Car accidents involving trucks are very different than two-car collisions. Because semi-trucks are so massive, they are usually unwieldy, which can play a major role in an accident. As a St. Louis truck accident attorney, I will investigate all of the legal factors concerning your accident and injuries, which may include some of the unique features that follow.
Tank Bodies or Tankers
Different types of trailers add variables that can greatly affect a truck’s maneuverability. For example, a truck may get pushed or swayed by the sloshing of the liquid it carries. Although a tank with baffles (internal dividers) may reduce sloshing, certain tankers, such as milk carriers, cannot have baffles due to health regulations, and because the danger of rollover increases with a partially full tanker.
Another difference between cars and big rigs is the increase in the distance required to stop. While an average car moving at 65 miles per hour is able to stop in approximately 162 feet, it takes a semi-truck about 420 feet to stop traveling at this same speed.
Bobtails and Empty Trailers
Perhaps surprisingly, both bobtails (trucks not hauling a trailer) and empty trucks require greater stopping distances than loaded trucks. The reason for the added stopping distance is because an empty vehicle has less traction – the brakes, tires, springs and shock absorbers on heavy trucks are designed to operate most efficiently when the trailer is fully loaded.
Large trucks have a higher center of gravity than cars. As a result, they are more prone to roll-overs than cars. Simply hitting a curb or turning too sharply on a slope is often enough to cause a rollover.
Commercial Truck Brake Systems and Jack-knifing
Tractor-trailers and cars contain completely different brake systems. The air brakes installed in tractor-trailers can be mysterious to those who have not had firsthand experience with them.
In an air brake system, pressure is used to increase the braking force, and the compressed air can multiply the force of mechanical braking several times. An air brake system is critical to stopping large trucks, as the weight of the truck and the cargo that they carry requires significant force to bring to a stop. Proper use of the air brakes can help keep a truck from sliding and jack-knifing.
For example, if the steering axle brakes lock up, a truck will still moves forward, despite the angle of the wheels. If the drive axle brakes are locked, the truck can jack-knife. The trailer will swing out to the side if the trailer axle brakes lock up.
Truckers also have to be cautious while driving downhill long distances, as their brakes can overheat and fail. An unbalanced brake system can play an integral role in a crash – it can affect the steering, control, and the stopping distance of the vehicle.
Trucks often lack adequate safeguards to prevent a type of accident called “underrides.” “Underrides” occur when a truck stops suddenly and a smaller passenger car is unable to stop before crashing into the rear or side of the truck’s trailer. This impact often cuts off the entire cab of the car.
In the late 1960s actress Jayne Mansfield was killed when her automobile underrode the rear end of a tractor-trailer. Despite the high-profile nature of the accident, little has been done since to prevent others from meeting a similar gruesome end.
Underrides kill approximately 1,000 people annually and all are car occupants. Only about 2 percent of individuals involved in underride collisions survive. In 1996, the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration required all trucks made after 1998 to have adequate rear underguards and side and rear reflector tape; however, approximately 2 million trucks and trailers are still in service that are not required to be retrofitted with underguards.
The Visibility Factor
Apart from the mechanical components of the truck, other factors may interfere with a truck driver’s ability to safely operate his or her vehicle. As your lawyer, we may investigate the following:
- What is the general condition of the cab?
- Does the driver place equipment, novelty stickers, or toys in the window of his or her passenger side that obscure his or her view in the mirror or over the dashboard?
- What is the line of sight of the driver – what can the driver see out of the mirrors?
- Where are the blind spots on the truck?
Currently Qualcomm makes the most common onboard locating system – a global positioning system (GPS) that geographically tracks a truck’s location. Qualcomm sells several products for truck drivers. One product allows the driver to communicate with his or her dispatcher and serves as an onboard fax machine. The driver can hit an emergency button indicating that he or she has an emergency, and then, in theory, Dispatch can respond.
As part of our investigation, we typically work to get GPS information before it can be deleted. We also seek other documents, including credit card receipts, bills of lading, logs, and payroll records. The GPS system can then be used for comparing all this information and determining geographic positions and speed.
Free Consultation – Let Us Represent You
If you have been injured, or a loved one has been killed, in a truck accident, I invite you to call our firm as soon possible to schedule a free consultation with me.
As a former federal prosecutor and nationally-known personal injury lawyer, I will use my 20 years of legal experience on your behalf. I will work tirelessly toward the goal of achieving for you the maximum financial recovery possible. Our firm represents clients on a contingency fee basis, meaning that we are not owed any fees unless and until a settlement or judgment for damages for our clients are received.