T-bone collisions, also known as broadside collisions, can be one of the most frightening and terrible accidents anyone can experience, especially when it involves a truck. There are thousands of commercial vehicles on Florida’s interstate routes every day. According to the Motor Carrier Safety Progress Report, 103,811 large truck crashes took place in one year in the U.S., causing 3,260 fatalities.
In addition, data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that approximately 15 percent of all fatal truck accidents in the United States are side-impact collisions. Unlike rear-end collisions, in a T-bone accident, the door and window are the only buffers. Passengers in cars do not have a bumper, trunk, and possibly additional seats to blunt the impact.
In most T-bone accidents, the driver and passengers on the impacted side suffer the most significant injuries. However, the severity of the injuries depends on several factors, such as what part of the truck hit, how fast the vehicle was traveling, vehicle weight and construction, and safety features.
The force of the impact may cause one or more vehicles to spin out or rollover.
Common Causes of Truck T-Bone Collisions
Most T-bone accidents happen in intersections. But, of course, traffic is not supposed to cross an intersection at right angles simultaneously. Therefore, one of the two entered the intersection wrongfully; such as a truck that runs a red light and hits a car that is passing through the intersection.
As with other accidents, a variety of factors may cause a crash, including:
- Speeding. Truck drivers are often under pressure to meet strict deadlines. However, they are only allowed to drive a limited number of hours each day. If their employers pay them by the mile, they may speed to make more money. A large truck traveling at high speed is difficult to maneuver and stop, which may cause an accident.
- Failing to stop: Large commercial vehicles require more time and distance to come to a stop. If the driver is speeding or inattentive, they may not be able to stop in time to avoid a T-bone accident.
- Failure to yield the right-of-way. For example, a truck driver may fail to yield the right-of-way at an intersection, resulting in a collision.
- Improper turns: Truck drivers must make turns carefully and allow plenty of clearance to keep everyone safe. If a truck driver makes an improper turn, the truck may block a travel lane and cause a T-bone collision.
- Blind spot accidents. A big commercial truck has significant blind spots on all four sides, which can make it hard for them to see other vehicles and increase the risk of an accident.
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Drunk or drugged drivers cause approximately 28 percent of traffic deaths in the U.S. An impaired truck driver has slower reaction times and may be unable to maneuver their vehicles safely or properly navigate challenges on the road, including intersections.
- Drowsiness. Driving while drowsy can be just as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Fatigued drivers have difficulty controlling their trucks and focusing on the road. For example, the Large Truck Crash Causation Study (LTCCS) reported that 13 percent of truck drivers were driving drowsy when the crash occurred.
- Distractions. Small or large distractions, whether inside or outside the truck cab, can divert a driver. Distractions inside the cab include cell phones, using dispatching devices, or changing the radio station. The law prohibits CMV drivers from texting while driving. Outside distractions may consist of watching people, places, or things of interest. One study found that in 71 percent of large-truck collisions, the truck driver was doing or paying attention to something other than driving the truck at the time of the crash.
- Defective equipment: If a truck or a truck component is faulty, the driver may lose control of the vehicle. For example, brake failure is a risk, especially for big semi-trucks, which require significantly more time and space to stop.
- Poor weather conditions. Poor weather, such as rain and snow, can increase the risk of a truck accident. If the wheels cannot gain enough traction, the driver may not be able to stop in time. In addition, rain, snow, and fog can lead to decreased visibility, making it hard for truck drivers to see other vehicles.
Laws Regarding Truck Accidents
All drivers have a responsibility to drive safely. Like all drivers, a truck driver is negligent when they fail to act with the level of care that anyone, under similar circumstances, would have used. A commercial driver’s license is a privilege and not a right. That means operating the truck responsibly and following the standards and regulations for truck drivers under state and federal law.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is a government agency responsible for providing oversight for commercial vehicles. Its fundamental goal is to reduce accidents, fatalities, and injuries involving commercial vehicles. The FMCSA does this by establishing and enforcing a comprehensive set of regulations.
Florida also has laws regarding commercial motor vehicles. The Office of Commercial Vehicle Enforcement (OCVE) enforces such laws. For example, no vehicle may exceed a height of 13 feet and six inches and a width of 102 inches, exclusive of safety devices installed for the safe operation of the truck. Exterior rearview mirrors can only extend the distance that is necessary to provide an appropriate field of view.
State and federal law also regulate other elements of commercial vehicle operation, such as:
- Driver qualification.
- Vehicle inspection, repair, and maintenance.
- Financial responsibility for motor carriers.
- Cargo securement. The FMSCA enforces strict rules about loading and securing cargo so that it remains secure during transport.
- Parts and accessories necessary for safe operation.
- Noise emissions.
- Transportation of hazardous materials. Flammable cargo can cause dangerous fires or explosions.
Violation of state or federal regulations is negligence, and in the event of an accident, the at-fault parties may be liable.
Who May Be Liable?
Each collision is unique. There may be more than one person or entity responsible for the crash. The obvious responsible party may be the negligent driver of the truck that broadsided your car. However, the trucking company may also be liable for the actions of its employee. Trucking companies also are responsible for operating their business safely for everyone on the road. It is their responsibility to hire competent, well-trained drivers who have the appropriate licenses to operate commercial vehicles.
The trucking company also must maintain their trucks and keep them in good working order. Commercial vehicle owners must keep strict maintenance records. Federal law restricts how long a driver can stay behind the wheel without a rest period. Requiring drivers to maintain unreasonably long schedules can lead to accidents.
If a mechanical failure or poor truck maintenance led to the accident, the truck owner or the person or entity responsible for its maintenance might be liable. If a defective part, such as malfunctioning tires or brakes, caused the accident, then the manufacturer of the truck or its components may be liable for the resulting harm. If the roads were inadequately constructed or maintained, the appropriate governmental entity might be responsible.
Injuries That Result From T-Bone Truck Accidents
T-bone truck accidents can cause devastating and possibly fatal injuries. The average passenger vehicle weighs approximately 3,400 pounds, while a fully loaded tractor-trailer can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. Therefore, if a truck strikes a passenger vehicle broadside, the occupants of the passenger vehicle have a high risk of injury.
Common severe injuries that can result from a T-bone truck collision include:
- Traumatic brain injuries: A jolt or blow to the head can cause a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Even a “mild” TBI, such as a concussion, can cause long-term damage, and more severe TBIs can cause permanent brain damage. A TBI can leave the injured person with impairments affecting their mobility, cognition, and emotional health.
- Spinal cord injuries: A spinal cord injury may interrupt messages between the body and the brain. There are numerous debilitating symptoms, such as weakness, loss of movement, loss of sensation, and difficulty breathing. In some cases, the victim suffers partial or complete paralysis.
- Organ damage and internal bleeding: The force of a truck crash can also cause internal bleeding and other damage to internal organs, such as the liver, bladder, spleen, pancreas, kidneys, and lungs. If not treated quickly, internal bleeding can be fatal.
- Crush injuries. Truck accidents often lead to crushing injuries, such as compressed nerves, crushed organs, and limbs.
- Burns. Large trucks also have large fuel tanks. Therefore, in a crash, they are more likely to explode, and everyone involved could suffer burn injuries, which are painful and often disfiguring.
- Severe lacerations: in an accident, sharp objects such as glass or metal may cut vehicle occupants. These lacerations can cause life-threatening blood loss, infections, and permanent nerve damage.
What Compensation May Be Available?
If you have been injured in a truck crash, you may face enormous medical bills, lost wages, and an altered future. The damages you may receive depend mainly on the nature and severity of your injuries, their impact on your life, the strength of your case, and the financial resources of the at-fault party.
Generally speaking, victims of T-bone truck crashes can file a lawsuit seeking payment for:
- All expenses related to medical care for the injury;
- Other losses related to the accident or injuries;
- Lost wages. In some cases, the individual can never return to work or never resume their previous career;
- Pain, suffering, loss of consortium and diminished quality of life; and
- In some cases, punitive damages to punish the party who caused the crash for extreme or outrageous conduct.
In the event of a fatal T-bone truck accident, family members of the deceased victim may seek compensation for their loss through a wrongful death lawsuit. A wrongful death occurs when one person dies due to the legal fault of another party. State law governs who is entitled to sue for wrongful death. The damages they recover through legal action generally include costs and financial losses related to the death.
Were You Injured in a Truck T-Bone Accident?
Even if you believe you have not been injured or your injuries are minor, it is essential to seek medical attention. Some injuries, such as internal trauma, do not become apparent right away, or you may not be aware of the full extent of your injuries. If you delay medical care, your injuries may worsen. Medical records also are valuable evidence if you pursue a truck accident claim.
Do not leave the scene of a T-bone collision unless you must seek necessary medical care or call the police. If it is dangerous to remain at the scene, move to a safe area and call for help. If possible, take photos of your injuries, the damage to the vehicles, and the accident scene. Note any video cameras in the area that may have recorded the accident. Avoid posting pictures or comments about your accident on social media.
Contact your insurance company, but avoid talking to or signing any documents from the other party’s insurance company without advice from your own attorney. The insurance companies covering truckers and trucking companies against liability will try to pay as little as possible. Their policies often have higher limits and more detailed, complex provisions.
There are strict deadlines for filing lawsuits, called Statutes of Limitations, so contact an attorney as soon as possible. Truck accidents are complicated. Your attorney can handle communications, gather and preserve evidence for your claim, negotiate on your behalf to obtain the compensation you deserve, and take your case to trial if necessary.
If you suffer injuries in a T-bone collision with a truck, you should speak with an experienced, dedicated legal team. For more information or to arrange a free consultation, contact a truck accident attorney today.