When drivers of large commercial trucks aren’t alert and focused on their task of safely transporting cargo, they can collide with other cars on the road. Negligent actions like this harm innocent people in more ways than causing injuries. The emotional and financial stress of a big rig collision can overwhelm anyone. A Baltimore truck accident lawyer from Belsky, Weinberg & Horowitz, LLC can represent victims who were wrongfully injured.
We understand how a commercial vehicle accident can disrupt your life and put everything on hold. You need to be able to depend on your lawyer to stand up for you. We believe in providing highly personalized legal representation to our clients. We’ll go over every part of your case and make sure you understand what you are entitled to, so you’re able to receive a full and fair settlement.
Maryland Truck Accident Statistics
Accidents with fatalities involving large trucks in Maryland have been tracked by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Baltimore and Prince George’s counties tend to see the highest number of big rig-related deaths in our state.
The past few years have had consistently high numbers of tractor-trailer accident fatalities:
- 2017 had 48 fatalities.
- 2016 had 63 fatalities.
- 2015 had 58 fatalities.
- 2014 had 49 fatalities.
Nationally, the numbers are more severe. 2016 showed that 4,440 large semis and buses were in fatal crashes. The general trend of fatal crashes from 2009-2016 shows an increase of 28 percent. Recognizing how dangerous accidents involving large trucks can be is important. The more aware passenger vehicle drivers and truckers are of the dangers, the better chance collision rates will decrease.
A commercial vehicle wreck often occurs when you least expect it. If it does, you’ll want a trusted lawyer at your side.
Common Causes of Maryland Big Rig Accidents
There are a number of causes associated with large 18-wheeler accidents. With responsible driving and awareness, many collisions can be prevented. It’s important to be aware of one of the most common dangers related to driving a commercial vehicle that results in a high number of accidents – blind spots.
The blind spot behind the tractor-trailer extends to about 30 feet, where the front of the truck has a blind spot of 20 feet. On the driver’s left side, the immediate lane next to them is a blind spot. The driver’s right side has two lanes of blind spots. Big rig drivers who aren’t aware of these spots could turn into an unsuspecting car. Motorists who aren’t familiar with these spots can sit next to a large truck or behind it and essentially remain unseen.
Anyone who drives near a large truck should try and minimize the time they spend in a trucker’s blind spots. This means avoiding both lanes directly next to the vehicle and only utilizing that space for passing whenever possible. Pass trucks on the left-hand side only if possible, and only when it’s safe to do so. When passing, maneuver your car so you spend only a fraction of a second or two in the blind spots.
Be extra cautious when passing a truck on a curvy highway or road, as truckers may have to unexpectantly slow or take a curve wider than you expect. After passing, wait to move back in front of the truck until you can see the tractor trailer in your rearview mirror. This gives the trucker ample time to notice you and adjust their speed if necessary. It’s also a good idea to use the general rule that if you can’t see the driver in their mirrors, then they can’t see you.
Tractor-trailers weigh much more than the average car. When a trucker needs to slow down to stop or make a turn, they need to allot for extra time because it takes longer for the big rig to safely decelerate. Ignoring this rule could lead to a collision.
Other causes of commercial semi accidents include the following:
- Mechanical Failure. The brakes or engine could fail, and the driver would lose control of the tractor-trailer. Regular maintenance should detect these issues and trucking companies should be taking measures to ensure their vehicles are safe to drive.
- Distracted Driving. Cell phones are a major distraction to drivers. Truckers who use their phones to text, use social media, or as a navigation device could become distracted from the road in front of them.
- Overloaded Cargo. Larger vehicles have a set limit of weight they can safely transport. When a truck’s cargo goes above this limit it becomes dangerous because the truck can be significantly harder to control.
- Improper Weight Distribution. The cargo also has to be distributed so the weight is even throughout the semi and doesn’t put unnecessary strain on certain parts of the vehicle. Improperly loaded vehicles are at risk for rollover wrecks.
- Reaction Time. Newer drivers may not have the experience needed to react appropriately to situations on the road where they need to slow down quickly or avoid something in their lane.
- Aggressive Driving. Speeding and tailgating can lead to truck accidents because a trucker needs more time to react if they need to brake or change lanes. Either action could lead to the commercial vehicle driving overtop a smaller passenger car.
- Substance Abuse. Some commercial vehicle drivers may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs when they’re driving, which dangerously impedes their ability to safely operate a vehicle. Substance abuse often slows reactions, reduces decision-making skills, and lowers the driver’s awareness of what’s happening on the road around them.
- Road Unfamiliarity. When a driver isn’t familiar with the roads, they may not know about a blind turn or if the road suddenly forks. This could possibly lead to an accident, especially in the event they are speeding.
- Driver Error. An inexperienced driver who isn’t used to operating a big rig may not allow enough time to slow down, signal a lane change, or turn, and end up colliding with other vehicles. But even drivers with experience can make mistakes on the road.
- Driver Fatigue. Truckers often travel over long distances for many days in a row. While there are federal regulationsfor truck drivers that determine when they need to rest, many may not listen to these rules in favor of getting to their destination faster. Fatigued drivers are less attentive and could possibly fall asleep at the wheel. Their vehicle could veer into another lane or off the road, putting others around them in danger.
Many of these reasons that cause accidents are preventable because they’re acts of negligence made by either the trucker or the trucking company. This can make your ordeal more painful because if they had acted responsibly, there’s a chance your accident would not have happened. You deserve to have your rights represented by legal professionals who will get you the compensation you need to get your life back in order.
Types of Commercial Vehicle Accidents
The causes discussed above can result in a number of accidents, some of which are likely to cause significantly more damage. The following are the most common types of large truck wrecks:
- Wide-Turn Accident. Large vehicles like commercial trucks need more space to turn than an average car or SUV. When a big rig swings left to make a right turn, they could collide with the cars to the right and pinch them between the trailer and sidewalk.
- Rollovers. These accidents can occur for a number of reasons. The most common is improper loading and inclement weather. Because of their size, a big rig’s load needs to be balanced properly. If it’s not, the tractor-trailer risks rolling over. Inclement weather, like ice and snow, can also cause a driver to lose control of their vehicle. Rollovers can become deadly if the trailer portion crushes other vehicles.
- Jackknife. If a trucker is speeding and needs to brake quickly, they risk jackknifing. This occurs when the trailer skids forward, creating a 90-degree angle with the cab.
- Rear-End Collisions. If a speeding tractor-trailer is unable to brake efficiently, there is the chance it could rear-end the vehicle in front. This can cause serious property damage and catastrophic injuries or death.
- Underride Crash. If a smaller vehicle is traveling behind a commercial vehicle and approaches too quickly or the truck needs to make an emergency stop, the passenger vehicle could get lodged under the big rig. These accidents often result in fatalities.
Injuries Related to Tractor-Trailer Crashes
Truck accident injuries are often more severe than injuries sustained in other motor vehicle accidents. The speed and weight of a truck could easily demolish a small or medium size car. Injuries can hospitalize people or have catastrophic consequences, which means the injury could be permanent, like brain damage or paralysis.
The injuries victims can sustain include:
- Traumatic Brain Injury. While common brain injuries, like mild concussions, are likely to heal and not leave any serious or lasting impact, severe brain trauma can result in total brain death.
- Head and Neck Injuries. Certain neck injuries, like whiplash, are often hard to initially detect. It’s important to be evaluated by a doctor to ensure any injuries you cannot see are treated.
- Spinal Injuries. Severe spinal cord injuries can result in temporary or permanent paralysis.
- Broken Bones. Fractures are common during tractor-trailer accidents. While some may heal with only the help of a cast, others may require surgery.
- Amputations. Because of the force of impact associated with truck collisions, victims who are crushed in any way may lose limbs.
- Burn Injuries. When a crash results in burn injuries, the recovery process is generally long and incredibly expensive.
There may be some cases where making a full recovery is not a possibility. Catastrophic injuries, such as traumatic brain injuries, can often cause problems or conditions that a person will need to live with for the rest of their lives. This could mean that you’re no longer able to do your job or may require medical assistance or equipment to maintain a quality of life.
These injuries can be painful, require professional medical attention, and may prevent you from working. Your recovery could take weeks to months. A skilled truck accident attorney will get you a settlement that will provide financial support for all the accident has cost you.
What to Expect When Filing Your Claim
The claim process may seem daunting, but we’ll break it down into manageable steps. The first step is signing an agreement with your lawyer. In this process, you will figure out the parameters of the agreement, such as contingency fees, how the agreement can be canceled, and how your attorney is going to handle your case.
Another item you may discuss with your attorney is the expected timeline for the case. This way, you may have an idea of how long your claim will take and that there will be times when you have to wait so your lawyer can gather the evidence they need or for court dates to be set. The sooner you file your claim the better, as you don’t want to run into any issues with a statute of limitations.
When your attorney is starting on your case, they may advise you to only discuss legal matters with them. They will also tell you the necessary information you need to pass on to your insurance company and the other parties involved in the claim but will also prevent you from saying anything that could harm your claim in the future.
After these matters are settled, your attorney will start looking into your case and its details. This can take time because your lawyer will investigate the accident report, the scene of the accident, and your medical records. They will start to connect how the accident happened, who was at fault, how you were injured, and how your life was affected. When working on this part of the case, your lawyer may also seek out eyewitnesses to your accident. They can give an unbiased third party account to what happened, which can strengthen your case.
When all the evidence has been amassed, your lawyer will send a letter to the proper insurance company that explains that you were injured because of the person’s negligent actions and are seeking compensation. You will then move forward to the settlement process. Accepting the first settlement isn’t always in your best interest, as you may be offered less than you need or deserve. Your attorney can assist with the negotiations.
In the event you can’t reach a settlement agreement, your case may move to trial. While this isn’t common, your attorneys will be prepared for this possible outcome. In the event that happens, your case will be determined by a judge or jury. There is a lot to consider before agreeing to go to trial because there’s a chance the court won’t rule in your favor – meaning that you may not get anything. If the other party isn’t negotiating with you, however, and keeps offering you a settlement that’s not going to help you, then it may be in your best interest to proceed to court.
While this process can be long and difficult, your attorney will be by your side the entire time. You won’t feel out of the loop or confused about where your case stands.
Get Help from Belsky Weinberg & Horowitz, LLC
If you’ve suffered from a truck accident injury, don’t let insurance companies push you around and try to get you to settle early. An early settlement may resolve the legal matter but leave you with less compensation than you deserve that may not even begin to cover your medical expenses, let alone your lost wages, pain and suffering, and any other related expenses. You need legal representation that will demand your case to be taken seriously.
Contact our law firm today to schedule a free consultation. You’ll get in touch with one of our attorneys and go over the merits of your case. Together, you can discuss your legal options, ask questions, and find out the best course of action for you and your family.