Head-on collisions and tractor trailer accidents are two of the most dangerous types of accidents that take place on U.S. roadways. While either one of these accidents has the potential to result in tragedy, the combination of the two is almost certain to cause serious injuries or fatalities.
If you have suffered injuries in a head-on collision involving a commercial truck, or you lost a loved one to this type of accident, you may have the right to take legal action seeking compensation from the parties at fault. An experienced truck accident attorney can give you information about the legal process for doing so.
The Dangers of Truck Accidents
A commercial truck driver faced a ticket for driving too fast for road conditions after an accident that injured one person and forced closure of the road for several hours due to a hazardous material spill. The accident occurred when the truck driver, traveling west, attempted to pass two cars on an icy roadway. While passing the cars, the driver lost control of his tractor-trailer, which then veered into the eastbound lane, striking another commercial truck. The driver of the eastbound truck was transported to the hospital with a head injury.
More than 4,000 people die on U.S. roads each year as a result of truck accidents. The majority of those killed are occupants of smaller vehicles. A significant danger that commercial trucks pose to other travelers on the roadway relates to the size and weight disparity between trucks and passenger vehicles. With a maximum load capacity of 80,000 pounds, a commercial tractor-trailer can weigh 20-30 times more than the average car or pickup truck
With that size and weight come inherent risk factors, such as:
- An increased distance required to come to a safe stop. The stopping distance of a commercial truck is up to 40 percent greater than that of a passenger car.
- A high center of gravity, which makes a truck more prone to rolling over when attempting to avoid a collision or when traveling at high speed around sharp corners.
- A high ground clearance, which creates space for a smaller vehicle to become crushed beneath the truck in an accident.
- A greater likelihood of losing control of the vehicle when traveling faster than road conditions allow.
- A higher risk of maintenance issues due to both the size of the vehicle and the wear and tear caused by the number of miles the vehicle travels when transporting goods.
- Driver fatigue caused by long hours of work that can make the driver less able to control the vehicle.
The Dangers of Head-On Collisions
While only about 2 percent of traffic accidents overall involve two vehicles colliding head-on, this type of collision accounts for around 10 percent of the traffic-related fatalities each year in the United States.
As with collisions involving other vehicle types, head-on collisions involving commercial trucks are relatively rare, accounting for only 3 percent of all truck accidents in the United States annually. However, with an estimated 141,000 truck accidents occurring on U.S. roads each year, that still means that around 4,000 of those accidents, on average, involve head-on collisions.
One factor that makes head-on collisions so dangerous is the forward motion of both vehicles at impact, which exerts tremendous force in a collision.
Vehicle occupants who survive this type of accident often sustain life-altering injuries, such as:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Internal bleeding and organ damage
- Broken bones and traumatically amputated limbs
- Severe burns and toxic exposures
These are, of course, just a few of the types of injuries a head-on truck collision can cause. Virtually any severe injury imaginable can follow this type of accident. No matter the nature or extent of your injuries from a head-on truck crash, you likely have the right to seek compensation. Speak with an experienced truck accident attorney today to learn more.
Common Causes of Head-On Truck Collisions
The commercial trucking industry must follow strict state and federal regulations. Truck drivers go through extensive training and certification, submit to random drug and alcohol testing, and must log the number of hours they spend behind the wheel. Truck owners must perform regular maintenance on trucks, and drivers must conduct visual inspections of a truck before each trip.
However, despite the stringent requirements for commercial truck drivers and owners, some head-on truck accidents result from behaviors and shortcomings that the regulations intend to address.
The common causes of truck accidents include:
- Wrong-way driving on freeway exits/entries, on one-way roads, or in the opposing travel lane due to the driver being unfamiliar with his or her location, drunk or drugged driving, a medical issue, or fatigued driving.
- Loss of control around sharp curves in the roadway, from driving too fast, or from wet or icy road conditions that cause the truck to veer into an oncoming travel lane.
- The truck driver attempts to pass a vehicle when there is an unbroken center line, indicating that it is an unsafe (and illegal) area in which to pass.
- Lack of visibility due to nighttime driving or inclement weather.
- The driver loses control of the truck while attempting to swerve to avoid a road hazard.
- The driver gets distracted by something inside the vehicle—such as texting or other cell phone use, eating or drinking, or adjusting vehicle, stereo, or GPS controls—and drifts into the oncoming travel lane.
- The truck experiences a tire blowout, a loss of brakes, or another mechanical failure that causes the driver to lose control.
The Complexities of Head-On Truck Accidents
Head-on truck crashes cause severe injuries and widespread damage. They also affect numerous parties with legal interests in the truck(s) that crashed. These aspects of truck accidents tend to make them far more complex than ordinary motor vehicle accidents.
Multiple parties may bear legal liability to multiple accident victims. The dollar amounts at stake can soar into the hundreds of thousands, even millions, of dollars, giving every potentially-liable party involved an incentive to fight hard to avoid the financial consequences.
Parties who may owe damages to head-on truck accident victims may include:
- The truck driver whose actions caused the crash.
- The company that the truck driver works for, as it generally has legally responsible for the actions of its employees in the normal course of their employment, and must also screen truck drivers to make sure they have the qualifications and experience to drive a large truck.
- The shipper, who is responsible for ensuring that the company they hire to transport their goods carries adequate insurance, operates appropriate equipment, and has a clean safety record.
- The individual or entity tasked with providing regular maintenance on the truck, if a mechanical failure led to the accident.
- The manufacturer or distributor of truck parts, if the accident was caused by a product defect. Manufacturers have a responsibility to ensure that the products they sell are safe for consumers.
- The drivers of other cars. This is particularly true in chain reaction crashes or multi-car pileups in which more than one driver acted carelessly.
An experienced truck accident attorney knows to look carefully at the facts of a head-on truck accident to identify all parties with potential legal liability to an injured client. Some of the evidence that may help in this effort includes:
- The driver’s qualification file, which contains information about the driver that the federal government requires a trucker or trucking company to keep.
- Documentation relating to the driver’s hours of service, including electronic logging devices.
- A post-collision drug and alcohol screening performed on the driver.
- Records of the vehicle’s maintenance and inspection.
- Downloads of the truck’s onboard systems, including the engine control module and the brake module, as well as onboard communication systems and GPS tracking.
One of the reasons for speaking to an experienced attorney as soon as possible is to preserve as much of this (and other) evidence of the circumstances of a head-on truck crash as possible. The longer a head-on truck collision victim waits to seek legal counsel, the greater the chances of important evidence going missing.
Proving Liability for a Head-On Truck Collision
What do experienced head-on truck collision attorneys look for in the evidence they collect? In a nutshell, they want to determine:
- Which of the many parties involved in the collision owed their client a duty of care not to act in a way that put the client in harm’s way? For example, all truck drivers owe the public a duty of care to follow traffic laws and to operate a heavy truck in a safe and responsible manner. Likewise, all trucking companies owe the public a duty of care to hire only qualified, appropriately-trained drivers, and to comply with federal and state trucking regulations. And so on.
- Who breached the duty of care owed to the public (which includes the injured client)? In other words, who made bad decisions or engaged in dangerous conduct that put the public, including the injured client, in harm’s way. Examples of breaches that may lead to a head-on truck collision include a drunk driver, a trucking company that failed to provide proper training for its employee, or a mechanic who failed to maintain a truck in safe working order.
- Whose breach caused the accident and the clients’ injuries? It might seem technical, but not every unsafe action or ill-considered decision leads to a head-on truck collision. Lawyers look for evidence that will prove a breach actually resulted in the accident that injured their clients.
Head-on truck collisions frequently involve multiple parties with potential legal liability. Lawyers generally try to identify all of them, for the simple reason that the more parties with liability, the greater the likelihood of a client recovering every penny of compensation the client deserves.
Of course, parties with legal liability (and the insurance companies who serve them) rarely take their liability lying down. They routinely try to avoid paying their full or fair share of the damages head-on collision victims suffer by attempting to shift liability to others. That is why any victim of a head-on truck crash must hire an attorney who has experience navigating the complexities of large truck accidents, and who knows how to fight to recover compensation for an accident victim.
How Truck Accident Attorneys Help
What do truck accident attorneys do with the information they collect about legally-liable parties? Most of the time, they seek to negotiate a settlement of a client’s injury claims and/or to recover damages through a personal injury lawsuit.
Some of the damages their efforts may recover on a client’s behalf include:
- Medical expenses, including the costs of ambulance transport, emergency services, surgical services, hospitalization, diagnostic testing, prescription medication, physical therapy, and rehabilitation.
- Lost wages due to being too injured to work or missing work to attend doctor’s appointments for injuries.
- Loss of future earning capacity, if injuries result in permanent disability and prevent a client from returning to a job.
- The cost of repairing or replacing a vehicle.
- A client’s physical and mental pain and suffering as a result of the injuries.
Families who lose a loved one to a head-on truck collision may have the right to obtain similar compensation through filing a wrongful death lawsuit. Speak with an experienced truck accident injury attorney today to evaluate your legal rights if you find yourself and your family in this tragic situation.
Seek Legal Help Today
Do not wait to contact an experienced truck accident injury attorney to learn about your legal rights to compensation after a head-on truck collision upends your life. The sooner you act, the better your chances of obtaining the financial support you need and deserve to help you through this trying time. Conversely, if you wait too long, you may lose valuable legal rights. Speak with a truck accident attorney today for a free case evaluation.