Motorists involved in an 18-wheeler truck accident often suffer severe and permanent injury that significantly impacts their quality of life. The difference in mass between a standard passenger vehicle and an 18-wheeler results in crashes that can threaten everyone near the incident. In fact, most big rigs weigh 20 to 30 times more than most passenger vehicles. This extra mass means the carrier requires more distance to come to a complete stop. As a result, the professionals driving these vehicles are expected to maintain vigilant attention and maintain their vehicles thoroughly.
In 2009, more than 3,000 people in the U.S. were killed in a truck accident. Most of these victims, around 70 percent, occupied passenger vehicles involved in the wreck. In Texas alone, around 50,000 people were injured in these crashes during 2009. Many of these incidents were caused by careless, distracted or impaired drivers who were in violation of regulations. The Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration, or FMCSA, oversees the vehicular transport of cargo throughout the country. Every professional driver is expected to be familiar with FMCSA regulations. Professionals who are in violation of them during a wreck may be responsible for any injuries or damage caused.
A semi truck accident can be caused by many things. Simple careless driving is responsible for tens of thousands of incidents every year. Speeding, tailgating, sudden lane changes, failure to signal or ignoring weather or road conditions can all cause a wreck. Drivers distracted by their radio, cell phone or passengers may also put others at risk. Cargo carriers must be inspected regularly and properly maintained. They must also be kept within a certain weight limit. Failure to maintain the vehicle or overloading it can result in equipment failure and a major incident that could involve several passenger vehicles. Finally, driving 18-wheelers for long distances while fatigued or under the influence of drugs or alcohol poses a major safety risk.
Driving while fatigued is a particularly common cause of many wrecks. Drivers are often paid bonuses for quick transport, which incentivizes unsafe working hours. As a result, the FMCSA has instituted driving hour limits that must be followed by all professionals. In general, a driver may not operate a cargo vehicle for more than 14 hours after their rest period (which must be 10 consecutive hours off duty). Also, professional semi drivers are not allowed to drive more than 70 hours in an eight-day stretch. The driver must also spend 34 consecutive hours off-duty to before driving again. Failing to recognize these requirements may result in impairment and a resulting truck accident.
Wrecks involving 18-wheelers can cause major injury or death. Victims may suffer from permanent disability, paralysis or loss of mental function. Spinal fractures can leave a person bedridden and dependent on others for life. Injuries caused by the incident may prevent a person from working while also leaving the victim with expensive medical bills.
Because of the severity of possible injuries, victims should consider speaking to an experienced attorney immediately following a truck accident. These legal experts are familiar with FMCSA regulations and understand the standard of maintenance the driver must meet. They can gather witnesses and experts to help the victim build their case. With the help of a personal injury attorney, the victim can get compensation that can help pay medical bills and provide essentials while recovering from the accident.