Rear-end collisions caused by negligent truck drivers result in victims suffering serious injuries, chronic pain, and limitations of movement. In some cases, someone may not survive the wreck. Accidents involving commercial trucks are best resolved with the assistance of an experienced attorney who understands how to gather evidence and obtain the settlement you deserve from the driver and trucking company.
Why Truck Drivers Cause Rear-End Wrecks
Similar to a driver in a passenger vehicle rear-end collision, the operator of a semi-truck will most likely be found at fault if he hit you from behind. This is because all motorists are required to maintain safe distance between vehicles to be able to slow down and stop quickly if necessary.
Here are the common reasons large trucks are involved in rear-end accidents:
- Brake failure. Commercial vehicle brakes malfunction for a number of reasons. In some cases, a trucker fails to conduct a pre- and post-trip inspection of the brakes or the fleet company fails to properly maintain and repair them. In other cases, the truck owner may intentionally depower the front brakes to reduce wear and tear and maintenance costs. This may cause an operator to be unable to stop quickly.
- Intoxication. Driving a truck when intoxicated due to drug or alcohol use impairs judgment, reaction time, and ability to properly gauge distances.
- Fatigue. Recent studies indicate that drowsy drivers of any type of vehicle are just as dangerous as drugged or intoxicated drivers. If a trucker drives when tired, or violates the hours of service regulations that determine mandatory break times, the likelihood that he will make an error leading increases dramatically.
- Speeding. A loaded rig weighing 80,000 lbs. traveling at 55 mph needs approximately four seconds and 390 feet to stop after the brakes are applied. Total stopping time and distance, depending on road conditions and brake wear, may be twice that. So traveling above the speed limit compounds that formula even more.
- Distracted driving. Most truckers learn the concept of actual stopping distance by determining it through the stages of perception, reaction, and braking. Any form of distraction while driving impacts how each stage is accomplished.
- Inadequate lighting. Broken lights, hazed lighting, or weather/darkness lighting all affect a trucker's visibility. While some aspects may be out of his or her control, maintenance issues or misjudgment about conditions may be contributing factors of fault.
- Weather conditions. As mentioned above, truck drivers need to pay particular attention to how rain, sleet, snow, fog, and other inclement weather impairs response time or requires more defensive driving methods.
It's important to remember that Missouri and Kansas are comparative fault states. This means if a driver of the lead car in a rear-end collision is found at fault for any reason, his or her compensation will be reduced by a percentage of fault.
For example, if a motorist merges onto a highway in front of a truck driver, the trucker already has the right-of-way. In this case, the decision may be that, regardless of the trucker rear-ending the merging vehicle, the motorist was 40 percent at fault for causing the accident.
Underride Accidents: A Deadly Consequence of a Rear-End Collision
A rear-end collision can be more deadly if a large truck slides over a smaller passenger vehicle, causing an underride accident. This type of accident is more likely to happen at night or when lighting is otherwise inadequate. Truckers who cause these wrecks are often in violation of federal lighting and reflective tape requirements, making it more difficult for them to see and be seen.
Another type of tragic underride wreck can occur if a passenger vehicle is behind a tractor-trailer and slides under it. Commercial vehicles are supposed to have underride guards—usually something like a metal bumper under the carriage of the trailer—to prevent this type of wreck. Federal laws require trucks to have underride guards, but they can sometimes buckle or break upon impact. More recent tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reveal that side underride guards may also be necessary to protect occupants of passenger vehicles.
Were you or a loved one injured in a rear-end collision caused by a truck driver? Let our experienced truck accident legal team file your claim, collect the evidence you need to prove accountability, and negotiate your settlement. Contact us online or call us directly at 816.471.5111 to schedule your free consultation. We will discuss your legal options and exactly how we'll fight for the compensation you deserve.