Semi-trucks, tractor-trailers, 18-wheelers, whatever you want to call them—if there’s one thing we can agree on, it’s that these monsters are huge. A fully loaded truck can weigh 80,000 pounds and extend 72 feet long!
To put that in perspective, your average mid-size vehicle is about 16 feet long and clocks in just under 3,000 pounds. These statistics are scary enough. Throw in the fact that semi-trucks have enormous blind spots, and it’s enough to make you think twice before you pull up next to one.
Unfortunately, if you’re a driver in Texas, you don’t really have a choice but to share the road with these large commercial vehicles. Texas is home to more large trucks than any other state. Sadly, this also means the state leads the way in truck-involved fatalities.
If you or someone you love has been affected by a semi-truck accident, you have certain rights under the law. Read up on them below.
Where are a truck’s blind spots?
Every vehicle has blind spots. Unless your vehicle is translucent on all sides, there are spots around your vehicle where you just can’t see. That’s why so many new cars come with blind-spot warning systems.
Large trucks have blind spots on all sides, and they’re much bigger than your car’s blind spots. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration refers to these areas as “no-zones.”
According to the FMCSA, large trucks have blind spots in four specific areas:
- 20 feet directly in front of the cab
- 30 feet behind the truck’s trailer
- The driver’s side extending from the mirror approximately midway down the trailer
- On the passenger side from the front of the cab all the way beyond the back of the trailer, encompassing a full two lanes
Basically, this is what you must remember: if you can’t see the driver in their side-view mirrors, they can’t see you!
Why do blind spot accidents happen?
We’ve all seen our fair share of bad drivers. But when it comes to large trucks, we expect the drivers to have the experience and training to know what they are doing and keep others safe. This means they should know how to navigate a truck’s blind spots.
Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Blind spot accidents happen way too often and may be a result of another driver’s negligence. Some of the factors that contribute to blind spot accidents include:
When you pass a truck or change lanes, you may end up in a truck’s blind spot. Blind spots are almost impossible to entirely avoid. If a trucker drives at a normal speed, they should have time to see you enter the blind spot and react appropriately.
When a driver speeds, they have less time to react and may not even notice a driver enter their blind spot. But it gets worse: A vehicle traveling at a faster speed takes longer to stop. This means even if the truck driver sees the vehicle enter or exit their blind spot, the truck may not stop in time.
Did you know the law doesn’t require much specialized training to become a truck driver? All you have to do is provide the proper paperwork and pass the skills and knowledge test. It is up to individual employers to determine whether they will hire someone who has not gone to truck driving school.
A report from the CDC found approximately 38% of long haul truck drivers had “inadequate training” at the beginning of their careers. That’s absurd!
When you drive up next to a large truck, you have no idea how much experience the driver has or what they know. Do they know when to check their blind spots? Do they know how to properly change lanes?
We can all agree: Nobody makes good decisions when they’re tired. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body begins to shut down and doesn’t function as it should. Fatigue can cause slower reaction time, blurred vision, and poor decision-making.
Still, day after day, drivers across the state continue to drive fatigued. The CDC estimates, up to 6,000 fatal crashes per year are the result of a drowsy driver. Many studies equate driving on too little sleep with driving drunk.
The CDC also reports commercial drivers are amongst those who are at the highest risk. Common reasons for driver fatigue include:
- Long work hours
- Overnight driving
- Strenuous activity
- Poor sleep conditions
- Underlying medical issues
- Medication, drinking and driving, or drug use
When you drive a vehicle, you should always be aware of your surroundings. It’s just plain common sense! Check your mirrors, scan ahead of you, look before changing lanes—these are all things we learn just from being on the road. So it’s astounding to hear 14% of all accidents in the Large Truck Crash Causation Study were because of the truck driver’s inadequate surveillance. These numbers are sickening and illustrate pure negligence.
Injuries after a blind spot accident
Motor vehicle accidents are among the leading causes of serious injuries across the United States. In Texas, the most recent numbers show one person was injured every two and a half minutes because of a motor vehicle accident.
When a large truck and a smaller vehicle collide, the occupants of the passenger vehicle are most likely to sustain injuries. In a blind spot accident, the truck driver may not have enough time to correct their vehicle, compounding the seriousness of any injuries. Common injuries include:
Spinal cord injuries
The spinal cord is our body’s messaging system. Our brain tells us what we need to do and the spinal cord sends that message to the corresponding part of the body. When a spinal cord injury occurs, the message gets interrupted. In many cases, this can lead to permanent paralysis.
According to the Mayo Clinic, spinal cord injuries can happen due to vertebrae, ligament, or disc damage, or damage to the cord itself. Motor vehicle accidents account for approximately half of all spinal cord injuries.
Symptoms of a spinal cord injury do not always show up right away. That is why it’s always best to see a doctor after any serious accident. If you experience symptoms of an SCI, it is an emergency and you must seek immediate medical attention.
Symptoms of spinal cord injury include:
- Numbness or tingling
- Loss of sensation
- Inability to walk
- Difficulty breathing
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
- Extreme neck or back pain
- Distortion of the neck or back
Traumatic brain injuries
Traumatic brain injuries are more common than you may think. According to the CDC, approximately 1.5 million people suffer from a TBI every year. Of these, 80,000 to 90,000 will result in long-term disability. Once again, motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of this type of injury.
Everybody’s brain responds differently to injury. Therefore, there is no way to predict what type of life a person may lead after a TBI. Like spinal cord injuries, watch closely for TBI symptoms, as they may appear over time.
Common symptoms of a TBI include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Changes in vision
- Mood changes
- Loss of consciousness
Back and neck injuries
Remember, large trucks have a significant blind spot in the front of their vehicle. This means they can easily rear-end another vehicle. In its most recent report, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found, out of all truck-involved collisions, 22% involved the front of the truck and the rear of the passenger vehicle.
When it comes to large trucks, even a seemingly minor bump can create a significant force on a smaller vehicle. Back and neck injuries are extremely common with this type of collision. When a car propels forward, the body can be slow to react. This can cause strain and even tearing or swelling, which can lead to significant pain. Patients who suffer from whiplash may require extended rehabilitation.
Treatment options may include:
- Pain management
- Chiropractic care
- Physical therapy
Broken bones are painful. In severe truck accidents, the force of the collision can cause the body to become pinned, crushed, or hit by another object. Common break injuries in a truck accident include the face, legs, ribs, arms, and pelvis. These injuries are serious and always require immediate medical treatment. Even with treatment, someone who suffers a broken bone may never regain full mobility or may suffer from chronic pain.
When two vehicles collide, the force can cause one of the vehicles to ignite. When a fire starts, any occupants inside of the vehicle are at high risk for burns. Burns can have serious and long-term consequences, including:
- Loss of mobility
- Nerve damage
When you think about truck accident injuries, it’s easy to focus on the physical injuries… But the emotional distress of an auto accident is just as real.
When a person experiences trauma like a serious truck accident, it can be difficult to heal. Victims of serious accidents may have difficulty moving on from the accident or suffer from nightmares.
In fact, one study suggests motor vehicle accidents may be one of the leading causes of PTSD. If you are experiencing PTSD, anxiety, or depression after an accident, reach out for help.
Common symptoms of emotional distress include:
- Mood changes
- Difficulty sleeping
- Flashbacks/reliving the accident
- Persistent fear
- Disinterest in things you once enjoyed
Who will pay for my injuries after a truck blind spot accident?
It’s a common tactic for insurance companies to try to blame other drivers for blind spot accidents.
Let’s make one thing clear—truck drivers have a responsibility to control their vehicles. Period.
What the insurance company won’t tell you is, sometimes it’s not just the truck driver who’s at fault. Truck drivers are often employees, which means other parties may come into play.
Responsible parties in a truck accident may include:
- The truck driver: Ultimately, the truck driver is responsible for what happens when they are in the truck. These drivers know the blind spots exist and they must do everything in their power to avoid an accident. When a truck collides with another vehicle, it’s safe to say the truck driver held some level of fault.
- The driver’s employer: Remember how it’s up to employers to determine whether they require their drivers to participate in training? When an employer doesn’t ensure their drivers have the experience they need to get on the road, it’s a pretty strong negligence case. Besides training, trucking companies must keep bad drivers off the road. This means if a driver has accidents, citations, or complaints on his record, the employer must take appropriate action.
- A parts or vehicle manufacturer: Truck drivers rely on their vehicle’s safety devices to help them navigate blind spots. When these devices fail, accidents can happen. However, a manufacturer will only hold responsibility if a part is defective, not if the driver failed to maintain it. Safety equipment that can contribute to blind spot accidents includes mirrors, lights, and blind spot monitoring systems.
Know your rights after a blind spot accident
If you have been in a blind spot accident, you may have a claim for financial compensation.
In Texas, accident victims have two years to attempt to recover damages after an accident. Don’t let time run out!
You shouldn’t have to worry about how to pay for your injuries when you have more important things you need to focus on. Remember, you are not alone. Now is the time to lean on the people around you and the legal help available to you. If you have questions or need help after a truck accident, don’t wait to get help. Truck accident lawyers are ready to provide free consultations, 24/7.
Since starting his firm in 1999, Stewart J. Guss has had the honor of representing clients from all over the world, helping them recover from even the most catastrophic injuries.
Today, thanks to a strong belief in those values of compassion, respect, and approachability, the firm has grown to employ over 120 legal professionals in numerous offices across 4 states, with nationwide reach.