Think about the last time you drove down a busy interstate. How many large trucks did you pass? Now, how much attention did you pay to your vehicle’s position in relation to each truck? Sure, chances are, you probably didn’t tailgate the truck. And most likely, you didn’t pull out directly in front of a truck. But what about the truck’s blind spots? Do you know where these blind spots are?
Every year, millions of accidents happen across the United States. And each year, thousands of accidents involve large trucks. In just one year, 4,136 people died in large truck crashes. As drivers, it’s important to understand the dangers of large trucks and take steps to stay safe. If you were in a large truck accident, contact a qualified truck accident attorney to find out about your rights.
A Few Facts About Blind Spots
If you have driven for any period of time, you’ve likely heard the term blind spot. In fact, every time you get in the car you’re probably acutely aware of your own vehicle’s blind spots. A blind spot is an area outside your car that you cannot see, even with the assistance of mirrors. For smaller vehicles, blind spots usually exist near the rear passenger bumper, directly in front of the car, and immediately behind the car. When a vehicle or pedestrian enters one of your car’s blind spots, they greatly increase the risk of an accident.
When it comes to large trucks, these blind spots extend even further. Yet most drivers can’t name where these blind spots are and have no problem “riding” in a truck’s blind spot. For tractor-trailers, there are four main blind spots. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration refers to these areas as no zones.
- Immediately in front of the truck, extending at least 20 feet forward.
- 30 feet behind the truck.
- The driver’s side, extending from the mirror to the middle of the trailer.
- The entire length of the truck on the passenger side, extending from the front of the cab to beyond the rear of the trailer. The two adjacent lanes on the truck’s passenger side are in the truck’s blind spot.
Pay attention to where these blind spots exist. While it is okay to drive through a blind spot, do not stay in the blind spot for an extended period of time. The truck driver may not see you and might begin to move into the path of your vehicle. As a general rule of thumb, if you can’t see the truck driver, either in their mirror or in person, they can’t see you. According to the FMCSA, one-third of all truck accidents happen in a truck’s blind spot. Be alert and stay safe.
How to Avoid Blind Spot Accidents
It seems like common sense: know where a truck’s blind spots are, and stay out of the way. But it goes beyond that. Blind spot accidents don’t just happen because a driver is unaware of a truck’s blind spots. They also happen when vehicles inadvertently enter a blind spot or become stuck in a blind spot.
So what can you do to prevent these accidents?
- Do not cut off a large truck. While it may be easy to remember the blind spots at the rear of the vehicle, many drivers often forget about the front-end blind spot. This is likely because we don’t think twice about seeing in front of our own vehicle, so it’s hard to imagine the difficulties a truck driver might face seeing us if we pull in front of them. Remember it this way: what would happen if a child on a small trike was riding directly in front of your vehicle? Could you see them? For large trucks, you are that small trike. Truck drivers cannot see you.
- Make sure you have plenty of room to pass. Fully loaded trucks travel much more slowly than passenger vehicles (or at least they should). Because of this, it makes sense to want to pass the truck so you can go faster. And most of the time, this is safer than trailing immediately behind the truck. But be careful in high traffic. If traffic is moving slowly, you may not pass and end up in the truck’s side blind spot longer than you should be.
- Don’t tailgate. Remember the last point? If a truck is moving slowly in front of you, be patient. If a truck suddenly has to brake and you can’t stop in time, your vehicle could end up under the truck. These accidents are almost always fatal.
- Check your blind spots. It may seem like large trucks are impossible to miss, but believe it or not, if you don’t check your own blind spots, you may not see an approaching truck. When this happens, you may drive directly into the path of the truck. In this case, the truck likely will not stop.
A Note About Wide Right Turns
While the aforementioned blind spots are the most common blind spots for large trucks, there’s one we haven’t yet discussed. And that is the blind spot that exists when a truck makes a right turn. When a large tractor-trailer turns right, they have to make a wider turn than smaller vehicles. You’ve likely noticed this if you’ve ever watched a large semi take a turn. The truck usually travels beyond its intended lane and then slowly merges back into its designated lane.
When a truck turns, the area between the cab and the trailer creates a “pinch spot.” The driver can not see this area. If you attempt to pass on the right while a truck is making this turn, you may become stuck, and potentially crushed by the truck.
Common Injuries After a Blind Spot Accident
When an accident happens between a truck and a passenger vehicle, it’s almost always the occupants of the smaller vehicle who sustain the brunt of the damage. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, of all the truck-involved fatalities in 2017, 72 percent of the victims were occupants of the other vehicle. Another 10 percent were non-occupants, e.g. pedestrians. These numbers show just how dangerous it is to be in an accident with a large truck.
When a victim survives a truck accident, the injuries are often serious. Common injuries include:
Traumatic Brain Injuries
The American Association of Neurological Surgeons reports that there are approximately 1.7 million new traumatic brain injuries diagnosed every year. Traumatic brain injuries occur when a person’s head sustains a hard blow or when there is a penetrating wound to the brain. According to the AANS, between 50 to 70 percent of all traumatic brain injuries result from motor vehicle accidents. Because symptoms of a TBI don’t always present right away, it’s important to see a doctor after any serious injury, or after an accident in which you think you may have hit your head.
Symptoms of a traumatic brain injury can include:
- Changes in sleeping patterns;
- Difficulty concentrating; and/or
- Changes in mood or behavior.
If you experience any of these symptoms, or the symptoms listed here, contact your doctor right away.
Spinal Cord Injuries
Like traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries are the result of serious trauma, usually a severe impact or, in rare cases, a penetrating wound. While some injuries may have a more positive outcome, usually a spinal cord injury diagnosis means some level of permanent paralysis. There are two types of spinal cord injuries: incomplete injuries and complete injuries. With an incomplete injury, the person may retain some movement or sensation on one side of the body. With a complete spinal cord injury, the victim experiences a total loss of movement from the point of injury down.
Symptoms of a spinal cord injury may include:
- Difficulty walking or inability to walk;
- Loss of feeling in back or limbs;
- Extreme back pain;
- Tingling or numbness;
- Loss of bowel or bladder control; and/or
- Difficulty breathing.
Symptoms may appear as swelling on the spine worsens. That’s why it’s extremely important to talk to your care provider if you begin to experience any symptoms of a spinal cord injury.
Broken bones aren’t just painful, they can cause serious problems with mobility and range of motion. Additionally, it’s not uncommon to feel recurring pain months or years after the original injury. While every person responds differently to trauma, the degree of pain and mobility issues will largely depend on the type and severity of the break. The type of break will also affect treatment options and recovery time.
Treatment options may include:
- Medication; and/or
- Physical therapy.
If you think you might have a broken bone, do not put weight on the area. This could make the injury worse.
Soft Tissue Injuries
Soft tissue injuries are common after any motor vehicle accident. When you are driving, your vehicle is in motion. Your body, while it may seem like it is stationary, is also moving with the vehicle. A sudden stop can make the car stop before your body does. This can cause strains, sprains, and whiplash.
Soft tissue injuries vary from person to person. While some people may experience no pain at all, others may have chronic pain that requires care from a physical therapist, doctor, or chiropractor. Soft tissue injuries should begin to feel better within a couple of weeks. If the pain does not go away, or if it gets worse, you may have another issue going on. In this case, contact your doctor to schedule an appointment.
Your Rights After a Blind Spot Accident
The good news is that the law allows you to seek compensation from an at-fault party after a car accident. You can do this by filing a personal injury lawsuit. A personal injury lawsuit is a legal action through which your attorney requests monetary compensation for your injuries. Each case is different and will focus on various damages, but the goal of this legal action is to make you whole.
Common damages in a personal injury case include:
- Medical costs, including doctor’s visits, medication, physical therapy, mental health counseling, medical imaging, surgeries, and hospital stays.
- Lost wages, for any time missed from work, including recovery time. In the event of serious injuries, your case may include future lost earnings.
- Pain and suffering, for physical and mental pain and anguish, including short-term pain, chronic pain, depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
- Loss of enjoyment, when you can’t participate in the activities you enjoyed before the accident.
- Wrongful death, to include funeral and burial costs, outstanding medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Your Rights Matter, so Get the Care You Deserve
Legal action after a major accident may not be the first thing that crosses your mind. And that’s understandable. It’s important to take care of your health and well-being. But, at the same time, part of taking care of yourself means making sure you have the means to pay for your bills and focus on your recovery.
Different states have different rules for how long you have to take legal action. In New York, accident victims have three years to file a personal injury case. In New Jersey, the statute of limitations is just two years. Focus on your recovery, but give your attorney time to build a solid case to support your claim. Plus, the sooner you talk to an attorney, the sooner that can begin to work on securing a reasonable settlement in your case.
Truck accidents are serious. You deserve fair and just compensation for your injuries. After a truck accident, it’s always good to know you’re not alone. A personal injury attorney shouldn’t just be your legal advocate, they should be someone you can trust to guide you through the personal injury process. If you have questions or believe you need to file a personal injury suit, an attorney may help. Contact an experienced truck accident attorney to learn more about your legal rights.