Why Truck Accidents Are So Common
Trucks are not like cars. They are bigger, heavier and have different driving dynamics, especially when they have an articulated trailer (think semitractor or trailer).
What Causes Truck Crashes?
- Driver fatigue: Truck drivers who continue operating their trucks when they are overtired and have had inadequate rest are a risk to all drivers and are a major cause for deadly crashes. Drivers who exceed the allowable hours in a day and in a week are most likely to cause a crash, but even drivers who are not “over hours” can be fatigued and cause a deadly incident.
- Bad weather: Trucking companies that permit their drivers to continue operating during heavy fog, snow storms, ice storms and torrential rains place every driver at risk. Operating in hazardous weather conditions is a leading cause of deadly crashes involving trucks. Truck drivers are required to use “extreme caution” or stop driving when weather turns bad.
- Unsafe vehicles: Trucking companies that use tractors and trailers that are mechanically defective are a danger to every driver on the road. Defective brakes and tires, inadequate lighting and inferior “conspicuity” are leading causes of major accidents involving trucks.
- Improper loading or securement: Trucking companies that permit drivers to drive loads that are not properly balanced or secured place drivers at risk of crashes caused by the release of unsecured cargo into the path of cars and trucks moving at high speeds. Motorists can be injured from the cargo itself or from being struck by a vehicle whose driver reacted to the imminent hazard of falling cargo.
- Improper parking/lane blockage: Truck drivers who park their trucks and trailers in the path of moving traffic can cause deadly crashes when other drivers come upon the unexpected obstacle in their path. Failing to place warning triangles or to use a flagger to alert motorists that a truck is blocking the lanes of travel causes dozens of major collisions with trucks every year.
- Bad truck drivers: Many trucking companies are not particularly selective in their hiring of truck drivers and will hire drivers who have moving violations, including violations that technically make the driver “disqualified” from driving. Inexperienced, uninformed and aggressive truck drivers cause deadly crashes.
- Bad routing and scheduling: Many truck companies use their own dispatchers to schedule and route their drivers. Placing an articulated truck in the middle of the loop in the middle of the business day greatly increases the risk that a truck may strike a pedestrian or bicyclist, particularly when the truck could be scheduled to be at the location at a less congested time of day.
- Bad drivers: Many truck drivers are high-quality, professional drivers, some with over a million miles of safe driving experience. But other drivers are inexperienced with spotty driving records and low skills. Too often bad truck drivers operate without knowing the size and driving dynamics of their vehicles. Inexperience like this can be seen in accidents where pedestrians and bicyclists are struck by the rear tandem axle of a trailer when the truck driver attempts to make a right turn that the truck is too large to make. There are numerous examples of this in the Chicago area alone every year, and when they happen, these incidents are catastrophic and even deadly for the person on foot or on a bike.
- Speed and distracted driving: Like many drivers of cars, truck drivers can drive too fast and drive while texting or talking on the phone. It takes little imagination to visualize the danger posed by the driver of a gasoline tanker texting while driving 60 mph, yet it happens.
There are many factors that cause semitruck accidents and fatal crashes on I-80, I-90 and other interstates throughout the Midwest. Large trucks are involved in thousands of crashes that kill or cause serious injury to people every year. The sheer size and weight of tractor-trailers make them much more likely to cause death or injury in a collision with a passenger vehicle. In Illinois, a fully loaded tractor-trailers (“semis”) can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, while an average passenger vehicle weighs about 4,000 pounds. The physics reveal the danger for drivers and occupants of cars and other passenger vehicles: in collisions with trucks weighing 20 times what a large car weighs, death or serious injuries are likely!
Cars, SUVs, pickup trucks and vans, being vastly outweighed by large trucks, can be severely damaged in a collision, and all the safety equipment the automakers can load onto a vehicle simply cannot overcome the disparity to completely protect drivers and passengers from serious injury or death.
At the law offices of Konicek & Dillon, P.C., we work as a team to provide you with the aggressive representation you need to protect your rights in a truck accident injury case. In doing so, we draw on more than a century of combined legal experience.
Our Illinois trucking accident attorneys believe that every collision involving a large truck that results in serious injury or death should be investigated to determine whether the driver of the truck, the trucking company, the shipper, a broker and other entities involved in the trucking operation such as a truck, tractor or trailer leasing company, violated state and federal laws designed to protect motorists. Very often, truck drivers or trucking companies violate state and federal laws prohibiting unsafe driving, and these violations cause the collision, injury or death. Our attorneys have considerable experience and knowledge of these regulations from years of handling truck accident cases.
Why Does Our Experience Matter In Your Truck Accident Injury Case?
Our extensive experience handling truck accident cases means we understand how truck accident injury cases work. We come to your case prepared to hit the ground running.
We know what to look for in a truck accident injury case. Our firm will help you understand what may have caused your accident, including:
- Driver fatigue and hours-of-driving violations: Tired drivers, unable to concentrate and appreciate the risks and hazards of moving an 80,000 pound vehicle at highway speeds, in some states as high as 70 miles per hour
- Hours-of-driving violations: Drivers operating beyond the limits set for continuous driving, breaks and weekly driving
- Driving in bad weather: The federal regulations require drivers to adjust their operation of a commercial motor vehicle when weather, wind, fog, smoke or dust adversely affects visibility or traction. Drivers are required to slow down and, if conditions require it, cease operation of the vehicle. Few motor carriers provide their drivers with training on how to operate their trucks in bad weather.
- Hazardous materials: Special HazMat regulations prohibit driving certain vehicles on many roadways, require frequent breaks and inspections of the tractor and trailer, and call for special training of drivers. In addition, HazMat carriers are required to have higher minimum insurance than ordinary common carriers.
- Inadequate inspections and out-of-service vehicles: All drivers must inspect their trucks before and after operation. Known as the “pretrip” and “post-trip” inspections, the examinations of the vehicle are vital to its safe operation. A thorough pretrip inspection requires the driver to spend 30 minutes going over the vehicle, from front to back, looking for problems with lights, brakes, trailer connections, load security, tires, warnings, reflective tape and other essential mechanical components of the vehicle. Too often, drivers cut corners on the pretrip inspection and drive vehicles that are unsafe and cause accidents that could have been prevented with the proper inspection and repair.
- Out-of-service vehicles: If the pretrip inspection reveals defects with the brakes, tires or other vital components of the vehicle, it must be taken “out-of-service” by the motor carrier until the problems are repaired. An out-of-service vehicle may not be operated, and doing so can lead to fines. State police forces have units of specially trained officers who inspect large trucks for violations of the federal safety regulations, and they have the authority to take any commercial vehicle out of service if it has mechanical defects that warrant it. California, Florida, Illinois and Missouri are just some of the states that have special “truck enforcement” units in their state highway patrols.
- Speed: Truck drivers are not alone in driving above posted speed limits, but the consequences of doing so can be much worse for truckers than for drivers of passenger vehicles. A loaded 80,000 pound truck equipped with an air braking system traveling at 70 miles per hour takes well over 400 feet to stop on dry pavement! An average passenger car can stop from that speed in less than 200 feet, some in as little as 170 feet.
- Deadlines: Many motor carriers require their drivers to meet short delivery deadlines to satisfy their customers or justify claims that they always deliver “on time.” This encourages unsafe driving, cutting corners on inspections and rushing to a destination, all practices that defeat the purpose of the federal safety regulations. Motor carriers talk a lot about safety, but most have a practice of encouraging drivers to make deadlines. They are waiting until they get caught before they change, but getting caught usually involves serious injury or death to someone who happened to be in the way of a truck driver rushing to make a delivery.
- Pay by the mile: Many drivers are paid a flat rate per mile. The faster they drive the miles, the more money they make per hour. This practice encourages drivers to hurry through inspections and to compromise their resting time (called “off-duty” status). The consequences of this practice are potentially unsafe truckers driving potentially unsafe trucks, risking the safety of motorists and passengers around them.
- Lighting and markings: Referred to as “conspicuity,” trucks are required to have specific lighting and reflective equipment to ensure that they are visible to other motorists.
- Underride problems: All tractor-trailers must have an underride guard (also referred to as an ICC bar) at the back of the trailer. Different regulations apply to older trailers, but the purpose of the requirement is to ensure that trailers are equipped with a guard to prevent passenger vehicles from traveling under the read end of the trailer. Accidents of this type have a high fatality and severe injury rate, and the guards can lessen this risk considerably.
- Unqualified drivers: Many drivers lack the skills and training necessary to safely operate big trucks. All drivers are required to read and understand English, but many do not. Sadly, many drivers are just bad drivers with moving violations and lengthy accident histories. The hiring standards vary greatly from company to company. Some companies will not hire drivers with any preventable accidents in the three years preceding the driver’s application for employment. Others are willing to accept three or more such accidents even when the driver has other unrelated moving violations. Hiring unsafe or unqualified drivers has risks that too many motor carriers are willing to accept, usually because profit is more important to them than the safety of the motoring public.
Whatever the circumstances of your injury, we help you understand the legal options available to you and, equally important, how to choose from those options wisely. As a result, you will know when going to court does, and does not, best serve your legal goals. You will be able to move forward confidently, regardless of your decision, knowing that you have relied upon the seasoned legal judgment of experienced attorneys.
Our truck crash litigation experience also enables us to advocate for you when you are not being treated fairly by a trucking company’s insurance carrier. We know how the insurance companies work and how they value cases, and when they do not make an adequate offer to settle the case, we go to trial and let a jury decide.
You also can count on our team to provide you with the candid advice you need in order to understand exactly where your cases stands, including its strengths and its weaknesses. We believe that when you understand your situation, you can make the intelligent decisions you want to make.
Learn More About Why You Would Want To Work With Us
Time is an important factor in filing a successful semitruck accident or personal injury claim. The trucking company and its insurance company have immediate access to evidence, a huge advantage in defending the claim. They are not likely to gather evidence that will help your case. You have to hire a lawyer to do that for you. So hire Konicek & Dillon immediately to investigate and prepare your case against a truck driver, trucking company or other motor carrier.