Cars, SUVs, vans, and other passenger vehicles are forced to share the road with large, powerful commercial vehicles, such as 18-wheelers and semi-trailer trucks transporting goods across Philadelphia and Pennsylvania. 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.
What to Do if You Were Hurt or a Family Member Died in a Truck Accident in Philadelphia
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 that accidents involving cars 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.
We are a nationally-recognized personal injury law firm that is committed to obtaining favorable results for our clients. To discuss your Pennsylvania trucking accident case in a free consultation, contact us online using our simple submission form, or call our law offices at (215) 246-9000.
Types of Truck Crashes
- Accidents caused by road defects or vehicle defects.
- Accidents involving negligent or reckless drivers.
- Accidents involving tired, distracted, or intoxicated drivers.
- Head-on collisions, side-impact collisions, and rear-end collisions.
- Intersection accidents and crashes involving left turns.
- Parking lot accidents and parking garage accidents.
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Types of Injuries Caused by Tractor Trailers
- 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.
Pennsylvania Truck Accident Injury and Fatality Statistics
At both the national and state levels, truck accident statistics are alarming, despite overall improvements to road safety. In 2013, there was a total of 3,602 fatalities due to accidents with commercial trucks and other large industrial vehicles. By 2014, there was a 14% increase in a number of deaths due to large commercial vehicles.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) keeps records of all reported auto accidents that occur in Pennsylvania each year. PennDOT reported that in 2014, there were a total of 332 daily reportable traffic crashes all across the state. This breaks down to approximately 14 crashes every hour. In addition, PennDOT reported that each day there are a total of 219 people who are injured in reportable crashes across the state.
How Dangerous are Semis and Tractor Trailers?
Trucking accidents are less common than ordinary car accidents but are likely to cause death or severe injury when they occur. PennDOT’s 2016 “Pennsylvania Crash Facts and Statistics” report shows that:
In Pennsylvania, heavy trucks were involved in 139 fatal accidents, 2,831 injury crashes, and 6,740 total crashes. This includes:
- 1,010 crashes where a truck struck a passenger car.
- 620 crashes where a truck struck a van, SUV, or light truck (such as a pickup truck).
- 328 crashes where a truck struck another truck.
- 13 crashes where a truck struck a motorcycle.
- 12 crashes where a truck struck a bicycle.
- 11 crashes where a truck struck a commercial bus.
- There were 162 heavy truck-related fatalities, more than any year from 2012 to 2015.
- Alcohol was a factor in more than 40 accidents involving heavy trucks.
Where do Crashes Involving Tractor Trailers Occur in Pennsylvania?
- 3,712 crashes on state highways.
- 1,850 crashes on interstate highways.
- 687 crashes on local streets.
- 490 crashes on turnpikes.
What Causes Commercial Trucking Crashes?
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. Examples of driver errors that can cause a preventable accident include:
- Becoming distracted by apps, text messages, radio stations, food or beverages, or other distractions.
- Driving in the wrong direction.
- Driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.
- Driving while fatigued or falling asleep at the wheel.
- Failing to check mirrors or be aware of blind spots.
- Failing to maintain a reasonable distance from other vehicles.
- Failing to signal when turning.
- Failing to stop at a stop sign.
- Failing to yield to others.
- Making careless or reckless traffic maneuvers.
- Running a red light.
- Speeding, especially in poor weather/low-visibility conditions.
Though vehicle defects cause fewer accidents than careless mistakes behind the wheel, equipment failures also pose a risk. According to the 2016 PennDOT statistical report mentioned above, “The vast majority of primary factors in heavy truck vehicle failure crashes were related to tires and wheels, brakes, powertrain failure and total steering system failure.” 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. If a driver falls under HOS regulations and is transporting property, he or she must generally abide by the following restrictions:
- 11-Hour Driving Limit – “May drive a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty.”
- 14-Hour Limit – “May not drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty, following 10 consecutive hours off duty.
- 60/70-Hour Limit – “May not drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days. A driver may restart a 7/8 consecutive day period after taking 34 or more consecutive hours off duty.”
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.
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.
Call Our Philadelphia Semi Tractor Trailer Accident Attorneys
In Pennsylvania, 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 accident lawyers can help you understand your family’s legal options.
With offices in Philadelphia, our injury claim attorneys handle cases throughout Pennsylvania, including Bucks County, Chester County, Lehigh County, Montgomery County, and Northampton County. Whether a truck crash occurs on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the Schuylkill Expressway (I-76), the Delaware Expressway (I-95), I-476, or elsewhere in Pennsylvania, we are prepared to make a determination about potential accident liability. Serving truck crash victims statewide, our knowledgeable personal injury lawyers are ready to fight hard against trucking companies, insurance companies, and careless drivers on you and your family’s behalf.
To set up a free legal consultation, call The Reiff Law Firm at (215) 246-9000, 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.