Although heavy commercial trucks make up less than 5 percent of all registered vehicles nationwide, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reports that more than 13 percent of all fatal crashes on U.S. roadways involved at least one large commercial truck or bus. According to recent data published by the FMCSA there were 273,602,100 registered vehicles in the United States, including 13,233,910 large commercial trucks.
Of all the individuals killed in large truck crashes on American roads, more than 7 in 10 were the occupants of other vehicles – not the large truck. While there’s no denying that we need these multi-ton rigs to keep modern society moving, it’s obvious that they have the potential to be very dangerous.
Below, Stokes Stemle, LLC discusses which types of tractor-trailer accident cases we see most frequently and why they occur. If you’ve been injured in an Alabama truck accident, call us or contact us online for a free consultation.
A truck rollover accident is one of the most catastrophic and terrifying wrecks imaginable. Tractor-trailers and other large commercial trucks have a much higher center of gravity than standard passenger cars. Truck drivers must be very careful when going around tight turns or making sudden swerves.
If drivers take turns too sharply or drive too fast for conditions, the trailer may flip and roll the entire truck over onto one side, creating a dangerous and deadly hazard for everyone on the road.
In some cases, rollover accidents happen because truck drivers are behaving recklessly or negligently by speeding, driving while distracted or fatigued, or under the influence of intoxicating substances. In other cases, a truck rollover accident may occur even when truck operators are driving safely and responsibly.
For example, a trailer that was overloaded or improperly loaded by a cargo crew may sway dangerously as it makes its way through a turn. Many rollover accidents happen because of tire blowouts, which may result from improper maintenance of tires or due to design or manufacturing defects.
In rear-end truck accidents, the enormous difference in size and weight between a large commercial truck and a standard car can easily lead to passenger vehicles being crushed upon impact. Tractor-trailers are heavy and slow to maneuver, so truck drivers need much more time and distance to slow down, avoid road hazards, or come to a safe stop behind other vehicles.
When truck drivers are distracted, speeding, or tailgating, their negligence can lead to devastating rear-end accidents with other vehicles. Impaired driving and driver fatigue are also common causes of rear-end accidents. Inexperienced truck drivers – or those in a hurry – who fail to observe the FMCSA-recommended following distances also create hazards when they do not leave themselves enough time and space to slow or stop.
When drivers are reckless, negligent, or simply lose control of their vehicles, they can drift out of their lane and straight into the flow of oncoming traffic. Head-on collisions may also happen at red lights, stop signs, or other intersections when drivers fail to observe the proper right-of-way.
A truck may collide head-first with another vehicle for a variety of reasons. The truck driver may be fatigued from long hours trying to meet demanding quotas and slowly gravitate into opposing lanes as they nod off. Operators may also be driving under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs. They may experience a mental crash following excessive OTC stimulant use and drift toward oncoming traffic by accident. Tire blowouts that commonly lead to rollover accidents may also cause drivers to lose control and swerve unexpectedly into other lanes, increasing the likelihood of a head-on wreck.
Jackknife accidents occur when large trucks with articulated joints between the tractor and its attached trailer make improper turns or braking maneuvers, and the resulting force causes the trailer to swing wide around its pivot point to create a shape like a folding jackknife. This type of wreck is especially dangerous due to the sheer unpredictability of a skidding trailer, which may strike nearby vehicles and carry them along as the truck bulldozes its way through traffic.
The most common cause of jackknife accidents is truck drivers braking improperly. When truck drivers brake too quickly or too hard in inclement weather conditions, the tractor can slow down faster than the trailer it is towing. This can result in a fishtailing motion by the trailer. The back of the trailer may then skid out to one side and cause a jackknife.
Taking turns too quickly can lead to similar situations. Even if a jackknifed trailer manages to avoid colliding with other vehicles before it comes to a stop, incoming traffic may still crash into the resulting road obstacle and cause multi-car pileups.
T-bone accidents, also known as side-impact or broadside crashes, occur most frequently at intersections. Tractor-trailers and other large trucks traveling through intersections at perpendicular angles sometimes run red lights, ignore stop signs, or otherwise violate the proper right-of-way and end up colliding with the sides of other cars, creating a “T” shape.
These wrecks tend to be especially devastating for drivers or passengers located on the side of the vehicle that absorbs the impact of a T-bone crash. Truck drivers who are speeding, distracted, drowsy, or intoxicated may illegally run through intersections and cause T-bone wrecks. A T-bone crash can also happen when a truck driver makes an improper turn across one or more lanes of traffic, causing other vehicles to slam into the side of the cab or trailer.
A sideswipe truck accident is similar to a T-bone collision, except cars that collide in sideswipe accidents are generally traveling side-by-side in the same direction when they crash. In many cases, sideswipe accidents between trucks and passenger cars occur when commercial drivers fail to adequately check their many blind spots before changing lanes or merging into traffic.
In other cases, truck drivers may lose control of their vehicles because of tire blowouts, road obstacles, intense wind, or other inclement weather. Distracted, drunk, drugged, or fatigued drivers may also simply lose focus on the road and drift into nearby cars in adjacent lanes.
These accidents are particularly dangerous because a sideswiped car may be forced sideways into other lanes of parallel traffic, causing multi-vehicle pileups and even more damage.
Wide Turn Accidents
Right-hand turns are usually tighter than left-hand turns, so truck drivers must navigate these maneuvers with special caution. Sometimes, truck operators attempt to make right-hand turns by first swinging their cabs wide to the left, then circling through a right-hand turn to avoid the “right turn squeeze” that occurs when trailers do not have enough space to make proper right turns. However, this creates a dangerous situation for vehicles in neighboring lanes, which may crash into the trailer or even get caught underneath the truck as it swings left.
Instead of veering left, the FMCSA recommends that truck drivers should instead travel straight through to the farthest lane of the road onto which they’re turning, then complete the turn by maneuvering rightward into the closest available lane. This kind of turn still requires drivers to safely judge the amount of time and clearance they have but is generally much safer. Truck drivers who neglect to follow this safety advice, or otherwise make unsafe wide turns because they are distracted, drowsy, or intoxicated, may cause severe injuries in wide turn accidents with other vehicles.
Contact an Alabama Semi-Truck Accident Attorney Today
No matter which kind of truck accident caused your injuries, you shouldn’t be held financially responsible for damages that occurred through no fault of your own. With the help of an experienced Montgomery truck accident attorney, you can pursue the compensation you deserve in a truck accident insurance claim or lawsuit.
At Stokes Stemle, LLC, our relentless team is exclusively focused on helping Alabama residents whose lives have been upended by catastrophic personal injuries. We understand that an unexpected injury from a commercial vehicle accident can affect your entire world for as long as you live, so we’re happy to provide full-service assistance to all of our clients. Whether you need strong representation in court, basic legal advice, or even some help finding a doctor who will treat your injuries, the team at Stokes Stemle, LLC is here.
We never charge legal fees unless and until we win compensation for you, so you assume no risk whatsoever in seeking our help. Feel free to call or text us anytime, even after normal business hours to start your free, no-obligation consultation. You can also contact us online now by filling out our simple intake form.