Commercial Truck Accidents
Michigan has a substantial amount of large commercial and semi-truck traffic, and with it, the potential for a greater number of truck and passenger vehicle accidents. The sheer size and weight of trucks alone makes drivers of passenger cars more susceptible to serious injury and death in the event of a collision.
Many survivors of truck crashes suffer serious injuries that require hospitalization, surgery, long-term medical treatment, and/or disability that affects their ability to return to work and tend to family responsibilities. For many large truck accident victims, the actual motor vehicle accident is only the beginning of the physical and emotional hardships they may experience.
If you have been involved in an accident with a large commercial truck, you need an experienced commercial truck lawyer on your side. Hakim, Toma & Yaldoo has significant experience in helping the victims of commercial and semi-truck accidents in Michigan. Our attorneys understand the complicated factors and laws involved in semi-truck and commercial truck accident claims, and are prepared to take on the trucking companies on your behalf and successfully fight for your legal rights.
Contact Hakim, Toma & Yaldoo today to discuss your case. We are here to help, providing you the compassion you need and the tenacity and expertise to win you the recovery you deserve.
How Dangerous Are Commercial and Semi-Truck Accidents?
- Between 2009 and 2017, there was a 52% increase in accidents between large commercial truck and passenger cars (with 4,102 accident-related fatalities in 2017 alone)
- 74% of all fatal passenger vehicle cases include a large truck
- Tire defects account for around 30% of all truck-related accidents – the most common cause
- Most large truck accidents occur during the day — between noon and 3 PM
- 68% of all truck-car accident fatalities are the passenger vehicle occupants
Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
How Does Truck Accident Liability Differ from Car Accident Liability in Michigan?
Truck accident liability differs from passenger car accident liability for a variety of reasons. One of the most significant reasons is that there may be multiple parties involved in the ownership and operation of the truck.
For example, rather than just being limited to the insurance policy held by the at-fault driver, you may be able to include the company that the truck driver works for (or the company that owns the truck) as a party in the lawsuit. This also can benefit you because the insurance coverage for the company that owns the truck can be higher than that of just the individual driver.
The trucking company also can potentially be held responsible for actions taken by their employee while they are performing their job duties, or liable under certain circumstances, such as if the company negligently failed to do a background check on a driver they hired who had several convictions for DUIs (that the background check would have uncovered) and the driver was involved in an accident.
What Are the Most Common Causes of Commercial Truck Accidents?
Commercial truck accidents can be caused by human error, carelessness, improper maintenance, or distracted driving, among other things. Of all truck accidents caused by driver error, 44% involve a driver taking prescription or over-the-counter drugs, 23% involve speeding, and 18% are caused by driver fatigue.
Some of the most common causes include:
Truck drivers often work long shifts in order to cover long distances. Inadequate sleep, prolonged sitting, and the monotony of driving can cause a driver to have poor reactions and judgment. The federal hours of service rules attempt to avoid driver fatigue by placing limits on the number of hours a driver may work.
Federal regulations require trucking companies to test drivers for alcohol and drug use as a condition of employment, and also require periodic testing while drivers are on duty and after fatal accidents.
Semi-trucks have “no-zones”, where a passenger car can disappear from the truck driver’s view. No-zones occur at the front, side, and rear of a truck, as well as when the driver backs up or turns right. An accident is 60% more likely to occur when a car is in a truck’s no-zone, as opposed to when it is visible to the truck driver
Truck rollovers, also a common cause of truck accidents, are most frequently caused by speeding, fatigue, inexperience, improper load distribution, or when a driver takes a curve too fast.
Improper Vehicle Maintenance
According to the United States Department of Transportation, 29.4% of all large truck accidents involve brake failure, brakes that are out of adjustment, or other brake-related issues. Responsibility for maintenance of brakes falls on the driver, the party responsible for maintaining the brakes, and the manufacturer of the brakes.
Tire problems are another cause of accidents. Allowing drivers to drive on tires that don’t meet minimum DOT tread depth requirements, mounting mismatched tire sizes or with significantly different wear, and mixing bias and radial tires on the same axle, can all cause drivers to have problems that could lead to accidents. Federal safety regulations require pre-trip tire inspections that, if conducted properly, should greatly minimize problems like improper tire pressure and worn or damaged tires, that can also cause accidents.
Research shows that commercial drivers who use a mobile phone while driving are six times more likely to be involved in a safety-critical event (e.g., crash, near-crash, unintentional lane deviation) than those who do not. The average driver took his or her eyes off the forward roadway for 3.8 seconds, which equates to a traveling distance of 306 feet when driving 55 mph.
Commercial truck drivers are prohibited from texting, holding a mobile device to make a call, or dialing by pressing more than a single button. Truck drivers can still legally use mobile phones by using an earpiece or the speakerphone function, using voice-activated driving, or using the hands-free feature.
How Can I Avoid Getting in an Accident with a Large Truck?
Due to their size and weight, commercial trucks can be particularly dangerous on the roadways. When they collide with smaller passenger vehicles, the results can be devastating. Drivers in smaller vehicles can help prevent accidents by learning the precautions to take in order to safely share the road with large trucks
- Avoid the Truck Drivers’ Blind Spots
Commercial trucks have more blind spots than passenger vehicles. If you cannot see the driver in the truck’s side mirrors, he or she may not be able to see you. Stay out of the following areas when driving near commercial trucks, when possible, and allow adequate space between you and the truck:
- The lane on the driver’s side going back to about half of the trailer’s length
- 20 feet in front of the truck
- 30 feet behind the truck
- Two lanes width of distance on the truck’s right side
- Use Caution When Passing
Large trucks cannot stop as quickly or maneuver as easily as other vehicles, so truck drivers need additional time to react and adjust their speed. Important points to remember include:
- Do not pass a truck while going uphill or downhill, since the truck may naturally increase or decrease its speed.
- Approach a commercial truck you plan to pass along the left side, where it is easier for the driver to see you. Maintain your speed while passing and use proper signals as you pass.
- Do not merge back into the lane in front of the truck until you can see the driver clearly in your rearview mirror.
- If a truck passes you, stay on the right and slow down to give the driver more space to safely pass you and to minimize the amount of time that you are in a blind spot.
- Use Your Turn Signals
Before you pass, change lanes or turn when nearby a commercial truck, it is important to use your turn signals so the truck driver can anticipate your actions and has adequate time to adjust their own driving. A sudden lane change may not provide the truck driver with enough time to avoid a collision.
- Give the Truck (and its driver) Plenty of Space
Avoid being near a truck for too long. Driving close to a truck puts you at an increased risk of an accident caused by factors such as:
- Tire blowouts – Tire remnants can tear off of a truck’s tire and hit your windshield.
- Sudden braking – If a commercial truck has to suddenly brake, your car may slide under the truck, or the truck may tip over.
- High winds – Strong winds can cause truck rollovers.
Other ways to give a commercial truck more space on the road include:
- Maintain a following distance behind the truck of at least four seconds.
- Give the truck plenty of space while turning. Truck drivers may take up to two lanes when making wide turns.
- Do not pass a right-turning truck on the right. While there may be a gap between the rear and front wheels of the truck, you could be hit or trapped in the limited space between the truck and the curb.
- Lower Your Brights
Always lower your high beams while near a truck (or any other vehicle). Bright headlights may reflect off of the trucker’s large side mirrors and blind them, leading to catastrophic consequences.
- Merge Carefully
Avoid merging in front of a commercial truck if traffic is slowing to a stop. It is more difficult for a truck to slow down quickly, and you do not want to be in its way as the truck driver is braking. If a truck is passing you, decelerate to decrease the truck’s passing time.
- Avoid Your Own Distractions
Distracted driving places you at an increased risk of harm. Avoid activities that take your mind, hands or eyes off the road, including cellphones, food, drink or noisy passengers. Unnecessary distractions turn you into an added hazard on the road for other drivers, including truck drivers.
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