They’re two of the most deadly collisions: a head-on crash and an accident involving a semi-truck. When these two accidents combine, however, a far greater risk of catastrophic injury and death results.
If you lost a loved one or suffered injuries in a head-on accident with a commercial truck, an experienced truck accident attorney can seek compensation for the extraordinary financial and psychological impacts of the experience.
The Dangers of Truck Accidents
More than 4,000 people die in the U.S. each year in commercial truck accidents. The vast majority of the fatalities in this type of accident involve the occupants of other vehicles on the roadway.
Commercial motor vehicles, also commonly referred to as semi-trucks or tractor-trailers, are massive vehicles, weighing up to 30 times more than a passenger car.
This size difference creates these dangers:
- The increased safe stopping distance. No vehicle can come to an immediate stop, but rather travels some distance from when the driver perceives a hazard and responds by depressing the brakes until the brakes stop the vehicle. The amount of stopping distance necessary depends primarily on the size of the vehicle. Tractor-trailers need up to 40 percent more distance to stop than a passenger car would simply due to the vehicle’s weight. Trucks need additional distance at higher speeds or on wet roadways.
- Blind spots on all four sides of the vehicle. Most vehicles have a blind spot, an area—often around the rear sides of a passenger vehicle—that the driver cannot see when they look in the side view or rearview mirrors. Semi-trucks have significant blind spots on all four sides, including a blind spot the width of two travel lanes along the passenger side of the vehicle.
- Truck driver fatigue. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the government agency tasked with regulating and overseeing the nation’s trucking industry, estimates that around 13 percent of all truck drivers involved in traffic accidents are fatigued at the time of their crash. While falling asleep while driving the vehicle is certainly a worst-case driver fatigue scenario, fatigued driving can also impair the driver as much as alcohol, causing difficulty braking, controlling one’s speed, maintaining a single travel lane, and making reasonable decisions.
- A higher ground clearance than other vehicles. The higher ground clearance on trucks results in a space between the vehicle’s underside and the roadway that is often big enough for a small car to become wedged in. This often deadly phenomenon is known as an underride.
The Dangers of Head-On Collisions
Head-on collisions occur when the front of one vehicle collides with the front of another. The forward motion of both vehicles generally increases the force and severity of the crash. While head-on collisions are relatively rare—accounting for only about 2 percent of all motor vehicle accidents—they account for around 10 percent of all motor vehicle accident fatalities.
Often, these accidents don’t involve one vehicle directly and squarely striking the other, but rather an off-center collision that results in one or both of the vehicles spinning out into the path of other traffic or even off the roadway.
How Head-On Truck Collisions Occur
Some of the events or factors that can lead to a deadly or catastrophic head-on truck collision include:
- Driver fatigue. The risks posed by fatigued truck drivers concerned the FMCSA. It put forth regulations requiring drivers to electronically log their time on duty and take regular off-duty breaks.
- A distracted driver does not pay proper attention to the roadway. Distracted driving is a major source of collision, resulting in more than 3,000 fatal motor vehicle accidents each year in the U.S. There are three types of driver distractions: Manual distractions, which cause the driver to take their hands from the wheel; visual distractions, which cause the driver to take their eyes away from watching the roadway; or cognitive distractions, which cause the driver’s mind to wander from the task of driving safely. Texting and driving is of particular concern, as it poses all three forms of driver distraction.
- Unfamiliarity with the roadway. Truck drivers may need to transport cargo into unfamiliar cities. Unfamiliarity—when combined with the failure to pay attention to road signs—can often result in a driver entering a one-way road or exit ramp from the wrong direction.
- Alcohol impairment. Truck drivers are subject to lower legal impairment limits and regular and random drug and alcohol screening to maintain their commercial driver’s license. However, some violate these requirements to the extreme risk of other roadway users. Alcohol impairment destroys a driver’s ability to operate the motor vehicle safely, including to brake or steer correctly, track moving targets, maintain a single lane of travel, or make good decisions.
- Inclement weather. Wet or icy roads require an even longer distance to stop after the driver perceives a hazard on the roadway and brakes.
- Poor maintenance. Truck drivers must not only regularly service their vehicles but must also perform a visual inspection of the vehicle before every trip. Worn tires and brakes can also increase the distance that a vehicle needs to travel to safely stop, and each of these conditions can also result in an equipment failure that makes the truck unable to stop at all.
The Injuries Associated With Head-On Truck Collisions
A head-on truck collision can cause the worst, most painful, and life-altering or life-ending injuries. A large size discrepancy in the vehicles can not only cause the truck to collide with the front of another vehicle but continue right over the top of it.
Some of the types of injuries more often associated with a catastrophic accident, such as a head-on collision, include:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Damage to the spinal vertebrae and discs
- Internal injuries from crushing or compressing the body
- Limb amputation
- Broken bones
- Burn injuries, either from the fluids used in the vehicles, from heat, flame, or hazardous materials in the truck’s trailer.
Seeking Compensation after a Head-On Truck Collision
If you have lost a loved one or have suffered an injury as the result of a head-on truck collision, you can seek compensation for your loss or injury through a legal claim filed in civil court. Wrongful death claims involve a family member’s right to seek compensation for the financial and emotional losses associated with the accidental death of a loved one. The victim may file a truck accident claim in head-on collisions if they survive but suffer an injury that causes financial and psychological impacts.
For either type of claim, you must prove liability for the accident. Determining the source of liability in a truck accident is often complex due to the regulations involved in the industry.
Potential sources of liability can include:
- The truck driver
- The trucking company that is vicariously liable for the actions of its employees and also legally tasked with vetting the drivers it hires through driving and criminal history screens, ensuring that they are healthy to drive, and is properly insuring and maintaining the vehicle under federal regulations.
- The shipper, who is responsible for ensuring that the cargo is properly loaded in the truck, and also for vetting the transportation resources it uses to determine that the driver and company are properly insured and in good standing with the FMCSA.
- Other drivers, whose reckless or careless actions could cause another vehicle to have a head-on collision with a truck.
- The manufacturer of auto parts used on the truck, if a truck defect caused the accident.
- The entity or individual tasked with maintaining and repairing the truck if the collision occurred because of a maintenance issue.
To determine who is liable for providing compensation for your losses, you must prove negligence.
You prove negligence by showing:
- The at-fault party owed you a duty of care, which refers to the actions that a reasonable person would take to avoid causing harm to others or their property.
- There was a breach in the duty of care. The at-fault party committed an action that violated the duty of care that.
- This breach in the duty of care caused an accident that resulted in injuries or a fatality and subsequent expenses and impacts related to the loss or injury.
A wrongful death lawsuit is a legal claim filed either by or on behalf of the close family members of an individual who died because of another’s careless or reckless actions. While the damages you recover in a wrongful death claim vary by state, they often include:
- Medical expenses for the treatment of the deceased’s final injury.
- Funeral and burial expenses paid directly by a family member or by the estate.
- Loss of services and support that the deceased provided to family members.
- Loss of care, companionship, consortium, instruction, nurturing, and parental guidance.
Individuals injured in head-on truck collisions can seek:
- Medical expenses, including hospitalization, emergency treatment, surgical services, prescription medication, physical therapy and rehabilitation, and the provision of prosthetic limbs, crutches, or a wheelchair.
- Lost wages resulting from being too injured to work.
- Lost earning capacity if you are no longer able to earn in the same capacity as you did before the injury.
- The cost of repairing or replacing your damaged vehicle
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
Look for a Truck Accident Lawyer Today
Without a doubt, a head-on truck collision is among the most serious accidents one can suffer. It’s also one of the most complex cases due to the increased duty of care owed by truck drivers and because it is a heavily regulated industry with many requirements for the safe, legal operation of commercial motor vehicles.
Let a truck accident lawyer put their experience to work for you in your head-on truck collision case. A free case evaluation with an experienced truck accident attorney can help you determine if you have a good case and if the attorney is the right fit.