Big rigs, 18-wheelers, and large commercial trucks account for about five percent of registered vehicles on the roads and highways of America today. Yet they have the same rate of accidents and fatalities as passenger vehicles, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). This is because they travel more miles than passenger vehicles, are much larger, and their drivers rack up many more hours behind the wheel.
Being involved in a big rig accident, whether you are the driver of a passenger vehicle or the truck driver up above, can be terrifying. It can also lead to serious injury and even death.
Accident Causes and Concerns
Along with their size and weight (more than 50 feet in length and up to 80,000 pounds), big rigs have other issues that make accidents more frequent and more hazardous. Smart drivers can watch out for these problems and avoid big rigs in treacherous conditions before accidents happen.
- Height above the roadway. Called the vehicle’s “profile,” this height makes the big rig vulnerable to high winds. Cars can be hit by the trailer when passing, even when the truck driver is being careful. Be alert to wind direction when passing beside a big rig.
- Blind spots. All vehicles have blind zones, where the driver can’t see a passing car or pedestrian. In big rigs, these zones are huge, and extend far to the sides, front, and rear of the trailer. They are also right next to the cab when the height of the truck can prevent the truck driver from seeing a passenger car in the lane below.
- Underriding. This frightening situation occurs when a high-mounted trailer (frequently seen in container trailers) is taller than a small vehicle. It is possible for a car to become jammed beneath the trailer and dragged. Cars should use great caution when moving alongside or merging onto roadways beside big rigs.
- Driver fatigue and inattention. Truck drivers work on strict schedules, but unethical companies sometimes encourage cheating or “working off the books.” On long cross-country deliveries, even the most rested of drivers can fall prey to road hypnosis. Drivers of smaller cars should be aware of the risk and give big trucks as much distance as possible.
If You Were Involved in a Big Rig Accident
Because of the high risk of injury to the driver and passengers of a smaller vehicle, Evans Moore, LLC strongly recommends that anyone involved in a big-rig accident be evaluated by a doctor. Even if you believe you’re all right, many injuries take time to appear. It may also be required by your insurance carrier.
You should get information from not only the driver but also take down the company name on the truck and on the trailer. There may be several companies involved in the operation of a big rig, and any or all of them may be implicated in an accident.
For instance, the driver may be an employee of the trucking company, the truck itself may be leased from a second company, and the trailer may have been picked up at the dock fully loaded and be owned by a third company. Depending on the nature of the accident, your attorney may need to join all these parties in a lawsuit.
If there are witnesses, you should get their names and information as well. Because of the number of parties potentially involved in a big rig accident, you may need multiple witness statements to verify your account of the accident.
Document everything. If you can obtain photos of the scene at the time, you should do so. Have another person take pictures if you cannot. If you can’t get pictures at the time, try to note if there are traffic cameras or security cameras nearby. Your attorney may be able to get images from those cameras later.
How We Can Help
You should consider contacting an attorney to review your case and documentation, even if you aren’t planning on taking legal action. You should have someone look at any settlement offers before you agree to them, even if they seem completely fair and open.
If you’ve been involved in a big rig accident, the time you have to file a claim or lawsuit is limited. Contact the South Carolina truck accident lawyers of Evans Moore, LLC at (843) 995-5000 and let us take a look at the circumstances of your case in a free initial consultation. We can let you know the best way to proceed and give you our legal opinion. Our attorneys are waiting for your call.