When a Semi-Truck Strikes a Passenger Vehicle
Passing semi-trucks on Kentucky highways is often an uncomfortable experience. Your goal is usually to get around—and away—from them quickly. When one of these large trucks crosses a centerline or highway median, there is little you can do to avoid a head-on collision. The size and weight of a semi-truck is no match for your passenger vehicle. If you experienced catastrophic injuries or lost a loved one due to a careless truck driver, consider discussing your case with a Kentucky semi truck accident attorney without delay.
Common Causes of Head-On Truck Collisions
The trucking industry provides a valuable service in transporting goods. While most truck drivers practice safe driving, all it takes is one driver to make a careless decision while behind the wheel.
Drivers of 18-wheelers must adhere to federal hours of service regulations that set limits for hours on the road and requirements for rest breaks. According to data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the top two types of truck driver violations found in inspections were:
- Log violations: more than 170,000
- Driver’s record of duty status not current: more than 71,000
With many truck drivers paid per mile rather than per hour, the pressure to deliver more goods faster results in risks that place other drivers in harm’s way. Examples of risks truck drivers take while behind the wheel—and that can result in them crossing the centerline—include:
Speeding or Driving Too Fast for Conditions
A truck driver is well aware that the sheer size of his semi is frightening to many drivers. To reach their destination faster, they may bully other cars by tailgating, cutting in front of them, or driving too fast in the rain, snow, fog, or in icy conditions.
A survey by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that while most drivers believe texting behind the wheel is a serious problem, many admit to the behavior. When a truck driver engages in texting and other distractions like eating behind the wheel, they increase your chances of experiencing a head-on collision.
Taking a rest break when federal regulations demand it doesn’t mean one can rest. Big rig truck drivers deal with unusual sleeping patterns and don’t have the advantage of their own bed at night. Some drivers may have an undiagnosed sleeping disorder. No amount of coffee can keep a driver awake when they feel drowsy. Failure to stop and rest is negligent behavior that can have deadly results for you or your loved one.
Driving Under the Influence (DUI)
A truck driver who chooses to drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs risk losing their CDL forever. The legal limit for those with a CDL is .04 percent. Truck drivers who travel along Kentucky highways while under the influence demand accountability. If you or someone you love experienced serious injuries due to the reckless actions of a drunk or otherwise impaired truck driver, you may be entitled to compensation.
When a distracted or drowsy truck driver realizes they have crossed the centerline, it is often too late to stop. A fully-loaded semi-truck, traveling at an average speed of 65 miles per hour, requires the distance of two football fields to stop. If the truck has faulty brakes, stopping in time to prevent a head-on collision is almost impossible.
Semi-trucks surround us almost every day. Encountering an out-of-control big rig headed straight for you is a nightmare. When you later learn that the driver was distracted or under the influence, anger is an understandable response. If this is something that happened to you, there are options for pursuing justice. You can learn more by meeting with a personal injury attorney.
Types of Injuries Possible in a Head-On Truck Collision
The sheer size and weight of a semi-truck make it a deadly force at any speed. The standard semi-truck is 72 feet in length and sits approximately 13.5 feet off the ground. Types of serious injuries possible from such a collision include:
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) defines a traumatic brain injury (TBI) as a bump, blow, jolt, or penetrating head injury that disrupts normal brain function. A severe TBI is especially devastating, for it can impact you or your loved one the following ways:
- Cognitive function: A disruption to one’s cognitive function affects such skills as memory and thinking.
- Motor function: A patient may experience reduced coordination, muscle weakness, and poor balance.
- Sensation: The important sensations of hearing, vision, taste, and touch are often affected.
- Behavior/emotions: Changes to one’s behavior or emotions can occur, resulting in bouts of depression or expressions of anger.
Many families find that caring for a loved one with a TBI is more than they can handle. Some patients require around-the-clock care. Monthly costs for a skilled nursing facility in Kentucky averages between $6,000 and $7,600 per month.
Your loved one deserves quality care for the injuries they experienced due to no fault of their own. Placing them where they can receive the care they need can provide you with the peace-of-mind you need during this stressful time.
Spinal Cord Injury
The spinal cord sends and receives important messages to and from the brain. When the spinal cord becomes injured in a collision, the result is often limited or no mobility or sensation for the victim. This type of injury is often life-changing due to the resulting paralysis that requires a power chair and the need for personal care. The following examples of expenses that result from a spinal cord injury include:
- Power-chair for mobility
- Home modifications
- Modifications to a current vehicle or a new vehicle for transport to medical appointments
- Expensive medications, therapies, and future surgeries
The costs associated with a spinal cord injury can easily reach millions of dollars per year. Medical devices require replacements throughout the patient’s life and medical costs only continue to rise. Protecting your future medical needs is why securing the services of a personal injury lawyer is a smart idea. No one should pay out-of-pocket for expenses that result from a negligent truck driver or trucking company.
Among the most dangerous types of injuries from a head-on collision are those that show no immediate symptoms. Internal bleeding is one such injury that may exhibit no visible signs yet, if left untreated, can result in death. A damaged blood vessel wall can cause hemorrhaging. Diagnosing internal bleeding requires a medical professional using proper diagnostic equipment. Internal injuries are why accepting medical transport to a hospital immediately following the accident is imperative—even if you feel fine.
Tanker trucks are especially prone to erupting in fire upon a collision with a passenger vehicle due to the flammable materials they haul. Approximately 40 percent of tanker trucks carry gasoline and other petroleum products. Other hazardous materials transported by tanker trucks include industrial and agricultural items.
Treatment for serious burns often includes the following medical procedures:
- Skin grafts
- Breathing assistance
- Feeding tube
Coping with a serious burn is difficult for many patients. Scarring, limited mobility, and future surgeries add to the emotional and financial stress. Severe burns typically require care at a burn center, often far from friends and family. While plastic surgery can help patients with their appearance, the traumatic experience can cause depression and anger over this change to their life.
A head-on truck collision can leave you with more than one broken bone. Your injuries may go beyond a broken leg or arm—they can include serious fractures throughout your body that require extensive medical care. With more than 200 bones in the human body, there are two basic types of breaks:
- Open fracture: A compound fracture or open fracture means the bone pokes through the skin.
- Closed fracture: Also referred to as a simple fracture, a closed fracture means the skin remains intact.
Treatment for broken bones can require one or more of the following:
- Physical and occupational therapy
- A splint or cast
- Medicine to control pain
Broken bones limit mobility, and a patient often requires assistance with daily tasks such as bathing and dressing. Depending upon the severity of the break and the number of bones that require healing, the recovery process is often slow and expensive.
Everyone has a responsibility to share the road. When the reckless actions of a truck driver or a trucking company disrupt your life, it isn’t fair. Your life changes at the moment of impact. There are, however, a few proactive steps you can take immediately after the accident:
- Provide a statement to law enforcement. The police report can serve as valuable evidence should you decide to pursue litigation.
- If possible, collect the contact information for witnesses.
- Don’t speak with anyone from the trucking company or any insurance companies.
While a head-on collision can happen in a second, the results can follow you forever. Learning to deal with your new reality requires patience. Taking a deep breath and planning the best course of action for protecting your future—or that of your loved one is essential. This is where the services of an experienced personal injury attorney can help you understand the process and possible outcome of filing a claim.
When a Head-On 18-Wheeler Collision Results in Death
Not everyone survives a head-on truck collision. While no amount of money can replace your loved one, there are steps you can take to pursue possible compensation for your loss. Kentucky law allows a representative of the estate to file a wrongful death claim. Typically, the person is someone the decedent designated to represent their estate in the event of their death.
Any compensation that results from the claim is often awarded to the surviving spouse, children, parents, or nearest relative. Compensation can help to cover medical expenses, funeral costs, the loss of income, and the loss of companionship. The process involving a wrongful death claim is quite complex and best left to an attorney familiar with Kentucky law.
How a Truck Accident Attorney Can Help You
Insurance companies are eager to settle cases quickly—and for the least amount of compensation possible. The time immediately following your accident is overwhelming as you deal with your injuries and the changes to your life. It is not the time to deal with aggressive representatives from insurance companies.
An initial settlement offer from an insurance company may seem like a large sum to you and your family. The reality is that the initial offer often isn’t enough to cover your future medical needs. Do not allow insurance companies to pressure you into signing anything. It is in your best interest to not speak with insurance companies and to contact a personal injury attorney instead. A law firm can deal with the details of your case so that you can focus on your health and recovery.
A head-on collision with a semi-truck is an extremely traumatic experience. Finding a personal injury attorney that can protect your best interests during this stressful time is important for your future. While each case is different, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
With nearly 10,000 semi-truck collisions in Kentucky during one recent year, the chance of one happening to you is very real. A head-on collision is one of the worst types of truck collisions to experience due to the force of impact. No one should face a lifetime of financial stress or go without the medical care they need due to injuries that were no fault of their own. If this happened to you, consider discussing your case with an attorney before the statute of limitations expires. Scheduling a free case evaluation is an important first step toward seeking justice for you and your family.