California has more registered semi-trucks than any other state in the country. While big-rigs tend to be involved in fewer per-mile accidents than private vehicles, the consequences of a crash can nonetheless be life-changing—even fatal. After all, a fully-loaded tractor-trailer has a lot of weight, a lot of mass, and a lot of power. Even a low-speed collision can be devastating.
However, semi-truck accidents are different from passenger vehicle accidents. Here’s what you need to know about them.
Different Types of Truck Accidents
Truck accidents happen in a variety of ways. Oftentimes, though, truck accidents fall into one of the following categories:
- Rear-end collisions. When a truck hits the rear of another vehicle, the result can be very serious. These crashes are often caused by distracted truck drivers.
- Jackknife accidents. When a truck suddenly brakes, the attached trailer can swing out at a ninety-degree angle. Such accidents may happen when a truck driver has a knee-jerk reaction to an imminent obstacle.
- Rollover accidents. Tractor-trailers can be unstable vehicles. Sometimes, jackknifed trucks roll over due to momentum. Other times, a truck may end up on its side if the driver takes a sharp turn at high speed or hits a patch of poorly maintained or ice-covered road.
- Underride accidents. Among the most deadly types of truck accidents, underride accidents occur when a truck stops quickly and a car slides underneath the trailer, shearing off the top of the car. Many underride accidents result in paralysis, disfigurement, and/or death.
Needless to say, there are other types of truck-related accidents. Common to all, though, is a truck accident’s capacity to cause great injury.
Common Causes of Truck Accidents
Most truckers are professionals who take great pride in their safe driving. Of course, truck drivers are human and can make mistakes. Many truck-related crashes are caused by driver error and even negligence. Common causes of truck accidents include:
- Driver fatigue, or feeling asleep at the wheel
- Distraction, whether because the driver was checking their phone, fiddling with a radio, or trying to re-route their GPS
- Recklessness, when drivers speed, act aggressively, or try to “teach other motorists a lesson” by tail-gating or brake-checking
- Poor maintenance, if either the cab or the trailer is damaged in such a way as to compromise the vehicle’s safety and stability
When you get hurt in an accident that was not your fault and are forced to contend with a life-altering injury, you should never have to deal with the consequences alone.
Types of Injuries
People who get into an accident with another passenger vehicle often walk away uninjured.
However, when you are struck by a semi-truck, your chances of sustaining an injury are drastically higher than if you had been hit by a four-door sedan or motorcycle. A truck crash can result in:
- Broken bones and fractures
- Traumatic brain injury, including concussions and intracranial bleeding
- Organ damage, which is often life-threatening
- Spinal injuries and other damage to the spinal column and central nervous system
- Loss of limb, often fingers, arms, or legs
- Paralysis, which can be partial- or full-body
Even people who believe they were not hurt in an accident are still advised to visit a physician—the adrenaline of an accident can cover serious injuries. Certain types of organ damage, for instance, may not be immediately noticeable without an MRI or other diagnostic testing.
What to Do After an Accident
You should always visit a doctor after an accident, even if you do not think you were hurt.
If you do not have to leave the scene of an accident due to injury, you should try to collect evidence for later. You can do this by:
- Taking pictures. Photographing the scene of the accident, including damage to your vehicle, damage to the semi-truck, and any injuries you may have sustained, can support your claim.
- Making a recording. You may wish to record a virtual walk-around of the accident or a voice note in which you explain the circumstances of the crash. This can help enhance your recall if you ever have to take the truck driver or trucking company to court.
- Taking eyewitness information. Gather the names, phone numbers, and home addresses of anyone who saw the accident happen.
- Preserving evidence. Hold on to any torn or blood-stained clothes, damaged personal effects, medical records, physician notes, and other evidence.
If you are not able to gather evidence in the immediate aftermath of a truck accident, your personal injury attorney can do this for you. If you call shortly after the crash, your lawyer may be able to reach you fast enough to begin documenting the wreck on-site.
What Not to Do After an Accident
Always try to remain calm after an accident, even if you are shaken up. Cooperate with law enforcement and first-responders, but do not speculate on the cause of the accident or offer any unnecessary information.
Shortly after your accident, you will very likely be contacted by a representative for the trucking company’s insurance agency. This may happen even if you are still hospitalized.
You are not obliged to talk to an insurance adjuster and should never provide an official statement without first speaking to your personal injury attorney. While insurance adjusters may act friendly, they will do everything within their power to place the blame for an accident on you. Adjusters, after all, work for insurance companies—companies that want to make a profit, even if it means undercutting your recovery.
Filing a Personal Injury Claim
After you have contacted your attorney, they will immediately begin working on your case, collecting all available evidence and compiling it into a compelling, court-worthy claim. However, truck accidents are very different from regular accidents. When your attorney reviews your case, they may realize that the truck driver was not the only person at fault.
This is because truck accident complaints frequently involve multiple defendants, such as the:
- Truck driver. The driver is almost always named as a defendant in personal injury cases since their negligence almost always contributes to or culminates in an accident.
- Trucking company. Some trucking companies do not operate in accordance with federal transportation law and may even avoid complying with certain statutes. If a trucking company is pressuring its drivers to spend too long behind the wheel or failing to inspect and maintain its fleet, they may be liable for your recovery.
- Manufacturer. If a manufacturing defect caused or may have caused your accident, you may be able to sue the manufacturer of the truck or of the defective part for damages.
Your personal injury attorney will take action against everyone responsible for your injuries.
Damages You Could Be Owed
California has no set cap on damages. Your personal injury lawsuit will demand that the truck driver, his employer, and even a parts manufacturer pay for the harm you suffered. This can include:
- Economic damages, including lost wages, medical expenses, hospital bills, and car repair costs.
- Non-economic damages, including pain and suffering, emotional trauma, disfigurement, and loss of companionship.
A personal injury attorney will help you calculate the sum of your economic and non-economic damages so that you can provide the truck company’s insurer—or a judge—with a fair demand for compensation.
Contact Us Today
Even small trucking companies can have big financial resources. They know how to push back against accident victims, no matter who was at fault. Don’t let yourself get bullied out of the recovery you deserve. Contact Case Barnett Law to schedule your initial consultation.