Truck accidents can result in some of the most severe injuries a person can sustain from a motor vehicle. Truck rollovers in particular have high fatality rates.
If you suffer injuries in a truck rollover due to a negligent driver or trucking company, you have the right to seek compensation for the injuries and losses you suffer. Close family members may have the right to seek compensation for the wrongful death of a loved one in a negligent truck rollover.
In both of these situations, consult a truck accident attorney to ensure that someone properly protects your legal rights.
What Is a Truck Rollover Crash?
A rollover crash takes place when the wheels of a vehicle lose contact with a road, causing the vehicle to tip over. While any vehicle can roll, those with narrow wheelbases and high centers of gravity, such as tall SUVs, buses, and commercial trucks, tip over more often than others.
Smaller vehicles might roll over numerous times depending on the circumstances, though semi-trucks generally land on their sides (or rarely, upside-down) due to their large sizes. Even so, a truck rollover can cause a devastating chain-reaction crash.
Drivers lose complete control when a truck rolls over. The truck might do a 180 while the driver reacts and tries to prevent a rollover. This can cause collisions with multiple vehicles.
When the truck rolls over, it can do so across many lanes of traffic, and nearby drivers might not be able to stop to avoid crashing into the truck. In addition, some trucks might roll over onto other vehicles.
No matter how a rollover happens, however, it often causes damage and injuries to several vehicles and motorists.
Why Rollovers Happen
Truck rollover accidents occur for different reasons, and identifying the cause of the crash helps injured victims know whom to hold liable for their losses. The following are only a few of the possible reasons why a semi-truck rolls over.
Excessive Speed on Curves
Because of the height and weight of semi-trucks, truck drivers need to take great care to slow down enough on turns and curves. If a driver tries to take a curve at an excessive speed, the truck can easily tip over.
A truck’s purpose is to haul cargo of various types, and properly loading cargo can prevent truck rollovers. If loading crews fail to properly secure or center cargo in a trailer, it can shift, causing the trailer to lose its balance. An off-balance trailer can cause many problems, including a rollover. Liquid shifting in tanker trucks can cause a rollover.
Other Driver Errors
Truck drivers can make mistakes that lead to rollovers, including:
- Overcorrecting or oversteering
- Driving too fast in windy or slippery conditions
- Having to stop short and slam on the brakes
- Making sudden movements
If a truck driver or another party caused a rollover, injured victims have the right to recover compensation for their losses.
Truck Accident Injury Statistics
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 4,136 people died as a result of a truck accident in the United States over the course of a recent year, and 67 percent of these victims occupied passenger vehicles. This is a far greater percentage than the number of truck occupants who died in these accidents, which came in at only 16 percent. Pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcycle riders accounted for another 15 percent of truck accident fatality victims.
The National Safety Council reports that trucks made up only 4 percent of all registered vehicles on the road in one year, but were in 9 percent of all fatal crashes that same year. This is due, in part, to the number of miles commercial vehicles drive, as 9 percent of all vehicle miles driven in the United States that year were in commercial vehicles. However, other reasons explain the high rate of fatal injuries involving truck accidents.
Why Truck Accidents Tend to Cause Serious Injuries
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety also reports that passenger vehicles are far more vulnerable to damage in an accident than a large, heavy truck. The greater the damage to the vehicle means the greater the impact on the passengers inside. Commercial trucks can weigh 20 or 30 times as much as a passenger vehicle. Trucks also have a higher ground clearance, which allows smaller cars to get caught underneath them in underride accidents.
Braking requirements can also make trucks more susceptible to accidents. Heavily loaded trucks can require 20 to 40 percent longer stopping distances than passenger vehicles, and wet or slippery conditions can make this stopping distance significantly longer.
Truck drivers are also vulnerable to fatigue. Although federal regulations limit the number of hours a commercial trucker may drive without rest, some drivers violate these limits to get more miles into a workday. Some drivers and companies falsify records to mask these hours of service violations.
How Trucking Companies and Transportation Carriers Protect Themselves From Liability
Due to the severe potential damage that a truck accident can cause to itself and other vehicles, the law requires higher insurance minimums on commercial trucks. Most states require passenger vehicle owners to carry liability insurance—for example, $15,000 per person and $30,000 per accident are the minimum requirements in California. Federal law requires commercial truck owners to carry a minimum of $1 million in liability insurance. This grows to $5 million if the vehicle carries hazardous cargo.
As you might expect, insurance is only one tool that trucking companies use to protect themselves from liability for accidents. A limited liability company instead of the transportation company might own the truck. The trucking company may claim that the truck’s driver works as an independent contractor instead of an employee to try to avoid responsibility for the collision
A transportation carrier may employ many other tactics to shield itself from liability, so work with an experienced truck accident attorney who knows how to deal with transportation carriers and their commercial vehicle insurance policies.
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