Semi-trucks are an integral part of the economy—but at a cost to the public in some ways. With so many traveling main roads and highways for deliveries, they tend to take up a lot of real estate on the roadways.
Trucking accidents are typically more severe than accidents between smaller vehicles. In 2018 in Illinois alone, there were 12,267 trucking accidents according to the Illinois Department of Transportation. 951 of these were fatal crashes that resulted in 1,035 fatalities. In 2019, that number was close, with 938 fatal crashes and 1,009 resulting fatalities. (Source: Illinois Fatal Crash Historic Data) This issue is both an urban one and a rural one.
What Makes Truck Accidents So Dangerous
Semi-trucks are very large and more difficult to control than the average small vehicle, which is why they require different training and licensure to drive. If something goes wrong, The size and weight of these trucks can cause immense property damage and catastrophic injuries. Truck accidents are the type of auto accident people don't easily walk away from. Many times, the damage caused by a truck accident depends on the type of truck accident.
Types of Truck Accidents
There are many reasons that a truck accident could happen, some relating to driver error, mechanical failure, or trucking company negligence. Here are some of the most common types of truck accidents:
T-Bone Truck Accidents
These typically happen at intersections and involve a truck driver crashing into another vehicle at roughly a 90-degree angle. These most commonly occur when a driver runs a traffic signal or stop sign.
Head-On Truck Accidents
These typically occur when a truck loses control and swerves into oncoming traffic, usually at high speeds. These most commonly occur when a driver is drowsy, driving under the influence, or is distracted. A less common reason could be mechanical failure. Head-on collisions are usually the most severe or deadly.
Rear-End Truck Accidents
Semi-trucks require a greater distance and lead time to react to the cars in front of them. If they are following a vehicle too closely, or a car cuts in front of them and brakes and they don't have enough reaction time, that can be detrimental. At high speeds, rear-end collisions can total vehicles and cause severe injuries.
This type of truck accident occurs when a semi-truck driver is heavy on the breaks and their trailer skids on the road (could be due to rain or pure speed), causing a V-shape with the truck cab. Many times, this is when you see vehicle pile-ups occur because they can't get around the jackknifed semi-truck.
Spilled Cargo Truck Accidents
Sometimes, the load that a semi-truck is carrying wasn't loaded and secured properly. When this happens, it can lead to uneven loads that cause imbalances in the truck and could topple it. Or it isn't properly secured, it could come tumbling out and down all over the roadway.
Underride Truck Accidents
These are perhaps one of the most dangerous and fatal truck accidents and involve a car getting lodged under a truck. It most commonly happens when a car is tailgating a truck and a truck has to stop suddenly and the car doesn't have enough time to react.
Causes of Commercial Trucking Accidents
Trucking accidents can be the result of the driver's training, state of mind, or level of fatigue; they can also stem from issues with the truck itself or the condition of the roads. Though we discussed some causes of particular types of accidents above, here is an overview of common causes of trucking accidents.
- Inattentive driving
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Incomplete or improper driver training
- Poor judgment
- Dangerous road conditions
- Overweight trucks
- Poorly loaded or maintained trucks
Often, trucking accidents are the result of truck drivers trying to adhere to company expectations. Many truckers find themselves racing against the clock to deliver within a short amount of time. This can lead to fatigued drivers or speeding. Because companies are driven by profit, many truck drivers are operating under unreasonable expectations that can lead to risky behaviors.
Truck accidents can cause all of the same serious injuries as car accidents, but the size and weight of the trucks can cause the seriousness of the injuries to increase to catastrophic or deadly. Injuries that could happen as a result of a truck accident include:
- Bone breakage or fracturing
- Head trauma
- Neck injuries
- Back and spinal cord injuries
- Internal bleeding
- Crushed limbs
- Severe burns
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
When to See a Lawyer after a Truck Accident
It's best to contact an attorney as soon as possible following a commercial trucking accident. This is particularly important to do before you talk to insurance companies or anyone else asking questions or accepting any settlement following your accident. Because truck accidents can be far more complicated than auto accidents, having a knowledgeable and experienced attorney can help you navigate the process.
How an Attorney Can Help
An attorney can help you identify who was liable for the trucking accident and help you get compensation for any damages, injuries, or deaths that occurred if you were not the party at fault. Truck accidents are complex cases and it's always a good idea to have a lawyer in your corner to help you handle the legal side of things. If you were to sue for damages, negligence, or wrongful death, you could potentially name any of the following parties if they were found responsible:
- The truck driver
- The truck owner or the trucking company
- A different motorist who caused the truck to get in an accident
- The truck manufacturer
Any of these parties may have contributed to your accident, and our lawyers can help you determine who is liable and how much of your compensation they should be responsible for. If you lost a loved one to a trucking accident, our lawyers can walk alongside you to sue for damages and wrongful death.
Compensation for Trucking Accidents
Court-awarded compensation you could potentially get with the help of one of our lawyers include:
- Medical treatment costs: Emergency room visits, surgery, hospitalization, lab tests, ambulance rides, prescriptions, and aftercare.
- Future medical costs: Long-term treatment and lifelong care for disabilities
- Rehabilitation costs: Physical therapy, chiropractic, counseling, etc
- Assistive device costs: Crutches, walkers, wheelchairs, etc
- Lost wages: The money you would have earned after the accident
- Non-economic damages: Pain and suffering, loss of consortium, etc
- Punitive damages: In the event of misconduct or recklessness, plaintiffs may receive additional compensation
- Wrongful death: Damages such as pain and suffering, and expenses paid for funerals or medical bills
Factors at Play in Trucking Accident Settlements
Trucking accident claims are a type of personal injury claim, so you would need a personal injury lawyer to represent you. When your lawyer files the claim, the settlement is typically then decided by a court, and they take the following into account:
- Evidence: It's important to document as much evidence as possible regarding the trucking accident. Trucking companies work hard to minimize the amounts they have to pay out in claims, and they will most definitely use your lack of evidence to dispute the claim. All photos, videos, body shop receipts, testimonies from witnesses, medical records, etc, are evidence that will be used in a court of law. These can prove the extent of the damage done to your vehicle, injuries you got as a result, and even who is at fault.
- Liability: Establishing who is at fault and to what extent is a key component of personal injury cases. The more parties and the more at fault they are can mean a larger settlement for those injured. If you are found partially responsible, that amount decreases.
- The extend of damages and their effects: Larger property damage, extensive injuries, lingering pain and suffering, or wrongful death all impact the amount awarded for damages. As long as there is thorough documentation for this and you have a great lawyer, you should receive the highest settlement amount possible for the trucking accident.
- Economic damages: There is a tangible monetary value for what you've lost as a result of the accident. This can include physical damages to your property, any lost wages, and medical and therapy bills.
- Noneconomic damages: These are damages that don't come with a set monetary value, like pain and suffering, loss of mobility, loss of life, or any expenses that are accrued when you try to return to normal life after disfigurement.
- Punitive damages: In cases of malicious or willful or extreme negligence, a claim can call for punitive damages. They are always in addition to the other damages to punish the defendant and to establish that a repeat will not be tolerated.
Frequently Asked Questions About Commercial Trucking Accidents
Here are answers to some additional questions you may have about your case.
Who is liable for damages?
One of the key differences between commercial trucking accidents and other types of motor vehicle accidents is that the question of liability can be extremely complicated. As we covered above, there are several parties who may be involved and who may be sued for your accident. This includes the driver, the trucking company, the manufacturer of the truck or its parts, and potentially others. A truck accident attorney can help determine this based on the results of the investigation and other information.
How is fault determined?
Fault is typically determined based on an investigation of the scene, and by talking to eyewitnesses and learning more about the truck, driver, the circumstances surrounding the accident (including how the truck was loaded and/or maintained), and more. The police designation of fault may differ from the insurance companies and from the results of a lawsuit.
How much is my case worth?
There is no standard or average for trucking accident cases as it depends on so many factors. The context of the accident, fault, injuries, and damage to the vehicle are just a few of the considerations for any given case. Having your case evaluated by an experienced personal injury lawyer is the best way to get an idea of what your case might be worth.
What is a commercial truck?
A commercial vehicle is any vehicle used for commercial purposes. Trucking accident litigation often involves semi-trucks, also called eighteen-wheelers or tractor-trailers, which are much larger and more dangerous than smaller commercial vehicles (like pickup trucks or vans). Drivers of these have CDL licenses.
How do I find an attorney for my trucking accident?
It's important to find a local attorney who is experienced in truck accidents specifically. Because so many parties can be involved and because of the nature of these cases, having an attorney who is well versed in the laws, cases, and investigations of commercial vehicle accidents is a must.
What is the statute of limitations for trucking accidents in Illinois?
The time you have to file a claim, known as the statute of limitations, varies from state to state. In the state of Illinois, you typically have two years to file a lawsuit. The date that the two years are from also varies, so it's best to talk to a lawyer as soon as possible in order to understand your timeline and ensure you file in time.
What to Do After a Trucking Accident
To ensure you get the compensation you deserve, we recommend:
- Contacting a lawyer as soon as possible after the accident happens
- Discuss the full value of your claim with your lawyer
- Keep track of all medical expenses, including emergency treatment, hospitalization, surgeries and procedures, medical equipment purchases, modifications made to your home to ensure mobility after an injury, and therapies.
- Don't accept the insurance company's initial settlement offer without discussing it with your lawyer
- Be patient, as these things can take time
- Follow your lawyer's advice, because it could make (or break if not followed) your case
Trucking accidents are serious, and they require legal representation that understands how to face down trucking companies and their lawyers to get you the compensation you deserve. Our personal injury lawyers have years of experience handling trucking accident cases and are ready to fight for you. Start the process to file your claim by first filling out our free case evaluation, and then our team will contact you about your situation to see how we can help.