When Accidents Turn Catastrophic: Semi-Truck Injuries

California is full of some of the deadliest highways in the country. Those highways are also constantly busy with big trucks driving daily in a hurry to get to their next destination. No matter how safe the driver is, these heavy trucks are inherently dangerous, and when accidents happen with an 18-wheeler or other semi involved, those collisions are usually catastrophic.

The attorneys at Hershey Law have represented many clients who have received severe injuries from an accident in which they were hit by a large truck. These individuals’ lives were changed irrevocably. They can never go back to who they were before the collision, but we have been able to help them ease into their new lives with less stress and a better financial footing to help with medical costs and other burdens.

But why are semi-truck collisions so common and so devasting? Here are some statistics that may surprise you about these deadly vehicles and their potential for damage.

Let’s Talk Numbers: The Facts on Semi-Truck Accidents

You might not want to go into the ocean because you fear those deadly jaws of the great white shark or the painful sting of the jellyfish. You may not want to skydive or bungee jump because of that potential for the paralyzing impact when you hit the ground. But globally, an average of five people each year are killed from shark attacks, 13 deaths from skydiving, and only 2 per year from bungee jumping. Your odds of being struck by lightning are greater than those statistics.

But you entertain one of the deadliest sports around every day – driving on the road with semi-trucks. These big trucks are responsible for an average of 5,000 fatalities every year due to collisions with passenger vehicles. They’re big, they’re deadly, and they’re everywhere – it’s the most realistic horror movie you’ve ever seen come to life. 

Yet, the drivers of these trucks are not monsters. They are normal people doing their jobs, part of a necessary cog in a system of transportation and commerce. Unfortunately, part of driving such a large truck means that you have to have full control at all times, and that’s not always possible.

As of 2018, fatalities from big truck accidents had reached the highest level they had been at in almost 30 years. This increase is due to multiple causes, with the most commonly seen being driver distraction on the part of at least one vehicle involved in the collision.

A 9% rise in fatalities – 392 additional deaths – occurred over the space of one year. Out of 4,761 deaths, 1300 were truck drivers and the rest were occupants of the other vehicle. Many of these deaths were a result of people not wearing their seatbelts.

While the statistics of fatalities are enough to make you want to swim with the sharks instead of drive on the highways, the instances of moderate to severe injuries are even scarier. Tens of thousands more people are injured due to these accidents, and those injuries are usually life-changing in nature due to the severity of the impact. When you collide with over 40 tons of moving machinery, you are going to bear the brunt of the collision.

They Can’t Stop on a Dime

Even the most cautious of 18-wheeler drivers can’t avoid every potential accident. Their vehicles are heavy and long. The average motor of one semi weighs about 2.5 tons alone. This extra weight makes it difficult to stop quickly, and doing so can cause the truck to jackknife, which is dangerous in itself.

The faster a semi is going, the longer it takes it to stop. At a regular speed, it is going to need a couple of football fields of distance to safely apply pressure to the brakes and come to a full stop. Not every other driver knows that, and many people misjudge the distance and braking ability of these big trucks, pulling out in front of them or stopping at lights without considering whether the semi behind them can safely do so as well.

When you educate yourself and those around you in basic large truck etiquette, you can help reduce the number of car accidents, injuries, and fatalities involving these dangerous vehicles.

Not Every Accident is Unavoidable

Many of the injured parties that Hershey Law represents were involved in accidents that could have been avoided if another person or company had not been negligent. Negligence occurs when at least one party did not carry out the duty of care that was reasonably expected of them. This may have been the driver of the large truck itself or one of the manufacturers of the parts that malfunctioned and caused the accident.

Common forms of accidents caused by negligence include:

  • Braking issues. An average of 27% of large truck accidents resulting in catastrophic or devastating injury were caused by faulty brakes. These brake issues may have been from poor maintenance on the truck itself by the owner or operator, or defective parts from the manufacturer. In addition to brake problems, at least 3% of large truck accidents are due to tire problems from unmaintained or defective tires.
  • Unfamiliar routes. When a driver is unfamiliar with an area, it is harder to know when a tight curve may be coming, a reduced speed is necessary, or narrow roads that are hard for a big truck to traverse may be ahead. These unfamiliar route problems account for an average of 19% of big truck accidents.
  • On-the-job pressure. Truck drivers will regularly drive thousands of miles in just a few days. They are expected to get from Point A to Point B within a certain amount of time, and that time frame is not always reasonable. Their paychecks for that route and even their jobs can be on the line, causing many drivers to skip out on sleep. 

Fatigue in truck drivers due to pressure to get to their destination as quickly as possible is a serious concern. Even with federal regulations that mandate how many hours a truck driver can legally drive each day and how many breaks they must take, an average of 17% of large truck accidents are caused by driver fatigue from on-the-job pressure.

  • Distracted driving. Distracted driving includes things like aggressively driving, being distracted by an illness, being under the influence of an illegal substance or alcohol, or using electronic devices. It can include other things as well, but these are some of the most commonly seen distractions that cause large truck accidents.

Distracted driving has been the cause of a significant increase in all motor vehicle accidents, not just those involving large trucks, across the country. Laws have been enacted to make the consequences of accidents caused by distractions serious, but it still remains a huge problem that is only getting worse.

The Settlement Amounts are Parallel to the Damages Incurred

Large truck accident settlements cost approximately $20 billion every year. Even though half of this goes towards those innocently injured in the collisions, it’s still not nearly enough to buy back the quality of life that they once had.

Because these types of accidents are so devastating, all truck carriers are required to be insured for somewhere between $750 thousand and 5 million dollars of coverage, depending on the size of the truck and the amount of freight that it carries. This coverage is per incident, not per person.

These settlements include payment of medical bills, which can be extensive due to the significant injuries sustained in the accident. They also include projected recovery time and considerations as to the life-changing impact the victim must deal with. If the injured party can’t reasonably be expected to return to work, that factor is taken into account in the overall damages as well.

The knowledgeable personal injury attorneys at Hershey Law will work hard to ensure that all of your expenses and future needs are included in your awards. These expenses can include your emotional and psychological injuries as well as the physical ones. Traumatic experiences such as a catastrophic motor vehicle accident often result in symptoms of depression and anxiety or even PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).

While the insurance companies may not want to pay for damages that can’t be proven with x-rays or medical imaging reports, we know that your mental anguish deserves to be addressed and accounted for as well. And if the negligent party’s actions were so irresponsible that they deserve to be singled out even more, then we will fight for punitive damages as well.

If you were involved in an accident with a large truck and sustained injuries or lost a loved one in the accident, let the professional experts at Hershey Law fight for your rights. We believe that you are our lifeblood and the reason we do what we do. 

It’s a long, difficult road to recovery that you face, and with us by your side, you don’t have to travel it alone. Contact us today for your free consultation.