Large truck crashes are dangerous for everyone involved. That may seem obvious, but many people rarely, if ever, think about being involved in a large truck accident. Because large truck drivers have additional training (and are presumably more competent), many drivers disregard the risks posed by large trucks.
In January 2020, two large-vehicle chain-collision crashes on the Pennsylvania Turnpike resulted in at least eight fatalities, with at least 100 additional people injured. Turnpike authorities have speculated that the weather was the cause of both crashes, but investigations into the cause(s) are still underway.
The consequences of a large truck accident are generally so severe that few people “walk away” from the crash unharmed. If you or a loved one is involved in a large truck accident, your or your loved one’s injuries may be serious. Because of the complexity of large-truck accidents, the severity of the resulting injuries, and the need to immediately gather and preserve evidence, you should contact a large truck accident lawyer as soon as possible.
At Slater & Zurz LLP, we’ve handled thousands of personal injury cases arising from vehicle accidents, including crashes involving large trucks. We know the types of evidence that must be gathered and developed following a large truck accident and the evidence that must be preserved to vindicate victims’ rights. We know that time is of the essence—critical evidence lost can result in critical injuries going uncompensated. If you’ve been injured in a large-truck crash, contact our team to schedule a free consultation in which we will review the facts of your case, answer all your questions, and advise you of the best way forward. There’s no obligation on your part, and if we agree to handle your case, you don’t have to pay anything unless and until we win for you.
Millions of large trucks are on the road today: be alert!
More than eleven million large trucks are operating across the U.S. today. Nationally, in 2020, large trucks made up 8.8% of all vehicles involved in fatal crashes. In Ohio, large trucks were involved in 9.4% of all fatal crashes.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), there were approximately 475,000 large-truck-involved accident injuries and more than 3,000 deaths in 2020.
In 2019, 4,761 people were killed in the U.S. in crashes involving large trucks—18-wheelers, cement trucks, and the like, which may weigh 10,000 to 20,000 pounds or more, compared to 2,000 to 3,000 pounds for a passenger car or light truck. Of those killed, 18% (841) were occupants of large trucks; 72% (3,450) were occupants of other vehicles; and 10% (470) were pedestrians, bicyclists, and others not occupying any vehicle. Almost 70% of large-truck accidents in which people were killed involved tractor-trailers.
Large truck accidents have many causes.
According to statistics, most large-truck accidents in the U.S. are caused not by the drivers of the large trucks but by other drivers, vehicles, or other problems. Regardless of the reason, someone is responsible, i.e., at fault. The cause of the crash could be more than one person or company, and the cause could be a combination of driver error and another type of error, such as a vehicle defect.
The cause of the accident may not be readily apparent. Determining the cause of the accident may require an accident reconstruction expert, engineers, doctors, and other professionals who can comb through all the evidence—weather data; wrecked vehicles, their parts and their location after the crash; skid marks; road design and signage; medical evidence about both the drivers involved and those injured or killed; witness statements; and any other potentially relevant facts or observations—and weigh every factor that may have contributed to the crash.
Here are some of the specific causes of large-truck accidents:
Truck driver-related factors may result from pressure to cover more distance or drive for too many hours without stopping to rest, unfamiliarity with the route, and/or illness:
- Aggressive driving
- Inattention or distraction
- Inadequate training
Problems associated with drugs and/or alcohol are not statistically significant.
Many other factors may be the sole cause or contributing causes of large-truck crashes:
- Vehicle problems or defects, especially brake problems, as well as improper truck maintenance, defective parts, improperly loaded cargo, blind spots, weight, and poor maneuverability
- Road conditions, such as construction, defective design (improperly banked tight curves, poor visibility, unreasonably short access ramps, etc.), inadequate signage
Passenger vehicle-related driver factors:
- Moving to the right of a truck that’s preparing to turn right (especially if the truck moves slightly left to facilitate a sharp turn)
- Driving in a truck’s blind spot, beside or behind the truck, for a protracted period
- Failing to pull a disabled vehicle completely out of the driving lanes without flares or other warning indicators
- Slowing down quickly without warning when driving directly in front of a large truck
- Abruptly pulling in front of a large truck without allowing for the truck’s inability to slow down quickly
Because of their size, and especially weight, large trucks cannot stop within the same time frame as passenger vehicles. Although a light vehicle may be able to accommodate another driver’s quick lane change, a tractor-trailer may have no option other than to change lanes—if and only if another lane is open. A large truck lacks the maneuverability of a passenger vehicle—it takes observation of road conditions and planning to accommodate both the tractor part of a tractor-trailer and the trailer, notwithstanding the common reaction of motorists to prevent a large truck from entering the lane ahead of them.
Multiple parties can be responsible for a large-truck crash.
In Ohio, the fault of every responsible party is weighed to determine that party’s percentage of liability to all injured persons. You must seek legal guidance before settling with anyone, especially if the settlement places most of the blame on an underinsured trucking contractor or other people who can’t fully compensate you for your injuries.
Before settling with anyone, you should consult a truck accident lawyer who can assess your rights and the liability of everyone responsible for your injuries. Settling with one party or insurance company may bar you from receiving any payment from any other party, or may require you to turn over any funds from another liable party to the party or insurer with whom you settled. Once you’ve signed a settlement agreement, with or without legal counsel, and whether or not it’s fair, you’re stuck with it—for life.
A truck accident lawyer can determine how much each responsible party can pay, in addition to the likely degree of responsibility borne by each party. While a carefree gambling junket to Las Vegas might be fun, gambling with the amount of compensation you can receive over a lifetime to cover your or your loved one’s serious or debilitating injuries may be disastrous. Don’t let a well-financed responsible party off the hook without a thorough investigation and legal analysis!
At Slater & Zurz, we will evaluate any proposed settlement that you may be offered by any party involved in your large-truck crash and let you know whether or not it is fair and whether it will cover your lifetime needs. Our focus is on you—not on saving money for an insurance company that bargained to pay for losses like those that you suffered. Call or email us for a free consultation before signing away your right to full compensation for your injuries.
Don’t be intimidated if those responsible for your large-truck crash injuries vehemently oppose your claim.
If you’ve been injured in a crash involving one or more large trucks, there are a number of people and companies that can be responsible (and that can be legally ordered to compensate you):
- Truck driver
- Truck driver’s employer
- Trucking company
- Truck’s manufacturer
- Manufacturer of any defective component of the truck
- Manufacturer of the truck’s cargo (including personnel responsible for improper loading of that cargo, as well as improper shipping of hazardous cargo
- Drivers of any other vehicles involved in the crash
- Engineers and others responsible for the design of the road on which the crash occurred
- The governmental entity responsible for road design, signage, visibility obstructions
The insurance companies covering each of these entities or individuals may also be required to compensate you, but it is generally required that you first seek compensation from a liable party before suing the insurer.
Large trucks may be owned by drivers as owner-operators, by trucking companies that hire drivers as employees or independent contractors, or by manufacturers or other companies that regularly transport their products across the country. Because they can have potential liability in the millions of dollars—as well as those who manufactured the truck or its components, and anyone else who could be foreseeably liable for an injury-causing defect—these large trucks and those responsible for their safety tend to be well-insured. Because their coverage may be in the millions of dollars—and because large-truck crashes may result in damages costing victims millions of dollars—cases involving large trucks tend to be extensively litigated.
You probably wouldn’t respond if someone picked up a quarter you dropped on the sidewalk and didn’t give it back. However, if someone took a $20 bill that you accidentally dropped on the sidewalk, you probably wouldn’t let that go. The same is true for a trucker or insurance company potentially on the hook for a million dollars—while a driver or insurer might not quibble over one or two thousand dollars, the same is not true when hundreds of thousands of dollars or more are at stake.
Because of the opposition, you may face, you need a large truck accident lawyer to ensure that your claim gets fair treatment. Trucking companies and others responsible for large-truck crash injuries may staunchly oppose your claim. Their lawyers’ priority is to limit what their clients have to pay to people injured by their trucks. The extent to which your life has been altered because of a large-truck accident—your inability to return to your job, to provide or care for your family, to care for yourself, or even to enjoy the simple things in life—means nothing to them. You need an attorney who will fight for you every step of the way, and who will work tirelessly to obtain the compensation you deserve. At Slater & Zurz, our truck accident lawyers can help you fight that battle.
Trust a full-service law firm with expertise in large-truck crashes to handle your accident claim from start to finish.
Large-truck accidents can be catastrophic, upending victims’ lives and disrupting long-term family plans premised on the good health and success of every family member. At Slater & Zurz, we know how devastating it can be when a loved one suffers severe or permanent injuries, with potential lifetime disability, and no assurance that injuries caused by someone else will ever be fairly compensated. Whether the injured victim is the family breadwinner or a young child whose full potential has been cut short by someone else’s carelessness, the tragedy may affect the entire family for generations.
We have offices in five convenient locations in Akron, Canton, Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati. If none of our offices is convenient for you, we will meet with you anywhere in Ohio. As one of our firm members recently noted, “We have done more interviewing of clients at kitchen tables than in our law offices.”
Our overriding goal is to help injured victims recover from their injuries and rebuild their lives to the fullest extent possible. If you’ve been injured in a large truck accident, contact our team to schedule a free consultation with a truck accident lawyer. We’ll evaluate your claim, answer all your questions, and let you know what we believe is your best path forward. If we take your case, we’ll handle everything free of charge unless and until we win for you.
We advocate strongly on behalf of injured Truck accident victims across Ohio, with convenient locations in Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, and Toledo.