Lawyers for 18-Wheeler and Other Large Truck Accidents
Trucks, especially 18-wheelers, are much larger than the average vehicle and take up more space on the road. While the average car weighs in at around 4,000 pounds, an 18-wheeler can legally weigh up to 80,000 pounds with a full load and around 30,000 pounds with an empty trailer, according to the NYC Department of Transportation (DOT). Due to the sheer size and weight of 18-wheelers, accidents involving these trucks are more likely to result in serious injuries. If you or a loved one were injured as a result of an 18-wheeler crash, it’s important to know how the law can protect you.
Block O’Toole & Murphy is known for landmark verdicts and settlements including a $110 million jury verdict for an injured cyclist. We have recovered many top results for clients injured in truck accidents, including a $14 million result for a motorcyclist hit by a truck. Our lawyers are here to help. Call 212-736-5300 or fill out our online form to discuss your case with an attorney.
Accidents Involving 18-Wheelers
Unlike regular car drivers, truck drivers are required to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL) which requires a higher level of skill, knowledge, and experience. New York law mandates that drivers have a CDL if they operate a truck with double or triple trailers, a truck with a tank, or a truck carrying hazardous materials. Due to the extra steps it takes to get a CDL and a CDL driver’s heightened awareness of safety rules and regulations, a driver with a CDL is held to a higher standard and are subject to more serious consequences when a traffic violation occurs. Under Title 49, The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has a comprehensive list of the stricter rules truck drivers must abide by.
Despite the extra precautions and higher standards, accidents still happen. The following are several common causes of large truck accidents:
- Distracted driving: Driving while distracted is one of the riskiest behaviors a truck driver can engage in. Common driver distractions include using a cell phone, eating or drinking, reaching for an object elsewhere in the vehicle, or talking with other passengers. Especially while operating such a large vehicle, anything that takes a truck driver’s eyes of the road is dangerous.
- Driving under the influence: Driving under the influence is always illegal. However, according to the FMCSA, commercial truck drivers are required to be tested for drugs and alcohol before driving. Truck drivers operating a vehicle while under the influence are more likely to cause severe injuries to others.
- Poor weather conditions: If the road is slippery or slick, driving a larger vehicle can be risky. Truck tires have less traction on a wet road than a dry road––truck drivers need to be aware of this and practice extra caution when driving on wet or slippery roads.
- Curvy roads: Because of an 18-wheeler’s height and weight, the truck can tip or flip over if it’s driving too fast around a curve, causing harm to nearby vehicles and pedestrians.
- Unbalanced or improperly secured truckloads: Trucks can only carry a specific amount of weight, but it is not uncommon for trucks to overload their trailers. If this is the case, unbalanced and overweight truckloads can cause the vehicle to lose its center of gravity or can lead to a heavier vehicle accelerating faster down a steep hill. Additionally, if the truckload is improperly secured, the load can roll off the truck and hit another vehicle.
- Driver inexperience: As noted above, driving a truck requires more experience and training than driving a regular vehicle. If a driver is inexperienced and does not have a sufficient amount of training, the driver may not be able to handle such a large vehicle, which can lead to accidents.
- Fatigue: Under the Code of Federal Regulations, a truck driver may not drive more than 11 consecutive hours without taking another 10 consecutive hours off. Although this rule exists, truck drivers sometimes ignore the law and drive longer––and trucking companies may even push their drivers to disregard the law in order to get deliveries done faster. Driving 11 hours consecutively is tiring and can cause truck driver fatigue, which may result in falling asleep at the wheel.
- Road hazards: Objects on the road, such as litter, animals, other cars, or broken traffic signals can be hazards. It takes a truck 20% to 40% longer than a car to stop because of its size––stopping short can cause damages to both vehicles and injuries to those involved.
- Mechanical failure or improper maintenance: Truck drivers and truck owners are responsible for the maintenance and care of their vehicles. If the truck hasn’t been maintained or has a mechanical failure while on the road, it can cause an accident.
Each case is different and complex. However, if you were in an accident with an 18-wheeler that you believe was caused by negligence, it’s important to seek legal counsel with a personal injury attorney.
Types of 18-Wheeler Collisions
The immense size and weight of 18-wheelers can cause many different types of accidents. These include but are not limited to:
- Rear-end collisions: Rear-end collisions tend to be one of the most common types of collisions. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2018, 594,000 rear-end car crashes resulted in some type of injury, accounting for the most crashes of all types surveyed by the NHTSA. This type of collision can be very dangerous, especially to smaller vehicles.
- Jackknife accidents: Jackknife accidents happen when large trucks suddenly slam on their brakes, causing their trailers to swing into traffic at a ninety-degree angle. If a truck jackknifes, it can also easily flip over into traffic.
- Blind spot accidents: Semi-trucks have larger blind spots than smaller vehicles. It is common to see “If you can’t see my mirrors, I can’t see you” signs displayed on trucks for this reason. Accidents can occur if a truck driver doesn’t check his blind spot before changing lanes.
- Tire blowouts: When you’re driving on the highway, you might see remnants of tire blowouts scattered on the sides of the road. Although tires can blow out on smaller vehicles, semi-trucks are more vulnerable to tire failure due to poor maintenance of the truck and the tires themselves. When a tire blows out on the highway, it can cause the truck to veer out of its lane, resulting in an accident.
- Underride accidents: This type of accident can be the most deadly. An underride accident occurs when trucks quickly stop and the vehicles behind them get stuck under the tractor-trailer. Often, the top of the smaller vehicle gets ripped off. Although the National Transportation Safety Board recommends the use of side guards on semi-trucks to prevent this, it is not required.
- Rollover accidents: A rollover accident occurs when the truck rolls over into oncoming traffic. This type of accident is dangerous because not only is the truck obscuring traffic, but often the cargo in the trailer can spill out into oncoming traffic, endangering the lives of passengers, drivers, and pedestrians.
Accidents often occur on highways at high speeds, but it’s not uncommon for accidents to happen at lower speeds when a truck is turning or fails to be aware of its surroundings. Both scenarios can lead to severe consequences for anyone involved.
Liability in 18-Wheeler Accidents
When an accident occurs, it is necessary to determine who could be liable for the damage in order to bring a personal injury claim against them. Potential liable parties in 18-wheeler accidents may include:
- Truck driver: If the driver was driving recklessly, was driving under the influence, was fatigued, or didn’t secure their truckload properly, they may be held liable for the accident.
- Trucking company: The trucking company could be held at fault if they pressured their driver to bill more hours, to drive fatigued, or failed to perform regular maintenance checks.
- Truck manufacturer: The truck manufacturer may be at fault if the truck was broken or had a mechanical failure that caused the accident.
- Maintenance or other service provider: If the accident occurred because of improper maintenance or some other improper service, the service provider may be held liable.
Proving liability is often complicated, frequently necessitating the retention of skilled expert witnesses, and will usually require the talent and experience of a trained trial lawyer. If you have been in an accident with a large truck, it is best to speak to an attorney.
Legal Advocacy in Large Truck Accident Cases
The attorneys at Block O’Toole & Murphy fight aggressively for accident victims who suffer serious physical and emotional injuries. Serving New York and New Jersey, we have considerable results for those hurt in 18-wheeler and other large truck collision cases. Select verdicts and settlements include:
- $14,000,000 verdict for a motorcyclist in Long Island who tragically lost his leg after being hit by a truck
- $6,000,000 settlement for a city bus passenger who sustained shoulder, knee, and spinal injuries when the bus collided with a truck
- $5,500,000 settlement for a 43-year-old man who sustained serious spinal injuries when he was driving on a road and a semi-truck sideswiped his car
- $5,000,000 settlement for the children of a mother who was walking in Midtown when the driver of a privately-owned truck lost control of his vehicle and suffered a seizure, tragically killing her
- $3,500,000 settlement for a 47-year-old NYCTA bus driver who was rear-ended by a city-owned truck in Brooklyn and sustained serious injuries
- $3,000,000 settlement for a driver in Brooklyn who was left permanently disabled after a collision with a tractor-trailer
- $3,000,000 settlement for a West Village woman who was riding a motorized scooter in the bike lane when she was hit by a truck that was illegally driving in the bike lane
- $2,625,000 settlement for the family of a couple who stopped for an accident in front of them and were hit and tragically killed by a tractor-trailer
- $2,500,000 settlement for a woman who was hit by a large truck in a crosswalk and had serious leg injuries
- $2,000,000 settlement for a driver on the Long Island Expressway who was rear-ended by a box truck attempting to switch lanes, causing the driver to sustain neck injuries
- $1,975,000 settlement for a car passenger who was hit by a truck in an intersection and underwent multiple surgeries for his injuries
- $1,700,000 settlement for a 51-year-old driver who was stopped at a red light and was rear-ended by a tractor trailer, causing him to sustain a lumbar injury
- $1,500,000 settlement for a woman who was walking in the Bronx and was hit by a truck that was backing up