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Understanding Driver Error in Truck Accidents

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Trucks are essential to American commerce, delivering much-needed wares across the country. Unfortunately, they’re also a significant source of accidents, and given the size of the trucks, it’s not surprising that many of those accidents result in injuries for the others involved. All too often, driver error plays a role in truck accidents. Here’s what you need to know.

How Prevalent Are Truck Accidents Caused by Driver Error?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration conducted the Large Truck Crash Causation Study in 2019. The study investigated 963 crashes involving 1,123 large trucks and 959 other motor vehicles out of a pool of 120,000 crashes that led to injuries or death over a 33-month period. It defined large trucks as those pulling semi-trailers and trucks carrying hazardous substances. The study found that driver error caused 87% of all truck crashes.
In other words, driver error is a critical component of most truck accidents.

What Kinds of Errors Do Truck Drivers Make That Cause Accidents?

Unfortunately, there are many. Truck drivers are subject to the same lapses in judgment as people driving personal vehicles, even if we imagine someone driving professionally would take more caution. The above study broke accidents into four types of “driver-critical” causes.

Here are some examples of common truck driver errors that lead to accidents and injuries or death.

  • Performance. This involves a driver losing control of the truck, whether because they’re panicked about something happening on the road or because they over- or undercorrected trying to right a previous error or avoid something else happening on the road. This can lead the truck to move into oncoming traffic unexpectedly, drive off the road, or tip over.
  • Decision. This involves the truck driver’s decision-making process, whether intentional or unintentional. That includes things like speeding, driving too close to another vehicle, not taking road conditions into account (such as when driving on wet or icy roads), or not paying attention to the speed of other vehicles on the road.
  • Recognition. In more recognizable terms, this is what’s known today as distracted driving. Anything inside or outside the truck that distracts the driver from focusing on their driving, whether it’s using their phone or adjusting instruments on the dashboard, eating, or reading a billboard on the side of the road, can cause them to crash because they weren’t paying attention.
  • Nonperformance. If the driver falls asleep at the wheel (fatigue is definitely a known problem for truck drivers, and there are trucking companies that pressure drivers to continue driving beyond the safety point), passes out because of a medical condition, or is in no condition to drive due to drug or alcohol use, they can cause an accident.

What Are Other Causes of Accidents Involving Trucks?

While driver error is the primary cause of many accidents, other situations can cause a truck to be in an accident. Working with an experienced truck accident attorney is advised, as they have the experience to help determine the cause of the accident and who should be liable for your damages. These are complex cases that can benefit from professional legal guidance.

  • Maintenance issues. Because trucks travel long distances and often carry heavy loads, they should be rigorously maintained by the truck’s owner, whether that’s the driver or a trucking company. If they’re not properly maintained, there can be mechanical failures that cause crashes.
  • Defects. Even in a properly maintained truck, there may be manufacturing defects that cause mechanical problems. In these cases, the truck’s manufacturer may be liable.
  • Improperly loaded cargo. Loading a semi-truck involves science, not just casual stashing and stowing. If a truck isn’t loaded carefully, the cargo can shift unexpectedly and cause the vehicle to swerve or even tip over. In these cases, if a third party was involved in loading the truck, they may be liable for the accident.
  • Hiring practices. Trucking companies that don’t conduct background checks when hiring drivers or don’t properly train drivers may be liable for accidents.

What Should I Do if I’ve Been in a Truck Accident That Caused Me Injuries?

If the accident didn’t incapacitate you, try to get the contact information for anyone that was an eyewitness and make a note of any buildings, commercial or residential, that could have security cameras that might have filmed the accident. Collect the name of the truck driver and the trucking company.

Then see a doctor as soon as possible. You may feel absolutely fine, but there are injuries that don’t manifest symptoms right away, including severe injuries that can become life-threatening if not immediately treated.

Once you’ve been to a doctor, call Brent Adams & Associates at 910-249-6891 for a free consultation. Our team of knowledgeable, experienced truck accident attorneys can guide you through the process of determining if the truck driver or trucking company was at fault and begin building a case to get you the compensation you deserve.

Something not to do: Don’t engage in any communication with the truck driver, the trucking company, its insurance representatives, or its attorneys. Their goal is to reduce or remove all responsibility for the accident from their side. They may try to get you to accept the blame for the accident, or they might try to convince you to sign a settlement agreement much lower than you might be eligible for. If you receive any communications from them, don’t respond, but forward them to your own attorney.

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