When we see tow trucks they’re often on the side of the road helping another vehicle. If you have ever needed a tow truck, you probably have a special appreciation for the men and women who drive these vehicles. Tow trucks provide an essential service that helps thousands of citizens get safely home every day. But like any large truck, their sheer size, among other factors, puts them at a higher risk of being involved in a serious accident.
Large trucks lack the visibility of vehicles with a lower profile. They take longer to stop, and they outweigh passenger vehicles to the extent that even in a minor accident they can cause serious damage. A serious accident with a tow truck can cause life-threatening injuries. If you were in a tow truck accident, contact an experienced truck accident attorney to learn more about what comes next.
Types of Tow Trucks
Tow trucks come in a variety of different styles. The main distinguishing factor is how a tow truck hooks up and transports vehicles. While it’s easy to lump tow trucks into one broad category, each type of tow truck has different functions and different features that can contribute to an accident. The four main types of tow trucks include:
Hook and Chain Trucks
When you think about tow trucks, the image of the hook and chain truck may be the first to come to mind. This model of tow truck uses a hook and chain to haul an immobilized vehicle. While this type of tow truck was common in the past, haulers began to realize this method could lead to substantial body damage to the vehicle being hauled. Hook and chain trucks still exist, but they usually only haul damaged or junk vehicles.
Flatbed tow trucks are the ones you see the most on the road. This type of tow truck consists of a cab and a large, open flatbed. The towed vehicle can either drive onto the bed via a ramp or the driver uses a winch to pull the vehicle up.
Integrated Tow Trucks
Integrated tow trucks are meant to transport larger vehicles, like buses and other trucks. For this reason, they are larger and have an extra axle for added stability.
Wheel Lift Tow Trucks
Wheel lift tow trucks work similarly to hook and chain trucks, but rather than using a hook and chain, they rely on a hydraulic lift, known as a yoke. The yoke lifts the vehicle’s front wheels off the road to prevent damage to the vehicle. Wheel lift tow trucks are known for their efficiency and are often used to remove vehicles in emergencies.
Why Do Tow Truck Accidents Happen?
Tow trucks and accidents are like peas and carrots. When you think of one, it’s hard not to think of the other. But as readily as they help clean up an accident, they are just as capable of causing an accident. Common causes of tow truck accidents include:
Large trucks have their own unique set of challenges. For starters, their large blind spots can make it difficult for the driver to see other vehicles around them and their immense size means they take longer to stop. So the last thing you want to think about is a mechanical failure on a vehicle of this size. Unfortunately, mechanical issues happen at an alarmingly high rate. The FMCSA Large Truck Crash Causation Study found that of the truck accidents in the study, 10 percent had mechanical issues.
While brakes topped the list, other mechanical issues included:
- Improperly functioning safety equipment;
- Worn or broken tie-downs;
- Tire issues;
- Transmission failure; and
- Steering problems.
A tow truck driver’s sole job is to transport another vehicle from one place to another. So loading the vehicle should be of utmost importance. Issues can occur when the driver uses improper tie-downs or exceeds the tow truck’s maximum hauling capacity. When a vehicle is improperly loaded, the hauled vehicle can come loose and cause an accident.
Driver negligence is the number one cause of all accidents across the United States. In fact, in the Large Truck Crash Causation Study, in cases where the truck driver was at fault, it was driver error that accounted for 87 percent of those accidents.
Driver negligence includes:
- Speeding: Year after year, speeding accounts for nearly one-third of all motor vehicle fatalities. In the most recent year for which the NHTSA has data available, speeding was the primary cause of 26 percent of all traffic fatalities. Speeding is dangerous, especially for large trucks because the faster they go, the longer it takes them to stop and the more likely the driver is to lose control of the vehicle.
- Driver fatigue: Far too many drivers get on the road when they are feeling fatigued. Fatigue can cause poor decision-making, impaired vision, and difficulty concentrating. Drivers who work through the night are especially prone to fatigue.
- Distracted driving: Distracted driving is any activity that takes the driver’s attention off the road. This may include cell phone use, navigation systems, or eating behind the wheel.
- Failure to yield the right of way: Failure to yield the right of way accidents happen when a truck driver drives into the path of another driver out of turn. Because of their large blind spots, these accidents sometimes happen when a truck merges or changes lanes. They can also happen at an intersection if the driver runs through a stop sign or red light.
You Have Rights After a Tow Truck Accident
When you suffer an injury due to someone else’s negligence, the law entitles you to certain protections. In the case of a tow truck accident, you may have a claim for financial compensation. The law only gives injured people a limited amount of time to file a claim after an accident, so take action right away. If you have suffered an injury, you shouldn’t have to go through your recovery alone. If you need help with your truck accident case or want to know more about your rights, contact a truck accident attorney.