Even with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) regulations in place, large truck accidents still happen every day. So, what causes truck accidents? There are many variables that can cause a truck collision to occur, from tired truck drivers to improper cargo loading.
Understanding the causes of truck accidents can help drivers stay aware of the potential dangers of these large vehicles. After an accident, knowing the causes can also help a personal injury attorney build a case for you against the liable party. By identifying who and what caused your accident, they can fight for the compensation you deserve.
For a free legal consultation, call 516-451-7900
Common Causes of Truck Accidents
Truck crashes often happen because of mistakes the driver or trucking company made. Determining the cause of the accident is vital to determining liability. When injuries happen in truck collisions, investigators must find out the reason.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration defines distracted driving as any activity that diverts the driver’s attention from driving. There are three main types of driving distractions: visual, manual, and cognitive. Visual distractions take the driver’s eyes off the road, manual distractions take their hands off the wheel, and cognitive distractions take the driver’s mind off driving.
Whatever kind of distraction the driver participates in, it could have massive consequences. Truck drivers who drive for long hours often look for activities to cure their boredom, such as listening to music or texting. Activities like these can impact the driver’s cognitive, visual, and manual functioning simultaneously.
Common distractions that truck drivers face while driving include:
- Texting: Many states have laws that ban texting while driving because of the danger involved. Sending or reading a text can take a driver’s eyes off the road for at least five seconds. A truck driver could cover a long distance in that time, depending on their speed. Truck collisions commonly occur because of texting.
- Talking on the phone: Talking on the phone while driving is an example of a cognitive distraction. Many people believe the danger of talking on the phone comes from taking their hands off the wheel. In reality, the greatest danger of talking on the phone is that it takes the driver’s mind off driving.
- Eating and drinking: Eating and drinking can distract drivers both manually and cognitively. When truck drivers focus too heavily on eating or drinking, they could take their eyes off the road and their hands off the wheel. They won’t have proper time to react if a road hazard suddenly appears.
- Adjusting the radio: Driving on the road for hours can cause extreme boredom. Listening to music is a popular way to cure that. Looking down to adjust the radio can take a truck driver’s eyes off the road just long enough to cause a collision.
- Manipulating a navigation device: When a truck driver doesn’t know where to go, they may use a navigation device. All drivers should insert the data into the device before they start driving. Otherwise, the navigation device could cause a distraction.
- Tending to a pet: Some truck drivers bring their dogs on the road with them for company. If they tend to their pet while driving, it could cause an accident. Truck drivers could also engage in unexpected movements when they don’t properly restrain their pets in the vehicle.
Other distractions, such as reaching for something under the seat, can also cause truck collisions. Truck drivers must keep their full attention on the road. If not, a catastrophic accident could occur, causing injuries and extensive property damage.
Driving While Fatigued
Fatigue happens when truck drivers don’t get enough sleep. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that fatigue can impair a truck driver similarly to drinking alcohol. FMCSA enforces regulations for how long truck drivers can drive before they take a mandatory rest. These rules help prevent truck driver fatigue.
Common symptoms of driver fatigue include:
- Nodding off
- Slower reaction times
- Poor decision-making
- Falling asleep while driving
- Drifting between lanes
Nodding off for even one second or drifting into another lane could cause a life-threatening collision. In addition, due to the truck’s size, any small misjudgment can lead to the driver losing control.
Driving Under the Influence
Truck accidents can also occur when the truck driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Drugs and alcohol significantly impair a person’s ability to drive.
The effects that drugs and alcohol can have on driving include:
- Difficulty controlling the car
- Difficulty focusing on driving
- Slower reaction times
- Difficulty controlling speed
- Loss of judgment
Truck drivers who cause crashes because of drug or alcohol-related impairment could face civil and criminal consequences. Police officers enforce these laws because of the dangers of intoxicated driving.
Truck drivers have a deadline for getting their cargo from one place to the next. This pressure can cause them to participate in reckless driving habits. With a large, heavy truck filled with cargo, driving recklessly is extra dangerous.
Common types of reckless driving behavior include:
- Tailgating or driving too close to the vehicle in front of the truck
- Not signaling when turning or changing lanes
- Ignoring red lights or stop signs
- Participating in road rage
- Making illegal lane changes
Any of these activities can result in a truck collision. If the investigation proves the truck driver engaged in these actions, they could face civil and criminal charges.
Weather or Road Conditions
Heavy rain and snow often cause road conditions to suffer. But even when bad weather hits, truck drivers still have a job to do. As a result, they sometimes must drive in these conditions. However, they must adjust.
Adjusting to weather or road conditions includes slowing down. If truck drivers don’t properly adjust to current conditions or drive cautiously enough, they could cause a collision.
Sometimes, crashes happen because of improperly maintained roads. Examples include potholes or uneven lanes. Truck drivers don’t always have time to adjust to these conditions. Liability can be more challenging to determine when truck collisions occur because of poorly maintained roads.
Improperly Trained Drivers
Driving a large truck requires more skills than driving a car. Because of the truck’s size, truck drivers require more training. When they do not receive enough training, collisions can happen.
Without proper training, a truck driver might:
- Stop too late
- Poorly execute a turn
- Drive too fast
- Change lanes into another vehicle
- Hit the brakes too hard
When truck drivers cause crashes because of improper training, anyone injured or left with property damage could hold the trucking company liable. Therefore, allowing an untrained driver on the roads comes with a high level of risk. If the trucking company takes that risk, they must pay the consequences.
Poor Cargo Loading
When cargo loaders improperly load a truck, accidents can happen. For instance, the cargo could fall when the truck travels at high speed or makes a turn. When cargo falls, the truck could roll over.
Identifying who loaded the cargo could determine who caused the accident. If cargo loaders or another third party loaded the truck, liability could fall on them. In crashes where the truck driver loaded the truck, liability could fall on the truck driver.
Trucks that trucking companies or truck owners don’t properly maintain could cause collisions. For example, brakes can fail and cause a crash. Trucking companies and truck owners can avoid crashes like these by properly maintaining the truck.
Determining Liability After a Truck Accident
Unlike standard auto accidents, liability in a truck collision could fall on several people or entities. Commonly, these include the truck driver or the trucking company. Depending on the circumstances of the accident, liability could also fall on the manufacturer of the truck’s parts.
Truck Accidents Where Liability Falls on the Truck Driver
Liability in a truck collision sometimes falls on the truck driver. When truck drivers act in a way that doesn’t promote safety on the roads, collisions can happen.
Examples include when the truck driver:
- Drove while distracted
- Drove while intoxicated
- Drove while fatigued
- Drove recklessly
- Failed to adjust to weather or road conditions properly
If the truck driver engages in any of these actions, liability could fall on them.
Truck Accidents Where Liability Falls on the Trucking Company
In some cases, liability for a truck crash falls on the trucking company. If the trucking company acts negligently and a collision happens, liability could fall on them instead.
Examples of truck accident causes where liability could fall on the trucking company include:
- The cargo was loaded improperly
- The truck driver did not receive proper training
- The truck was not maintained properly
When a truck accident occurs for these reasons, anyone injured or left with property damage could say liability falls on the trucking company.
Truck Accidents Where Liability Falls on Another Person or Entity
Sometimes, liability does not fall on either the truck driver or the trucking company. Outside factors might have caused the accident. For example, perhaps the collision occurred because of unmaintained roads. In this case, liability could fall on the municipality in charge of that section of the road. Municipalities must maintain their roads to avoid accidents from happening.
Another example is if a third-party driver caused the accident. Other vehicles around the truck could cut them off because of distracted driving, reckless driving, or driving under the influence. If a third-party driver caused the accident, liability could fall on them.
Importance of Determining the Cause of Truck Accidents
Investigating to determine the cause of the truck accident helps attorneys identify the liable party (or parties) when they have a client who sustained injuries in an accident. The injured party could recover compensation from the person who caused the accident.
Without determining the cause of the accident, it could be more difficult to determine who is liable, and the injured party could have a lesser chance of recovering compensation.
An Attorney Can Help After a Truck Accident
When truck collisions happen, anyone injured or left with property damage could file a civil case against the liable party. Having an attorney can help tremendously when going through this process. Personal injury attorneys know the laws regarding truck accidents and can help their clients recover compensation that pays for their losses.
Examples of losses an injured party could recover after a truck accident include:
- Medical expenses: The costs of medical care for injuries sustained in the truck accident could include emergency room treatment, hospitalizations, medications, diagnostic tests, and doctor visits.
- Future medical expenses: A personal injury attorney can work with experts to determine the costs of future medical care if the injured party will require medical care after the claim settles.
- Lost income: While recovering, the injured party could miss work. When this happens, they could include the income they lost in their case for damages.
- Future lost income: Again, a personal injury attorney can work with experts to determine the estimated cost of any income the injured party might lose in the future, especially if they can no longer work because of their injuries.
- Pain and suffering: If the injured party experienced intense physical pain, they could recover pain and suffering damages.
- Emotional distress: if the injured party experienced mental or psychological trauma, they could recover emotional distress damages.
Contacting an attorney can help people injured in truck collisions significantly. An attorney can conduct a thorough investigation to determine the cause of the truck accident. Once they know who caused it, they can file a claim against the liable party and present a solid case that proves their client sustained damages in the accident.
Working with an attorney can also ensure that the case gets filed before the statute of limitations deadline expires. The statute of limitations exists in both civil and criminal matters. Each state has its own statute of limitations for personal injury cases, beginning on the day the injury occurs. The injured party must file a lawsuit before their state’s statute of limitations runs out, so do not delay in reaching out to an attorney for assistance.