Top 8 common causes of semi-truck accidents and crashes

Indianapolis continues to make headline news for ongoing incidents and crashes involving semi-trucks. Unfortunately, these stories often mean traumatic injuries and loss of life for those involved.

Most recently, a semi-truck carrying 4,000 gallons of jet fuel overturned at an I-465 to I-70 on-ramp, leaving the driver critically injured. NBC news shows dramatic footage of the fire as it spread and burned throughout the entire overpass area.

According to Indiana State Police, they believe the truck driver was speeding at the time of the accident. It was also reported that the driver sustained burns that left him in critical condition.

(A speeding semi-trick is concern enough, but couple that with a load of jet fuel and you essentially have a bomb on wheels.)

Also familiar to Hoosiers are two recent incidents involving semi-truck accidents that claimed several lives:

Last July, a semi-truck driver claimed to be distracted by his cup of tea when he rear-ended a vehicle that claimed the lives of a young mother and her twin daughters.

A January crash saw a semi-truck driver rear-end a vehicle that claimed the lives of three people, including a 1-year-old toddler. Again, the driver claimed to be distracted by a drink.

With a seemingly high number of high-profile semi-truck accidents happening in and around Indianapolis, we want to take a closer look at the 8 most common causes of semi-truck accidents.

Top 8 causes and types of semi-truck accidents

When loaded up, semi-trucks can weigh 20-30 times as much as a traditional passenger vehicle. Combine this with the fact that it can take 20-40% further for a big rig to stop, and it is quickly apparent that semis are governed by a unique set of physics.

Given a semi-truck’s size, build, and unique driver environment, we thought it would be beneficial to look closer at the common causes and types of 18-wheeler crashes:

1) Jackknife Accidents

When a semi-truck driver brakes suddenly and with great force, the back of the trailer can skid outward, creating a 90-degree angle to the cab of the truck.

In addition to an increased risk of the truck flipping over, the sideways trailer also acts as a sliding metal barrier that can sweep up several other vehicles and people in its path.

2) Distracted Driving

Perhaps the biggest threat to those sharing the road with semi-trucks, distracted driving is continually found to be a primary cause of big-rig incidents and crashes. This is especially common given the additional time it takes semis to come to a stop.

Not only are cabs outfitted with modern technology that can be distracting to drivers, there are a number of other reasons drivers might take their eyes off the road, including mobile phones, drink, food, etc.

In both of the wrongful death stories above, the semi-truck drivers claimed to have only looked away for an instant before realizing that traffic had stopped in front of them.

3) Semi-Truck Rollovers

Often attributed to inclement weather or unsafe speeds, a driver who loses control of his or her rig can quickly see their trailer and cab roll onto its side.

And because trailers are often loaded with several thousands of pounds in various types of cargo, rollovers can become especially dangerous, as illustrated in Indianapolis’s most recent semi-truck accident that involved the truck rollover and jet fuel spill.

4) Semi-Truck Tire Blowout

A recent semi tire blowout on I-70 in Clay County saw a semi-truck catch fire and completely burn.

Fortunately, there were no injuries from this incident, however, Boulton Law Group has investigated a number of semi-truck accidents where a blown tire was found to be the cause of serious injuries and/or loss of life.

Semi-truck tires can blow for any number of reasons, including:

  • Overloading a trailer and exceeding cargo weight limits
  • Improper tire inspection
  • Under-inflation or Over-inflation of semi-truck tires
  • Not replacing worn tires
  • Poor road conditions, e.g., potholes or chuckholes. (We see this one throughout Indiana, especially in the Indianapolis-area and its interstates.)
  • Extreme weather conditions, e.g., heat.

Additionally, a blown semi-truck tire can also result in shrapnel-like effects, throwing tread and metal reinforcements hurling through the air.

So not only does a semi-truck drive risk losing control when a tire blows, there is also the risk that pieces of tread could strike someone, causing serious injury and/or death.

5) Semi Wheel Runoff Crashes

Different than a blown tire, a semi wheel runoff accident happens when a defect causes the one or more of the truck’s tires to separate from the wheel, sending it hurtling into traffic or into a person standing outside of their vehicle.

Investigation of these types of semi-accidents typically reveal a defect or improper mounting of the wheel studs, lugnuts, or failure of the hub and/or wheel bearing assembly.

A quick search for semi tire accident reveals several stories involving a wheel runoff that killed a fellow driver and/or pedestrian.

6) Wide Turns

Given their overall size and manner in which the trailer is connected to the cab, semi-trucks require a large amount of space to make simple turns.

This is especially clear at intersections in which a truck attempts to make a right-hand turn and crosses over into the lane of oncoming traffic.

We have investigated a number of semi-truck accidents in which a driver miscalculated the turn, or simply failed to yield to the oncoming traffic and either collided head-on or sideswiped a vehicle.

7) Drowsy Driving

Due to the scheduled nature of a trucker’s job, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has issued strict Hours of Service Rules that limit the amount of time a driver is legally allowed to be on the road for a single period of time.

We have investigated and witnessed several incidents in which one of the liability factors was a driver that had exceeded the maximum hours allowed before taking a mandated break.

A drowsy truck driver represents an extreme danger to everyone on the road.

8) Semi-Truck Blind Spots

A number of accidents involving semi-trucks are caused by one of a rig’s many large blind spots.

There are four primary blind spots that everyone should be aware of when sharing the road with a semi-truck:

  • When traveling directly behind a semi and inside the semi’s lane
  • When traveling directly in front of a semi and inside the semi’s lane, including the lane to the right
  • On the left side of the semi, adjacent to the side mirror
  • On the right side of the semi, adjacent to the side mirror

It is also important to remember that if you are unable to see the driver in their side mirrors, they cannot see you

Indianapolis semi-truck accident lawyer

A crash with a semi-truck is unlike any other auto accident. Not only do the chances of incurring traumatic or life-threatening injuries increase exponentially, you also face an extremely complicated legal battle.

Federal regulations require commercial vehicles to carry much larger insurance policies, with most semi-trucks being insured for $1 Million or more. When a semi-truck driver is found to be at fault, this represents a massive exposure for the insurance company, and they will aggressively defend these claims.

It is important that you have an experienced Indianapolis semi-truck accident lawyer examine your claim and advise you of your rights. Additionally, your attorney will help to ensure all possible sources of compensation are located, as semis regularly carry multiple policies.

Boulton Law Group offers every semi-truck accident victim a Zero Fee Guarantee. This means that you will never pay for a legal consultation, and the only time the firm receives payment for its services is after we win your case.

To have attorney Matt Boulton review your semi-truck claim at no cost, call him at 317-350-2680. Or if you prefer to write to us for an immediate review of your claim, you can use our confidential contact form.

We look forward to hearing your story and going to work for you!

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