Causes of Truck Accidents

When a trucking accident results in serious injury or death, assigning liability for victims’ losses is critical, and depends on accurately determining the cause or causes underlying the crash. Evidence degrades quickly, and witness’s memories become unreliable after a short time. For that reason, investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) arrive at the scene of a serious truck accident shortly after the crash is reported. Investigators from the trucking company’s insurance company may arrive even before the NTSB. As a result, there is good data available on causes of truck accidents.

What are the primary reasons for trucking accidents?

Crash reconstruction experts agree that most truck accidents are complex events, involving more than one causative factor and two or more vehicles. It is common for more than one factor to contribute to the crash. A truck-crash causation study conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) concluded that a majority of truck accidents involved fatigue, alcohol, and speeding. When breaking out details overall, however, the study pointed to a much wider range of factors that increase the risk a large truck will be in an accident, including some that may have occurred long before the accident.

  • Driver error was considered a critical reason for 87% of the accidents, and includes two major categories—the driver’s condition before the crash, and decisions made by the driver. The most common critical events resulting from driver error were driving out of the lane, crossing into another lane or off the road and loss of control due to speeding. The category of driver condition includes poor training, driver fatigue, alcohol, illness, and use of legal or illegal drugs. Poor decisions on the part of the driver include traveling too fast for conditions, responding to work pressure from carrier, inattention (distracted driving due to texting, eating, or other activity), following too close, making an illegal maneuver, and responding to an internal distraction in the vehicle.
  • Equipment failure, with brake failure the lead in the category, followed by tire failure.
  • Carrier negligence, a category that includes inadequate driver training and hiring, improper load distribution, pressure to drive longer than legal hours, and failure to maintain equipment.
  • Environmental issues, such as poor road conditions, improperly marked construction zones, and defective roadways can be contributing factors.

Assigning liability for injuries and death

Truck accident injury victims and families of deceased are entitled to compensation from negligent parties. Sorting out the degree to which each party is liable for the damages can be challenging. A person who has a serious injury or death claim should consult with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after the accident in order to ensure a fair settlement or result at trial.

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