The U.S. economy is dependent on the ability to move products from one area of the country to another. Commercial trucks, also known as semi-trucks or tractor-trailers, transport most of these products.
Unfortunately, the drivers of these trucks can sometimes be involved in accidents, and-due to the size discrepancy between most vehicles traveling on the road and commercial trucks-it is the occupants of other vehicles who are most often injured or killed. This is especially true in head-on truck collisions.
If you have been injured or have lost a loved one due to a head-on truck collision that a negligent driver caused, an experienced truck accident lawyer can provide several services to assist you in obtaining compensation for the expenses and impacts of your injury or loss.
A Deadly Combination
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)-the federal agency tasked with regulating the trucking industry in the U.S.-there are around 4,000 head-on truck collisions each year, which account for about 3 percent of all accidents involving commercial trucks. While this type of accident is relatively rare, it is hazardous and often deadly.
Two accident types most often to result in fatalities are head-on collisions. The forward motion of both vehicles substantially increases the force of the crash, and truck accidents, in which the truck is a lot larger than the other vehicles involved in the accident.
Head-on collisions occur when the front of one vehicle collides with the front of another vehicle. While only accounting for a relatively small number of accidents, head-on collisions account for around 57 percent of all fatalities related to motor vehicle accidents due to the increased force of the crash caused by the forward motion of each vehicle.
Because they weigh 20-30 times more than the average passenger vehicle, commercial trucks are massive vehicles with several associated issues with maneuverability, such as:
- An increased distance is needed for the brakes to pull the heavy vehicle to a complete stop after the driver has detected a hazard and responded by depressing the brakes. Drivers require even more distance on wet or slippery road surfaces or when the truck travels at a higher speed.
- A high ground clearance, which provides enough space for smaller vehicles to slip beneath the truck during an accident, is an “underride.”
- A high center of gravity makes the truck more prone to rolling over during a collision or when the driver is attempting emergency driving maneuvers to avoid a collision.
- Excessive wearing on the vehicle’s tires and brakes due to the miles traveled and the vehicle’s weight. Drivers are required to perform a pre-trip inspection before every transport, and the truck’s owner (generally an independent contractor driver or a trucking company) is responsible for ensuring regular truck service.
The Most Common Causes of Head-On Truck Collisions
Head-on truck collisions often occur as a result of these issues:
- Fatigued driving. According to the FMCSA, about 13 percent of truck drivers involved in accidents were fatigued. Truck drivers often drive hundreds of miles in a day and drive through the night. The nighttime hours are dangerous, as most people instinctively sleep late-night hours. Additionally, truck drivers often sleep in the sleeper berth. Studies have shown that accidents are more likely during the initial hour after the driver has woken up due to sleep inertia. Sleep apnea, a sleep-related breathing condition, can also produce fatigue for drivers. The dangers of fatigued driving are extreme and can include symptoms similar to drunk driving, such as failure to maintain a single lane of travel or difficulty braking. Due to the potential consequences of fatigued driving, the FMCSA has hours of service regulations to require drivers to take regular breaks when driving.
- Unfamiliarity with the roadway. Truck drivers are often required to travel in cities with which they are unfamiliar. This unfamiliarity can lead to hazards that increase the potential of a head-on truck collision, as a missed sign can have the driver traveling the wrong way on the street, an on-ramp, or even on the interstate.
- Impairment by drugs or alcohol. Truck drivers must submit to random drug and alcohol screenings to maintain their commercial driver’s license (CDL). They are also subject to a reduced limit for impairment of 0.04 BAC, compared to the standard 0.08 BAC limit for adults over 21 in most states. With that said, some choose to indulge despite the regulations, and others can experience unexpected impairment and fatigue from the use of prescription or over-the-counter medications.
- Previous accidents. Head-on truck collisions can also occur if an accident pushed the truck or another vehicle into an oncoming travel lane.
- Inclement weather resulting in wet or icy roads that could cause the truck or another vehicle to lose control and enter an opposing travel lane.
- Imbalanced or shifting cargo within the truck’s trailer can make the vehicle difficult to control.
- A vehicle maintenance issue, such as a blown tire that can result in loss of vehicular control, can cause the truck to veer into an oncoming travel lane.
Seeking Compensation After a Head-On Truck Collision
If you have suffered an injury or have lost a loved one due to a head-on truck collision that was caused by someone else’s carelessness, you can seek compensation for the expenses and quality-of-life impacts incurred by the crash. The process for doing so is called the personal injury claims process.
The personal injury claims process generally involves the following steps:
- Your attorney submits a demand package to the at-fault party’s insurance company, which includes details of the claim, documentation of injuries, and a demand for payment of the claim’s value.
- Settlement negotiations. The at-fault party’s insurance adjuster can pay the claim in full, deny the claim, provide the claimant with a reason for the denial, or offer a settlement to resolve the claim for less than its value. Your attorney can negotiate with the insurance provider to get them to increase the offer to an amount closer to the claim’s value.
- Filing of your claim in court. If the at-fault party’s insurance adjuster fails to pay the value of your claim or to offer a fair settlement, you and your attorney can file your claim in court. The insurance adjuster can continue to make settlement offers after the claim is filed in court and after the trial has begun, as long as the case has not been settled.
- Gathering evidence and documentation to prove your claim in court
- Instead of a settlement agreement, litigation
- Collection of your settlement or award
Catastrophic Injury Claims
Some of the most severe injuries imaginable can occur in a head-on truck collision, including brain or spinal cord injuries. These injuries are often called catastrophic injuries due to their likelihood of producing permanent disabilities that impair the sufferer’s ability to earn an income. While the injuries to these two organs-which make up the body’s central nervous system-are most commonly associated with catastrophic injury claims, the term describes other types of debilitating injuries that will impact the sufferer’s future earning capacity.
- Limb amputations.
- Loss of vision or hearing.
- Injuries to the spinal vertebrae and discs.
Catastrophic injury claims follow the same personal injury claims process as other injuries do. However, these claims often feature a higher level of compensation to account for the loss of earning capacity and the inability to accomplish personal care tasks independently.
In addition to lost earning capacity, the type of compensation one can seek through a catastrophic injury claim include:
- Past, current, and future medical expenses related to the treatment of the injury you sustained in a head-on truck collision and complications associated with that injury
- The cost of long-term care or obtaining home health services
- Property damage related to the accident, such as repairing or replacing the vehicle you were in when the collision occurred.
- Physical pain and suffering.
- Emotional distress.
Wrongful Death Claims
When someone is killed due to a head-on truck collision caused by someone else’s negligence, the family members of the deceased can seek compensation for the expenses and impacts of their loss.
Wrongful death claims follow the same process as personal injury claims and provide an avenue to seek compensation for:
- Medical expenses for the treatment of the deceased’s final injury
- Expenses related to the funeral and burial or cremation
- Lost wages and benefits that the deceased would have earned through their career if they had lived
- Loss of affection, care, companionship, guidance, nurturing, or protection provided by the deceased to their family members
To have a successful outcome to your head-on truck accident claim, you must be able to prove that someone else caused the accident.
The potential sources of liability in a truck accident include:
- The truck driver, whose negligence caused a head-on truck collision
- The trucking company that employed the driver. Trucking companies must vet their drivers through criminal background and driver history checks, ensuring they are properly licensed, trained, and capable of performing the tasks related to the job, and making sure the truck is properly maintained and insured.
- The shipping company is responsible for ensuring that the trucker and trucking company they hire are in good standing with the FMCSA and are adequately insured.
- Other drivers, whose negligence could have led to the accident
- The individual or entity tasked with maintaining the truck
Your attorney will carefully investigate the details of your claim to ensure that all sources of liability are identified, along with all associated insurance resources to compensate you.
To prove liability, you must show:
- The at-fault party had a duty to take reasonable actions in a given circumstance to avoid causing harm to others. For example, a truck driver is responsible to other roadway users to ensure that their truck is in good repair and that their driving aligns with federal and state regulations.
- There was a breach in the duty of care when the driver took an action that did not protect others from harm. Examples would be illegal driving behaviors such as driving while texting, speeding, or a trucking company’s failure to ensure that their driver was physically healthy enough to perform the job tasks safely.
- The breach resulted in a head-on truck collision in which you became injured, or your loved one died.
Let an Attorney Help With Your Head-On Truck Collision Claim
Head-on truck collisions are a combination of two of the most deadly types of motor vehicle accidents to occur on the roadway. These are generally high-valued claims featuring complex evidence. Let a truck accident lawyer help you understand the personal injury or wrongful death claims process and inform you of the services they can provide to assist with your claim.