Any vehicle on the road has the potential to be involved in a severe accident, but large trucks pose an especially prominent threat due to their size and weight.
A fully laden truck can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, and the position of the cab creates blind spots for the driver. In collisions between a semi-truck and a passenger vehicle, the passenger vehicle’s occupants often suffer severe or fatal injuries, while the truck driver is seldom injured.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and National Safety Council (NSC) tracked large truck accidents and compiled these statistics for 2020 and 2021:
- The number of large truck crashes decreased from 2019 to 2020, but this is likely because there were fewer vehicles on the road in general during the pandemic.
- In 2020, there were 4,842 fatal accidents involving large trucks; that number rose to 5,788 in 2021. About 71 percent, or 4,149, of the fatalities were people in passenger vehicles.
- That same year, semi trucks were also involved in 107,000 accidents that resulted in injuries. Again, the number increased to 117,300 the following year, and about 71 percent of those injuries occurred in passenger vehicle occupants.
- The majority of fatal truck crashes (just under 74 percent) do not occur on interstate highways, while almost two-thirds (63.5 percent) happen during daytime hours
Why Should You Contact an Illinois Truck Accident Attorney Right Away?
Being involved in an accident with a semi-truck can be terrifying, and many people suffer serious injuries. You may be in the hospital for days, weeks, or months, and it could be even longer before you can return to work or your normal activities at home.
While your bills pile up, the trucking company’s legal team will be working to reduce their liability as much as possible. Even though commercial truckers are required to carry significant liability insurance, the trucking company won’t want their insurance rates to go up or their safety record to go down, and their agents will search for any way to argue the accident was your fault.
You can protect your right to appropriate compensation for your injuries by consulting an Illinois truck accident attorney right away.
How Did This Happen? Understanding Truck Accidents and Fault
When we study a truck accident case, we work to gather evidence and determine any and all liable parties. In many cases, the injured person assumes the truck driver was at fault, and often that’s true.
But there could be other liable parties, including
- The trucking company
- The truck manufacturer or a component manufacturer
- A mechanic or service worker who made an error while working on the truck
- A third party, such as a company responsible for loading the truck
Types of Truck Accidents
There are also many different kinds of truck accidents and different ways they can occur. Here are some of the most common types of truck accidents and their frequent causes:
This is probably one of the most frightening scenarios to imagine when thinking about truck accidents. Because of their high center of gravity and the top-heavy nature of the trailer, semis are more prone to flipping or rolling over than lower-to-the-ground vehicles.
The risk increases if the driver swerves or takes a turn or curve too fast, so it’s the driver’s responsibility to be careful in these situations.
Sometimes, after a rollover, we investigate and find that the driver was going too fast or otherwise driving carelessly. They might have been distracted, intoxicated, or simply too tired to be driving (despite federal rules about how long truckers can drive for and mandated rest periods).
In other situations, weather conditions like wind or a blown tire can cause a rollover. Cargo problems can also increase the risk of rollovers – if the freight in the trailer isn’t properly secured or is stacked with too much weight on the top, the trailer is more prone to flipping.
Unfortunately, when a truck rolls over, it can crush any vehicles on the side where it rolls. This is one reason why it’s inadvisable to spend much time next to a semi.
If you have to pass, wait until there is ample room ahead of the truck and then pass as quickly as possible.
A truck driver who is distracted or speeding can cause a serious accident by running into the vehicle ahead of them. Being rear-ended by a semi-truck can result in much more serious damage and injuries than a rear-end collision with another passenger vehicle (which can still cause severe injuries).
As with most rear-end accidents, these incidents are most likely to be the truck driver’s fault. However, there are a few exceptions, such as when a smaller vehicle cuts too closely in front of a semi.
We strongly recommend that you avoid cutting in front of large trucks – the driver sits up high and can’t see a smaller vehicle that is too close to the front of the cab. If you need to change lanes and move over in front of a large truck, be sure to get several car lengths ahead before switching lanes so the driver can see you.
Accidents where the car rear-ends the semi-truck also tend to cause more damage than a collision between two cars – but mostly to the passenger vehicle. In some cases, the rear vehicle sustains significant damage while the truck driver is unaware the collision has even happened.
In other situations, the car actually passes underneath the trailer and may become stuck there – this is known as an underride accident. Usually, the rear driver in a rear-end accident is at fault for following too closely.
However, in some underride accidents, the truck driver or trucking company may also be responsible for several reasons:
- Lack of proper underride guards. Because underride accidents can cause serious injuries and fatalities, large trucks must install underride guards to prevent vehicles from sliding under the trailer. However, in some cases, the guards are installed incorrectly or are not the right size for the trailer, increasing the risk of an accident.
- Poor visibility. Drivers are expected to maintain a safe following distance from the vehicles in front of them. But the back of a trailer is much less visible than the closely spaced and brightly lit taillights of a car. If the truck’s brake lights are dirty or not working, a trailer can be nearly impossible to see, especially at night or in low visibility conditions like fog.
- Cutting in front of a smaller vehicle. Trucks have large blind spots, but drivers are taught to use their mirrors and change lanes carefully. If a trucker cuts in front of a passenger car, a collision may be inevitable, even if the car’s driver is paying attention and brakes quickly.
Illinois uses modified comparative negligence, so in underride crashes, it’s possible both parties may share some blame. For instance, the rear driver may have been following too closely, but if the truck had the wrong underride guard, then the trucking company could also be at fault.
In these situations, we will work to highlight how much responsibility lies with the truck driver or trucking company. If you are less than 50 percent at fault, you can still collect damages from the more responsible party, but you will lose your percentage of fault from the final award.
Handling turns and curves is an especially delicate job when driving a truck. Sometimes, instead of flipping, the trailer slides to the side, traveling horizontally across the road and moving toward the cab. When this occurs, it can sweep away any cars in its path.
These accidents are very dangerous for passenger car occupants caught between the trailer and cab.
Often, jackknife accidents are caused by driver error. They may have been going too fast on a curve or turn or hit the brakes in a curve, causing the trailer to shift. Again, improperly loaded cargo can also contribute to jackknifing.
These most often happen at intersections. A truck driver may run a red light or stop sign because they’re distracted, but sometimes they think the way is clear because they don’t see a smaller vehicle.
When a truck hits the side of a smaller vehicle, any occupants on that side of the car frequently suffer severe injuries, which may be even worse if the truck is speeding. Because it takes a long time for a truck to stop, sometimes the car is pushed out of the intersection and strikes another vehicle or even an object on the side of the road, adding to the damage.
When a car hits the side of the truck, an underride accident can occur. These can be especially serious because there are usually no underride guards on the side of the trailer, only the back. (Some trucks have side guards, but as these are not required in the US, many do not.)
Truck drivers undergo extensive training to ensure safety, so if a trucker crosses the center line, it’s often because they were either intoxicated or driving while overtired.
Earlier, we noted the problem of drivers “cheating” on their electronic logs so they can continue to drive when they should be taking a rest period. In many of these cases, we find that the driver was under intense pressure from the trucking company to complete deliveries faster and felt the only way to do so was to drive for more hours than allowed.
Then they fell asleep at the wheel, the truck drifted into the oncoming lane, and a terrible accident happened.
Head-on collisions between trucks and cars usually don’t harm the truck driver but can cause devastating and sometimes fatal injuries for the car occupants, especially those in the front seat. Survivors may spend months in the hospital and suffer permanent disabilities or chronic pain.
These happen when the truck and the other vehicle are both heading in the same direction. In many cases, both vehicles are on a multi-lane highway or freeway in adjacent lanes, and the semi-truck driver tries to change lanes without carefully checking their blind spots.
The side of the trailer hits or scrapes the passenger vehicle, and sometimes, the smaller vehicle is forced off the road, or the driver loses control trying to avoid the semi. While you should stay out of the driver’s blind spots as much as possible, it’s still the driver’s responsibility to ensure the way is clear before changing lanes.
Wide Turn Accidents
Making a right turn in a large truck is a far more difficult process than making a similar turn in a car. The driver has to safely maneuver an entire 53-foot trailer across multiple lanes of traffic, a move that takes considerable skill.
But if the turn is mishandled, it can put other vehicles on the road at risk, especially when truck drivers “swing wide” into the left lane before turning right onto another street or into a driveway. This wide swing can endanger other vehicles and lead to T-bone collisions and underride accidents.
The FMCSA actually advises against the wide right turn and instead suggests that drivers pull straight into the nearest lane of the road they’re turning onto. Then, they can move to another lane when it’s safe to do so. However, the wide turn is still commonly used by many truckers.
This is another situation where vehicle drivers may share fault with the driver. While the trucker should use proper procedures for turning and avoid taking up half the highway with a wide swing, other drivers should exercise good judgment.
If you see a truck making a wide right turn ahead, stop where you are and wait until it’s finished and out of the way. Never try to make a right turn while a semi turns from the left, even if you think they’re heading for the left lane – it’s too easy to get clipped by the truck in these situations.
Still, if you were injured in this type of accident, we may be able to recover damages for you if we can show that the truck driver was mostly at fault.
Drivers have more space when turning left but may cause an accident if they turn against the light or otherwise violate another vehicle’s right of way.
How Can You Get Help From an Illinois Truck Accident Attorney?
Please contact The Fakhouri Firm Accident and Injury Lawyers for a free consultation about your truck accident. We understand how devastating a truck accident can be, and we will review your case and explain your options for seeking compensation.
There is no obligation, and if we take your case, you won’t owe us anything until we win or settle it.
Founder and lead attorney Robert S. Fakhouri was one of the youngest people ever to join the Illinois Bar, and he has been fighting for injured clients ever since. Experienced in litigation and negotiation, he strives to achieve the best possible outcome for each client.
In his spare time, you can find him breaking down legal topics for his many followers on social media. Work with his team at The Fakhouri Firm by calling us at (312) 999-9990 today.