Commercial trucking accidents: what you need to know

According to statistics provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there are more than 330,000 commercial truck accidents across the country each year. These accidents result in thousands of deaths and more than 100,000 injuries annually. If you have been involved in an accident with a semi truck, tractor trailer, delivery van, box truck, 18-wheeler, "big rig" or other commercial vehicle, you likely know that the huge weight and size disparity between these trucks and passenger cars usually means that the occupants of the smaller vehicles suffer the worst injuries in these crashes.

Why do these accidents happen?

Like other car wrecks and motor vehicle collisions, truck accidents happen for a number of different reasons. Oftentimes, the truck driver him or herself is at fault, including situations involving:

  • Driving drunk/under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI/DWI/OWI) including stimulants like caffeine or other illicit substances designed to keep the driver awake for long periods of time so he or she can cover more miles before stopping to rest - it is vitally important to remember that any miscalculation, mistake, error or overcorrection on the part of a trucker is magnified by the volume of the vehicle itself, so any misstep (even something as small as a slight swerve) can easily result in a tragic accident if the driver is intoxicated or otherwise under the influence.
  • Driving while distracted - which can include such things as texting, emailing, surfing the web, updating social networks, reading directions on a GPS device, eating, drinking, reading a map, reading a book/newspaper, watching a DVD, changing the music selection or other activities.
  • "Drowsy driving" - various pay structures and fee scales make it so that some drivers are pushed to meet unrealistic mileage or load delivery goals in order to earn a living. This leads some of them to forge log books, skip mandatory rest breaks and go without sleep for unsafe periods just to cover more miles in a shorter time. Numerous studies have shown that driving while fatigued can be just as dangerous as drunk driving.
  • Failing to maintain their vehicles - some unscrupulous drivers or the companies that employ them will skimp on much-needed maintenance to vital truck systems like transmissions, brakes and oil changes to save money; this can lead to equipment failures at highway speeds, something that can easily result in injury-causing or fatal accidents.

Of course, this is not to say that all truck accidents are directly caused by some fault on the part of the trucker. In some situations, roadway design, defective engine components, faulty tires, fellow motorists in passing vehicles, weather conditions or other causes may be to blame.

Regardless, if you have been involved in a truck accident, though, you have legal rights. You should speak with an experienced trucking accident attorney - like those at the Colorado law offices of FleschLaw - as soon as possible to ensure that those legal rights are protected and that an accurate determination can be made regarding the cause of the accident and who is to blame for the harms you have suffered.