Driving alongside large trucks like semis, tractor-trailers and 18-wheelers is inevitable when traveling on popular interstates, highways and busy city streets. Trucks are essential for consumers and businesses to access the goods and supplies necessary in their everyday lives.
Unfortunately, the drivers of these commercial vehicles can endanger the lives of the public when they are going about their business as usual. Truck drivers can cause devastating injuries or death to victims caught up in a truck accident or pile up on the road.
When an accident investigation follows a truck accident, it is not uncommon for the evidence to reveal that the accident occurred because of the truck driver’s actions. Truck driver negligence that results in injuries or death of a victim can give rise to an insurance claim or lawsuit for the damages that occur. Negligence by a truck driver can happen in many different ways, and it may not always be apparent in the moments following a collision.
Truck Driver Negligence Causing Accidents on the Road
Truck drivers can spend considerable amounts of time on the road when they are working. Unlike other jobs that occur during set hours each day, truck drivers hauling loads for long distances may find themselves working for days and weeks at a time.
Truck drivers behind the wheel for hours can make questionable decisions that may lead to a high risk of an accident involving one or more passenger vehicles. Each year over 4,400 large truck accidents end in fatalities on the roads in the U.S. Over 3,200 of those fatal accidents involve another vehicle traveling alongside the truck on the road.
Truck Driving Fatigue
The trucking industry is a high demand profession. Truck drivers may have heavy work schedules, tight deadlines, and little opportunity for downtime and rest. Most truck drivers only get the bare minimum of rest as required by law. Some may not even follow the hours of service regulations the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration set forth.
When a truck driver does not get the required rest time, it can be because of pressures and demands from their employer, the trucking company, or because of their motivation to make more money at the expense of staying safe. Truck driver fatigue is a rampant problem. Even when truck drivers get the rest they need, it is still a physically and mentally demanding job that could cause them to feel the effects of fatigue over time.
Driving a truck can become a passive act as fatigue sets in. A driver can get lost in the monotony, developing tunnel vision or falling asleep at the wheel. Truck driver fatigue is not just a matter of a driver getting sleepy or needing rest; it can become a matter of life and death when they are behind the wheel of such a massive and destructive potential force. If a truck driver causes an accident because of fatigue, they can be liable for the harm and damages that result from the crash.
Driving Under the Influence
The solitary nature of truck driving, the job pressures and the stress many truck drivers experience can lead to substance and alcohol use. Often truck drivers may have easy access to bars and alcohol at stops along their route or may participate in recreational drug use as a way to unwind or distract them from their job or personal life.
Shockingly in a study researching drug use within the trucking community, over 27 percent of truckers reported taking drugs while on the job. Some truckers indicated their drug use is partly related to trying to remain highly productive.
After spending long hours behind the wheel, a truck driver may decide to drink alcohol, do drugs or both, whether to relax or as a stimulant to help them continue to work. Truck drivers who engage in these dangerous behaviors are putting themselves and those around them on the road at risk of injury or death.
Any truck driver who drinks and drives or abuses drugs when on the job is at a high risk of causing an accident. Drugs and alcohol can delay reaction times, impair judgment and interfere with a driver’s ability to remain alert and awake. These are all critical skills that a truck driver must have to operate and drive a commercial vehicle on the roadways safely.
Driving While Distracted
To many truck drivers, their truck is not only how they work but also serves as their home for the days and weeks they are on the road. When a trucker works for weeks at a time, the lines between work and personal lives can blur. Hours behind the wheel in traffic and getting from one destination to another can become monotonous and routine to them.
With this false sense of security, many truck drivers may engage in other activities while driving along roadways to their next stop. Eating, talking on the phone, watching TV, grooming, reading or sending messages are all activities that truck drivers engage in when they should be focusing their attention solely on the road and vehicles around them.
Distracted truck drivers are all too common on the road, and they are a danger to the public, as just one instance of inattention can lead to a catastrophic accident or a mass casualty event.
There is a common feeling amongst drivers of other vehicles that truck drivers may act as though they can overpower other vehicles on the road because of their sheer size and strength. A truck driver, after all, is higher up than others on the road; they are in a much larger vehicle and may not feel as though they are in danger when near other smaller vehicles.
Some truck drivers may act aggressively behind the wheel of their trucks as they maneuver through city streets and congested roadways. Aggressive driving is common among some truck drivers, and aggressive driving can include actions like tailgating, abrupt braking, changing lanes without signaling and blocking other vehicles from passing.
Truck drivers who drive aggressively increase the chance of causing an accident and, in turn, causing injuries to other travelers on the roadways. Inconsiderate truck drivers that operate their trucks without regard for other vehicles or violate the rules of the road may cause an accident due to their negligence leading to painful injuries and costly damages.
While it may seem that truck drivers have plenty of time to reach their next stop, they often do not. Oftentimes, deadlines are close together, and truckers are expected to reach their next destination in ideal conditions without much consideration for traffic, delays, weather and other obstacles they may encounter along the drive.
Due to these pressures and time constraints, truck drivers may drive beyond the posted speed limit. When they engage in these actions, they are not only breaking the law but could cause deadly consequences for other drivers and passengers nearby.
The faster a truck travels, the higher the possible destruction to life and property if an accident occurs. Additionally, speeding makes it harder for a truck driver to react to avoid a crash and makes it take much longer for a truck to come to a stop when necessary. Speeding is often a factor in negligent truck accidents, particularly along stretches of open interstates and highways.
Not Adapting to Changing Road Conditions
Weather, road conditions, traffic or road work, can all lead to challenges on the roadways for a truck driver. When these unexpected conditions develop, it is up to the truck driver to use their judgment and experience to adapt to these conditions. Unfortunately, not all truck drivers successfully identify trouble ahead or change how they drive to reduce the risk of an accident involving others.
Road conditions do not stay the same each day or even over the course of an hour. A truck driver must adapt when road conditions are unfavorable and do everything they can to keep the public around them safe from their truck and haul. When truck drivers fail to take appropriate measures when road conditions deteriorate or suddenly change, they may be acting negligently. If an accident occurs, they could be liable to the victims for their injuries and losses.
Failing to Consider the Size and Weight of The Load They are Hauling
Truck driving is not only about driving the truck itself. The load that is on a truck can make a huge difference in how a driver should operate the truck and proceed along the roadways. The shape, size and weight distribution of a shipment can greatly influence how a truck moves and reacts to braking, swerving or changing lanes.
A truck driver must adapt their driving to conform to the load they have on their trailer. When a truck driver does not take into account their shipment, it can spell disaster along the way. Truck drivers who do not adapt their driving according to their truck’s contents may have a lack of experience or are choosing to act recklessly.
Trucks can lose traction, and a driver can lose control rather quickly when they do not take the steps necessary to drive the shipment properly and safely. An out of control truck can wreak havoc on other occupants of vehicles around it. When a truck accident happens because of this scenario, it is likely negligence, and the truck driver and other parties involved with the shipment may be liable to victims with injuries and other damages.
Who May Be Liable When a Truck Driver Acts Negligently?
A truck driver’s actions are his own. However, when they act negligently while on the job and cause harm to others, there may be other parties liable for their actions. In most truck accident cases, liability insurance coverage is likely to kick in when the collision occurs.
Filing an insurance claim may be the first option for most truck accident victims, but getting an insurance company to pay the true value of your damages is a challenge and can require the help of a truck accident attorney. Beyond insurance coverage and the subsequent damages, you can also hold a truck driver’s employer liable.
You can hold trucking companies liable under the doctrine of vicarious liability, where they are responsible for the actions of their representatives, or they may also be liable for their own negligence and actions that may contribute to an accident.
A Victim’s Right to Compensation When a Truck Driver is Negligent
When an innocent victim suffers injuries, harm and losses because of a truck driver’s actions, the law gives them the right to seek compensation for those damages. Truck accident victims are at risk of death or life changing injuries. The losses from a truck accident can be costly, from medical care to interruptions to your ability to make money.
A truck accident attorney is a crucial resource of knowledge and experience that can assist a truck accident victim in determining the full extent of their loss and the money they may be able to claim as part of their insurance claim or lawsuit against the parties responsible.
Damages that a victim could seek in a truck accident claim include:
- Medical costs, including future medical care, if necessary
- Loss of income and earnings, including future income if a disability or chronic condition develops
- Pain and suffering for your physical distress, as well as your emotional and mental trauma
- Property damage
Proving a Truck Driver’s Negligence in an Insurance Claim or Lawsuit
When a truck driver causes an accident, the burden is on the victim to prove they are to blame for the crash and the totality of their losses arising from the truck accident.
Unfortunately, the insurance claims process for a truck accident is not straightforward. It is not just a matter of filing a claim and receiving compensation. A truck accident attorney can assist a victim in their fight for compensation after a truck driver causes injuries and additional damages.