Many factors cause semi-truck accidents, including some that might not be immediately apparent. For this reason, truck accident victims may not know who is liable for an accident or their damages until further investigation takes place.
Thousands of large commercial trucks navigate Canada’s highways daily. Drivers haul their goods across the country year-round, logging long distances and spending many hours on the road. Anything can happen, but the results can be disastrous when truckers are not alert or do not follow the law.
According to Transport Canada’s National Collision Database (NCDB), nearly 3,200 tractor-trailer vehicles were involved in accidents in Canada in 2019. This figure involved vehicles with or without a semi-trailer. Roughly 1,000 people suffered injuries in those crashes, and 32 people died.
Canadian Drivers Are Aware of the Danger of Heavy Trucks’ Dangers
A Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) survey documented some Canadian drivers’ concerns about large trucks and general road safety.
According to its findings, survey respondents expressed concern about:
- Driver fatigue among truck drivers
- Large trucks not meeting safety standards
- Speeding or traveling above the posted speed limit
Interestingly, 64 percent of respondents said they did not think driver training could do more to teach passenger vehicle drivers how to share the road with large trucks.
Transport Canada also acknowledges that passengers of large and small vehicles must understand how to share the road safely. Getting into a crash with a semi-truck or another large vehicle can have deadly results.
What Makes Semi-Trucks Dangerous?
A semi-truck contains two parts. One part is the tractor, which pulls the cargo. The other part is the trailer or semi-trailer, and it holds the freight that can be loaded or unloaded. A semi-truck is also known as a tractor-trailer and an 18-wheeler, among other names. The extreme size and weight of these and other large trucks make them dangerous vehicles, especially when they travel at high speeds.
Large trucks are heavier, wider, and longer than passenger vehicles. Large trucks also sit higher off the ground, making it hard for some drivers to see motorists in smaller vehicles. These factors present several challenges for their drivers. Drivers have larger blind spots and need more space to make wide turns and stop at a safe distance.
Common Causes of Semi-Trucks in Canada
Some semi-truck accidents result from truck driver errors. Unfortunately, many of these errors become the basis of a personal injury lawsuit. Here are a few common violations:
Driving While Tired
Fatigue ranks high among the reasons semi-truck drivers have road accidents. Their performance can falter or decline when they do not get the proper rest or drive for long stretches for days.
Sometimes, this happens when drivers try to deliver goods to a destination while on a tight schedule or feel like they will be OK to drive despite skipping a few rest stops.
Driving While Distracted
Driver inattention happens whenever a driver takes their eyes off the road for any reason. Commercial truck drivers have the same distractions that people in passenger cars do. These include eating or drinking or talking, or texting on a mobile phone while driving. Distracted driving can also happen when the truck driver changes the radio station or gets lost in thought while behind the wheel.
Unfortunately, these decisions are safety risks and can lead to accidents. Driving while drowsy or tired is not a good idea for anyone, especially for a semi-truck driver who is operating a vehicle that weighs thousands of pounds.
Driving While Under the Influence
Drivers who consume mind-altering and mood-altering substances before or while operating an 18-wheeler are putting themselves and others in danger. Alcohol and drugs, even prescription or over-the-counter drugs, can impair someone’s ability to make sound judgments while driving.
Driving while intoxicated can slow a driver’s reaction time, meaning they may not act quickly enough to avoid causing a crash. They also may drive too fast or too slow, which can also lead to an accident.
Some truck drivers may speed, thinking they can catch up if they are running behind schedule. However, going several miles over the speed limit violates the law. It also puts lives at risk.
A truck driver who exceeds the posted speed limit has a higher chance of losing control of the vehicle. They may not be able to stop in enough time to avoid hitting a motorist, pedestrian, or object. They also could drive off the road and topple over.
Other Dangerous Driver Behaviours
Truckers may feel pressure to deliver goods by a certain deadline or just want to get to their destination faster. This thinking can lead to making poor decisions on the road. Unsafe passing, drifting between the lanes, and failing to signal and check a blind spot before making a lane change can lead to crashes. Others may underestimate how much space they need to stop or make a wide turn and cause harm to another person.
Driver Error Is Not Always the Cause of Accidents
While driver error causes a significant number of semi-truck accidents, some occur for reasons that a driver may not be able to control. Among them are:
Mechanical Failure or Defective Parts
When a truck’s parts do not work efficiently or at all, it could lead to a crash, even if the driver tries to avoid that outcome. A semi-truck can experience a tire blowout, engine failure, failed brakes, broken or malfunctioning lights, or a locked steering wheel at any time. These issues can make it hard to maneuver a truck safely.
Cargo-loading crews and truck drivers should follow all rules and regulations when loading a truck. Overloading increases the chance of a tire blowout or the truck toppling. Cargo can shift while in transport or fall out of the truck and onto the road, causing other drivers harm.
Poor Vehicle Maintenance
Semi-trucks log thousands of miles on the road. Over time, wear and tear on the vehicle happens, as expected, so regularly inspecting the vehicles and properly maintaining them are important. Regular inspections and maintenance can help reduce these problems and keep unsafe big-rigs off the road.
Semi-truck drivers should always exercise caution and good judgment when their natural environment makes it hard to operate a vehicle. However, it can be difficult to avoid bad weather and unfavourable road conditions while travelling.
A semi-truck operator can drive carefully on slick or icy roads and still be unable to brake to avoid a crash. Thick fog or glare from the sun or another vehicle’s headlights can reduce visibility, making it hard to see. Sometimes unexpected road objects, such as debris or even animals, can make it hard to see the road ahead.
Truck Accident Victims Have Legal Options After an Accident
While semi-truck accidents happen for various reasons, truck drivers are legally obligated to follow the laws to keep themselves and others safe. These accidents cause devastating injuries that require a great deal of medical care and recovery time. This often means victims will have high medical bills and other staggering financial losses from the accident.
Serious injuries in a semi-truck accident can include:
- Brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Soft tissue injuries
- Broken bones
- Neck and back injuries
- Knee and leg injuries
- Facial and dental injuries
- Internal bleeding
- Smoke inhalation
Several factors determine how severe accident injuries are. The truck’s weight, the speeds of the vehicles in the crash, and where the crash took place are just some of the factors that affect the outcome.
Filing a Claim or Lawsuit After a Trucking Accident
Semi-truck accident victims can seek recovery either by filing an insurance claim or a personal injury lawsuit.
Recoverable damages may include:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Mental and emotional distress
- Current and future lost income
- Lost or reduced earning capacity
- Loss of housekeeping services
- Physical disability or disfigurement
- Reduced quality of life
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Past, present, and ongoing medical expenses
- Property damage or loss
Wrongful Death Damages
Families who have lost loved ones in a semi-truck accident may be able to seek wrongful death damages to cover their loved one’s end-of-life expenses. These damages also compensate surviving family members for the lost dependency on the loved one’s income.
Filing for Accident Benefits After a Semi-Truck Crash
Truck crash victims can apply for accident benefits to help them cover their accident expenses. These expenses could include medical bills, income loss, and end-of-life costs for family members whose loved one died in an accident.
Insured drivers and their passengers can apply for these benefits, which are included in their insurance policy. Pedestrians are also eligible. A lawyer can assist victims with applying for these benefits and help them understand their rights and responsibilities concerning them.
How a Lawyer Can Help with a Semi-Truck Accident
Truck accidents are unlike other accidents. They are more complex than what meets the eye. A personal injury lawyer or law firm can help semi-truck victims seek the compensation they are due for the injuries and losses they suffered. It can be very difficult for victims to manage their legal recovery while trying to recover from an accident. The complexity of these cases also adds to that challenge.
Hiring a lawyer can take this task off their shoulders and give them back their time so they can focus on healing from their injuries.
A lawyer may:
- Investigate the crash to determine what happened
- Identify all liable parties in the accident, including the semi-truck driver and the truck company
- Establish how negligence occurred
- Collect and review crash evidence to prove the client’s compensation case (e.g., photos, surveillance video footage, police investigation file)
- Interview witnesses and independent experts, such as an accident reconstructionist
- Assess a client’s injuries, income and benefits, and losses to determine how much compensation to seek
- Represent the client in all proceedings, including those with the liable party’s insurer
- Handle all case paperwork and communications
- Prepare and file a lawsuit by the filing deadline if a settlement is unreachable
A lawyer can also speak with medical professionals to assess a victim’s injuries’ short- and long-term effects.
How Semi-Truck Accidents Differ from Other Accidents
On the surface, it may look like semi-truck crashes are straightforward cases. However, it can quickly turn complex when trying to determine who is responsible for the injured party’s damages. Truck accidents commonly involve multiple parties that could be liable for an accident. A personal injury lawyer can identify all of them and will know what they need to prove how each acted negligently.
How a Truck Driver and Truck Company Could Be Liable
A semi-truck driver who hit a passenger vehicle can be liable for negligence if there is evidence that they violated traffic laws or engaged in irresponsible driving behaviour. Additionally, the truck company that hired the driver can be liable for negligence if a lawyer finds evidence that it acted negligently.
Examples of such negligence include:
- A truck company’s failure to properly maintain its trucks or retire unsafe ones
- Not training its drivers or failing to do proper background checks before hiring
- Allowing drivers to operate a semi-truck without the proper license
- Allowing drivers to violate hours-of-service regulations or skip rest breaks
- Failing to monitor the truck for cargo-loading violations
Other parties that can be found negligent in a semi-truck crash include:
- The company that owns the truck or part of the truck’s unit
- The company that made the truck
- The company that made the truck’s failed mechanical parts
- The mechanic shop that performed the truck’s repairs
- The crew members who handled the truck’s cargo
- A municipality responsible for maintaining the site where the accident occurred
- Other drivers
Each of these parties may have different insurance companies, further complicating truck claims. A personal injury lawyer can litigate these claims and seek the maximum compensation for their client.
Lawyers Can Also Protect Truck Accident Evidence
Hiring a lawyer to manage a commercial truck accident case has another benefit: They can work on their client’s behalf to obtain evidence in the trucking company’s possession.
- The truck driver’s employment, training, or safety records
- The driver’s DUI test results
- The driver’s logs
- Maintenance and inspection logs
- The truck’s event data recorder
- Video surveillance from the truck
Legal Recourse Is Available After a Semi-Truck Accident
If you are recovering from an accident involving a semi-truck or another kind of commercial vehicle, you may want to consider your legal options and take action as soon as possible. You have a right to hold the liable parties accountable for an accident their negligence caused.
Hiring legal representation may help you protect your rights and consider all your legal options for recovery. A skilled trucking accident lawyer can fight for you so that you can start putting your life back together after a semi-truck accident.