A truck carrying cars drives down a Salt Lake City highway.

Loaded with the essential items we all need, trucks pass through Utah every day. Some are dropping off a delivery while others continue east or west. Necessary as they are, trucks can also pose a hazard to other vehicles on the road and their occupants, especially if the driver or another party behaves negligently. Because of their size and weight, trucks can cause much more damage than a simple passenger vehicle in a collision.

What Causes Large Truck Accidents and How Can a Salt Lake City Truck Accident Attorney Help?

Because of the high rates of injuries and fatalities associated with truck accidents, federal regulations aim to reduce these risks as much as possible. They require that truck drivers limit the hours they drive and rest for a certain number of hours, maintain at least $750,000 in liability insurance, follow inspection and maintenance standards, and more.

Nevertheless, hundreds of thousands of large truck crashes occur each year. In 2020, there were more than 439,000 of these accidents, resulting in 4,965 deaths and 146,930 injuries. Here are some of the most common causes of these terrible collisions:

Fatigued Driving

Drivers who are overtired or drowsy exhibit many of the same behaviors as drunk drivers – they weave between lanes, they have difficulty maintaining a consistent speed, and they have poor reaction times. This is why federal regulators insist on time limits and rest breaks for drivers. However, in some circumstances, drivers may find ways to “cheat” on their electronic logs.

Why do drivers feel the need to continue when they’re already tired? In many cases, they face pressure from employers with unrealistic expectations about when a load should be delivered. A driver worried about getting fired or losing a bonus may take unnecessary risks, including driving well past the point when they should stop and rest. 

Driving While Intoxicated

The good news is that truck drivers involved in crashes are much less likely to be intoxicated than drivers of smaller vehicles. In 2019, only about two percent of truckers in fatal crashes had a blood alcohol level above the legal limit – as opposed to about 20 percent for drivers of passenger cars in similar accidents. Drivers receive random drug and alcohol tests during employment and must pass a drug test before being hired.

However, the small percentage of truck drivers who cause an accident while intoxicated can still do considerable damage. In some of these cases, we find that the trucking company did not test their drivers regularly or ignored complaints about a driver.

Driving While Distracted

No one should allow a phone or other electronics to distract them while driving, but it’s especially dangerous when the driver of a big rig gives in to distraction. Most of the time, truck drivers understand the importance of focusing on their driving, but occasionally one of them might take a quick look at a device. Unfortunately, all it takes is a quick look to cause an accident that could critically injure or even kill someone in a passenger car.

Hiring, Training, and Staffing Practices

In addition to screening for drug and alcohol abuse, trucking companies should conduct background checks and verify a driver’s employment history and experience. Hiring an inexperienced driver or one who doesn’t have the proper certification for the job can also increase the risk of accidents.

Sometimes, hiring managers get into a jam and assign an otherwise qualified driver to a job they don’t have the proper certifications to do. For example, some drivers are perfectly capable of driving a truck filled with typical merchandise but lack HAZMAT certification. If one of these drivers is assigned to a truck filled with dangerous chemicals, even for a single trip, this can put both the driver and others on the road at risk.

Trucking company managers should also monitor drivers for minor difficulties that could indicate potential problems. If a manager ignores changes in a driver’s behavior, they may be negligent.

Vehicle Problems

Not every truck accident is due to driver error. Sometimes there is a mechanical problem with the truck, such as a brake failure or a tire blowout. Truckers are required to do a pre-trip and check that everything is in working order, but sometimes they hit a dead end. If the trucking company tells them to keep driving or promises to fix an issue later, they may continue with small issues that quickly get bigger. Often we find a pattern of negligence at the trucking company in these situations.

However, proper maintenance won’t solve every issue. If the truck has a defective component or a mechanic made an error when fixing the truck, these problems can lead to an accident even if the truck driver takes care to do pre-trips and the trucking company is receptive to addressing difficulties. In these situations, the injured person may have a claim against a third party, like the truck or component manufacturer, or the mechanic.

One of the most dangerous types of truck accidents occurs when the truck rolls over, or the trailer flips on its side. The weight of the trailer can crush any vehicle next to it, and occupants of the passenger vehicle are likely to be seriously injured or killed. This is one reason why it’s recommended that you spend as little time as possible on the side of a large truck (being in the driver’s blind spot is another). If you have to pass a tractor-trailer, do it as fast as possible to reduce the risk.

The cause of flipping or rollover accidents is usually a problem with the freight. Trailers are boxy and easy to flip, but this tendency is much stronger if the cargo is stacked incorrectly. Ideally, the heaviest items should be on the bottom, making the trailer less top-heavy. Additionally, all cargo should be tied down so the weight can’t shift while the truck is moving. If heavy items shift from one side of the trailer to the other as the driver makes a turn, this could easily flip the trailer.

Determining who is responsible for these crashes can be complicated. Ultimately fault usually lies with the party responsible for loading the truck. That might be the trucking company, the driver, or even a third party, such as staff members at a warehouse or retail store.

Ignoring Traffic Laws

Speeding can increase the risk of accidents and the likelihood of injuries in an accident for people in passenger vehicles, but it can create even more risk when a truck driver is speeding. It’s hard enough to stop a fully-laden semi at the speed limit, let alone higher speeds. Breaking other traffic laws, such as running a red light or stop sign, is also riskier in a semi. If we find that the truck driver engaged in these or other unsafe and illegal practices, we will fight to get you compensation for your injuries.

How Difficult Is It to Receive Compensation for Your Injuries After a Large Truck Accident?

While truck drivers usually have robust liability coverage of $750,000 – $1,000,000, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to get your damages paid. The trucking company will not want their insurance rates to increase, and the driver won’t want to lose their job or even their CDL. Then there’s the insurance company adjuster, whose goal is to save the company as much money as possible. As a result, you may have multiple obstacles in the way of recovering your damages. Here are several of the most common problems with collecting from the insurance company:

  • The trucker, the insurance company, the trucking company, or all three entities insist you were at fault. Even in situations where the trucker is cited for an infraction, the insurance company will look for any excuse to place some of the blame on you. Under Utah law,  even if the other driver is primarily responsible for an accident, you can lose any percentage of fault you have from your final award. Your truck accident lawyer will work to refute their claims and show that you had little or no responsibility.
  • If they can’t find a way to shift the blame to you, the insurance company may say that your accident isn’t covered due to their interpretation of a clause in the insurance policy. Your personal injury lawyer in Salt Lake City will study the policy and use their knowledge of insurance law to fight the claim denial.
  • In some cases, the insurance company makes you a settlement offer right away, but beware – this could be too good to be true. A fast offer is frequently a lowball offer. The insurance adjuster recognizes that they can’t get out of paying your claim or even reduce it by claiming you are at fault. Instead, the adjuster offers you a settlement that is much too small for your damages, knowing that few people can correctly value their own claim. Your attorney will help you by accurately calculating your damages and, if the insurance company’s offer is too low, will negotiate to get you a reasonable settlement instead.

Contact Our Salt Lake City Truck Accident Law Firm Today

A large truck accident can leave you or a loved one with severe, life-changing injuries, including chronic pain or permanent disability. We know how difficult it can be to get back on your feet and how much you will need the compensation you deserve for your injuries. Please contact Valley Law Accident and Injury Lawyers for a free consultation about your truck accident case. We’ll review the case, answer your questions, and help you develop a plan to recover your damages. Call us today at 801-810-9999.

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We have helped many clients recover from injuries resulting from car accidents in West Valley, Salt Lake City, and the greater Utah area. We are here to help you recover after an accident. If you've been injured, don't hesitate to call Valley Law Accident and Injury Lawyers for a free consultation. We have recovered millions for our clients and we are ready to fight for you.

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