According to some sources, a fully loaded 18-wheeler legally can weigh up to 80,000 pounds.
Which is to say a car doesn’t stand much chance against one. Drivers of passenger vehicles that tangle with 18-wheelers often suffer serious or permanently disabling injuries, or worse. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 11 percent of all motor-vehicle accident fatalities in 2018 occurred because of crashes involving large trucks.
The dangers of sharing the road with 18-wheelers go beyond their size, weight, and momentum. Compounding the risk are the perilous and often unpredictable ways in which a fully loaded 18-wheeler responds to the unique forces pulling at its segmented body when its driver loses the battle with the laws of physics.
Semi-truck accidents usually are more severe than car-on-car crashes. In 2017, almost 4,800 people were killed in crashes involving semi-trucks, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Thousands more were seriously injured.
Among the injuries commonly suffered in accidents involving 18-wheelers are those to soft tissue, such as whiplash, those to the head, chest, arms, or legs, and those affecting the back, neck, or shoulders.
Injuries needn’t be visible to be serious. Some of the more worrisome or painful head and chest injuries, such as those involving brain tissue, blood vessels, or the ribs, are internal. So too, often, are the broken bones that are more common in 18-wheeler accidents. The impact also can damage joints, muscles, tendons, or the spinal cord. Injuries to the spinal cord can be devastating and lead to paralysis.
Here are some symptoms of common injuries suffered in accidents involving an 18-wheeler.
Not all of the damage wrought in a semi-truck accident is physical. Mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder also can arise. Symptoms of PTSD or other emotional issues may include:
Among the more common causes and kinds of 18-wheeler accidents are:
Because of their size and weight, 18-wheelers that roll over endanger not only their own drivers but also other motorists.
What causes an 18-wheeler rollover? According to a study conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, trucks roll over because of curves taken too fast, the nature of their loads, the condition of their brakes, the surface of the roads they travel, and the kinds of intersections they navigate.
18-wheelers are large. Maneuvering one takes great care and skill. Turning, especially to the right, is especially challenging for several reasons including:
Tire blowouts on 18-wheelers can endanger not only the drivers of those trucks but also occupants of other vehicles on the road.
One reason for this is that truckers ask a lot of their tires; a driver logs hundreds of miles per day. Truckers also drive on a wide variety of roads, in a lot of different traffic and weather conditions, and carry heavy loads – all of which affect the life of a tire.
In fact, the hard life of a truck tire is why 18-wheelers have, well, 18 wheels – or 10, or 26, or 34. All that weight distributed over so many tires is easier for each wheel to bear and helps prevent blowouts. And, if a tire does blow out, there’s another right beside it to help hobble the truck to safety.
Because the trailer of an 18-wheeler sits higher off the ground than a passenger vehicle, a car can run underneath it. When this happens, the car sometimes gets trapped under or run over by the truck or has its roof sheared off. This is called an underride accident.
For the driver of the car, the consequences of an underride can be severe. Motorcyclists, too, are at risk of under-riding 18-wheelers. Survivors of those killed in such accidents have lobbied for side guards, or truck lateral protective devices, to be made mandatory on 18-wheelers. (Tractor-trailers have rear underride guards.) The NHTSA has compiled extensive research on the effectiveness of side guards.
Shifting or falling cargo in a tractor-trailer is another cause of heavy truck accidents.
Trucks transport tons of goods at high speeds over long distances. While many trucking and loading companies must follow certain regulations for securing cargo, these accidents still occur, primarily on highways. Shifting cargo, speeding, systems failures, or poor road conditions that cause a truck driver to lose control figure into 29 percent of 18-wheeler accidents, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Falling cargo, too, can cause a driver to lose control, but the bigger danger might be to other motorists. A load that falls from a truck can land on a smaller vehicle or spill out onto the roadway, leaving debris that can cause a serious accident.
If you’ve been injured in a lost cargo truck crash, you may be entitled to compensation. The truck driver, trucking company, or loader could be responsible for the accident that caused your injuries.
One dangerous type of truck accident is “jackknifing,” so called because the trailer of the 18-wheeler swings around toward the cab at a shrinking angle like the blade of a folding knife.
The jackknifing of an 18-wheeler that’s the result of one accident can become the cause others if the trailer, as it sweeps around, traps, crushes, or collides with other vehicles. Due to a commercial truck’s weight and length, jackknifing can cause a multi-vehicle crash. According to the National Safety Council, fatalities and injuries caused in accidents with large trucks have been on the rise in recent years.
Many 18-wheelers that jackknife do so when the driver brakes hard, causing the trailer to lose traction and swing. Common factors include speed (such accidents occur most often on fast highways), weather, wet or icy roads, fast acceleration, and mechanical issues.
Among the more common causes of 18-wheeler jackknife accidents are:
A trucker must obey the rules of the road and drive reasonably under the circumstances. Motorists sharing the road can drive defensively by
No matter how careful you are, you could still be in an accident with an 18-wheeler, whose driver must always follow the rules of the road.
If you’re injured in a truck crash in New York, you may be entitled to compensation for pain and suffering. Here are some steps you may want to consider after a semi-truck accident:
If the semi-truck driver or another party is responsible for the crash, you may be eligible for compensation for pain and suffering and other damages. Give us a call today, at 844-444-4444, or contact us online.
Semi-trucks are a staple of America’s roadways, and they’re very common on the streets of Albany and along bustling Interstate 90. Semi-truck accidents in Albany have a variety of causes. Determining responsibility after a truck crash can be complex. An experienced personal injury lawyer like William Mattar can help protect your rights.