Types of Truck Accidents

HutzlerLaw July 23, 2022

Truck accidents cause widespread destruction and catastrophic injuries. With the help of an experienced truck accident attorney, victims of those crashes can hope to secure compensation to help them pay for their medical care, replace lost income, and move forward with their lives.

Here’s a review of the many types of truck accidents for which a truck accident attorney can help victims recover damages.

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Rear-end Collisions and Chain Reaction Accidents

Trucks are generally the largest, heaviest, and most complex machines on the road. They usually need the most distance of any vehicle to come to a safe, controlled stop. They also often rely on complicated braking systems that routinely get put under significant strain, which can cause a breakdown.

Truck drivers face some of the highest risks among all motorists of being unable to slow and stop in time to avoid running into vehicles in front of them. In heavy traffic, the extreme force of a heavy truck rear-ending a passenger vehicle can trigger a chain reaction in which successive vehicles further up the road pile into each other. Consequently, rear-end truck collisions can cause massive multi-vehicle accidents that inflict numerous severe or fatal injuries.

Blind Spot Accidents

Trucks tend to have large blind spots—areas around them where the driver cannot see without the aid of mirrors or onboard cameras. The blind spots around a typical tractor-trailer extend roughly 20 feet in front of the cab, 30 feet to the rear of the trailer, one lane-width to the truck’s left from the driver’s shoulder to about half the length of the trailer, and diagonally extending along the length of the trailer across two lanes to its right.

Truckers must constantly monitor cars, other trucks, and motorcycles moving in and out of their blind spots. Just a moment’s lapse of attention can cause a truck driver to lose track of a smaller vehicle in a blind spot. If the truck changes lanes at that moment, it can trigger a sideswipe collision or run the smaller vehicle off the road. Dangerous blind spot accidents can also occur as a truck navigates a multi-lane intersection with smaller vehicles in adjacent lanes.

Override and Underride Accidents

Two especially terrifying varieties of blind spot accidents involve overrides (a truck running over a smaller vehicle) and underrides (a smaller vehicle becoming trapped or wedged beneath a truck trailer). These accidents frequently inflict catastrophic damage to smaller vehicles and life-threatening or fatal injuries to their occupants. Trucks that merge into or turn across lanes occupied by smaller vehicles risk causing overrides and underrides.

Backing-up Accidents

Another common blind spot-related truck accident can occur when a truck backs up. With roughly 30 feet of blind spot directly to his rear, truckers typically cannot see the ground they are about to cover when driving in reverse. Drivers often need backup cameras or the assistance of someone standing beside the truck in the driver’s mirror view to help avoid an incident. Without that help, a backup accident can easily occur.

Jackknifes

A jackknife is a type of accident unique to tractor-trailer trucks. It occurs when the truck cab and trailer fold toward each other like the blade and handle of a pocket knife. Jackknifes can happen when the mass of a fully loaded trailer overwhelms the tractor’s brakes pulling it, or a slick road causes the tractor and trailer to swing out of alignment.

A trucker loses all control once his rig jackknifes. The jackknifed truck becomes an unguided force, plowing down the road until a collision, rollover, or friction with the road brings it to a stop. Consequently, jackknife accidents frequently cause massive physical damage and severe injuries to occupants of vehicles in the out-of-control truck’s path.

Rollovers

Many trucks are susceptible to rollover accidents. They have relatively high centers of gravity, especially when loaded with cargo, which makes them potentially unstable when turning. Many trucks’ high, flat side profiles can also cause instability by acting like a sail in crosswinds.

Due to these features of large trucks, rollovers often happen on the sharp curves of highway on- and off-ramps, at intersections when trucks try to navigate without coming to a full stop, and on suspension bridges and other stretches of road exposed to high crosswinds.

Like a jackknifed truck, a truck that rolls over can become an uncontrolled plow that will sweep up other vehicles in its path until it comes to a stop. Rollovers can also send trucks tumbling off the road into roadside ditches or ravines, which is one reason rollovers are a leading cause of truck driver fatalities.

Head-on Collisions

Although relatively rare, head-on collisions involving trucks often inflict the most severe damage. A smaller vehicle that runs into a truck head-on will almost certainly get crushed, and its driver and passengers will likely sustain catastrophic or fatal injuries. Head-on truck accidents can happen when truckers or motorists drive while drowsy or impaired by drugs or alcohol, causing them to swerve out of their lanes and into oncoming traffic. A head-on truck accident can also occur in poor driving conditions, leading to a motorist losing and entering an opposing lane.

Low Clearance Accidents

The average tractor-trailer is about 8.5 feet wide, between 70 and 80 feet long, and up to 13.5 feet tall. These relatively uniform dimensions allow truck drivers to operate their vehicles with confidence that they are not too wide, long, or tall for most roads.

But it can be false confidence. Some bridge overpasses are too low to accommodate an average height truck. And some roads are too narrow for a truck to share them safely with other vehicles.

Truckers unfamiliar with a given stretch of road can get taken off guard by non-standard road dimensions, leading to low clearance accidents that include:

  • A truck getting wedged under a bridge or having its trailer roof peeled back like a sardine can lid;
  • A truck sideswiping a vehicle traveling in the opposite direction;
  • A truck becoming pinched between concrete barriers or abutments; or
  • A truck trailer extending over railroad tracks at an intersection.

Some low clearance accidents cause only property damage to the truck. But some can lead to dangerous secondary accidents involving other vehicles.

Cargo Spills

Trucks transport cargo. In an accident, that cargo can spill and create a hazard for other motorists. Boxes, vehicles, or livestock that fall from a truck, for example, can become dangerous obstructions that lead to secondary collisions and other motorists losing control. A truck accident resulting in a spill of liquid cargo can make a road surface dangerously slick. In some instances, a cargo spill can release toxic materials into the environment, causing adverse health effects in surrounding areas.

Fires and Explosions

One particularly dangerous subset of cargo spill truck accidents consists of fires and explosions. A truck carrying flammable materials can catch fire or explode, posing a threat to the lives of motorists and first responders. A dangerous fire or explosion can occur if a truck spills cargo and sets fire to areas adjacent to the roadway.

A Truck Accident Injury Lawyer’s Role

Any truck accident can leave behind badly injured victims and widespread losses. By law, individuals who suffer injuries in truck crashes and families of deceased victims generally have the right to demand compensation for their harm. A truck accident injury lawyer’s job is to secure that compensation by pursuing legal actions—principally lawsuits and insurance claims—on those victims’ behalf.

It’s no easy task. Of all types of traffic accidents, truck crashes tend to involve the most complicated factual and legal questions. It usually takes the skill of a seasoned truck crash attorney to piece through the evidence, identify the party or parties liable to the victims, and devise and execute a legal strategy that stands the strongest chance of successfully securing payment for the damage the crash caused.

Identifying Liable Parties

Trucks are commercial vehicles. It’s not uncommon for multiple individuals and businesses to have a legal and financial interest in their operations and their cargo.

In a truck accident, each of those parties and their insurers might face legal liability to victims:

  • A truck driver may be liable for causing the crash through careless actions behind the wheel;
  • A trucker’s employer could be liable for its employee’s conduct or for having failed to train or supervise the driver appropriately;
  • The owner of the truck or truck trailer could face liability for having failed to maintain their vehicles in safe working condition;
  • The owner of the cargo could have liability for hazards it posed to the safe operation of the truck;
  • The party that loaded the cargo could incur liability for having arranged it in a manner that made the truck unstable;
  • The manufacturer of the truck or its components could owe damages for having supplied defective equipment.

And that’s just the parties directly interested in the truck and its cargo.

Other parties could also face liability for triggering a harmful truck accident, including:

  • Other dangerous motorists sharing the road with a truck;
  • Manufacturers of other vehicles that were defective and lost control around the truck; or
  • Government agencies that failed to maintain safe roads for truck transit.

In other words, truck accident lawyers have their work cut out for them when it comes to establishing who may owe damages to their clients. Multiple parties could have an obligation to pay compensation to injured victims.

Moreover, because truck accidents can inflict widespread damage, the liable parties and their insurers may face enormous potential financial liabilities. That can give them a strong incentive to try to blame each other, misrepresent or hide evidence, or seek the protection of a bankruptcy court. A truck accident lawyer must stay alert to these maneuvers to prevent them from affecting an injured victim’s rights.

Pursuing Compensation

Following a truck accident, a lawyer for an injured victim may take various steps to advance the victim’s rights to financial compensation. Through insurance claims, lawsuits, and (if necessary) bankruptcy claims, the lawyer seeks to secure as much money as possible to pay for the victim’s harm.

Every truck accident case differs, but often a truck accident attorney can obtain payment for a truck crash victim’s damages, including:

  • Medical expenses in treating crash-related injuries;
  • Non-medical costs stemming from recovering from the accident and adapting to injuries;
  • Lost income from missing work, including the value of vacation and sick days used;
  • Lost future income due to truck accident injuries causing a disability;
  • Pain, suffering, loss of independence, and diminished quality of life.

In some cases, a truck accident lawyer might also seek payment of statutory damages (awarded when a truck crash involved a violation of a statute or regulation) or punitive damages (awarded when the at-fault party engaged in extreme or intentional misconduct).

In a fatal truck accident, an attorney can often seek damages on behalf of the deceased victim’s spouse or loved ones through a wrongful death lawsuit.

Contact an Experienced Truck Accident Lawyer Today

If you or someone you love suffered injuries in a truck accident, you have no time to lose in protecting and advancing your rights to compensation. Multiple parties may have suffered damages in the crash. Many others may face potential liability for the harm the accident caused. All of them could have good reason to protect themselves at the expense of your rights.

Through careful investigation and prompt action, a skilled truck accident injury attorney can place you in the strongest possible position to obtain compensation for the harm you suffered. Contact a truck accident attorney in your area today for a free case evaluation.