You filled your car with fuel on the way home from work last night, prepared dinner for your family using ingredients purchased at a local supermarket, then went shopping for a gift for a friend. None of this would be possible without the thousands of trucks that occupy our roadways, delivering goods to every corner of the country.
One of the challenges with sharing the roads with large trucks, however, is blind spots. Many drivers fail to understand just how wide these areas are and may find themselves on the wrong end of a collision when a truck driver fails to exercise caution or otherwise carelessly operates their massive vehicle.
Blind Spot Awareness in Trucks
Many drivers are unaware there are blind spots on all four sides of a truck. Unlike a car, where you can often see the end of your trunk and the end of your hood, when a trucker travels down an interstate, they can easily miss a vehicle in the lane next to them because of blind spots. This is why training for commercial drivers puts so much emphasis on awareness around the entirety of the truck.
With their notoriously long hours and daily distance requirements, a moment’s ignorance or fatigue means even well-trained truck drivers can allow a passenger vehicle to slip into their blind spot. When this occurs, you could find yourself the victim of a truck accident even if you knew about blind spots and how to avoid them.
The blind spots in a truck are:
- In front of the truck - Assume the trucker cannot see you within 20 feet of the truck. An average mid-sized vehicle is slightly less than 15 feet in length, meaning drivers would need at least a full car length in front of a truck for the trucker to see them clearly.
- Behind a truck trailer - The safest distance behind a truck with a trailer attached is 30 feet at a minimum. This allows the truck operator to identify anyone who is behind the truck. Closer vehicles are out of the operator's line of vision.
- The left side of the truck - Any vehicle that is traveling beside the truck is a hazard. If they are under the mirror of the cab, the operator cannot easily identify them.
- The right side of the truck - The blind spot is more significant under the mirror, but it also extends out a fair distance, nearly two full lanes.
It is important to remember the faster vehicles are traveling, the further away from a truck all traffic should be. The larger the truck, combined with its speed, the more space it needs to come to a complete halt.
Scenarios Which Put You at Risk for a Blind Spot Accident
When a truck driver (or another motorist on the roadway) is unaware of or disregards blind spots in their truck, they can cause an accident which puts you at risk.
While this may seem unusual, consider these scenarios:
- A driver operating in the right lane, truck in the center lane - The driver in the right lane travels in the truck’s blind spot, and then pulls into the center lane. He then speeds up and comes into view of the truck, but then slows down. The truck driver can no longer see the truck in front of him and is traveling at the same rate of speed. He rear-ends the car in front of him, which results in the driver swerving into another lane and striking your car.
- A Driver behind a truck in a blind spot - A car travels at the speed limit behind a tractor-trailer. The truck is where the road is slightly elevated, which results in the operator slowing down as they navigate the steeper roadway. The car driver does not know the truck slowed, continues at the same pace, and strikes the rear end of the truck. The car behind that vehicle then strikes him, which sets off a chain reaction and potential pileup.
These are just two of the potential scenarios where you can be a victim of another driver’s failure to remain vigilant when sharing roadways with a truck. Even your awareness of the traffic around you may not prevent these types of accidents when another driver acts negligently.
Truck Accidents and Injuries
In most truck accident cases, victims suffer significant injuries because of the weight differences between cars and trucks. The faster the traffic slows down, the more significant the damages from the crash.
Tractor-trailer accident victims may suffer:
- Broken bones - Limbs, ribs, pelvic fractures are among the most common truck accident injuries. These fractures are not only painful but can mean a victim has to undergo surgical repairs and face weeks of painful physical therapy.
- Head and neck trauma - Common in a rear-end collision, victims suffer these injuries because of the force associated with the accident. The force of the hit causes the victim to be thrust forward in their vehicle, causing damage to soft tissue. More serious trauma such as fractured vertebrae, traumatic brain injuries, and whiplash all may cause injuries that result in life-long pain and problems.
- Back injuries - When you are in a truck accident, there is always a risk for back injuries. Often, these injuries do not appear for several hours or days following an accident. There may also be associated neck injuries when you have suffered a back injury in an accident with a truck.
Whatever the extent of your injuries, you should seek guidance from a truck accident lawyer when you are in a truck accident. You have rights following an accident, and you need to learn those rights and how to protect them.
Liability and Truck Blind Spot Accidents
It is easy to point a finger and suggest truckers are responsible for blind spot accidents. While this may be true in many instances, there are other instances where another driver may be at fault, making your claim to damages more complicated.
Accident reconstruction by law enforcement will go a long way in determining who is at fault for an accident. However, this still means you have to deal with the insurance claim. You can rest assured whichever driver is at fault will deny being the at-fault party, particularly given the substantial damages involved.
Here are some of the insurance complications you could face:
- All parties involved in the accident denying blame - This is common. After all, we are all aware our insurance rates go up when there is an accident for which we are at fault. Let’s not forget that just because police cited someone in an accident does not automatically mean they are at fault. However, a conviction for a moving violation can indicate fault.
- Multiple party involvement - In some cases, more than one party may cause your injuries in a blind spot accident. For example, if the truck driver dozed off at the wheel and caused the accident, the driver's employer may have failed to adhere to federal rest period requirements. Therefore, the driver and their employer may both bear fault.
- Insurer denies your claim - There are cases when an insurance adjuster denies your claim. This may happen although you are clearly not at fault for the accident, and you suffered serious injuries.
- No-fault insurance in Minnesota - No-fault claims in states like Minnesota complicate all accident claims. You must first file a claim with your own insurer regardless of fault. You can file a claim against the at-fault driver if your medical bills exceed $4,000, you suffered a permanent injury, disfigurement, or death, or a disability persists for 60 days or more. However, in other states like Wisconsin there are no such requirements like no-fault in Minnesota.
Always speak with an experienced truck accident attorney before you file an insurance claim or speak with an adjuster. Never assume they will do the right thing and accept your claim, nor should you sign any documentation provided to you. Doing either of these things could cost you your legal rights, and may also result in a lower settlement than you deserve.
Assessing the Damage Following an Accident
Before filing an insurance claim, you must understand what you can claim for damages.
Some of the most common claims following an accident involving trucks include:
- Medical bills - Your out-of-pocket medical costs may be challenging to assess early in your recovery. Early on in your recovery, it may be impossible to determine how much additional treatment your injuries will require. You may also be unaware of what your rehabilitation costs will amount to once complete. An attorney who has experience handling injuries from truck accidents may help you better determine the extent of your medical costs.
- Lost wages - You may be facing a long-term problem with work if your injuries are serious. While some victims have disability policies through their employer, wages can be more complex if you are self-employed, or if you are someone who works on commission. You may include in your claim the need to use sick or vacation time before your disability starts, the cost of lost benefits, and more.
- Other claims - You may include costs of services you needed to remain at home during your recovery. This may include someone to help care for your children, perform yard work, or assist with tasks around the home.
It is always a good idea to discuss your specific situation with an experienced personal injury attorney who understands truck accident law and the limitations of damages you are allowed to claim. This is important because no two cases are the same, and every person’s situation is different.
Legal Fees Associated with Truck Accident Claims
Victims of a truck accident often fear contacting a lawyer because they expect it will cost them money they do not have since they are not working. Every victim should know they can contact an accident injury attorney for a free consultation. During a consultation, victims can explain what occurred, discuss the extent of their injuries, and find out what legal options they have open to them for pursuing a claim.
Once the consultation is over, victims will then determine what is best for them and their families. Should a victim decide to pursue a lawsuit against the driver responsible for their injuries or hire an attorney to negotiate with the insurance company, the attorney will only collect their fees upon securing a settlement or award.
Keep in mind, you have a long recovery road ahead of you, and the last thing you need is additional stress. Rather than attempt to negotiate with an insurer if a blind spot accident injured you were, you can turn the negotiations over to an attorney with experience dealing with these claims.
You do not lose any rights this way, and your attorney will always ask you if a settlement offer they receive on your behalf is acceptable. Should negotiations fail to produce a settlement you find acceptable, they can represent you in court.