A truck accident can cause more damage and wrongful deaths than a passenger car because of their weight and speed, and can involve more liability issues.
When a large commercial vehicle such as a semi-truck or tractor trailer is involved in a collision, the damage is hardly ever minimal. Trucks can weigh up to 20 to 30 times the average passenger car, are often fully loaded to a possible maximum of 80,000 pounds, and can reach speeds matching lighter cars on highways. As a result, trucks moving at a full legal speed might need 20% to 40% more room to brake before coming to a complete stop—which may not be enough to prevent an accident.
Deadlines, Exhaustion, and Truck Accidents
Commercial truck drivers are often under tight deadlines from their employers. Although federal regulations limit the hours a truck driver can legally work to 11 per day and 77 per week, these deadlines can compel drivers to work past both legal and physical limits and create more risks of a collision. In some cases, drivers may even be asked to ignore safety precautions in order for the business to improve its bottom line.
As a result, innocent members of the community are often the ones who bear the consequences of these actions—of those lost in large truck crashes in 2014, 68% were the occupants of passenger cars. Too often, in their search for profits, owners and drivers of commercial vehicles ignore safe driving rules—rules they themselves established for proper operation or just plain common sense.
Exhaustion has been found to impair drivers as much as alcohol; much like alcohol, exhaustion can impair a driver’s perception and judgment and limit their reaction time. All of this can and does put both truck drivers and those sharing the road with them at risk of wrongful deaths, with exhaustion causing thousands of fatal crashes every year in the USA.
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Trucks Are Vulnerable to More External Factors
Because of the commercial demands on large trucks—the sheer weight they must haul across the country promptly—the design of trucks are vulnerable in ways ordinary passenger cars are not:
Weather: The massive weights and speeds of commercial trucks mean they are much more likely to slide or fail to brake properly when it rains, snows, or sleets.
Blind Spots: Every vehicle has blind spots—areas around the vehicle which the driver cannot see directly. In most passenger vehicles, the placement of windows and mirrors minimizes these blind spots. Trucks, on the other hand, have much larger blind spots in proportion to their larger size. Driving directly behind the truck or alongside it places you at more risk of being in the truck driver’s blind spot and at risk of a fatal accident if the driver decides to merge to stop unexpectedly.
Maneuvering: The fundamental laws of physics means that larger objects need more speed to move and more space to change directions. Nowhere is that law more evident than with commercial trucks; driving uphill, changing lanes, or even the simple act of turning all take more coordination and space for trucks than for cars. Many trucks also drift backwards if they are stopped on steep hills because of their manual transmissions. Most famously, trucks require wide right turns because of their rigging designs, placing any cars in the lane to the right of them at risk.
Commercial Truck Wrongful Death Liability
If you or a loved one are involved in a fatal accident with a commercial truck, determining who exactly is liable can be complicated. The truck driver might be at fault if their error caused the accident, but if they were driving as an employee of a company (as opposed to being a contractor) then the employing company might be liable for any wrongful deaths caused by the accident.
If the crash is caused by a mechanical issue, then the owner—which could be the truck driver or a separate company entirely—might be liable. If the wrongful death occurs by any hazardous materials being transported by the truck, then the manufacturer might be liable for the wrongful deaths.
Contact a Truck Accident Lawyer in Massachusetts
A commercial vehicle collision that causes the wrongful death of a loved one leaves a family feeling lost. It may be difficult to determine who actually caused the truck accident, as both the insurance companies and the negligent company work hard to avoid taking responsibility for their actions. They may offer condolences, but they do so while tacitly seeking to shift the blame for your loved one’s injury. A wrongful death lawyer can help.
At Mazow | McCullough, PC, our experienced wrongful death attorneys in Massachusetts never let a company off the hook for its actions. When we are retained in a semi-truck collision suit, we dig deep to find the root cause of the incident. We seek to maximize our client’s recovery, and to change the practices of the trucking industry to prevent a similar tragedy from happening again.