your attorney must establish what really happened. They need to prove that you were injured by the driver, trucking company, or other liable party’s negligent or reckless behavior. If you were injured through no fault of your own, you could be owed compensation for your medical bills, property loss, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
What to Do After a Truck Accident
If you’ve been hurt in a truck accident, the first thing to do is to seek medical help and report the accident by calling the authorities. You need emergency responders to come to the scene. If you aren’t seriously injured, call a non-emergency line and gather much information as possible, including the names and phone numbers of any eyewitnesses. It never hurts to take pictures of the accident scene.
As soon as possible after the accident, contact our office for help. We can obtain the police reports, eyewitness testimony, and any data from the truck. Most commercial trucks are fitted with devices that record how long the operator drives. In addition, many 18-wheelers are fitted with event data recorders that collect data about what happened during a collision, similar to the data collected by “black boxes” in airplanes. Don’t wait, because trucking companies may wipe the data if sufficient time has passed since the accident.
Call an 18-Wheeler Accident Lawyer for Help
Truckers and trucking companies are protected by the lawyers that their insurance companies employ. These entities never just hand out full compensation checks, and they won’t feel any pressure to help someone who is injured and seeking compensation on their own. If you want to seek the compensation that you deserve, you need the help of an experienced trucking accident attorney.
Demas Law Group can help. If you were injured in a truck crash, call the Demas Law group today. Our highly experienced truck accident lawyers in Sacramento have the right skills and resources to pursue the compensation and justice you deserve. We’re ready to help you.