How Large Truck and Tractor-Trailer Accidents Are Different
There are various kinds of accidents on the road, including car accidents, hit-and-runs, pedestrian accidents, and bicycle-car accidents. All can be devastating, but undoubtedly some of the most destructive involve trucks or tractor-trailers (a.k.a., big rigs, semis, or 18-wheelers).
Truck and tractor-trailer accidents are, unfortunately, not uncommon, with an estimated total of 433,000 accidents in 2015 involving large trucks, according to data from the NHTSA. Recently, in Duncan, SC, a tractor-trailer on I-85 struck and killed a man who was changing a tire on his car. Last month, two men from Anderson were killed and two more injured when their car collided with the wheels of a tractor-trailer. Also in Anderson, even more recently, a woman was killed in a collision with a tractor-trailer at an intersection. The victim, 79-year-old Estelle Wood, was on her way to get her last round of shots in her second battle with cancer when she was struck by a garbage truck that ran a red light.
Due to their sheer size and power, accidents involving these enormous vehicles, which can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, often result in greater damage compared to typical car accidents. That is not the only difference, though – here is how traffic accidents involving large trucks and tractor-trailers are different.
Fatality rate is higher by vehicle type
The good news is that the number of fatalities in large truck/tractor-trailer accidents has decreased between 2006 and 2015, from 5,027 to 4,067. Still, that 4,067 represents more than 10% of the estimated 38,300 motor vehicle fatalities in 2015, while big trucks make up less than 4% of the vehicles on the road. That means there are a disproportionate number of fatalities by vehicle type for large trucks.
Also, because of their sheer size, large trucks are less likely to be damaged than smaller vehicles involved in the accident, and their occupants are less likely to die. In fatal accidents involving large trucks, 74% of those who died were occupants of other vehicles, 10% were non-occupants (e.g., pedestrians), and 16% were occupants of the trucks.
Damages are larger, too
Again, because of their size, large trucks can do tremendous amounts of property and bodily damage when involved in an accident.
To protect themselves, truckers and trucking companies have large insurance policies, with anywhere from $750,000 to over $5 million in liability insurance. This means that plaintiffs who are successful in a lawsuit stand to have much higher levels of compensation than they would be entitled to in other motor vehicle accidents. For instance, in South Carolina, non-commercial drivers are only required to carry a minimum of $25,000/$50,000 liability coverage – meaning most insured drivers on South Carolina roads carry only up to $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident liability insurance coverage. Thankfully, trucking companies and other commercial carriers are required to carry much more insurance coverage to protect others on the roadway.
Determining liability is less straightforward
In a typical motor vehicle accident involving two cars, determining fault may not be easy but it is often fairly straightforward. That is, usually one driver or the other is primarily responsible for the accident.
In accidents involving large trucks, it is often much more complicated. The fault may be spread among other motor vehicle drivers involved in the accident as well as the trucking company, the trucker, the trucker’s employer, the truck owner, and the truck or parts manufacturer. A complicated accident might lead to multiple lawsuits and require the involvement of many experts and accident reconstructionists.
Trucking companies have experienced lawyers on their side – do you?
With so much money at stake, truckers and trucking companies often have their own investigators in addition to their own lawyers who are protecting their interests. In fact, most large trucking companies routinely have an “emergency response” team that includes a team of lawyers to immediately respond to any significant accident in an attempt to minimize exposure to the company and its insurance carrier. If you or a loved one have been injured in an accident involving a truck or tractor-trailer or if you have lost a loved one due to such a tragic accident, you need to make sure you are working with someone who is advocating for you. The personal injury attorneys of The Carolina Law Group have experience with truck and tractor-trailer accident cases and are ready to discuss your case with you. To schedule your free initial consultation, contact us today by filling out this form or call us at one of the numbers below.
The Carolina Law Group has four offices across South Carolina for your convenience: Greenville (principal office; call 864.312.4444), West Greenville (864.312.4444), Greer (principal office; call 864.757.5555), and Spartanburg. Call today.
NHTSA: PDF and https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/#/
NSC: http://www.nsc.org/Connect/NSCNewsReleases/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=103 and http://www.nsc.org/Connect/NSCNewsReleases/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=180