Experienced, Compassionate Fairbanks Truck Accident Lawyers
Any car accident has the potential to cause severe, even fatal, injuries. However, when a large commercial truck crashes into a smaller vehicle, the odds that the vehicle will gravely injure those in the smaller vehicle increase significantly. The results can be life-changing and devastating when you or a loved one have been wrongfully injured by one of these monstrous vehicles. At Ringstad Law Office, P.C., we believe that you should be given the compensation you deserve to overcome your injuries. We’re here to help, and we’ll be in your corner every step of the way, call to speak with a Fairbanks truck accident attorney on our team today.
Why Truck Accidents Are So Severe
Since the size of a truck is significantly larger than most passenger vehicles on the roadways, truck accidents can cause significant injuries. The average semi-truck is around 75 feet long and can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds fully loaded. The average passenger vehicle weighs between 3,000 and 5,000 pounds and is from 12-15 ft. long. Trucks are much taller, with greater ground clearance, resulting in smaller vehicles sometimes under-riding the truck in a crash.
Truck braking ability can also be a factor in influencing a potential accident—a loaded tractor-trailer can take from 20-40 percent farther than a passenger vehicle to stop. This discrepancy increases when the roads are wet or slippery, or the truck’s brakes are poorly maintained. As you can see, the risk for those in the smaller vehicle is huge when there is an accident with a semi-truck.
According to an updated website on truck accidents, as of 2022, there are approximately 4,000 people killed each year in semi-truck accidents in the United States. Another 130,000 suffer serious injuries as a result of a truck accident. About 4 percent of trucks involved in fatal collisions are carrying hazardous cargo, posing a serious risk to those in the area. Over 16 percent of fatal crashes involving large trucks occur when a passenger car rear-ends a truck. A head-on collision is the most common fatal crash involving a semi-truck. When the accident is the fault of the truck driver, the most common driver-related factors are speeding, distraction, and impairment. While automobile collisions generally have declined for decades, this is not true of truck accidents. There has been a 52 percent increase in semi-truck accidents since 2009.
Driver Fatigue Still a Factor in Truck Crashes Even After Updated Trucking Regulations
Semi-trucks that carry goods may drive 11 hours after having 10 hours off duty. The driver may not drive up to the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty, following ten consecutive hours off-duty. Off-duty time does not extend these 14 hours. After driving for eight hours, drivers must take a 30-minute break without interruption. The driver may not go after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days. The driver may restart a 7/8 straight day after taking 34 or more consecutive hours off duty. When adverse weather conditions exist, drivers can extend the 11-hour maximum driving limit and the 14-hour driving window by up to two hours.
Fatigue is a serious issue for truck drivers and a cause of many truck accidents. The U.S. Department of Transportation believes truck driver fatigue is a leading factor in truck collisions. Some trucking companies do their best to ignore drivers who drive longer hours than allowed. But, they could find themselves liable for a truck accident if they knew the driver exceeded their hours.
Distracted Driving a Problem for All Drivers
Just like passenger vehicle drivers, distracted driving—including texting and driving—has become a significant cause of collisions. There are different types of distractions—visual distractions occur when a driver takes their eyes off the road to change radio stations, look at something happening on the side of the road, look at a cell phone or turn around to see what the children are doing.
Cognitive distractions occur when the driver’s mind is on something other than driving, and manual distractions occur when the driver’s hands are off the wheel. Truck drivers often eat entire meals while driving. This is a form of manual distraction and, perhaps, visual and cognitive distraction as well. Reading or sending a text involves visual, manual, and cognitive distractions, and talking on the phone involves manual and cognitive distractions. Truck drivers may be more prone to distracted driving simply because of the countless hours spent behind the wheel. Truck drivers are also tied more closely to GPS devices or paper maps as they attempt to navigate to an unfamiliar place.
Other Factors Involved in Truck Accidents
In addition to fatigued driving and distracted driving, there are several other factors involved in trucking accidents, including:
- Improperly secured cargo—Poorly secured cargo is much more common than you might imagine as a cause of truck accidents. A large commercial truck can carry logs, bulk liquids, steel pipes, meat, produce, cardboard boxes, retail items, other grocery items, bulk liquids, hazardous cargo, or live cargo, such as cows or chickens. A top-heavy load can flip over when the driver takes a curve too fast, and if the cargo is not secured correctly, it can end up all over the road, causing multiple accidents. Straps that hold the load may be worn or loosened as the truck travels down the road. Cargo can shift, leading to a jackknife or rollover. The loading company and truck driver are responsible for securing the cargo properly.
- Underride accidents—When a truck stops suddenly, a much lower passenger vehicle can forcefully hit the truck’s rear forcefully enough to slide underneath the truck, shearing away the top of the passenger vehicle. Although underride bars are now required on most commercial trucks, there are significant weaknesses in the standards for the construction and installation of those bars.
- Bad brakes—Large commercial truck accidents often occur because of bad or overly-worn brakes. Since a large truck requires significantly more force to stop, truck brakes tend to wear more quickly.
- Inexperienced drivers—Trucking companies can hire drivers who meet the age requirements, read English, have a CDL license, and physically handle the long hours behind the wheel. Truck drivers must undergo training and pass a thorough background check. Some trucking companies cut corners when hiring truck drivers. The trucking company may be held liable if negligent hiring practices are responsible for a trucking accident.
What To Do Following a Truck Accident
You may be seriously injured following a truck accident, so you should focus only on getting medical attention for yourself and anyone else injured in the crash. If you are not severely injured, you will do the same things you would do after any auto accident, including:
- Exchange contact information and insurance information with the truck driver
- Take photographs of the scene of the accident
- Once you are home, write down every detail you can remember about the accident
- Contact your own insurance company
- Contact an experienced Fairbanks truck accident attorney from Ringstad Law Office
- Make sure to keep all your medical receipts related to the accident
- Always follow all your doctor’s instructions
Who Can Be Sued After a Fairbanks Truck Accident?
Truck accidents are unique in that there can be more than one person or entity responsible for the accident. You need a personal injury attorney with significant experience with truck accidents. The truck driver could be liable for the accident if they were distracted, impaired, driving aggressively, or overly fatigued. The trucking company could be liable if they put a truck driver on the road who needed to be adequately trained or if they needed a thorough background check.
If the trucking company knew the driver exceeded their allowable hours, it could also be liable. Suppose the accident resulted from shifting or falling cargo. In that case, the loading company can be held responsible, or the maintenance company might bear some liability if faulty brakes or tires cause an accident. Finally, the truck or part manufacturer could be liable if a defective part caused the accident.
How a Fairbanks Truck Accident Attorney Can Change the Outcome of Your Truck Accident
A knowledgeable Fairbanks truck accident attorney from Ringstad Law Office, P.C. can comprehensively evaluate the facts of your accident, determining who should be held accountable.
We will work hard on your behalf to ensure you receive a settlement covering your medical expenses (past, current, and future), lost wages (past, current, and future), and pain and suffering. We are experienced in handling truck accident claims with multiple defendants and will know who to target in your truck accident. Do not wait—contact Ringstad Law Office, P.C. today for exemplary legal representation following your Fairbanks, Alaska, truck accident.