Poor Load Distribution May Have Caused That Truck to Hit You

Perhaps you were on your way to meet a friend for lunch on the Las Vegas Strip when a large delivery truck ran a light and T-boned your sedan.

You sustained a concussion and a broken arm, and you will require occupational therapy sessions. Why did this collision happen, and who is at fault for your injuries?

What happened

The initial investigation indicates that the truck was carrying overloaded cargo, making the vehicle much heavier than normal. Overloaded cargo will put a strain on operating performance plus additional wear-and-tear on the brakes and various other components, such as the truck’s axles. Improper load distribution will result in control problems. A driver unaccustomed to the extra weight may not realize that the truck will take longer to stop, which may account for her having gone through the red light.

Other factors

Overloaded trucks are expensive to maintain, and the trucking company may not pay close enough attention to regularly scheduled maintenance. However, allowing trucks to haul heavier cargo that is not evenly distributed and prone to shifting is a safety hazard, and the company and others associated with this practice risk liability.

Fair compensation

Although commercial trucks must adhere to various state and federal regulations, overloading is a practice that continues for some companies focused on the prospect of higher profits. A thorough investigation will help determine fault. Truck-car collision cases are usually complex because fault may extend to more than one company or individual: for example, those liable may include the truck driver, the company that owns the truck, the company or individual who loaded the truck and even the person who failed to train the driver in proper loading procedures. You have every right to enjoy a safe drive in Las Vegas, but if you are the injured victim of a truck-car crash, you have the right to expect full and fair compensation to cover your medical expenses, lost wages and more.

A Distracted Truck Driver is Heading For a Rear-End Accident

People in and around Las Vegas, Nevada, probably recognize that any distracted driver poses a hazard on the roads. However, a distracted truck driver in particular makes traveling more dangerous for everyone around that large truck.

Part of the reason distracted driving is particularly dangerous for a trucker to engage in is that, as a matter of science, it simply takes longer to bring a truck to a complete stop. For instance, assuming a highway speed of 65 miles per hour, a trucker who applies the brakes will travel on average 454 feet, 209 feet more than an average car.

However, it is important to remember that these distances only account for the time after a motorist applies the brakes. A fully attentive motorist is going to travel another 45 feet or so before they even make that decision that they need to brake and then move their foot on to the brake pedal and press.

What this means in practice is that while a driver of a car might be able to make up for a delayed reaction that is, for example, due to taking one’s eyes off the road for a second, a trucker is going to have a hard time stopping for an upcoming vehicle or other hazard even if the driver gives up a foot or two of reaction distance because of fatigue, drunkenness, a distraction or just plain inattentiveness. Truckers simply cannot spare that extra distance when they require so much more space to stop.

Even the least bit of inattentive driving can lead to serious trucking accidents, and these are accidents truck drivers themselves are in the best position to prevent. If someone in Las Vegas gets hurt by a distracted or inattentive truck driver, he or she may be entitled to receive compensation via a personal injury lawsuit.

Truck Drivers, Companies Can Prevent Jackknifes

Any vehicle is prone to jackknifing to some degree, a jackknife is, after all, the end result of a skid, or a situation in which a vehicle’s tires are no longer gripping but instead sliding across the road. Still, jackknifes are most pronounced, and obvious, in trucks, as they mean the trailer of the truck will head in one direction while the cab will continue along in the original direction of the vehicle.

A heavy trailer swinging out of its lane of traffic no doubt has the potential to hit other cars, sweeping them off of the road. The drivers and passengers of these cars are at risk for a serious injury, as the weight of the truck leaves them vulnerable.

Although they might try to pass it off as a fact that of life that trucks skid from time to time, jackknifing is in fact preventable, meaning Las Vegas, Nevada residents who do get hurt in a jackknife can look to the truck driver and the transportation company for compensation.

More specifically, a driver can stop a jackknife from happening simply by traveling at the proper speed and practicing careful braking techniques. A rapid stop can cause a jackknife, especially if a driver attempts one on a curve or hill. A slick road can also cause a jackknife if a trucker does not anticipate the need for extra stopping distance and tries to brake too hard as a result.

Although not always the driver’s fault, a load that is not correctly distributed can also make a truck more prone to jackknifing. While it is ideal to have a full truck, when that is not possible, it is even more important to make sure the trailer is properly packed.

A truck driver and company can prevent trucking accidents caused by jackknifing simply by taking a few precautionary steps. A victim of a jackknifing accident should therefore consider filing a personal injury suit in order to collect compensation for his or her losses.

Driving While Too Tired is Similar to Driving Drunk

A previous post on this blog discussed how federal regulators have put in to place rules that limit how long truckers subject to their jurisdiction can stay on the road before pulling over for several hours so that they can rest and, hopefully, get some sleep. The reason behind these rules are to prevent truckers from driving while too fatigued to do so safely.

Preventing fatigued truck driving is a noble cause since that behavior is so dangerous. One organization, the National Sleep Foundation, even compares drowsy driving to drunken driving, since the effects of sleep deprivation on a driver can be confused with those of alcohol or other drugs.

In extreme cases of drowsy driving, a trucker may literally fall asleep while driving, at least for a short time. Even if he does not, however, the lack of sleep will slow the driver’s reaction times, blur his vision and hinder his ability to determine distances or make split decisions.

This is because a mind operating on low sleep works more slowly, meaning a person takes long to digest information and come to a judgment about the best course of action. Likewise, the lack of sleep can affect a person’s emotions, making a driver very sensitive to the behavior of other motorists and thus more likely to engage in aggressive or reckless driving behavior.

The effect being overly tired has on a truck driver is profound, and one can easily see how fatigue can lead to serious trucking accidents. This is why it is imperative that truck drivers, and the companies which hire them, make sure that they follow all rules concerning mandatory breaks and actually get appropriate sleep during those breaks. Drivers should also be on guard for the signs of any medical or other condition that might prevent them from getting a good night of sleep.

When drivers choose to travel on the roads of Las Vegas while too tired to do so, the end result can easily be a Nevada resident’s getting seriously hurt or killed. Should this happen, the victim or the victim’s family have legal options for pursuing compensation from both the negligent driver and his trucking firm.

How Federal Hours of Service Rules Can Help Injured Victims

Many truckers who travel through the Las Vegas area are regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), an agency which oversees interstate truckers at the federal level. These regulations are usually aimed at preventing accidents and improving safety on the country’s roadways.

By way of example, among its other rules, the FMCSA requires truckers to take periodic breaks so that they can get the rest they need and not get too tired while behind the wheel. Specifically, drivers have to take a 10-hour break after being behind the wheel for 11 hours.

Moreover, since brief stops for gas or the restroom do not count as part of the 11 hours, the FMCSA also requires the 10-hour break after 14 hours on the clock. There are also rules for many hours a trucker can be on the clock during a given period.

Truck drivers and trucking companies who do not follow the rules can face fines and other penalties. However, the fact a trucker can get fined for breaking the federal rest rules does not necessarily help victims of truck accidents who got hurt because of a fatigued driver. These victims still have to file a personal injury case against the negligent truck driver and, if appropriate, his or her trucking company.

The fact a trucker violated the federal rest rules can help a person who is pursing compensation through a personal injury case, as it can be used as evidence of the driver’s negligence. However, it is still usually a good idea to file a claim for damages with the help of an experienced Las Vegas personal injury attorney.

Sideguards Reduce Truck Fatalities

Relatively unsophisticated devices can decrease the severity of trucking accidents in Nevada. The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety recently tested an aftermarket device that blocked a midsize passenger vehicle from sliding beneath a truck trailer in a 40 mph test in August.

These crashes, known as truck underride accidents, are deadly. There were 1,542 passenger car occupants killed in collisions with tractor-trailers in 2015. Of these accidents, 301 involved truck underride accidents, while 292 involved rear-end collisions.

A 2009 Chevrolet Malibu crashed into the center of a 53-foot-long trailer at 40 mph in this test. The truck’s side guard bent. However, the car was blocked from traveling underneath the trailer. The car’s airbags and safety belt also restrained the test dummy driver. Testing showed that there was a low likelihood that a person would have suffered injuries in this accident.

An earlier successful test was performed where the car was traveling at 35 mph. The second successful test conducted at 40 mph is important because a collision at this higher speed has 30 times more energy.

In a second test performed at 35 mph without a sideguard, the Malibu got wedged under the trailer and part of its roof was ripped off. In a real accident, a driver probably would not survive that crash.

Sideguards that prevent vehicle crashes are relatively new. However, lighter weight devices are being used to protect bicyclists and pedestrians. Boston, New York and Seattle now require the installation of these devices on municipally owned or contracted trucks.

Solutions to side underride accidents, according to one manufacturer of these devices, are possible. More widespread use of similar devices, along with ongoing improvements to rear underride guards on trucks, could help reduce fatalities in large truck collisions.

Improving rearguards may be easier. Guards that meet current federal standards are not always effective in preventing underride. These devices are particularly less successful when a smaller vehicle collides with the rear of a truck off-center. IIHS tests of a midsize car into the rear of a tractor-trailer were successful when performed in various configurations.

A serious or fatal accident could be caused by reckless or negligent driving or where a truck owner utilizes insufficient safety measures. Accident victims or their families should seek legal assistance to help them pursue their right to compensation.

Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Highway Loss Data Institute, “Side guard on semitrailer prevents underride in 40 mph test,” Aug. 29, 2017

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