When you encounter a semi-truck or a tanker truck while driving your car, chances are you breathe easier once it passes you. Truck drivers have a responsibility to maintain control of their load and their truck. When a commercial truck driver engages in reckless behavior behind the wheel, the results are often devastating for you and your passengers. If you’ve experienced serious injuries due to the negligent actions of a truck driver, consider discussing your case with a truck accident attorney as soon as possible.
The Most Common Trucks on Kentucky Roads
Commercial trucks consist of two main components: the tractor and the trailer. The type of trailer a tractor pulls depends on the kind of load transported by the company. The two main categories of trucks are semi-trucks and tanker trucks. Each type carries important goods and products essential to the nation’s economy. At the same time, each type also carries the potential for harm to other drivers—if the driver lacks proper training or the company fails to maintain its trucks.
These types of trucks are among the most common that we see as we travel Kentucky highways and city streets. Also known as tractor-trailers and sometimes referred to as 18 wheelers or big rigs, semi-trucks carry a variety of goods. Drivers must hold a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to operate a semi-truck. Semi-trucks are often considered scary by other drivers because of their sheer size. Most semi-truck measure 72 feet in length and sit 13.6 high off the ground.
Many commercial truck drivers rely on their training to help them reach their destination safely. All it takes for a tragic accident is for one driver to fail to take the same care as other drivers by engaging in reckless while driving. Examples of reckless behavior that can result in serious injuries for you or your loved ones include:
- Driving while drowsy – Unusual sleep patterns and undiagnosed sleep disorders can cause truck drivers to become drowsy while driving. Despite federal regulations regarding hours of service, many truck drivers push the limits or fail to rest during mandatory breaks.
- Driving under the influence (DUI) – The legal limit is .04 percent for those with a CDL. Commercial truck drivers risk losing their CDL if convicted of DUI. Despite the serious consequences, truck drivers often get behind the wheel after a drink or using a drug. Their willingness to chance not getting caught selfishly places you in harm’s way.
- Aggressive driving – Truck drivers are in a hurry to reach their destination. Time is money as many drivers are paid per mile rather than per hour. The sheer size of their truck can easily make them a menacing and bullying force on the highway. From tailgating to speeding, aggressive driving by truck drivers can result in running you off the road or into another vehicle.
- Distracted driving – Like regular motorists, distraction is a common issue among truck drivers. Reading or sending texts, programming navigational devices, or eating while driving place truck drivers at risk for losing control of their truck. The moment their eyes leave the road is the moment your life can change forever.
Truck drivers who drive tanker trucks carrying hazardous materials must have a special endorsement on their CDL. Kentucky truck drivers who drive tanker trucks must also apply for the Kentucky Security Threat Assessment. The threat assessment is a requirement by the U.S. Patriot Act, and the process involves fingerprinting and background checks.
Two examples of what tanker trucks transport are flammable fuel and chemicals. The hazardous liquids they carry are prone to what is called “slosh and surge.” Slosh refers to the liquid running up the sides of the tank, which changes the tanker’s center of gravity. The surge refers to liquid shifting front to back and back to front upon accelerating or braking.
Slosh and surge are particularly dangerous for other drivers due to the risk of a rollover accident. The unbalanced liquid creates an unstable load, resulting in a rollover accident that may spill hazardous material.
Rollover accidents can also occur when a driver takes a turn too fast or when they are simply speeding. A tanker truck accident requires first responders trained in dealing with HAZMAT accidents. Depending upon the type of material spilled, the first responders may face a delay in promptly reaching you.
Examples of Truck Accidents
A crash involving a semi-truck can happen to anyone at any time. The type of accident and how it occurs depends on factors such as driver behavior, road conditions, and truck maintenance. Here are just two examples of how semi-truck accidents can happen in just seconds:
Following Too Close
Federal law allows semi-trucks to haul a maximum weight of 80,000 lbs. When fully loaded, a semi-truck requires braking distance to stop—as much as two football fields. A truck driver who tailgates or who drifts into your lane cannot stop quickly. By the time the driver realizes their mistake, it is too late for them to stop or for you to move out of their way.
A rear-end crash caused by a semi-truck driver can send your car into the car ahead of you. Stopped traffic can result in a chain reaction as the force of the truck pushes the sitting cars forward. This type of crash can leave you pinned between the truck and the car in front of you. Even if you see the truck coming toward you in your rearview mirror, there is often no place—and no time—for you to move out of the way.
In some cases, poor brakes may explain the driver’s inability to stop in time. The failure of a trucking company to inspect and maintain equipment demands accountability. If this happened to you or someone you love, a personal injury attorney can review your case for free.
Also referred to as side-impact crashes, an underride crash occurs when a passenger vehicle crashes into the side of a semi-truck. With no guard to prevent a car from sliding under the side of the truck, these types of crashes often result in death. Efforts by safety advocates to require side guards on semi-trucks are currently underway. Until there are laws in place requiring the guards, drivers remain at risk of experiencing an underride crash.
Federal law requires rear-guards, yet inspection of these guards is not required. This means many rear guards on semi-trucks are in poor condition and do little to prevent an accident. Whether it is a side-impact crash or a rear-impact crash, airbags do little to protect you from the force of impact.
A semi-truck can approach you from the back, the side, or head-on. When this type of large vehicle is out-of-control, there’s no telling where it will strike your vehicle and what type of injuries you may experience. Sadly, some drivers and their passengers don’t survive the impact. If you lost a loved one due to the careless actions of a truck driver or due to trucks with faulty brakes, you may be eligible for filing a wrongful death claim.
Types of Injuries Possible in a Truck Accident
When you suffer a serious injury, you may never return to life as you once knew it. This is especially devastating when you can no longer enjoy hobbies, care for family, or return to a career you love. The following are types of injuries that are possible in a truck accident:
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) – The brain is the body’s most important organ. When a serious brain injury occurs, the injury can impair the following functions:
- Cognitive: Memory and thinking
- Motor: Coordination and balance
- Sensations: Vision, hearing, taste, and touch
- Behavior/emotions: Outbursts of anger and bouts of depression
Spinal cord injury – The spinal cord performs an important bodily function in sending and receiving messages to and from the brain. When it becomes injured, patients often experience limited or no sensation or movement. This leaves patients with paralysis, requiring a power chair for mobility and assistance with their personal care.
The costs associated with a spinal cord injury can reach into the millions of dollars every year throughout the patient’s lifetime. Patients often face frequent rehospitalizations, require replacement equipment and home modifications. Transport to and from medical appointments and other venues requires modifications to existing vehicles or a new vehicle.
Broken bones – A crash involving a semi-truck can leave you with more than a broken leg. The force of impact from such a large vehicle can leave you in traction and facing multiple surgeries. Once your bones heal, physical therapy is often required to help gain reuse of the injured part of your body.
Internal injuries – The injuries that show no visible signs or symptoms are why you must always accept medical transport immediately following an accident. Internal injuries, like internal bleeding, are only diagnosed by a medical professional using proper testing equipment.
Burns – Experiencing a burn is a real possibility in an accident involving a tanker truck. If the flammable material ignites, you or a loved one may experience severe burns that require transport to a burn center. Scarring, painful skin grafts, and plastic surgery are common for burn patients.
Serious injuries are painful and often involve a long recovery. When permanent damage occurs, a patient may require counseling to help them adjust to their new reality. If you experienced serious injuries due to no fault of your own, it is important to learn what legal options exist. If a loved one became seriously injured, watching their physical and emotional pain is difficult and upsetting. There is often nothing you can do to help them other than providing love and support. Their situation is due to no fault of their own, something that is maddening, and that demands justice.
Why You Need an 18-Wheeler Accident Attorney
Experiencing a serious injury due to a reckless truck driver or a negligent trucking company isn’t fair. The time immediately following your accident is one of stress, confusion, and uncertainty. No one should suffer physical, financial, and emotional stress due to a speeding truck driver or a negligent trucking company. Having someone on your side during this difficult time is essential for protecting your best interests.
Representatives from insurance companies may contact you soon after the accident with a financial offer to settle the case. It is important to note that insurance companies like to settle cases quickly. While their initial settlement offer may appear like a large sum to you, it most likely will not cover your future medical needs. Don’t speak with the insurance companies without counsel, and most importantly, don’ t sign anything. Leave any possible negotiations for a settlement in the hands of an experienced personal injury attorney. Trying to negotiate a settlement on your own will only lead you to disappointment and no funds for your future care.
While each case is different, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. You have nothing to lose by scheduling a free case evaluation with a personal injury attorney. Many attorneys do not collect a fee unless they secure compensation for you. Time is of the essence, so don’t delay. State law limits the time allowed for pursuing a personal injury claim. The clock starts ticking the moment you become injured. The limitation of two years for filing your claim may seem like a long time, however, time can pass quickly as you deal with your injuries.
No matter how defensively you drive, a truck accident is a real threat anytime you drive next to a semi or tanker truck. While avoiding a truck’s blind zones can help keep you safe, there’s nothing to prevent poor decisions by a truck driver or a trucking company. If that happens to you, a truck accident lawyer who knows how to handle cases involving big rigs and 18-wheelers can answer your questions and help you recover compensation.