The highways are dangerous, often full of all sorts of vehicles that weave between large and small cars and trucks all the same. Drivers who are texting, inebriated, or otherwise distracted don’t realize that not only are they putting themselves at risk, but also those around them. They don’t realize how long some of their fellow drivers have been on the road. They don’t understand that drivers have unwieldy cargo that they must maneuver at high speeds. Perhaps the truck drivers might be over-tired and are less likely to be able to make quick reactions to sudden stops or obstacles.
Tractor-trailer drivers make up 3.5 million of the United States population, which makes trucking one of the United States’ most common jobs. That means there’s no shortage of trucks on the road. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that in 2019 “a total of 4,119 people died in large truck crashes…. The number of people who died in large truck crashes was 31 percent higher in 2019 than in 2009, when it was the lowest it has been since the collection of fatal crash data began in 1975. The number of truck occupants who died was 51 percent higher than in 2009.” Also in 2019, there were 114,000 truck related accidents that were injurious.
Being the driver of an 18-wheeler is a serious job that requires focus and determination, as well as a respect and adherence to safety procedures that help to keep everyone – including themselves – safe on the road.
What causes truck accidents?
The roads are dangerous, and tractor-trailers are a large part of that danger. The most common reason why truck accidents happen are driver-error related, though there’s hardly ever a single reason for a crash in any single crash. It’s often due to multiple factors occurring on the road at a single time. Some other causes include:
- Reckless driving. Drivers are responsible for operating their 18-wheelers in a manner that does not place others in danger. Speeding and following too closely can lead to catastrophic or fatal injuries.
- Distracted driving. Distracted driving is among the leading causes of accidents. It only takes a second for a truck operator to glance at a cell phone and cause a serious accident.
- Impaired driving. Truck drivers may spend days on the road at a time, working under strict deadlines to deliver their loads. Unfortunately, some of these operators use alcohol or other substances in their attempts to remain awake. These substances impair the operator’s ability to react quickly and maintain the truck in a safe manner.
- Improper loading. Heavy cargo adds to the danger of big rig vehicle accidents, particularly when it is not loaded or distributed properly. Heavy items moving around in the back of the truck may cause it to jack knife or flip over onto other vehicles.
- Negligent hiring practices. Trucking companies have a duty to hire drivers who are adequately trained and capable of handling the complexities of operating an 18-wheeler. Negligent companies may be held liable for accidents caused by inexperienced or improperly credentialed drivers.
- Improper truck maintenance. As with any vehicle, trucks require regular maintenance by a credentialed specialist. If truck owners fail to maintain the mechanics of the truck, our seasoned lawyers fight to hold them financially responsible for any injuries that result.
While there are an array of injuries one can sustain from these accidents, such as broken bones, neck and back injuries, burns, amputations, internal injuries and emotional injuries, the most dangerous and severe injuries are to the brain and neck.
Brain trauma from truck accidents
Motor vehicle accidents are one of the most common ways to receive a traumatic brain injury (TBI). TBIs are serious, and can cause an array of symptoms and health problems that can last for a few days, a few years, or even the rest of one’s life. In 2019, around 166 Americans died from a TBI-related injury every day, per the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. While a mild TBI or concussion are relatively easy to treat and cure, moderate and severe TBIs can lead to life-long changes and difficulties:
A person with a moderate or severe TBI may need ongoing care to help with their recovery. A moderate or severe TBI not only impacts the life of an individual and their family, but it also has a large societal and economic toll. The CDC estimated the lifetime economic cost of TBI, including direct and indirect medical costs, to be approximately $76.5 billion about a decade ago, though that number has surely risen since the last estimate was given. Additionally, the cost of fatal TBIs and TBIs requiring hospitalization account for approximately 90% of total TBI medical costs.
Neck trauma from truck accidents
While it may be obvious to think of head injuries in a vehicle accident with a truck, it’s important to consider one’s neck as well. It’s a tremendously vulnerable and fragile part of one’s body; when in a crash, the driver’s head can be whipped forward, back, or side to side in such a way that causes terrible injury to the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the neck, or injury to the joints and nerves in the cervical spine. Neck injuries aren’t always immediately obvious, and can include symptoms such as:
- Neck pain and stiffness
- Pain that radiates to the shoulders, arms and hands
- Tingling, numbness or weakness in the arms, hands and fingers
Common neck injuries include:
- Soft tissue damage
- Slipped or herniated disc
- Facet joint injury
- Neck fracture
- Cuts and lacerations
Injuries such as these can lead to longer term complications like “chronic neck and back pain, frequent headaches, cognitive issues and mental disorders like depression and anxiety.”
It’s important to both the driver of a small sedan and the driver of a large 18-wheeler to pay attention on the road. We should pay attention to not only the road, but ourselves. If you’re feeling tired, pull over. Don’t drive if you’re intoxicated. Make sure the vehicle is taken care of and that the proper safety practices have been used when loading the vehicle. Be alert, and don’t be distracted. Take extra precautions on treacherous roads and in hazardous weather conditions.
One mistake can lead to a lifetime of pain and suffering. If you think you’ve been involved and injured in a truck accident in Mississippi, our injury attorneys want to help. Call Merkel & Cocke, P.A. at 662-627-9641, or fill out our contact form to make an appointment at one of our offices in Jackson, Clarksdale, Greenville, or Oxford.
After graduating from the University of Virginia Law School in 1975, Mr. Cocke and Mr. Merkel established Merkel & Cocke, P.A. in 1982. Since that time the emphasis of Mr. Cocke’s practice has progressed toward medical malpractice. At the present time his practice is exclusively devoted to handling medical negligence cases for the plaintiff, either as a result of direct contact by the client or on referral from other attorneys who are not familiar with the handling of medical negligence cases. Mr. Cocke was selected Best Lawyer of the year for 2012 and 2014 in The Memphis area in the field of Medical Malpractice and has been selected a Best Lawyer and Super Lawyer every year since 2006. Learn more about John Hartwell Cocke here.