THE DANGERS OF BIG RIGS ON THE HIGHWAY

The 80,000-pound 18-wheeler truck barreling down the highway ON YOUR BUMPER.     We all know that feeling when we look into our rearview mirror and see tires and grill.  And maybe the sound of an air horn. It makes a nervous and jumpy and for a good reason.

Recent federal and state statistics show that these 18-wheeler trucks and other large trucks cause thousands of traffic accidents a year.  Size matters, with a truck’s size and weight, common sense tells us and experience shows that a crash between a big rig and a passenger automobile is likely to turn out badly for the passenger automobile.

In a collision between a big rig and a passenger automobile, the fatalities occur in the automobile 98% of the time. Annual truck crash fatalities are equivalent to a major airplane crash every other week of the year.

Some of the reasons are apparent: Trucks are larger, heavier, wider and longer than cars; a big rig needs more space to maneuver; and they need much more roadway to come to a stop. Many collisions involving trucks are caused; speeding, overly aggressive driving, failure to yield the right-of-way, poorly maintained trucks. Statistically, size also matters the larger the truck the greater the risk of a accident.  An 80,000-pound truck is more than twice as likely to be involved in a fatal accident as a 50,000-pound truck. Of course weather conditions such as rain or snow can makes matters worse especially when mixed with poor driving or poor maintenance can and do become a recipe for disaster.

Over the last five decades,  the industry-standard trailer having grown from 40 feet long in the  to 53 feet long today. Longer trucks mean larger blind spots, resulting in more traffic collisions. Road design is another problem, much of our interstates were created under the Eisenhower administration and are more than half century old. They were designed when trucks were shorter. Much of the interstates and local highways have ramps and merge lanes were not designed to with today’s big rigs in mind.  As a result, these trucks are using highways not designed with their bulk and size in mind, increasing the risk of a collision.

Larger, longer, and heavier trucks require more braking distance and time, hence a greater risk for causing a collision because the truck cannot stop timely. You probably did not know that  a truck weighing 100,000 pounds can take up to 25% longer to stop than one weighing 80,000 pounds. Think about that next time your are on the highway with a big rig behind you.

Another problem is a driver’s inexperience in operating a particular kind or size of truck.  Also driver fatigue is a serious problem and increasing problem with the deregulation of the trucking industry. As well, some rules governing how long a trucker may drive before he or she is required to stop for a rest have been relaxed.

Lawsuits involving truckers are often more difficult to prove than other kinds of collision suits, for several reasons. It may be difficult to find the driver/truck after the collision if it involved a sideswipe and they did not stop, perhaps not even realizing they hit another vehicle. Evidence as to the cause of a collision may be difficult to determine, i.e. driver error, road design, truck design, etc . . .

As well, given the nature of truck accidents often far more parties than the typical car crash are involved (the driver, the trucking company, multiple other drivers, the shipper) not to mention multiple insurance companies and adjusters.

Also many trucking companies are not only self insured but are also very skilled in defending themselves against negligence claims. They claims handlers for such companies can be very aggressive in denying claims because every dollar “comes out of their pocket.”

A person who has been involved in a collision caused by a negligent big rig driver, is legally entitled to be compensated for his or her injuries. The complexity of these cases means that you should consult an experienced personal injury attorney. Do not make the mistake of believing that trucking company or it’s insurance adjuster will look out for your interests.

Call me Richard M. Katz, at 626-796-6333 if you or a loved one has been involved in a big-rig collision. I offer free consultation and look forward to helping you.

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