A truck rollover happens when the truck’s centrifugal force causes its wheels to lose contact with the road, and the truck tips over onto its side. These crashes are also known as overturned tractor-trailers. There is a high rate of serious injury for both the truck driver and other motorists who may be involved in the crash.
Rollovers are one of the most dangerous types of truck accidents. When a truck rolls over, it can hit other vehicles in the surrounding area on the road. Its cargo can also spill out and cause large chain reaction accidents. Cars may lose control or hit other cars when they are trying to avoid a truck on the road in front of them.
Besides the truck itself, the cargo can endanger drivers. Liquid cargo, such as chemicals or petroleum, is extremely flammable. They will also make the roadway very slippery. Solid cargo can either hit surrounding cars or cause drivers to suddenly brake or swerve to avoid it.
Rollover Crashes Have a High Rate of Injuries and Fatalities
One study lends numbers to the dangers of rollover crashes. This study analyzed 967 crashes that involved 1,127 large trucks and 959 non-truck motor vehicles. There were a total of 251 fatalities in these crashes and 1,408 injuries. The odds of walking away from a truck rollover crash without an injury are very slim. Many of these injuries are severe and life-altering.
According to the same study, truck rollovers account for nearly one in every ten truck accidents. While truck rollovers usually occur when the road curves, there is a high risk in the Phoenix area because truck drivers can travel at higher speeds on the highway.
When the road does curve, the driver may not always slow down enough to avoid danger. This is part of why I-17 presents such a danger to motorists who must share the roadway with truck drivers. The stretch of road between Phoenix and Flagstaff is one of the most dangerous in the entire country.
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Less Experienced Truck Drivers Increase the Risk of Accidents
The number of rollover crashes has increased in recent years as more trucks are on the road, often with less experienced drivers behind the wheels. These drivers get their direction from companies that care most about their profits. The pressures of the trucking industry have risen exponentially, as more cargo than ever is traveling across the roadways.
Of course, speeding is one of the leading causes of truck rollover accidents. Besides curves, drivers may also not slow down enough on exit ramps. Even normal interstate speeds can lead to rollovers when the front wheels of the truck turn faster than the cargo that the truck is carrying. Traveling at the normal speed limit can still be too fast for the circumstances.
Causes of Rollover Crashes
The other common causes of rollover accidents include:
- Drivers must properly judge the angle of a turn. If they make a mistake or do not slow down enough for the turn, the truck may roll over.
- Fatigued driving can cause truck drivers to underestimate (or overestimate) a turn. Operators can lose some of their reflexes and sharpness when they are tired.
- Inexperience can cause drivers to make mistakes when steering or approaching turns. This problem is only getting worse because much of the truck driver workforce is aging with newer and inexperienced drivers as replacements.
- Oversteering on a turn can cause the truck to tip over.
A common factor in many truck rollovers is that the driver was in a hurry, as truck drivers have a limited amount of time before they must take a rest. The federal government keeps truck drivers from driving more than 60 hours in seven days. There are also daily limits, so drivers can be behind if they sit in traffic. At the same time, they have delivery pressures to get there on time. Some drivers try to make up for that by speeding. This is especially a danger when the road is not straight and when drivers are entering a curve.
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Negligence in a Truck Rollover Crash
Many truck rollovers happen because of the driver’s negligence. It is pretty safe to say that a truck should not be rolling over. When it happens, someone has done something wrong. If you have been injured in a truck rollover accident, there is a very strong chance that you qualify for financial compensation after you can prove what happened.
Truck rollovers can also happen due to improper loading of the trailer. When the truck is not fully loaded, it may be even more dangerous. The weight must have even distribution throughout the truck. Otherwise, the cargo may shift. This may be the single highest risk factor for a truck rollover accident. In addition, workers must properly secure the cargo when loaded.
Tankers are a particularly high risk for rollover accidents. Regardless of whether the tanker is fully loaded, the liquid can move around in the tank and change the balance of weight. Three in every ten rollover crashes are single-vehicle trucks like tankers. The risk is even more serious when the tanker only has a partial load, as the liquid can slosh around in the tank and throw the entire trailer off balance.
Trucking companies have it in their power to prevent rollover accidents. Much of it starts in the hiring process, where companies must select well-qualified and trained drivers. They must also carefully inspect and maintain their vehicles. Finally, they must ensure that vehicles are properly loaded before they head out onto the road. Above all, trucking companies should encourage a culture of safety, as opposed to putting profits above all else.
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Possible Defendants in a Truck Rollover Accident
You might hold many parties liable for a truck rollover accident.
- The truck driver – they may make one of the errors listed above and lose control of the vehicle (as described below, the truck driver is the same as their company, unless they work an independent contractor)
- The cargo loader – some trucking companies outsource cargo loading to third parties, and they may have improperly loaded the cargo
- Another driver – a third driver may have cut in front of the truck or done something else that caused the truck driver to oversteer and roll over.
- The truck or parts manufacturer – the rollover accident might have been caused by a defect in the truck or one of its parts that made it impossible for the driver to keep the truck upright. Specifically, bad brakes can lead to rollovers, especially when the driver does not adjust their speed to known problems.
Suing a Trucking Company for Rollover Accident Injuries
When the truck driver was negligent, the employing company can also be legally responsible for their actions. It is a rule of personal injury law that the employer is responsible for the actions that their employees committed while they were on the job. The truck driver is an agent, and when they are negligent, it is as if the trucking company itself was negligent.
Suing a trucking company can help increase the size of your recovery. In many automobile accident cases, the policy limits of the other driver and your underinsured motorist coverage might cap your financial recovery, but you can expect that there will be a higher limit for the trucking company’s insurance policy. After all, they do not want the actions of one careless driver to be enough to put them out of business. If their insurance coverage is not enough to pay for the damage that their driver caused, you can go after the trucking company’s bank accounts and assets.
Investigating a Truck Rollover Accident
To get financial compensation, you need to figure out the right person or company to sue. While a truck rollover might seem to be evidence on its own of negligence, you need far more to get a settlement check. You want someone to investigate your accident as soon as possible after it happened, before you may start to lose evidence that you need to prove your case.
The purpose of this investigation will be to:
- Establish who was to blame for the truck rollover
- Gather evidence of that person or company’s negligence
- Obtain any relevant documents or records that you can use to strengthen your claim
Investigating a truck accident is even more complex than the aftermath of a car crash.
The complicating factors include:
- You are dealing with a company that wants to protect itself at all costs, making it hard for you to obtain the evidence that you need.
- The damages in a truck accident are usually higher than that in a car accident.
- Many more things need investigation, including the company and its corporate records.
- There are more possible defendants in a truck rollover case.
How a Truck Accident Attorney Helps
An experienced truck accident attorney knows exactly what to do the minute that you hire them, as they will know the complexities of truck accident claims and how to deal with the above challenges. They can cut through the red tape to get the evidence you need to prove your case. At Zanes Law Injury Lawyers, we are not afraid of taking on the truck driver’s employer, their lawyers, and their insurance company on your behalf.
Damages in a Truck Rollover Accident Case
When a rollover accident injures you (and you can prove that it was someone else’s fault), you may recover:
- Economic damages – these cover the actual costs of your injury, whether they are for lost wages that you planned to earn or medical costs that come out of your pocket.
- Non-economic damages – these damages pay you for your experience after the accident. They include things like pain and suffering, emotional distress, and the loss of enjoyment of life. The insurance company or a jury will place a dollar value on these and award it to you as compensation.
If your loved one died in a rollover accident, your family can file a wrongful death lawsuit. This claim should pay your family back for the losses you suffered when your loved one passed away. You can also file a survival action to pay for what your loved one lost and endured between the time of their accident and death. Your lawyer will usually pursue these two types of claims together.
How to Obtain Financial Compensation in a Truck Rollover Accident Case
If you have suffered injuries in a rollover crash, you have several options for pursuing compensation for your injuries. You can file a claim directly with the truck driver’s insurance company and try to negotiate a settlement. Alternatively, you can file a lawsuit against the truck driver in court.
Both ways will usually lead to the same result. Most truck accident claims and lawsuits will eventually reach a settlement agreement. Trials in these cases are very rare. However, they are sometimes a necessity when the defendant and their insurance company are being unreasonable.
Even though the insurance company will try to play its usual games, it knows that it does not want to end up in front of a jury. The risk of a massive verdict is far too much for them to bear. At the end of the day, the prospect of a large verdict is what will force them to raise their initially low settlement offer little by little. An experienced and aggressive attorney will know the pressure points to put on the insurance company in settlement negotiations.
In the end, may deserve financial compensation when someone else caused your injury, and an insurance company cannot take that legal right away from you. No matter what they do or say, they are only an intermediary, and their tricks do not substitute for the defendant’s legal obligation to pay you.