When a commercial vehicle collides with a passenger vehicle, the difference in size and weight usually means that occupants in the passenger vehicle are seriously injured or killed, even in low-speed crashes. Bicyclists, pedestrians, and motorcyclists are at even higher risk of catastrophic or fatal injury due to their lack of accident protection.
In Philadelphia, injured individuals can hold truck drivers and trucking companies legally liable for harm caused by their negligence or noncompliance. If you were injured or lost a loved one in a trucking accident, our Philadelphia attorneys can help you understand your family’s legal options.
What Type of Injuries Do People Suffer in Commercial Trucking Accidents in Philadelphia?
- Back injuries, including spinal cord injuries (SCI), paralysis, and injuries to the spinal column or backbone, such as fractured vertebrae or herniated disc injuries.
- Bone fracture injuries (broken bones), such as arm fractures, leg fractures, wrist and ankle fractures, and pelvic fractures (broken hip injuries).
- Concussions, head injuries, and other traumatic brain injuries (TBI).
- Severe lacerations (cuts) and puncture wounds.
- Soft tissue injuries, such as whiplash neck injuries.
What Causes Commercial Trucking Crashes in Philadelphia?
Driver error is the main cause of or contributing factor to most vehicular accidents, including most of the trucking accidents that occur in Philadelphia and other areas of Pennsylvania.
Though vehicle defects cause fewer accidents than careless mistakes behind the wheel, equipment failures also pose a risk. The most common vehicle defects and driver errors in commercial trucking accidents, ranked by the number of crashes, were:
- Tire defects and wheel defects (100 crashes).
- Brake defects (65 crashes).
- Powertrain failures and steering system failures (32 crashes each).
- Overloaded or unsecured trailers (27 crashes).
- Improper towing accidents or trailer hitch defects (7 crashes).
Truck Size and Weight
Truck crashes pose a high threat of catastrophic injury due to the size and weight of commercial vehicles. For example, a fully-loaded tractor-trailer can weigh as much as 20 to 30 times the weight of a common passenger vehicle.
Furthermore, commercial vehicles typically travel at high speeds, increasing the potential for severe injury or death. As mass and speed increase, not only do the forces exerted increase but also, the vehicle requires more time and energy to control. When speed and weight are factored in, it can take a tractor-trailer roughly 20% to 40% longer to come to a complete stop compared to a standard passenger car, truck, van, or SUV.
Height and Maneuverability
Large commercial vehicles are much higher off the ground than other types of vehicles. This has at least three potentially dangerous consequences:
- Due to their height, commercial trucks often have considerably increased blind spots in comparison to a passenger vehicle.
- The increased vehicle height also means a higher center of gravity. This makes the vehicle less maneuverable and more prone to tipping and jack-knifing.
- The reduced maneuverability also means that the 18-wheeler is less able to avoid hazards on the roadway.
Rear Underride Guards
Rear underride guards theoretically prevent smaller cars from sliding underneath large trucks. However, even when these guards are properly installed, the extreme speed and weight of the truck often means that underride guards do little to actually prevent serious and fatal injuries. In a 2013 study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, underride guards were found to be deficient in preventing injuries in certain crash types. This means that even when safety measures are implemented, they are often insufficient at protecting against fatal injuries on the road.
The Long Hours Some Truck Drivers Work
Of the many regulations created by regulatory agencies, one of the most effective is a rule limiting the number of hours that a trucker may continuously operate a vehicle. These “hours-of-service” regulations (HOS), as mentioned earlier, were enacted to reduce accidents caused by driver fatigue and exhaustion.
HOS regulations apply to commercial drivers operating a vehicle that has a gross weight of more than 10,000 pounds.
In addition to these hourly limits, there is an array of additional safety regulations intended to ensure that only qualified, fit drivers operate commercial vehicles like 18-wheelers. For instance, drivers must pass a test for medical fitness. The presence of certain uncontrolled illnesses or conditions, such as sleep apnea, can render a driver unfit. Trucking safety agencies also establish rules and regulations concerning the maintenance of truck equipment, such as procedures the driver must follow if the vehicle has a mechanical problem or cannot otherwise be driven. If a driver ignores or violates these standards, the trucker or trucking company may be liable for personal injuries, property damage, or wrongful deaths that occur as a consequence.
Road construction may seem like an unlikely reason for a truck accident, however, road construction often causes an increase in traffic congestion, and can cause shifting traffic patterns. In addition, when construction is set up it can require a driver to suddenly apply their brakes. However, tractor-trailers do not have the same braking capacity as a standard vehicle. A truck driver who is forced to quickly apply their brakes to accommodate for road construction can lose control of their truck or may be unable to bring their vehicle to a complete stop in time to avoid an accident. In addition, the sudden shift in traffic patterns caused by road construction can cause a driver to lose control of their truck as their vehicles’ size and weight demand that the driver does not make sudden adjustments such as jerking the steering wheel.
Weather and Road Conditions
Philadelphia drivers are all-too familiar with poor weather conditions. Snow, ice, and sleet can make driving in the winter extremely dangerous. While drivers should always exercise elevated caution when they are driving in poor weather conditions, truck drivers who do not accommodate for poor weather and road conditions can cause accidents.
Unsafe Driving Practices
Truck drivers are expected to operate their vehicles as safely as possible, in fact, as part of their licensing they must pass tests and exams and undergo training to make sure that these drivers do not engage in unsafe driving practices such as suddenly shifting lanes, drinking and driving, and texting. However, many truck accidents on the Vine Street Expressway can be attributed to the driver engaging in unsafe driving practices.
Can You Sue a Trucking Company for Wrongful Death?
It is important to know that, when a fatal truck accident occurs in Philadelphia or other parts of Pennsylvania, there are certain requirements under the law that must be followed. Examples of these requirements, which directly impact the surviving loved ones of wrongful death victims, include the following:
- Under Pennsylvania law, if a person wants to pursue a wrongful death claim, he or she must file the complaint within two years from the date of the victim’s death.
- After a death caused by negligence or misconduct, only a close relative or personal representative of the person who was killed, called the “decedent,” has the legal right to seek compensation (“damages”), which may include medical and funeral expenses, lost income over the decedent’s expected lifespan, and the loss of companionship.
Even in the aftermath of a deadly truck accident, insurance companies and other liable parties will likely try to avoid or minimize their obligations. This makes it essential for you to have strong, determined representation by a qualified wrongful death attorney who knows how to work against the tactics used by insurance companies and their representatives.
Our Philadelphia Truck Accident Attorneys Can Help
It is highly advisable that you call an attorney that handles cases involving accidents with trucks, semis, and tractor-trailers and understands the cause of these accidents and how to hold trucking companies responsible. These types of cases are different than car accidents in Philadelphia and often involve much more serious types of injuries.
At the law offices of The Reiff Law Firm, our experienced Philadelphia truck accident lawyers represent clients injured by semi-trucks, tractor-trailers, 18-wheeler trucks, coal trucks, and delivery trucks in Southeastern Pennsylvania. We have fought for injury victims for nearly 40 years, helping accident survivors recover tens of millions of dollars.
To set up a free legal consultation, call The Reiff Law Firm at (215) 709-6940, or contact us online. Since the Pennsylvania statutes of limitation can bar your claim if you wait for too long, time may be of the essence. In some cases, you may need to act immediately to preserve evidence in your trucking accident case. Contact us today to start discussing your injury confidentially and free of charge.