Any type of motor vehicle accident has the potential to cause serious and life-changing injuries. However, accidents involving large commercial trucks have an especially high risk of resulting in catastrophic or even fatal injuries for many reasons. The following are only some of the reasons why truck accidents can be substantially more serious than a normal car accident.
Size and Weight of a Truck
An average passenger car or SUV weighs around 4,000 pounds and many weigh less than that. On the other hand, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reports that a tandem axle commercial truck weighs around 34,000 on its own. When you fill a trailer with cargo, the weight of a commercial truck can increase to up to 80,000 pounds. In addition, a commercial vehicle tends to be 20 to 30 times larger than a standard passenger vehicle. This disparity in size and weight can result in significantly higher forces during a collision. The greater the forces involved in a collision, the greater the likelihood of more serious injuries for motorists involved in the collision.
Underride and Override Collisions
Another very important difference between passenger vehicles and commercial trucks is the clearance of a commercial vehicle off the ground. Because trucks are higher off the ground, smaller vehicles may be involved in underride or override accidents. An underride accident occurs when a car hits the back or side of a large truck and actually drives under the truck, often getting stuck and causing fatal injuries to front-seat motorists. Conversely, an override collision happens when a truck rear-ends a smaller car and actually drives up on top of the car, which can be devastating for backseat passengers. Even with underride and override guards that are installed on trucks, these severe and often deadly collisions still occur.
Jackknife and Runaway Truck Accidents
A key element of many commercial vehicles is the coupling, which is the part that connects the main part of the truck to the trailer. The coupling is supposed to keep the trailer directly behind the truck when the truck is driving straight but also to allow the trailer to adjust when the truck is maneuvering a turn. However, the coupling is also an additional part of the truck that can fail and can cause significant accidents.
If a coupling fails, the trailer can “jackknife,” which occurs when the trailer swings out perpendicular to the truck while the truck is in motion. This can easily cause the truck driver to lose complete control and the truck can barrel down the highway with the trailer sideways. In addition, a coupling can completely come apart, which can cause a runaway trailer that continues down the road with no control. Needless to say, either of these situations can be extremely devastating for any motorists in the trailer’s path.
Cargo Spills as a Result of an Accident
The cargo that is carried in a large commercial trailer can also contribute to additional injuries and damage in the event of a collision. In many cases–especially in rollover accidents–the trailer door may open and allow cargo to spill onto the road. This debris can result in additional crashes or can damage vehicles as it spills. Flatbed trucks are particularly dangerous in this situation as there are no walls or doors to contain the cargo and the load on flatbeds is often over-sized or heavy. Cargo spills can also be highly dangerous if the cargo is toxic or flammable. In such situations, a spill can result in an explosion, fire, or exposure injuries to anyone near the scene of the accident.
Because the injuries in truck accidents are often more serious due to the sheer dynamics of a truck collision, the legal cases that follow are generally more complex and involve significant damages. If you have been adversely affected by a trucking collision, it is important that you are represented by a law firm that fully understands the unique dynamics of a truck accident and who can help you obtain the full value of your claim.