In one recent year, 4,102 people died in crashes with large trucks nationwide. In Wisconsin alone, truck accidents killed an average of 71 people each year between 2011 and 2016, and injured an average of 2,032 more each of those years, according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. An astonishing 6,751 truck accidents occurred in our state every year during this period. While these figures indicate that some truck accidents don’t cause either injuries or deaths, they also show that an average of 18 truck accidents occurred every day in Wisconsin and roughly 30 percent cause death or injury. If you or a loved one has been involved in a trucking-related accident speaking with an experienced truck accident attorney.
Truck accidents can devastate their victims, mostly because trucks are much larger and heavier than other vehicles, and they are certainly larger and heavier than pedestrians and bicyclists. A collision of any kind with a truck can cause severe, life-threatening injuries and even death. Nationwide, 68 percent of deaths in truck accidents occur to individuals who are in a car, and 14 percent of those killed are pedestrians, bicyclists, or motorcyclists.
But vehicle occupants, pedestrians, and bicyclists have more than just collisions to worry about. Trucks are also prone to accidents that cause them to roll, to jackknife so that one part is perpendicular to the other, and to spill cargo. Any of these accidents can harm others on the road by causing obstacles, traffic jams, and collisions with the truck’s cargo. Some cargo is flammable and can start a fire in the truck or on the road. Fires pose risks to everyone nearby of burns, asphyxiation, and death.
One of the most common truck accident types is a rollover. As its name implies, it occurs when the truck rolls over: either partially so that it lands on its side or all the way so that it lands on its roof. Some truck rollovers cause the truck to roll over multiple times.
How Often Do Rollovers Happen?
A study of truck accidents indicated that approximately 9 percent of large truck crashes occurred as a result of a rollover. Tractor-trailers are more likely to roll over because their center of gravity is higher.
While just 22 percent of occupant car accident fatalities are caused by cars rolling over, 48 percent of trucker deaths occur when a truck rolls over. This is far higher than the number in other types of truck accidents, where just 17 percent of people killed are occupants of the truck.
What Causes a Rollover?
The most common cause of truck rollovers is speed, which is responsible for 45 percent of these accidents. Speed can mean many things; some of these accidents are caused by going over the speed limit or driving too fast for conditions, such as snow or sleet.
But the study was careful to note the complexity of what speed means in the context of a trucking accident. Many of the speed-related accidents didn’t involve speeding in the way that we usually understand the term, such as a car traveling at 45 miles per hour in a 20-mph zone.
Trucks are very complex to operate and often heavily loaded with cargo. They frequently navigate interstate highways, on- and off-ramps, and uphill and downhill terrain. Speed variables, including interstates to ramps, interstates to smaller roads, ramps themselves, loads, and the condition of the trucks, all contribute to trucks going too fast for the conditions.
The highest number of rollover accidents related to speed stemmed from trucks driving too quickly on curves, either because the drivers misjudged the speed for the curve or because he or she simply went too fast. The second-highest number of accidents related to speed stemmed from failing to adjust a truck’s speed to accommodate the stability, height, or weight of the truck. The third-highest number of rollovers related to speed occurred because the drivers didn’t adjust the speed to “known bad brakes.”
Lack of Attention
The second most common cause of rollovers is lack of attention, which the study defined very broadly to include distracted driving, where the driver simply isn’t paying sufficient attention to the road, as well as fatigue and sleep deprivation. Drowsiness or actually falling asleep accounted for more than one-third of rollovers in this category.
Fatigue is a national problem with all drivers, but truck drivers are especially prone to it. Their Federally-mandated limits on hours of service stand at 11 hours, without a break after 10 consecutive hours off. They are required to stop driving after 14 consecutive hours, but it’s possible to become fatigued or drowsy even with these limits. Some drivers and trucking companies, too, may push their drivers to work longer to ensure deliveries over long distances.
The third most common rollover cause is problems in the control of the driving, including issues with steering, overcorrecting, following too closely, downshifting, braking, and other maneuvers.
Who Is Responsible If I’m Hurt in a Truck Rollover?
Usually, the party that causes a vehicle accident is responsible for injuries. If a driver breaks the law, for example, or is driving recklessly, and an accident results from these actions, a court may hold that driver liable for injuries that occur as a result.
This rule applies to truck accidents too, but the causes of truck accidents can be complex. If a truck rolls over because it’s going too fast for worn brakes, for example, is the problem the speed and the driving, the condition of the truck, the maintenance schedule, or the brakes themselves? Frankly, it could be one or all of these, ultimately, that are directly responsible for the truck rolling over.
It’s often necessary to investigate the causes of the accident to ascertain who is responsible for paying. Responsible parties may include:
- The driver
- The truck’s owner
- The trucking company
- The shippers or loaders
- The maintenance or repair companies
- Manufacturers of equipment
I Was Hurt in a Truck Rollover. Shouldn’t Those Responsible Pay My Medical Bills?
If injured plaintiffs can prove liability for their accidents and injuries, they may receive compensation from insurance companies or by bringing a personal injury claim. Compensation for damages in Wisconsin may include economic damages, such as medical bills, lost wages from work, and prospective lost wages, as well as non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering.
For further information or assistance, contact a licensed truck accident attorney.