Truck Crashes: Common Causes and Best Steps for Victims to Take

Jul 20, 2020

Commercial trucking is an essential component of interstate shipping in the U.S., but given the trucks’ typical size, speed, and cargo load, truck crashes can have devastating consequences. As we detailed in a previous blog about the dangers of truck crashes, large trucks weigh approximately 30 times more than passenger vehicles and consistently result in thousands of fatal crashes per year. In today’s blog, we discuss the potential causes of large truck accidents, which include fatigued drivers, improper cargo loading, negligent hiring issues, and more. Additionally, we offer a few tips for truck crash victims and their families on what steps should be taken in order to maximize potential relief in a truck crash case.

Common Causes of Truck Crashes

Large truck crashes are dangerous, potentially deadly incidents that normally occur hundreds of times each time in the U.S. In fact, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (“FMCSA”) most recent report, large trucks and buses were involved in approximately 116,000 crashes in which someone was injured in 2017. Here are a few frequent causes of large truck crashes:

  • Distracted driving  As with normal car accidents, drivers distracted by cell phones, the radio, or other objects near the road are also a common cause of truck crashes. In fact, according to the FMCSA’s study on large truck crash causation, factors such as inattention, external distractions, and unfamiliarity with the roads are three of the top 15 causation factors. Of the approximately 120,000 crashes used in the FMCSA’s analysis, one of these three factors was present in 54,000 of those incidents.
  • Driver fatigue – In addition to the typical driver distractions outlined above, one factor that is especially unique to truck driving is driver fatigue. Truck drivers operate massive vehicles carrying valuable cargo that usually must be delivered by a certain time. Therefore, despite the FMCSA’s hours-of-service rules – most important of which imposes an 11-hour driving limit – truck drivers often stay awake for long periods of time to meet their deadlines. This type of drowsy driving can impair the driver’s abilities and result in serious accidents.
  • Alcohol and drug use  Given the long consecutive driving hours and short deadlines imposed on truck drivers, some of those drivers resort to drugs and/or alcohol while on the road. The law prohibits truck drivers from working if they have consumed alcohol in the last four hours, or if their BAC is greater than .04. However, despite the dangers posed by driving massive vehicles under the influence of alcohol or drugs, this continues to be an issue afflicting the truck driving community. According the FMCSA’s causation study, drugs (both over-the-counter and illegal) and alcohol were present in nearly 25% crashes analyzed.
  • Improper cargo loads  A less common, but potentially even more dangerous, cause of truck crashes is improperly loaded cargo. If the driver or the cargo loaders failed to adequately strap down the truck’s cargo, that cargo may come lose while the truck is moving. This free-moving weight in the back of a truck could cause the vehicle to drive erratically, roll over, or even jackknife (e., when the truck’s trailer swing past the cab and causes the driver to lose control of the vehicle).
  • Vehicle problems  Similar to passenger vehicles, large trucks also cause accidents due to underlying vehicle issues. In light of the heavy cargo loads being transported by these trucks, the two most common problems are faulty brakes and tires. In fact, “brake problems” was cited as the most common factor present in the FMCSA’s causation study.
  • Negligent hiring and training  Finally, a truck company’s negligent hiring or training practices could result in dangerous crashes and immense legal exposure. For example, in September 2019, Universal Logistics settled a truck crash case for $36 million due to the company’s negligent business practices. Specifically, the company hired a driver (who ended up instigating a dangerous highway crash) with a suspended license, nine traffic violations in seven years, a history of termination for poor driving practices, and no formal truck driving training.

What Steps Should Be Taken by Truck Crash Victims?

The time period immediately following a car or truck crash can be extremely difficult for a victim and their family. However, it is important to acknowledge that the actions taken during this time can be vital to a victim’s potential recovery down the road. Here are a few tips on what steps to take after being involved in a truck crash:

  • Seek medical attention. Your health is the top priority, so seeking medical attention should always be the first step after an accident. Even though you may not feel much pain in the moment, obtaining medical treatment for injuries is an essential component of a personal injury case. Thus, it is important to not only seek immediate medical treatment after a crash, but also to follow your doctor’s advice and attend as many medical appointments as necessary.
  • File necessary reports. If you suffer significant injuries from a truck crash, you should immediately call 911. This call will alert police and emergency medical services, and it will also ensure that your accident report is on file with law enforcement. However, if your accident is not serious enough to warrant a police presence, you should file an accident report with the police, which can be done online or in person. Additionally, within 10 days of the accident, you must also file an online crash report with the Illinois Department of Transportation, Division of Traffic Safety.
  • Contact insurance representatives. This tip applies to both health and car insurance. With respect to your health, it is always helpful to contact your health insurance representative to inform them of your injuries and discuss treatment options that fall within your insurance plan. Furthermore, if your vehicle was involved in the crash, you should take note of the truck driver’s insurance information and report all details of the incident to your auto insurance provider.
  • Preserve and collect evidence. As difficult as it may be to preserve all pertinent evidence, the moments after an accident can be vital to a victim’s future case. If possible, you should take pictures and videos of all relevant surroundings, which could include injuries, any vehicles involved, and the area nearby the accident. It is also beneficial for a victim to identify any witnesses who were present at the scene. Finally, as the case progresses, you should keep copies all of accident-related documents, such as police reports, insurance documentation, and medical records.
  • Consult an attorney. Contacting an experienced personal injury attorney can help you understand the nuances and scope of your potential claim. Attorneys with knowledge and first-hand experience working on truck crash cases – such as the personal injury experts at Coffman Law – can typically provide a free consultation to discuss the potential of your case.

When in doubt about any aspect of the personal injury claims process, do not hesitate to reach out to an experienced attorney. Coffman Law is a results-driven firm that understands the complex elements of truck crash cases and prioritizes individual client care. Click HERE to contact a personal injury professional at Coffman Law for a free case evaluation.

About Coffman Law Offices, P.C.

Coffman Law is committed to providing superb legal representation for people who are suffering from severe personal injuries or are dealing with the loss of a loved one due to negligence or misconduct. Coffman Law is a small, results-driven firm focused on ensuring that clients receive the compassion, attention, and consideration that they need to seek adequate redress for injuries or loss. The firm is led by Owner and Founding Partner Brian Coffman, who has dedicated his career to helping accident victims navigate the legal system and obtain redress for their injuries. If you have been injured or lost a loved one, contact Coffman Law today for a free consultation.