Commercial transport trucks are essential to our nation’s economy to move products and materials across Canada and over the border to the United States. However, our country’s reliance on these large vehicles also generates an increase in transport truck accidents on our roadways.
Tractor-trailer trucks are large vehicles with complicated pieces of machinery. They can weigh up to 20 to 30 times more than a standard automobile. When driving these vehicles, even the smallest error or problem can result in catastrophic or even deadly consequences due to the sheer size and weight of these vehicles.
THE ELEMENTS OF A CLAIM FOR TRUCK DRIVER NEGLIGENCE
In order to receive compensation following an accident with a truck, you must be able to establish negligence. You must be able to prove that the truck driver behaved in a way that was a departure from how a reasonable person would be expected to act in similar circumstances (ie. careless or reckless) and caused the accident.
There are four general elements of a negligence claim involving an accident with a truck that must be proven to have a successful claim:
- Duty of Care: The trucker had a duty to be reasonably careful while driving;
- Breach of Duty: The trucker breached that duty (ie. failing to properly maintain or inspect the truck, operating a truck without qualifications, driving without sufficient sleep or while intoxicated);
- Causation: The breach of the duty to be reasonably careful directly caused injuries and/or damages to your vehicle;
- Damages: The injuries and damages are obvious and have resulted in a monetary loss.
COMMON CAUSES OF TRUCK DRIVER NEGLIGENCE
There are a variety of ways that a truck driver can act negligently, resulting in a serious truck accident. The following are some examples of negligent truck driver actions:
- Drowsy Driving: Truckers are strictly limited in the number of hours they can work in a given day or week. Fatigue from long hours on the road with little rest makes these drivers more susceptible to impaired cognition and performance, and may result in accidents.
- Intoxication: Truckers, like all drivers, have delayed reaction times when under the influence of drugs or alcohol, making it very difficult to avoid an accident.
- Lack of Training: Trucks are large, complex vehicles and it is essential that truck drivers are well trained on how to safely operate them.
- Distractions: Truckers can become distracted by their phone, equipment, work logs or maps while driving making it very dangerous for others on the road when they take their eyes off the road for even two or three seconds.
- Speeding: Truckers are often in a hurry to complete their job and this may cause them to speed or drive recklessly. Commercial trucks can take up to 40% longer than other vehicles to come to a complete stop. Sudden stops at high speed may cause truckers to lose control of their vehicles and cause an accident.
- Improper Lane Changes: Commercial vehicles have enormous blind spots. Truckers may cause accidents when making lane changes without properly accounting for these blind spots.
- Failure to Inspect their Vehicle: Truck drivers are obligated to inspect their vehicle before driving. A pre-trip inspection can prevent any mechanical defects that could cause an accident.
- Cargo Problems: Truck drivers must ensure that the cargo they are carrying does not exceed the truck’s capacity and that the cargo is properly secured. Overloading or improperly loaded trucks can cause the truck driver to lose control of the vehicle while driving, thus placing other drivers on the roadway in danger.
TRUCK COMPANY NEGLIGENCE
Not only is the driver of the truck obligated to provide a duty of care to other drivers and pedestrians while operating a vehicle, the trucking company also has an obligation. Truck companies are obligated to hire responsible and safe employees and provide adequate training for their employees. These companies are also obligated to ensure that their drivers are not overworked and fatigued or using alcohol or drugs while driving. Maintenance of the truck company’s vehicles should also be a top priority, as well as ensuring that their company’s vehicles are not overloaded.
HOW TO AVOID OR PREVENT ACCIDENTS WITH COMMERCIAL TRUCKS
Car drivers must be cognizant that tractor trailers are far less maneuverable than smaller motor vehicles. Tractor trailers start more slowly and take much longer to stop due to their weight.
When driving a motor vehicle, there are several steps you can take to help ensure your safety when on the road with commercial trucks, such as the following:
- Do not tailgate or drive along side a commercial vehicle for too long;
- Stay visible to truckers by being aware that tractor trailers have much larger blind spots than ordinary motor vehicles;
- Leave more room for trucks to stop on wet roads;
- Avoid distractions while driving (ie. texting, eating, using a GPS);
- Always use your turn signals to allow truck drivers to be aware of your intentions;
- Always leave lots of room when changing lanes or passing in front of a tractor trailer;
- Use caution when merging into traffic in front of trucks; and
- Pay particular attention to commercial vehicle’s turn signals while driving.
If you or a loved one have been injured in a car accident involving a truck it is important to seek the advice of a skilled personal injury lawyer. The legal team at Cuming & Gillespie LLP have the experience to examine all of the evidence to determine all of the ways the negligent parties failed in their duty of care.
If you or a loved one have suffered serious injuries as a result of a motor vehicle accident involving a truck, you likely have many questions. Please contact the experienced personal injury lawyers at Cuming Gillespie Lawyers to help answer all of your questions and determine whether you are entitled to compensation for the damages you have suffered. We offer free consultations for new clients. Contact us online or call our office to make an appointment at 403-571-0555.