Virginia Personal Injury Lawyers
Ten Reasons Why Truck Accidents are Different than Car Accidents
The biggest mistake attorneys make when handling a truck accident case is to treat it like a car accident case. Having now been involved in several cases involving commercial trucks and tractor trailers, I can confidently state that truck cases are much, much different than car accident cases.
It is important that you find an experienced truck accident attorney to help you if you have been injured in a tractor trailer or 18 wheeler.
Here are the top ten reasons truck accidents are different than car accidents:
First, the weight difference. The average gross vehicle weight (GVW, or the amount of the empty vehicle plus the amount of its maximum payload) of a car is between 3,200 and 6,000 pounds. The average GVW of a tractor trailer, on the other hand, ranges between 33,000 and 80,000 pounds. [i] Understanding how a truck operates is significantly different than understanding how a car operates.
Second, the stopping distance. A car traveling at 55 miles per hour would take around 133 feet to come to a complete stop, which is almost half the length of a football field. A fully loaded semi-truck, on the other hand, would take about 196 feet to stop from 55 miles per hour.[ii] Unexpectedly, the stopping distance for a truck with an empty trailer or no trailer is even longer than a truck with an extremely heavy load.
Third, the center of gravity in trucks, unlike cars, can shift significantly depending on the load. An important factor to being able to drive and handle a vehicle is based on the location of the center of gravity in the vehicle. The center of gravity impacts many aspects of driving, including cornering, accelerating, and stability. A car’s center of gravity will remain stable. An 18-wheeler’s, however, can shift substantially. This depends on how the truck’s load is secured, the type of load, and the weight and size of load. These factors impact how the truck can maneuver.
Fourth, the different types of braking systems. Most cars use hydraulic braking systems. Those brakes use braking fluid or other hydraulic fluids to apply pressure in a way that depresses brake pads or drums.[iii] Heavy commercial vehicles, on the other hand, use air braking systems. Those systems use compressed air to work the brake drum. Those brakes will react differently than hydraulic brakes. Under certain circumstances, the air in the brake system can condense, causing the air brakes to fail.
Fifth, the blind spots are much different between a semi-truck and a passenger vehicle. Passenger cars have just a couple of blind spots. A car driver can usually compensate for those by manually looking at the spot in question and not relying on mirrors. A truck driver, however, has multiple blind spots on the right side of the vehicle. The truck driver cannot see behind the trailer. And there are even portions to the right front of the truck that are blind to a truck driver. These blind spots make it difficult for a truck driver to safely change lanes and make turns. Unlike a car driver, the truck driver cannot simply glance over their shoulder to see into a blind spot.
Sixth, the regulations for passenger and commercial drivers are much different. To get a passenger license, one must merely pass a driving test, pass a vision test, and complete the necessary paperwork. The trucking industry is much more highly regulated, however. A commercial trucker has a special license called a commercial drivers license. Federal and state regulations may dictate their eligibility to drive, and when and how they can drive.
Seventh, 18 wheelers are usually towing trailers. This greatly impacts how the truck travels. Pulling a trailer extends the length of a truck and makes turning the truck very difficult. A truck will have a hard time maneuvering on roads or streets that require sharp turns. Drivers will need to compensate by making wide turns. Also, the type of cargo can present dangers. Liquid tankers, for instance, could slosh around and impact the truck’s balance and stability.
Eighth, truck drivers who are in an accident could face different consequences compared to car drivers. A car driver who causes an accident and gets a ticket will generally admit their fault and deal with the consequences. It is a different story with a truck driver. A truck driver has what is called a CDL, a commercial drivers’ license, and having sufficient strikes against that CDL could cause the driver to lose the license. That makes a truck driver much more likely to fight the charges against him, even when he is clearly at fault.
Ninth, when a truck accident occurs, the trucking company will swiftly investigate the accident. They will have their insurance company and possibly attorneys at the scene. The attorneys who defend trucking accidents are typically with larger law firms. Those attorneys tend to specialize in truck accident cases.
Tenth, the extent of injuries and damages is considerably higher in a tractor trailer case than it is in a car accident case. The sheer size and weight of a truck crash makes the impact of a crash much harder. Even a low speed collision with a truck can be disastrous for the occupants in a much smaller car. Drivers injured by trucks have been known to experience traumatic brain injuries, spine and spinal cord injuries, and other disabling injuries.
If you or a loved one have been injured in a truck accident, please contact experienced Virginia truck accident attorney Robert E. Byrne, Jr. at (434) 817-3100. Bob offers free consultations and has the experience needed to help you through this difficult process.