Many factors can affect an accident’s severity. The speed at which one travels, the type of collision, the point of impact, and the size of the other vehicles in the accident all play roles in how serious an accident victim’s injuries are. Given this, it stands to reason if you are in an accident with a semi truck, your injuries are probably more serious than if you were in an accident with another car.
The cargo the truck is carrying also matters. For example, there is a difference between what a semi-truck weighs without a trailer, with a trailer, and with a full load. With big rigs involved in more than 100,000 accidents on United States roadways annually, it helps to understand how the weight of semi-trucks contributes to the dangers they pose.
Weights of Vehicles and Role in Accidents
We all understand the bigger the vehicle we are traveling in, the more protected we are against a serious injury. When we purchase a car, we often look at fuel economy statistics—however, keep in mind, the more economical a car is to operate, the less weight it carries.
The heavier a vehicle is, the longer it may take to stop, since more weight means more momentum. Even an experienced truck driver may not have sufficient time to stop a vehicle before a crash.
When it comes to truck accidents, here are some important statistics to consider:
- How much does an average car weigh? A compact vehicle weighs a maximum of 4,500 pounds, a midsize car weighs a maximum of 5,500 pounds, and a full-size car weighs a maximum of 6,000 pounds. For other standard personal weight increases—minivans weigh a maximum of 6,500 pounds, small SUVs and light pickups can weigh up to 7,000 pounds, and a full-size pickup or SUV can weigh as much as 12,000 pounds. Keep in mind, these weights vary and don’t account for passengers.
- How much does the average semi-truck weigh without a trailer? A tractor alone, usually called the cab, weighs between 17,000—22,000 pounds without a trailer attached to it. Meanwhile, the weight of an average trailer is approximately 10,000 pounds.
- How much does an empty tractor trailer weigh? When a tractor and trailer are mounted together, on average they weigh approximately 35,000 pounds. This includes the fuel, oil, and hooking mechanisms.
- How much does a fully loaded semi weigh? Federal standards limit a fully loaded semi to no more than 80,000 pounds. That’s 40 tons!
As you can see from these numbers, the largest personal vehicle, weighing a maximum of 12,000 pounds, is still no match for a tractor trailer. In fact, even a semi cab can weigh as much as 5,000 pounds more than a large SUV or pickup truck.
The Role of Big Rigs in Our Lives
There are thousands of trucks on our roadways daily, and no one wants to get stuck behind or between them. When we see trucks on the road, we often consider them a bit of a nuisance because they are difficult to see around. We often pass them just to be out of their way, but this does not necessarily diminish the risk of a truck accident.
Often people wonder why there are so many trucks on the road but when you stop and consider it, they really are the engines of our economy. Trucks are a necessity and help ensure we can purchase and transport items locally.
Trucks frequently deliver:
- Groceries – The food we purchase at a local grocer does not get there on its own and most of us do not have food manufacturers in our backyard. Trucks move freshly harvested groceries from one end of the country to the other.
- Raw materials – Every item we use in our home consists of hundreds of components. From our toaster to our dishwasher, our clothing to our medication, and our cell phones to our laptop computers—truckers deliver all these parts to manufacturers to produce end products.
- Fuel – Tanker trucks carry fuel to stock up our gas stations so when we need fuel in our cars we can get where we need to go. Tankers also carry propane and heating oil to keep our homes warm.
Tractor trailers affect nearly every part of our lives, even those we don’t think about much. Additionally, the trucking industry employs hundreds of thousands of people, having a significant impact on our economy. By some estimates, trucks deliver 60,000 pounds worth of goods per American per year.
Dangers of Trucks on Our Roadways
Some of the issues that can result in a truck accident include:
- Poorly trained drivers – Given the shortage of truck drivers across the United States, it is no wonder a company may take shortcuts with training. This can endanger others on the roadway.
- Violations of sleep rules – Whether it is because there is a “quiet” company policy of ignoring Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) rules pertaining to breaks and sleep or a driver deliberately avoids following these rules, they are dangerous. A sleepy or drowsy driver can cause a serious accident. Rest periods must be mandatory.
- Loading mistakes – When a trailer on a truck is improperly loaded it can lead to serious problems. An unbalanced load can cause a trailer to shift when making turns, resulting in a rollover accident.
- Blind spots – Nearly 40,000 accidents involving trucks are because of blind spots. Unlike a car, a truck actually has four blind spots. These are located at each side mirror, in front of the truck, and behind the truck. Blind spots accidents in cars are becoming less common thanks to technology, but trucks have yet to widely adopt it the way cars have.
These are not the only types of problems that can, and do, result in tractor trailer accidents on the roadways. Typical issues like failure to yield, running red lights, impaired drivers, and poor road conditions can also contribute to accidents. Distracted driving, tailgating, and speeding also play a role in semi-truck accidents. A speeding truck, especially one which is carrying full weight, can cause serious injury during a crash, and in some cases, can result in fatalities.
Other Large Trucks Involved in Accidents
Let’s not forget other large trucks on our roadways can cause deadly accidents. Dump trucks, garbage trucks, and large delivery trucks can also cause a problem for vehicle operators. These loads are not always evenly dispersed. While drivers do require specialized training, these large trucks can be unwieldy at best. If the truck tips over, cargo spillage can cause additional road hazards.
Tanker Trucks’ Weights and Additional Hazards
Tanker trucks typically weigh more than a standard semi.
Tanker trucks can transport:
- Fuels – Jet fuel, gasoline, and diesel fuels are all transported by tanker trucks. Explosions and fires can occur if this cargo leaks in an accident.
- Chemicals – Tankers often transport chemicals such as those used in industrial settings and agriculture when needed in large quantities.
- Milk – Many of us have seen tankers carrying milk on the roadway. These trucks have additional refrigerants to ensure the products do not spoil in transit.
- Dry Goods – Tanker trucks often carry plastic pellets, cement, grains for processing, and sand.
These trucks pose additional dangers when they are involved in an accident. When a tanker of any kind is involved in an accident and it tips over, roadways can be closed for hours cleaning up the debris. In the case where trucks are carrying hazardous chemicals or fuels, the danger of fire increases. Victims of these accidents may suffer crushing injuries and disfiguring burns.
Insurance Claims and Trucking Accidents
Following a roadway accident involving a tractor trailer truck, victims need answers, and they need help. When seeking medical attention, the victim must focus wholeheartedly on recovering. However, shortly after an accident, they may receive a barrage of unexpected telephone calls disrupting their much-needed rest! Chances are, within 48 to 72 hours of an accident, especially an accident where the trucker was at fault, the victim will start getting telephone calls from insurance adjusters. Yes, that is adjusters as in plural!
A trucker accident may involve numerous insurers in the claims process. First, you will deal with your own insurance company. The trucker may have their own liability policy since many are self-employed. However, if a violation of rules, a roadway hazard, or an improperly loaded trailer caused the accident, the liability may spread across more than one party.
None of these insurers are there to make sure you get the compensation you deserve for your injuries or the damage to your vehicle. They are all working towards one common goal: Making sure they pay as little as possible on your claim. This is one of the primary reasons to seek guidance from a truck accident attorney as soon possible after your accident.
Insurance companies may offer a quick settlement following a truck accident. Beware: The first settlement offer will not be their best offer, regardless of what they are telling you! Chances are their hope is you will accept the settlement without contacting a lawyer and asking them to clarify some of the language used in the settlement agreement. One reason for that is generally when you accept a settlement, you waive your right to future claims. That means even if your losses exceed the settlement amount, you lose—you are not entitled to file an additional claim even if your medical bills, time lost from work, and other costs exceed the settlement.
Trucking Accident Lawyers Help Protect Your Rights
Following a truck accident, you have the right to not pay out of pocket for any expenses or losses you incur because of injuries you suffered. Because of the size and weight of a semi-truck, chances are your injuries are going to take weeks, months, or even years of recovery. There is always a concern about estimated future earnings losses, ongoing medical care, and other expenses associated with your injuries which may not be readily recognizable in the immediate aftermath of an accident.
This is when working with an experienced truck accident lawyer can prove to be invaluable. An attorney who has experience working on truck accident cases knows the experts in this field who can help them determine the long-term prognosis of your injuries, the time it will take for you to fully recover, and the future costs associated with your injuries. Additionally, a lawyer who has this experience also understands the tactics insurers will use to escape liability. For you, that is a win-win situation. You benefit from the knowledge and experience while your lawyer does everything they can to ensure you are treated fairly.
Victims should also keep something else in mind: You can seek immediate answers to your questions by requesting a fast, free consultation with an attorney who handles nationwide truck accident cases. Generally, you will not have to pay anything out of pocket for legal fees because in most cases, lawyers handle truck accident cases on a contingency fee basis. This means the attorney does not collect legal fees unless they secure a settlement on your behalf. That’s right: they don’t get paid until you do!
Regardless of the weight of the semi-truck in the accident that caused your injuries, you will need help working with insurance companies and making sure you get the compensation you deserve. The best thing you can do following a truck accident is call for an immediate free consultation with an experienced lawyer. Going forward, protect your rights and know your options!
Stewart J. Guss, Injury Accident Lawyers
12777 Jones Rd #297
Houston, TX 77070