On average, semi-trucks traveling throughout Wisconsin are involved in nearly 6,000 crashes each year, many of which have created lifelong injuries and fatal tragedies to others. And although tractor-trailer operators must be licensed, undergo extensive training, and drive according to the "rules of the road," many of these drivers and their trucking companies have been held responsible.
If you’ve been in an accident with a semi-truck, you need a semi-truck accident lawyer who has experience and understands your rights. Learn more about semi-truck accidents below.
Common Causes of Semi-Truck Accidents
According to the latest data available, in 2020, crashes involving large trucks in Wisconsin took the lives of 69 people. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA's) Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) 2017 census of fatal crashes involving 18 wheelers show negligence by the truck operator due to errors including lane drifting, hitting an object on the highway, driving while distracted, driver fatigue or impairment, and other negligent actions such as:
- Preventable mistakes and operator errors. These can include disabling or non-disabling vehicle failures, driving a truck off the edge of the road, improper truck maneuvering through intersections and sharp turns, recklessly driving near stopped vehicles and construction zones, and speeding. Truck drivers do require more stopping time than passenger vehicles, which means they should not be operating recklessly through areas where the traffic is congested, bottlenecked, or slow. All of these poor choices will put a semi-truck driver at risk of being held accountable if an accident were to occur.
- Driver fatigue or impairment. If a trucker works beyond the timeframe they are permitted, they and the company they work for might be found guilty of negligence. To avoid fatigue, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) only allows a trucker to operate their vehicle for 11 hours (at times 14 hours) in between off duty rest breaks. Truck drivers who are found to be impaired by drugs or alcohol at the time of a crash may also be held responsible for any damages.
- Ignoring bad weather and road conditions. If a trucker is ignoring weather reports because of delivery concerns, or if they are not adequately trained to drive in certain weather conditions such as heavy rain, wind, or snow, they are putting themselves and others at serious risk. Truck drivers must be operating at an appropriate speed and employ trained techniques to avoid skidding, hydroplaning, or jackknifing during bad weather. Their readiness and quick decisions mean all the difference between being in an accident and causing one.
- Poor vehicle maintenance. Companies, drivers, and third-party operators must regularly check trucks, including accessories and features, for problems and address any required fixes before starting a trip. Equipment failures such as worn brake pads, failing tires, or even a dim headlight, could cause a major traffic accident.
- Improper cargo loading. Truck operators and cargo loading teams must abide by industry-specific rules related to the weight, size, length, width, and height limits to a load. If a mistake is made or a shipment was not fully inspected, a load could fall off into the road and onto passing vehicles or cause a truck to topple over in strong winds or during a turn.
- Equipment failure. Truck drivers may not be the only party responsible for an accident. Equipment manufacturers, mechanics, and trucking companies who allow defective or dangerous products or outdated truck technologies may be found seriously guilty of negligence.
To prove your case, you need a truck accident attorney who is experienced, understands how to collect evidence, and is able to show how the semi-truck driver was liable for the accident and that they were negligent.
Even if you don't think you need legal representation, it is crucial to call a truck accident attorney for a review of your case. A semi-truck accident attorney at Murphy & Prachthauser is here and equipped to help.
Distracted Driving Continues to Be an Issue for Semi- Truck Drivers
While distracted driving of any kind is a significant issue for all drivers, drivers who spend most of their time on the road for work can easily lose focus or become occupied. Causes of driver distraction include exhaustion, reviewing schedules or checking in with family, eating lunch on-the-go, or even a distraction outside the cab. A three-year data collection effort by the FMCSA and the NHTSA found that an estimated 11,000 truck crashes nationwide involved distractions external to the truck cab.
Also, built-in dashboard technology and other mobile devices are regularly used by truck operators to receive dispatch, weather, logged hours, and route information and have been known to cause a driver to take their eyes off the road for even a short time.
Several types of truck operator distractions include:
- Use of a dispatching device
- Outside objects
- Eating and drinking
- Handheld phone dialing
- Reading, writing, or use of paper maps
- Setting in-vehicle technologies
It's vital for trucking companies to implement training, policies, and safe operator strategies to prevent and avoid truck accidents caused by distractions.
For a comprehensive guide to truck accidents and what to do if you've been in a truck accident, please review our truck accident resources.
Avoid a Quick Truck Accident Settlement
Multi-million-dollar policies protect commercial truck drivers who are represented by experienced adjusters. And these professionals know precisely how to position accident blame on anyone other than the big truck operator. Reduced settlements are offered quickly, and claim denials are common.
Injured victims are never required to settle a case against a truck driver unless it is the right choice for them. But, likely, a claim could also be filed against the truck company for failure in safe driver policies or other parties guilty of providing poor equipment maintenance for the tractor-trailer and loads. All of these groups could be held liable for covering your accident's damages in greater amounts, but you need a truck accident lawyer to help you understand how to determine fault and negligence.
Contact Murphy & Prachthauser For a Free Semi-Truck Accident Case Consultation
At Murphy & Prachthauser we practice personal injury law the way it should be practiced – motivated and equipped to do our best for you. Our clients involved in semi-truck accidents are immediately comforted knowing they are speaking with an expert who is not afraid of trucking companies and their big insurance policies.
If you are still looking for the right legal support to identify and prove a semi-truck driver's negligence, consider filling out a free case evaluation and talking with an attorney today.