Dangers and Statistics
Tractor trailers, also known as semi trucks or 18 wheelers, on average weigh about 32,000 pounds unloaded. When they are fully loaded, they are legally permitted to weigh a combined total of 129,000 pounds or over 60 tons. In comparison, the average four door sedan weighs just 3,000 to 4,000 pounds, and SUVs and pickups top out at around 6,000. Understanding the sheer magnitude of difference in weight and size makes it easy to intuit the kind of catastrophic damage that semis can have when they are involved in an accident. In 2015, almost 4,000 people died in accidents involving tractor trailers. Only 15% of these deaths were truck drivers; the rest were drivers and passengers of other cars, pedestrians, bicyclists, or motorcyclists.
The Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) is responsible for regulating the trucking industry in Nevada. They set regulations concerning weight, routes, and loads and maintain roadways to make trucking safe for semi drivers and for others on the road. There are two major interstates utilized by truckers in Nevada: Interstate 15, which runs through Las Vegas from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles, and Interstate 80, which connects Salt Lake to San Francisco through Reno. Because these are major shipping routes, Nevada has a substantial amount of truck traffic on its roadways, with tractor trailers representing the “third largest motorist group using Nevada's highways, after commuters and tourists.”
Common Accidents Involving Tractor Trailers
While large-scale, high-speed, fatal accidents involving trucks are perhaps the most well-known and covered in the media, there are a number of other ways trucking accidents occur and many factors that can contribute to the cause of an accident. Accidents may be caused by:
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Drowsy driving due to lack of sleep and failure to take legally obligated breaks and adhere to hour limitations
- Inadequate training or lack of familiarity with the vehicle
- Aggressive driving and/or speeding to make good time, which can be encouraged by the operating company
- Driving too close to a median or soft shoulder, which can cause the side of the road to cave and the truck to collapse
- Overloading or improperly loading the trailer, or hauling unstable cargo such as live animals, liquids, or unsecured packages.
- Losing control on declines
- Backing up without proper warning or assistance from others
Truck drivers are legally required to follow the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) guidelines for breaks and caps on daily and weekly hours. They must not drive for more than 8 hours without taking a 30-minute break, and they are capped at 11 hours of driving per day and 14 hours of total work every day (including loading/unloading cargo and other non-driving duties). Each tractor trailer driver should keep a logbook with a schedule of 15-minute increments wherein they record their driving hours, working hours, breaks, and time off.
Passenger vehicles can also contribute to truck accidents in the following ways:
- Driving in no-visibility zones around trucks, such as in blind spots or too close behind them
- Changing lanes unexpectedly and quickly in front of a truck
- Misjudging a truck's speed when turning left across traffic or attempting to merge onto the interstate
- Driving between two trucks or attempting to pass a truck with insufficient space
Immediate Steps and Considerations
If you are involved in an accident with a semi-truck, there are a few things to keep in mind as you move forward. Like any accident, you are required to stop and exchange information with the truck driver and notify the police as soon as possible if anyone was injured or there was property damage. In addition, the truck driver will most likely be required to report the accident to their company immediately. As with any vehicle accident, if possible, try to take pictures and note any injuries, vehicle or other property damage, the condition of the road, and the weather at the time of the occurrence. Furthermore, ask witnesses or passersby for contact information if they are willing to provide it for future interviews.
Unlike collisions with other passenger vehicles, truck drivers are often employed by a company. The company may liable for an accident its employee caused under certain conditions. The insurance companies for the trucking business will often contact passenger vehicle drivers who have been involved in crashes soon after the accident occurs in order to offer settlements quickly and avoid personal injury claims or lawsuits.
If you are considering filing a claim or lawsuit, it is important, therefore, to make sure to evaluate all options before agreeing to a settlement with the other party's insurance company. The driver of the truck may be responsible, but often there are other factors to consider and other parties which may be held liable for your injuries.
Since trucking companies will have professional insurance carriers working to mitigate the cost of the accident for the company, it is often a good idea to hire a personal injury attorney in order to protect your own interests. Avoid giving any recorded statements to insurance companies, admitting fault, or signing anything until you consult with a legal professional.
Victims of Truck Accidents in Las Vegas, Nevada
Accidents involving tractor trailers can be some of the most traumatic and destructive kinds of collisions on the road. While most truck drivers respect the rules of the road and take precautions like driving defensively, traveling at reasonable speeds, and taking breaks to rest when necessary, not every individual is so careful. In addition, companies can have unrealistic expectations for their drivers' quotas, which can encourage risk-taking behavior. If you or a loved one have been injured or killed in a truck accident in the state of Nevada, you may be able to bring a claim for damages against those responsible. Before you accept a settlement offered by an insurance company, speak with an experienced personal injury attorney in Las Vegas. Call the Jacks Law Group today at (702) 834-6300 or contact us online.