Tractor trailer drivers provide an invaluable service to the economy. Around two million truck drivers log hundreds of millions of miles every year transporting goods within the United States and to Mexico and Canada.
Trucks carry around 70 percent of the freight that is transported annually in the United States. And with e-commerce sales increasing every year, drivers are sure to have to share the road with an ever-increasing number of these large trucks.
The Tractor Trailer Danger Zone
Do you ever feel uneasy when you’re driving on a two-lane highway next to a tractor trailer? Maybe you speed up to get away from their path or keep your distance when driving behind them.
If you take these precautions while driving, there is a good reason for doing so. Tractor trailers weigh 25 times more than the average automobile. Most tractor trailers operate with a gross weight (the weight of the truck combined with the weight of the goods it’s carrying) that exceeds 26,000 pounds.
Approximately 5,000 automobile drivers and pedestrians die in collisions with tractor trailers every year, while 700 tractor trailer drivers and their passengers die annually in crashes. On average, more than 100,000 people per year are injured in tractor trailer accidents. Most crashes will happen in rural areas.
Tractor trailer driving is considered to be an extremely risky profession. Truck drivers are 11 times more likely to die on the job than the average worker. In 2014, Time magazine named truck driving the 8th most dangerous profession in the United States.
What does this mean for Pennsylvania drivers? In Pennsylvania, tractor trailers are involved in approximately 6,000 accidents per year that cause 150 fatalities and numerous other injuries and time lost at work.
Causes of Tractor Trailer Accidents
Driver error is the main cause of tractor trailer accidents, whether the truck driver or the automobile driver is at fault.
Tractor trailer drivers are required to rest for certain amounts of time depending on their schedule. Any truck whose gross weight is more than 10,001 pounds or is involved in transporting hazardous materials has a complex set of rest periods that must be legally observed.
However, it is very common for drivers to bend these rules — especially since drivers are often paid by the mile — making driver fatigue a major cause of tractor-trailer accidents.
Other causes of tractor trailer accidents where the truck driver may be found guilty of negligence or wrongdoing include:
- Intoxication or illegal drug use
- Reckless driving
- Distracted driving (due to illegal cell phone use or other distractions)
- Improper distribution of cargo in the truck
- Failure to perform required safety checks
- Failure to maintain the truck to adequate safety standards
- Failure to install blind-spot mirrors
- Speeding and failure to follow traffic laws
If you have been involved in a collision with a tractor trailer, there is a very good chance that at least one of the above items is involved and that an experienced lawyer can secure compensation for you. Either the driver, their employer, or both may be found guilty of wrongdoing.
The Tragic Consequences of Tractor Trailer Accidents
You may recall the highly publicized tractor trailer accident in June 2014 involving actor Tracy Morgan that occurred on the New Jersey Turnpike in Mercer County, NJ.
The comedian and his friends were riding in a limo when a truck driver in a Walmart tractor trailer rear-ended them. Morgan was seriously injured in the accident suffering brain trauma, broken ribs and a broken leg. One of his close friends and fellow comedian James McNair was killed in the accident.
The tractor trailer driver was recently in court and is facing aggravated manslaughter and other charges. You can read more about the accident and upcoming trial at ABC News
As we’ve stated before, 5000 automobile drivers die each year in an accident with a tractor trailer in the United States. In these sad cases, families will often win a wrongful death claim against the driver or their employer.
For those who survive an accident with a tractor trailer, the resulting physical injuries can last weeks, months, or even a lifetime. Those who walk away from a tractor trailer accident with some lacerations or broken bones are lucky; some may sustain neck, back, or spinal cord injuries, or even concussions and traumatic brain injuries.
Aside from compensation for the physical scars that can be caused by such accidents, you may be able to collect compensation for emotional injuries. If you have experienced symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – such as panic attacks, depression, flashbacks, anxiety, insomnia, or other physical, mental, or emotional disturbances – following an accident with a tractor trailer, you may receive compensation for these as well.
What To Do If You Are Involved in a Tractor Trailer Accident
Anyone who is involved in a tractor trailer accident should seek medical attention immediately, even if you don’t feel that you’ve been injured; it is very common to experience injuries following an auto collision that do not appear for hours or days after the incident.
Your next step is to contact an attorney who specializes in handling automobile accident litigation.
If you are unfortunate enough to have been involved in a collision with a tractor trailer, it is imperative that you hire a lawyer who has extensive experience handling these cases in order to maximize the compensation you will receive. The dedicated lawyers at Donaghue & Labrum have decades of experience representing victims of accidents due to the negligence of others, and we know the ins and outs of cases like this.