You see them on the roads every day. Large commercial trucks—sometimes called tractor trailers, semi trucks, big rigs, or 18-wheelers—are an important part of Wisconsin’s economy, but they also pose a danger to everyone else on the roads. In 2016, 7,461 large truck crashes occurred on Wisconsin roads; these accidents resulted in 2,342 injuries and 69 fatalities. An average passenger vehicle weighs about 4,000 pounds, whereas a fully-loaded semi-truck can weight up to 80,000 pounds. Semi trucks pose an additional risk because of their size, weight, and how they are composed of multiple parts. A semi-trailer truck is the combination of a tractor unit and one or more semi-trailers used to haul freight.
Runaway trailers are a frequent cause of accidents, injuries, and fatalities across the United States. A runaway trailer is one that becomes detached from the primary vehicle. Once a trailer becomes detached, the truck driver no longer has control over it. The escaped trailer may travel at a high speed, and if it is carrying a large load, it poses a serious danger to anyone in its vicinity. These runaway trailers sometimes veer into other lanes of traffic, roll over, and hit other vehicles, and they often leave a wake of destruction in their paths.
If you or a family member has sustained an injury due to a runaway trailer accident, you should speak with an experienced Milwaukee truck accident injury lawyer immediately to find out more about your legal rights and options. Contact Groth Law Firm, S.C., at (414) 240-0707 for a free consultation.
State and Federal Trucking Regulations
Operating a semi-truck is more complicated than driving a car. Despite trying to maintain good driving practices, truck drivers are often faced with strict deadlines and long hours. Due to trucks’ large size and weight, even a small driving error can have devastating consequences. Truck drivers must obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL) and obey many state and federal regulations beyond those imposed on non-commercial drivers.
Causes of a Runaway Trailer Accident
A runaway trailer accident happens when the trailer and the tractor are not traveling at the same speed. There are several different factors that can contribute to a runaway trailer accident. Common causes include:
Many runaway trailer accidents could have been avoided simply by traveling at a safe speed. Truck drivers must adjust their speed according to the weight of their cargo, the road conditions, and the type of cargo.
Overloading a trailer beyond its proper weight capacity can lead to a runaway trailer. Perhaps the person responsible for loading the trailer packed too much cargo in the space or did not secure it properly. Regardless, when a heavy load shifts, a truck’s hitch may snap, and the trailer can break free. Also, over time excessive weight can lead to tire wear or brake failure, which may cause a driver to lose control of a truck.
When a driver suddenly changes direction, the momentum can cause the truck to jackknife, and the trailer may break free.
When a truck slows down or if its brakes malfunction while traveling down a steep decline, the weight of the trailer may cause it to detach.
Brake failure and vehicle defects
Trailers have their own brakes, which are intended to work in conjunction with the tractor’s brakes. If the brakes on the trailer fail or are inadequate, the tractor’s brakes alone may not be enough to slow a truck’s momentum, and the trailer may become unattached.
Despite federal regulations limiting how long they can legally drive, truck drivers often exceed these limits because of pressure to deliver cargo quickly. They may resort to falsifying logbooks to conceal the fact that they drove longer than permitted. While unreasonable schedules are often the cause of driver fatigue, other causes may include undiagnosed sleep disorders or other medical conditions.
Most Wisconsin drivers know how to drive in bad weather. However, rain, snow, black ice, and even oil can cause a trailer to jackknife and become detached.
Violating federal and state regulations
Those who work in the trucking industry may use various tactics to skirt federal and state regulations. These regulations exist, however, for the safety of everyone on the roads, and thus should be followed at all times.
Truck Accident Injuries
When it comes to accidents that involve commercial trucks, there is no such thing as a minor accident. Tractor trailers and other large commercial vehicles can cause serious harm to other vehicles and people.
Some of the most common injuries after a truck accident include:
- Fractured and broken bones
- Soft tissue damage—including whiplash and neck pain
- Nerve damage
- Crush injuries
- Traumatic head and brain injuries
- Injuries resulting in amputation
- Back and spinal cord injuries
- Psychological distress—such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Burns, rashes, and other long-term injuries from contact with hazardous materials
Determining Liability After a Milwaukee Runaway Trailer Accident
You may assume that the truck driver involved in your accident is the at-fault party. Indeed, the driver may have operated the vehicle in a negligent manner or violated important traffic safety regulations. However, liability is a complex issue and often involves multiple parties. Runaway trailer accidents may also involve trucking companies if they failed to train the driver or properly maintain the truck. The truck manufacturer could also be liable if any defective parts led to the accident. Other third parties may also face liability, such as someone who improperly loaded the truck.
Even if you do not think you have been seriously injured, you should obtain medical care immediately following an accident. You may not realize the full impact of your injuries until long after the accident. Depending on the circumstances of your accident, a court may award you compensation for the following damages:
- Present and future medical costs, including ambulance services, hospitalization, recovery care, and lifelong care if the accident causes you permanent disability
- Present and future lost wages and benefits
- Loss of future earning capacity if you are unable to continue at your present job
- Rehabilitative services, such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, or speech therapy
- Assistive devices, such as wheelchairs, walkers, canes, prosthetic limbs, and assistive computer programs
- Home modification costs if permanent disability requires injured individuals to make their homes accessible by adding ramps, handrails, etc.
- Assistance with daily living costs, such as cleaning or shopping
- Pain and suffering
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Loss of consortium
- Funeral and burial expenses in the case of a fatal accident
Contact a Milwaukee Truck Accident Lawyer Now
The consequences of a runaway trailer accident are overwhelming. You need an experienced, dedicated, and compassionate attorney to represent you to obtain the best possible result. To schedule your free consultation with one of our experienced personal injury lawyers, call Groth Law Firm, S.C. at (414) 240-0707, or contact us online.