Trucking in the USA
The United States is crisscrossed with millions of miles of roads, highways, interstates, and streets connecting factors and shipyards to towns from coast to coast. Our infrastructure of goods distribution relies on getting raw materials and finished goods from place to place, and perhaps one of the most critical links in this chain is the trucking industry.
Over 3 million truck drivers operate in the United States alone. Though they come from many different backgrounds, they all share some common factors. Truck drivers are in control of massive pieces of heavy equipment that travel thousands of miles, transporting a wide range of goods, from potato chips to hazardous materials. They operate in all sorts of weather, road conditions, and climates around the clock day and night.
Considering the sheer numbers of trucks on the road at any given moment, driven by a wide range of people with varying degrees of expertise, it is not surprising that accidents do happen. Unfortunately, if you are reading this, you are probably already familiar with what can go wrong in a trucking accident.
Anatomy of a truck accident
Trucks travel at high speeds with thousands of pounds of freight. There are generally two parts to a tractor-trailer rig: the tractor, which is the motorized vehicle that pulls the trailer by an articulated hitch. There are various setups of the tractor/trailer rig, including smaller trucks that combine the freight compartment with the chassis of the vehicle, as well as multiple trailers hitched together to haul more freight with a single tractor.
Safety devices such as lights, brakes, and other equipment are also linked to the tractor. There is a third component to all trucks, and that is the driver.
Trucks are intricate pieces of machinery designed with enough power to haul enormous amounts of freight over distances through all sorts of climates and terrain, and nearly all of them possess safeguards to prevent accidents. Mirrors, large windows for visibility, and even advanced warning systems help protect the truck and other drivers sharing the road. However, a truck is usually only as good as the driver, who sort of acts like a central nervous system over all that steel and glass and fuel.
With so many variables, such as moving a lot of mass at high speeds with only a small surface area of traction on the road vs. mass, as well as visibility, and other factors such as other drivers and road conditions, there is a lot that can go wrong which can lead to a truck accident. With that much mass traveling at speed, impacts with other vehicles are usually serious and often fatal. Head injuries, dismemberment, and psychological factors can and do result from surviving impact with a tractor-trailer.
Underride accidents are nearly always fatal, and in the event of a tip-over or jackknife accident, enormous areas of the highway can be affected by a truck accident. Burning fuel, runaway trucks, and hazardous materials spills are all too common.
Drivers must undergo specialized training to operate their rigs. Despite this, drivers are limited by physical factors such as physical abilities of sight, attention disorders, substance use, and even how much sleep a driver gets may be contributing factors to an accident. Logbooks are kept to prevent things such as drivers falling asleep at the wheel, and Port of Entry checkpoints ensure trucks are carrying the correct amounts of freight and weight distribution and types for their vehicles to prevent accidents.
But driver error is a leading cause of truck accidents. Drivers under the influence of substances, driving with defective safety equipment such as brakes or even mirrors, and drivers who have not adequately rested pose potential threats to other drivers. The trucking company has a hand in liability when a driver is at fault since they entrusted that driver with the vehicle. Faulty equipment such as safety lights, chains, hitches, and brakes may also contribute to accidents.
Put it all together
What does this mean? In essence, if you are involved in a truck accident, chances are you are facing significant expenses in medical bills, long-term trauma, post-traumatic stress, and even brain injury and other permanent disabilities. Someone must be held accountable for what has happened.
Chances are a trucking company has failed at maintaining optimum safety and observing State and Federal regulations for the safety and welfare of other drivers on the road. Insurance companies, lawsuits, and other entities allow for compensation. However, survivors will undoubtedly be struggling with recovery and even grieving those who may not have survived.
What I need
If you have been involved in a truck accident, you need to gather as much information as possible.
- Contact emergency medical services and render aid if necessary.
- From a safe vantage point, get photographs, collect personal information from witnesses, and get the names and contact information of Law Enforcement and First Responders on the scene.
- If possible, you can use your cell phone to take pictures of the accident scene as well as the contact information of witnesses and First Responders.
- Make a note of any drug paraphernalia you might have seen at the site.
- Observe the way the driver was behaving. Were they acting erratically? High-strung? Were they sleepy or otherwise intoxicated? A lot can be observed at the crash scene, which can be used later as evidence.
- Admit no fault in the accident. Answer questions to the best of your knowledge with law enforcement. Take video recordings if you are having difficulty with cognition, as you might have suffered a traumatic brain injury or are just influenced by adrenaline.
- Make a note of any obvious signs of damage or concerning parts of equipment on the vehicle if possible. If the safety lights were not operating before the accident, this would be important.
Contact an attorney
Navigating the court system and insurance process after a truck accident can be extremely confusing. It is always a good idea to contact an attorney if you have been involved in a truck accident, if for no other reason than getting a fair settlement or representation in court for compensation.
A truck accident is a life-changing event, and you should be prepared to the best of your ability. An attorney will fight for your rights and help you through the process as you attempt to put your life back together. Contact a truck accident attorney today for more information.