Truckers who drive the big rigs cannot lie: they like big roads.
We’ve got some of the biggest highways in the U.S. passing right through Louisville, including I-71 (which begins here and ends in Cleveland), as well as I-64 and I-65. On the outskirts are both I-264 and I-265. And, while it’s not an interstate, we can’t forget the Dixie Highway, also known as the “Die-Way” for all its fatal vehicular accidents. Witness the May 2016 crash that killed a 10-year-old, the other vehicle hitting hers with such force that her seat belt snapped.
Kentucky has more than its share of traffic accidents and fatalities. Louisville came in 12th in a University of Kentucky study using over five years worth of data, accumulating a total of 121,494 accidents. In 2014 alone, 672 people died on our public roads. The injured totaled 35,153, with about nine percent of those injuries (3,154) characterized as incapacitating.
Trucks accounted for 4% of vehicles in all collisions, but for 7% of vehicles in fatal collisions, according to 2014 data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In a report prepared by the University of Kentucky for the Kentucky State Police, 2014 in Kentucky produced 8,664 accidents which involved trucks, resulting in 73 deaths. The injured totaled 1,805.
Narrowing our focus onto local truck accidents, Jefferson County saw five fatalities in 2014 that involved large trucks, and nine in 2013. One of those nine fatalities occurred in a 2013 accident with a UPS truck in Louisville that left a 19-year-old dead and another person injured.
Why Are Truck Accidents So Severe?
If you think about it, the fact that trucks are involved in more fatal crashes makes sense. Tractor-trailers can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds. In some cases, trucks can be illegally overloaded, making them even more dangerous in a crash. A car or pickup truck that weighs only 3,000 to 5,000 pounds doesn’t stand a chance.
Trucks have a higher center of gravity, and are thus more likely to tip over. Trucks also have a higher clearance underneath them, resulting in underride accidents (where the car slides under the truck) that are often extremely serious or fatal. Then there are the jackknife incidents, where the truck and trailer bend at their juncture, with the entire rig sliding sideways at high speed. Generally, accidents between two passenger vehicles do not carry the same risks.
Finally, as we mentioned in the beginning of this article, trucks are usually found on high-speed highways such as interstates. The faster a truck is going, the greater its momentum and force upon impact. You can’t argue with the laws of physics.
Human Error—or is it Negligence?
Why do truck accidents happen? While vehicular accidents are complex and can have many contributing factors, much of the time, the driver causes the wreck. Often, the driver’s mistakes are due to negligent behaviors. Negligence has a legal definition and, while there are several points to proving negligence, it often boils down to not being as careful as the situation demanded, with injuries or death the result.
In Kentucky during 2014, the most common reason for truck accidents was driver inattention nearly 42 percent of the time; the actual number of crashes was 3,180. Not paying attention can easily shade into negligence. The next most common reasons, often attributable to negligence, were:
- Misjudging clearance: 1,630 crashes
- Vehicle not under control: 1,240 crashes
- Failing to yield the right of way: 798 crashes
- Following too closely: 376 crashes.
It’s not always the driver who is negligent. Sometimes, the trucking company can be guilty of negligence, or the loading company can be (if they are different). Some contributing factors to truck accidents that can often be laid at the feet of a company are as follows:
- Mechanical failures such as defective brakes or steering, which are usually due to a lack of mechanical maintenance, though faulty design by the manufacturer can play a part
- Overweight trucks or oversized loads
- Not properly securing a load
- Not loading the truck properly, resulting in an unbalanced load.
At the End of the Day, Whose Fault Is It?
As you can see, truck accidents are often complicated when it comes to determining who is at fault, and what the fault actually is. The driver can be at fault—and so can the company who hired the driver, if the driver is not properly licensed, not well-trained, or is otherwise unfit.
It’s possible for the trucking company to be liable if trucks are poorly maintained or if they force drivers to break regulations (known as hours-of-service rules) concerning how long or how far they drive. Finally, if there is a separate loading company, they can be deemed negligent for not loading the truck properly, or for overloading it.
Because so many parties can share liability for a truck accident, and because truck crashes are so often serious or deadly, it is wise to obtain legal advice from a lawyer who has specific experience handling tractor-trailer wrecks. The many parties involved in truck accident suits may also involve multiple insurance companies and even the manufacturers of the truck’s mechanical parts. Proper legal assistance can help you obtain the compensation you deserve.
Trusted Advisors. Proven Advocates.
We at McNeely Stephenson know that truck accident cases can mean complex legal claims. Such claims require thorough investigation and demand aggressive litigation to secure the best possible outcome for the plaintiff. While monetary compensation can never undo the damage done as the result of a truck accident, a financial recovery can ease the financial burdens caused by overwhelming medical bills, loss of income, and disability.
If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident with a truck in the Louisville, Kentucky, area, we suggest you talk with truck accident lawyer Mike Stephenson. With more than three decades of experience, substantial financial resources to commit to your case, and a commitment to the highest standards of client care, you can count on Mike. Contact him today by calling 1-317-825-5200 for a free accident consultation, or use our online contact form. At McNeely Stephenson, we believe justice matters.