With over 100 truck stops across Nebraska, many of which are along the I-80 corridor, commercial trucks are a common sight throughout the state. While many of these trucks pass through to their destinations without any problems, there are others that put motorists in danger. When a big rig operator violates safety regulations and stays on the road too long, or when a trucking company fails to conduct proper maintenance, they increase the chances of a truck crash. Commercial trucks are the biggest and heaviest motor vehicles on the road. Because of this, they can cause serious or even fatal injury to the occupants of smaller vehicles in the event of an accident.
If you've been injured in a Nebraska truck crash, you may be wondering what you can do to make sure you can get the medical care you need while still supporting yourself and your family. If the accident was caused by the recklessness or negligence of a truck driver or trucking company, you have the legal right to file a personal injury claim against the at-fault parties.
The knowledgeable Omaha truck accident lawyers at Cullan & Cullan have over 40 years of experience handling big rig accident lawsuits; we can help you decide what the best course of action is for your situation.
Common Truck & 18-Wheeler Accident Injuries
Studies by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) show that accidents involving commercial trucks cause more severe injuries than accidents involving passenger vehicles and that tractor-trailers are involved in one out of nine highway fatalities. To understand what makes these vehicles so dangerous, let’s compare some statistics about tractor-trailers and passenger vehicles.
The average passenger vehicle weighs approximately 3,250 pounds. A fully loaded tractor-trailer can weigh 80,000 pounds. That is the federally mandated maximum, but many trucking companies overload their vehicles in order to make more money per trip. There is also a vast difference between the stopping ability of trucks and passenger vehicles. (see image below) The average car, traveling 60 miles per hour, can come to a complete stop in approximately 140 feet. A tractor-trailer, traveling the same speed, will need 400 feet or more to make a complete stop. When you add in slippery road conditions, these numbers can more than double.
Typical injuries resulting from semi-truck accidents can include:
- Broken bones: This can include simple fractures, compound fractures, and crushed bones.
- Burns: Whenever fuel is involved in an accident, burns—first, second, and third degree—are always a possibility.
- Cuts and lacerations: Broken glass and sheared metal can cause serious cuts and lacerations that may result in permanent scarring.
- Head and brain injuries: High-impact collisions can cause concussions, as well as more serious and sometimes permanent brain damage.
- Internal injuries: Injuries such as internal bleeding and crushed or damaged organs can be life-threatening.
- Spinal cord injuries: Damage to the spinal cord can cause paralysis, numbness, and weakness of parts or all the body.
- Whiplash: Sudden violent jerking of the head can cause damage to the victim’s neck vertebrae, ligaments, and muscles.
- Amputation: In cases where a limb is severely damaged or crushed, it may require amputation. Amputation can permanently affect your lifestyle, mental health, and ability to earn a living.
If you are involved in an accident with a truck, you need to be examined by a physician, even if you don’t think you’re injured. Many injuries like concussions, spinal injuries, and whiplash are not immediately recognized by the patient.
Types of Accidents Unique to Semi-Trucks
Trucks can be involved in a variety of crashes, including the same ones as passenger vehicle: a rear-end collision, side-swipe, or head-on collision. However, due to their size and features, trucks also cause unique accidents which can be particularly devastating.
These accidents include:
- Jackknifing: This occurs when a truck loses control of its trailer, which then swings around until it is facing the opposite direction of the cab and is pressed up against the side, much like a jackknife being folded. The swinging trailer can smash into anything and anyone in its way and even crush vehicles between itself and the side of the cab.
- Hazardous spills: Many trucks carry hazardous liquids in large, sealed containers. During an accident, these containers can burst open and spill the materials across the road and the surrounding area. Spilled gasoline may catch on fire and chemicals can expose bystanders to toxic fumes.
- Runaway trailers: When a truck's trailer becomes detached from the cab, it can hurtle down a roadway at high speeds. These trailers have no way to be stopped until they crash.
- Underride accident: This occurs when a smaller vehicle drives under the elevated bottom of the trailer. This can shear off the top of the vehicle and cause catastrophic damage to the vehicle’s occupants.
Who Is At-Fault?
Depending on the circumstances of your crash and the information discovered by your attorney, a number of different parties may be defendants in your claim. If the big rig driver was under the influence, distracted, fatigued, or negligent in another way, then they may be held responsible. If a trucking company failed to perform repairs on their trucks, it may be liable. Further, the trucking company may be vicariously liable for its driver. Even the truck manufacturer may be held accountable if a defective truck part caused the crash.
Semi-trucks are complicated pieces of machinery that require both skilled operation and quality maintenance. As such, many problems can occur, with many different parties potentially responsible, including:
- The truck driver: Truckers are responsible for properly operating their vehicles and following safety regulations issued by the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). When they do not, it may cause fatigued driving that leads to catastrophic accidents.
- The trucking company: Trucking companies are in the business of making money. They may encourage their drivers to over-load trucks, drive in hazardous road conditions, drive more hours than federal guidelines allow, drive when tired or exhausted, and/or use amphetamines to stay awake. They may also try to increase profits by skipping regular maintenance or not making needed repairs.
- Manufacturers: If the design or manufacture of a truck or a truck part is faulty and contributes to the accident, the negligent maker can be held liable.
Filing a Nebraska Big Rig Collision Lawsuit
While an individual can file a personal injury claim on their own, it is best to have an experienced big rig accident attorney on your side. Someone who knows the law inside and out can increase your chances of getting the compensation you deserve. Plus, an experienced attorney knows exactly how to deal with obstacles in the way of fair compensation, like uncooperative insurance companies and other lawyers.
In order to file a claim, your attorney will investigate the details of your accident to determine what evidence is necessary to prove the extent of the damages caused by the accident. Records of medical expenses, time lost from work, and other records are necessary to prove that you deserve the compensation you are asking for. The more information you can provide your attorney, the better.
Helping You on the Road to Recovery
Recovering after a devastating truck accident requires financial security, and you may only be able to get that by filing a truck accident claim. By securing money for medical expenses, loss of income, loss of future earning ability, and other damages, you can focus on getting your life back together. The experienced Omaha truck accident lawyers at Cullan & Cullan LLC have the legal and medical knowledge and resources to help you file a claim for personal injury or wrongful death.