Trucks are massive vehicles and often travel at high speeds on the highways. Not surprisingly, accidents can happen – and when they do occur, they can be very serious and lead to extensive injuries or fatalities of the victims. A collision with a fast-moving truck can send smaller vehicles flying and cause devastating consequences.
Many truck drivers travel over vast distances during the night, which also increases the risk of accidents. Driver fatigue, carelessness and poor safety visibility can cause a number of issues. In order to avoid accidents and the resultant liability, truck drivers are required to make sure their trucks are visible on the road.
Why is Visibility Such a Concern?
Even large vehicles, like trucks, can be almost invisible on a dark road at night. These trucks may be travelling through remote areas that aren’t as well-controlled or well-lit as city street. If there are no reflectors or lights to improve visibility, the trucks can pose a risk to other vehicles on the road. If the trucks have the necessary safety visibility stripes and reflectors on them, they’ll be visible from a distance, so other drivers on the road can take appropriate steps to drive more cautiously on the road or steer out of the way.
In fact, trucks without proper lights and reflectors are three times more likely to get involved in accidents. If a truck is not properly marked, the owner may be liable if an accident occurs. Even if the accident is someone else’s fault, the truck driver can be held liable if they don’t have proper safety and visibility markings on your vehicle.
Truck drivers are also required to follow certain safety procedures. They need safety visibility if their truck becomes disabled or stalls in the middle of the road and they have to park it. They must get the truck completely off the road and away from on-coming traffic and also ensure other drivers can see their parked truck – that it is visible to other drivers from a distance, so they can slow down in order to pass it safely.
Truck drivers are required to place the visible signs around the truck to establish a safe perimeter. This is to ensure that all other vehicles can pass by safely, and it minimizes the risk of collisions.
Truck Drivers are Required by Law to Follow Certain Safety Measures
When truck drivers stop on the roadsides or stall on the road, the drivers are legally required to follow a set procedure and park their vehicle in a specific manner. Most trucking companies must properly train their drivers carefully to ensure they follow these procedures. These drivers also attend refresher courses to ensure they remember their legal obligations and know how to secure their vehicles well.
Here are some of the safety measures truck drivers must take in order to avoid being a danger to other motorists:
• The truck driver must switch on their emergency hazard lights to ensure that the stalled truck is visible from a long distance.
• The truck driver then must set up three physical warning signs around the truck. These signs should be spaced according to the flow of traffic and length of the road, to get maximum visibility. This warns approaching drivers of the truck’s presence so they know to proceed with caution.
• The truck drivers must also place triangle-shaped reflectors on the vehicle in visible areas. These reflectors are red in color and made of plastic. Drivers are required to carry them in their trucks to ensure they’re always available in case of an emergency.
• Alternatively, drivers can also use roadside flares. These flares are bright and highly visible as they produce active flames.
If truck drivers fail to follow these safety precautions, they may be held liable for any accidents that occur as a result.
Why Reflector Tapes are Essential
According to a study conducted by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, reflector tapes are responsible for a 44% drop in accident rates in passenger vehicles as well as tractor trailers. This study can be easily applied to trucks and semi trucks as well. Semi trucks and vehicles with extended trailers need to have sufficient reflector tape on them.
If the other drivers on the same road can see the dimensions of the truck and the trailer as they approach behind it, they will know just how big it is, and that will help them drive around the vehicle more safely. Reflector tape should be affixed on top of the trailers, around the doors and windows, along the length of the trailer and truck, as well as along the back. These tapes reflect light so they will be easily visible when the lights of an oncoming vehicle shine on them.
What Should You Do If You’re Involved in an Accident with a Tractor-Trailer?
If you’re involved in an accident, you need to make sure you protect your interests. If your are physically able, you should call the authorities immediately and secure your vehicle. Make sure your vehicle is in a safe place to avoid other accidents.
Once you are able to call the authorities, call a lawyer who specializes in truck accident cases. Oftentimes, trucking companies, or their insurance carriers will send experts to the scene as soon as possible to begin taking photographs and preserving evidence. If you are able, you should take your own photographs of the scene and the vehicles involved.
Finally, never settle your case with the trucking company or their insurance carrier until you have spoken to an experienced accident attorney. Trucking companies usually have good legal professionals on hand. If you are in an accident with a truck driver, find a legal professional to represent you before you speak to the trucking company or their legal team.
A legal professional will help determine liability and ensure both parties can come to a fair settlement.
I Was Injured in an Accident Two Weeks Ago and Haven’t Heard from Anyone
Twenty plus years ago, the aforementioned set of circumstances would probably never have happened. In the past, the person who was at fault for your accident and injury, whether it be a motorist or a landowner, would have contacted their insurance carrier and reported the incident. That insurance carrier would have promptly assigned the matter to a claims adjuster who, more likely than not, would have contacted you within days, if not hours of the incident and worked with you to assure you that your medical bills and lost wages would be covered.
Unfortunately those days are long behind us, and today we commonly hear from our new clients that weeks have gone by since their injury occurred; they’ve not heard from anyone; their medical bills are mounting up, and they are losing income.
The reasons for this difference in the claim handling procedure are numerous, but the bottom line is that in today’s world the insurance carrier for the at-fault party is rarely going to be of any assistance to you whatsoever.
We even had instances where the injured party has attempted either by mail or telephone to contact the at-fault party to start the claim handling procedure only to run into a stone wall.
Personal injury lawyers are not magicians, however, they are well-trained and experienced in representing people who have been injured through no fault of their own. More importantly, we know how to “get the attention” of the insurance carriers for the landowners, the businesses, or the motorists who are responsible for the injuries sustained.
In addition, most people now assume that there is insurance coverage available for the at-fault party when in fact that is not always the case. The alternative to having the at-fault party’s insurance carrier pay for medical bills and lost wages often involves a claim against the injured party’s own insurance carrier through either uninsured or under-insured motorist coverage, medical payments under the injured party’s own policy.
Quite often in premises liability cases there is also medical payments coverage available to pay the injured party’s medical bills irrespective of who is at fault.
All of these different possibilities require knowledge of how the insurance industry works, of the various forms of liability insurance coverage available, and how those coverages interplay with the facts of any particular accident involving injury.
The absolute worst thing that a layperson can do is to try to traverse these obstacles by themselves, as it is all too easy to commit a fatal mistake in the claim even after you determine to whom the claim is to be made.
For all these reasons, it is extremely important for injured parties to consult an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after any event which causes personal injuries.
*Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Every week there are stories in the newspaper and on television involving semi-truck and passenger automobile accidents. Just this morning, there was a tragic semi – passenger vehicle fatality on Interstate 65 near Lafayette, Indiana. Now this afternoon, there is another multi-car accident involving a semi-truck on I-65 in Greenwood, Indiana. As we all travel on roads with semi-trucks, please keep these factors in mind in order to avoid a personal injury and situations of wrongful death involving a collision with an 18-wheeler.
Wide Turns – Semi-trucks are a lot longer than passenger vehicles. They will have to make a wide right turn in order to avoid the curb or other obstacles. Drivers in passenger vehicles should watch to see if a semi is signaling for a turn and avoid pulling up alongside the truck. The semi driver is concentrating on the turn and may not see the driver if they are alongside the truck, in a blind spot.
Blind Spots – Along with turns, semi-trucks have larger blind spots than the average vehicle. Due to their size, there is a blind spot immediately in front of the semi, along the sides near the cab, and directly behind the trailer. The blind spot on the right side of the truck is worse than the left due to the position of the driver. Passenger drivers should move out of these blind spots as quickly as safety permits so the trucker knows if they can safely pass or make an evasive move to avoid collisions due to other drivers.
Passing a Semi – Due to the blind spots that are larger on the right side of the truck, passenger vehicles should pass on the left whenever possible. When the pass is completed, passenger automobiles should also make sure they do not cut off the semi when re-entering the same lane of travel as the semi. Again, due to their size, semi-trucks take a lot longer to brake and come to a complete stop.
Wind Issues – Semi-trucks are susceptible to acting like a sail when there is any type of wind. This is true even for a fully loaded semi, much less a semi pulling an empty trailer. Again, staying out of a blind spot and passing as quickly as safety permits will aid passenger vehicles in avoiding collisions with semi-trucks.
Sleepy Drivers – Semi truck drivers are sometimes under too much pressure by their clients and employers to deliver loads by a certain time. This can make drivers fail to follow regulations regarding sleeping and breaks, which then leads to road weariness and falling asleep at the wheel. When a passenger vehicle sees a semi-truck swerving erratically late at night or even during the day, the semi driver could be drowsy and the truck should be avoided.
These are just some of the issues that come with sharing the road with semi-trucks. All of us enjoy the benefits of these trucks through the shipping of products and food; therefore, we all need to be aware of these issues and help maintain safe driving conditions.
If there is an accident that occurs involving a semi-truck, however, the attorneys at Goodin Abernathy, LLP will sit down with you in a free consultation to discuss what happened. Be safe!
Smartphones and media players are convenient ways for people to listen to music or talk with friends while on the go. However, if earbuds or other headsets that prevent sound from entering the ear are used, the music and conversation can be the cause of personal injury.
Currently, state laws are all over the place regarding the use of headsets while driving. (See AAA’s Digest of Motor Laws, available at drivinglaws.aaa.com/laws/headsets/). However, just because it is not illegal, this does not mean it is safe.
Anytime a person’s senses, whether it is sight or sound, are distracted from paying attention to road conditions, on-coming traffic, sirens of emergency vehicles, or children playing, there is additional risk to the motorist, bicyclist or walker. When earbuds or headsets that almost or completely drown out other sounds are used, there is no way for a person to hear anything that would alert them to these conditions.
At Goodin Abernathy, we want you to enjoy music and talking with your friends, but we want you to do so safely.
While watching local media coverage of the recent snowstorms, we saw a truck driver tell a local television reporter that “he was driving his semi on the interstate and only going 45 mph when his trailer began to fishtail, and he ultimately jackknifed.” The truck driver told the reporter that this must be a “freak accident.” The very next scene showed an interview of the Indiana State Trooper who was involved in investigating and responding to the jackknifed semi-trailer. The trooper was obviously angry and explained to the reporter that he had just written a very expensive ticket to the truck driver, as driving 45 mph down on ice and snow-covered interstate in the middle of whiteout conditions was certainly traveling too fast for the conditions. In the Trooper’s opinion, had the truck driver been going 20-25 mph, this truck accident never would have occurred.
When you’re driving a motor vehicle in the state of Indiana, there is no such thing as a freak auto accident. Drivers of vehicles, whether they be semi-tractor/trailers or passenger cars, have a legal obligation to maintain their vehicle under control at all times and drive at a speed appropriate for whatever conditions are present on the road. In this particular case it sounds as though the driver and his employer are going to be held responsible for a massive traffic tie-up and are fortunate that they aren’t going to be held responsible for serious injury or death caused by this truck driver operating his vehicle at an unsafe speed.