The Dangers Posed by Semi-Trucks (and What to Do About Them)

Semi-trucks are large vehicles that haul one or more trailers on busy highways in the St. Louis area, including Interstates 44, 255, 270, 55, 64, and 70. Trucks in our neighborhoods off the highway make deliveries to Schnuck’s and Dierbergs Markets, as well as many other businesses.

Many people, unfortunately, die each year in motor vehicle collisions that involve semi-trucks. Even when there are no fatalities, the occupants of the impacted vehicle usually suffer more serious injuries. After all, semi-trucks are much larger and heavier than the average passenger vehicle.

An impact from the semi-truck can cause an accident victim’s body to move about inside the vehicle or strike the steering wheel, doorframe, or headrest. Semi-trucks also travel at very high speeds, and when a collision with a passenger vehicle occurs, the driver and occupants of that vehicle may require immediate medical care and attention.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), semi-truck accidents lead to numerous fatalities every year. On an annual basis, approximately 5,000 people riding in passenger vehicles die in semi-truck accidents nationwide. Likewise, nearly 64 percent of fatal semi-truck accidents involve a semi hauling one trailer. Multi-trailer vehicle crashes account for approximately 4 percent of these accidents.

Most semi-truck accidents occur because of negligence by the truck driver or trucking company. If you or a person you love has suffered injuries in a semi-truck accident, you deserve to recover monetary compensation for your injuries and other damages.

A knowledgeable St. Louis truck accident attorney can discuss your accident with you. Your lawyer can then decide if you are eligible to file a claim, and if so, file it with the appropriate insurance company. Finally, your attorney can negotiate settlement offers on your behalf and litigate your case in the court system if it becomes necessary in your case.

Reasons Why Semi-truck Accidents Happen in the First Place

Semi-truck accidents in the St. Louis area happen for a variety of reasons. Some of the most common causes of these accidents include improper loading procedures, distracted driving, truck driver inexperience, truck driver fatigue, and improper maintenance. If you have suffered injuries in a semi-truck accident that occurred for any of these reasons, you should speak with a knowledgeable truck accident attorney in St. Louis as soon as possible.

#1. Improper Loading Procedures

When truck drivers and other trucking company employees load cargo onto the bed of a trailer, they must ensure that they fasten it properly. The fasteners must be tight to prevent cargo from rolling off the trailer when in motion. If cargo rolls off the trailer and into the roadway, it can create a massive pile-up, causing numerous motor vehicles collisions.

Trucking companies must instruct drivers and packers in the proper loading procedures to follow. In addition, these individuals must follow all state and federal motor carrier regulations and other guidelines regarding weight distribution and loading practices. When packers do not distribute the weight evenly throughout the trailer, the vehicle can overturn or become Involved in a jack-knife accident, bringing about serious damages to occupants of the impacted vehicle.

#2. Distracted Driving

A semi-truck operator engages in distracted driving when they turn attention away from the roadway. The driver might play with a radio, drink, eat, text, or type an address into the truck’s GPS. Turning one’s head away from the road for a second or two is sufficient time for a serious accident to occur. Moreover, when a large semi-truck barrels down the road at 70 miles per hour or more, the driver cannot afford to take their eyes off the road.

Given the long hours that truck drivers frequently operate their vehicles, they are prone to distracted driving. To help alleviate this risk, drivers should take frequent breaks and stop to rest at regular intervals. When truck drivers are distracted while behind the wheel, they significantly increase the chances that they are going to cause a collision with a smaller passenger vehicle.

#3. Truck Driver Inexperience

Trucking companies are responsible for hiring, retaining, and supervising experienced drivers who have clean driving records. Likewise, in some instances, trucking companies may pay new drivers to quickly complete various courses and then get them on the road very quickly without much prior driving experience. Inexperienced truck drivers might not be familiar with the type of truck they operate.

Trucking companies can also sometimes save themselves money by hiring inexperienced drivers to do their work. However, an inexperienced driver is more likely to engage in distracted driving and have difficulty maneuvering the vehicle, leading to a serious accident. When a trucking accident happens because of driver inexperience, the employer trucking company can be fully or partly at fault for the collision.

#4. Improper Truck Maintenance

Semi-truck drivers and trucking companies must give their vehicles regular maintenance. When this does not happen, various components can break down, leading to accidents. For example, truck drivers and trucking companies must ensure that braking systems receive constant maintenance at regular intervals. The same goes for truck steering mechanisms, exterior lighting (both overhead and undercarriage lights), and turn signal devices. If any of these components give out while a trucker is driving, a serious accident can occur.

#5. Truck Driver Fatigue

Trucking companies often encourage their drivers to operate their vehicles for long hours on end. They sometimes offer drivers financial bonuses to deliver their cargo to its final destination earlier than expected. As a result, many truck drivers will not take breaks or even stay at a hotel overnight. In addition, some truck drivers will even resort to taking drugs to keep themselves awake for long periods.

Unfortunately, however, these drugs sometimes have harmful side effects. Moreover, a fatigued driver’s reaction time might decrease. When that happens, the driver may not properly react to an emergency on time. Serious accidents and injuries can occur as a result.

#6. Truck Driver Intoxication

Another common cause of truck accidents is driver intoxication. Whenever a motor vehicle operator gets behind the wheel of a car or truck while intoxicated, they put all other roadway drivers and their passengers at risk. Truck drivers must follow a higher standard of care than the operators of passenger vehicles. Specifically, a 0.04 percent blood alcohol concentration (BAC) cut-off applies to commercial truck drivers.

If a Breathalyzer or other test determines that a truck driver operates a vehicle while intoxicated, the driver can face both criminal and civil penalties.

In terms of criminal penalties, the state can charge the driver with DUI/DWI or another serious offense. If convicted, a judge can sentence the driver to jail time, fines, community service, and/or license revocation. In addition, if the intoxicated driver causes an accident that leads to injuries or deaths, the accident victim can bring a claim against the truck driver’s insurance company, seeking damages. If the accident results in one or more fatalities, a surviving family member can file a claim or lawsuit for wrongful death damages.

Who Is Responsible for a Semi-truck Accident?

Several individuals and entities can potentially be responsible for a semi-truck accident and its aftermath. First of all, you can hold a truck driver who violates a rule of the road, drives distracted, or operates a vehicle while intoxicated liable. Similarly, the trucking company that employs the driver can be responsible if the driver was acting within the scope of his or her employment at the time the accident happened.

Trucking companies are also responsible for providing truck drivers with the necessary experience, training, and certifications. They must also hire and supervise experienced drivers and not retain drivers with poor driving records. If an accident victim can show that a trucking company acted unreasonably under the circumstances, the trucking company can share in some or all of the liability.

In most instances, truck drivers and the trucking companies that employ them have the same insurance company. In a personal injury case, the accident victim’s lawyer can bring a claim directly against that insurance company for monetary compensation and damages.

In addition to truck drivers and trucking companies, you might blame a repair facility for a serious truck accident. The repair facility might not have performed maintenance work in a proper, careful, or workmanlike manner, resulting in the accident. Likewise, if an accident victim can show that a defective part caused an accident, the victim can bring a product liability claim against the manufacturer. Expert testimony will be necessary to demonstrate that a truck part or component was defective at the time of the accident and more importantly, that the defect substantially caused the accident.

A knowledgeable semi-truck accident attorney in St. Louis can identify all potentially responsible parties for the accident, and if necessary, pursue litigation in the court system.

Filing a Claim against a Negligent Semi-truck Driver or Trucking Company

To recover monetary compensation following a truck accident, the accident victim will need to establish that the truck driver, trucking company, or some other entity acted unreasonably under the circumstances. If the insurance company accepts liability/fault for the accident, the accident victim’s lawyer may settle the claim. If the insurance company refuses to offer fair compensation for the accident victim’s injuries, the accident victim’s attorney can file a lawsuit in the court system and litigate the case to a conclusion.

Potential Damages in Personal Injury Cases that Involve Semi-Trucks

Victims of semi-truck accidents in the St. Louis area can suffer very serious injuries. The injuries that an accident victim will suffer depend upon how the accident victim’s body moved in the vehicle at the point of impact, the seriousness of the impact, and the force of the collision.

Truck accident victims can suffer traumatic brain and head injuries, broken bones, soft tissue injuries, spinal cord injuries, and internal organ damage. Whenever an accident victim suffers any of these injuries, they should seek immediate medical treatment at a hospital emergency room.

Following that initial emergency room visit, the accident victim may need to follow up with a specialist or with a primary care doctor. Some accident victims also need to undergo surgery or some physical therapy sessions. All of this medical treatment can be costly, and medical expenses are reimbursable as part of a personal injury case even when an accident victim’s medical insurance pays for some or all of the associated costs.

In addition to recovering medical expenses following a semi-truck accident, the accident victim may be eligible to recover lost wage compensation. Many accident victims will need to miss time away from their work to fully recuperate from their injuries and get back to their pre-accident condition.

Victims of semi-truck accidents in St. Louis can also recover compensation for their inconvenience, pain and suffering, and loss of life enjoyment. If the accident victim suffered one or more permanent injuries in the accident, they may recover receive compensation for loss of the ability to use a body part. Such would be the case if the accident victim suffered a paralysis injury or some other permanent disability in the accident. Finally, if the accident victim can longer return to the same job at the same pay, they can claim the loss of earning capacity.

An experienced St. Louis semi-truck accident attorney can help you recover the damages you need for your injuries. If the insurance company does not pay you the compensation that you deserve, your lawyer can file a lawsuit in the court system, and if necessary, take your case to trial. Your lawyer can also explore alternative dispute resolution options with you, such as mediation or arbitration, that may result in favorable compensation.