For occupants of a passenger vehicle, crashes involving commercial truck accident are among the most dangerous. Much of this is due to the massive size differential between most trucks and passenger vehicles. Even large SUVs and pickups are no match for a loaded semi truck. Compare a Chevrolet Suburban with a gross vehicle weight (GVW) of 7,400 pounds to the 80,000 GVW of a tractor-trailer. At over 10 times the weight, in a crash involving a tractor-trailer and a Suburban, the Suburban doesn’t stand a chance.
When you accelerate the 80,000-pound truck to highway speeds, and then hit another vehicle, the resulting crash is catastrophic. Wrecks involving trucks striking stopped vehicles resemble a bomb explosion.
And there are more trucks on the roads; while the recession caused a temporary drop in truck traffic, with the improving economy will come more trucks. In 2010, even as overall vehicle fatalities declined, fatal truck accidents increased.
Causes of Commerical Truck Accidents
Commercial truck accidents are caused by a variety of reasons. Most are similar to those involving passenger vehicles, like speeding, driver fatigue, drug and alcohol use, inattention and distractions like cell phones and texting. Some are more specific to large trucks, such as load shifting, improperly loaded or overweight cargo or jack-knifing.
Some are simply due to the larger size and weight of tractor-trailers. With higher centers of gravity, trucks are more prone to tipping over when a driver attempts to take a corner too fast. They require greater stopping distances and can jack-knife when a driver has to try to stop too quickly.
Dangerous to Other Drivers
In 2010, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, (FLHSMV) in Florida, there were 3,329 accidents involving heavy trucks, resulting in 58 fatalities and 1,821 injuries. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), nationwide, commercial truck accidents resulted in 3,675 deaths in 2010, an almost 9 percent increase.
The danger posed to other drivers by commercial truck crashes is made clear by the following numbers from the FMCSA. In 2009 multiple-vehicle crashes involving a truck and another vehicle, 149 truck drivers died, or about 5 percent. Drivers and passengers of passenger vehicles fared less well, suffering 2,551 fatalities or 92.4 percent of the fatalities.
Injury statistics were similar; 8,000 truck drivers were injured in these crashes, but 56,000 occupants of the other vehicles suffered injuries.
Potentially Responsible Parties
Commercial truck accidents are often much more complex to litigate than an average automobile accident involving two private parties. With a truck collision, multiple parties could be responsible for the accident.
Trucking Company Responsibility
Respondeat Superior is the legal concept that one who hires another to perform some task is responsible for any injuries to third parties caused by the person or entity hired.
In commercial truck accidents, ultimately, the trucking company that owns the truck and hires the driver has overall responsibility for crashes involving their vehicle and driver.
The problem may be determining who “owns” the truck. Often, the truck may not even be owned by the company whose advertising is printed on the side of the truck.
The truck and trailer may be leased, possibly by two different companies. The driver may be an employee of the leasing company, or he may be an independent contractor hired by the leasing company to drive the shipment.
The tractor and/or trailer may be maintained by a third party maintenance firm, instead of the work being done by company mechanics.
Depending on the product the truck is carrying, the company that loaded the truck may be responsible for part of the accident.
Federal, state, county or city governments could also be held responsible for aspects of thecommercial vehicle accident due to their involvement in the design, construction and maintenance of the highway where the crash occurred.
This element can be further complicated by the fact that some governmental entities have sovereign immunity and cannot be sued, while others have limited or no immunity.
Manufacturing or Design Defects
The crash could also be due to a design or manufacturing defect in the truck itself. This question can become very complex if the allegedly defective part or parts could also implicate one or more contractors or subcontractors.
Holding the Responsible Party Accountable
As you can see, a seemingly “simple” truck accident involving a truck and a few cars can explode to a situation so complex you need a flow chart to keep track of who-is-doing-what-to-whom. Call injury attorney Mike Hancock at 813-915-1110 for a free consultation of your commercial truck accident case. Our phones are answered 24/7.