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Head-on Truck Collisions – Catastrophes In The Making

by | Oct 12, 2021 | Blog, Truck Accidents | 0 comments

There’s no explaining how it feels to watch helplessly as a 40,000-pound semi-truck barrels towards your vehicle. From the blinding headlines to the bone-shattering impact, many victims of head-on truck collisions are instantly killed. Some of the most devastating highway accidents in Texas involve head-on truck collisions triggered by impaired and inexperienced truck drivers.

Families grieving the loss of loved ones or victims suffering from catastrophic truck accident injuries might demand substantial damages from negligent drivers, trucking companies, and commercial insurers.

Experienced lawyers for head-on truck accidents might quickly respond to the crash site to preserve essential evidence. They might also help truck accident victims and their families identify the cause of head-on accidents and understand their financial compensation rights. Schedule your free and confidential cases analysis with a dedicated truck accident attorney right away.

Leading Causes of Head-On Tractor-Trailer Crashes in Texas

Lawyers For Head-On Truck Accident InjuryMost head-on truck accidents occur at intersections or when the truck travels on the wrong side of the road. Medians may prevent passenger vehicles from unlawfully crossing roadways, but they do little to stop big rigs from jumping highway dividers. Though rare, the following factors most commonly cause head-on truck accidents.

#1. Truck Driver Fatigue

The CDC reports that drowsy driving carries similar risks to drunk driving.

Studies show that truck drivers who go more than 18 hours without adequate sleep experience the same effects as drunk drivers, including:

  • Decreased reaction times
  • Reduced critical thinking skills
  • Impaired vision
  • Increased risk-taking behaviors
  • Swerving

Darkness also increases natural brain chemicals encouraging sleep, but most semi-truck drivers must operate their vehicles throughout the night. Long-haul truck drivers traversing long stretches of Texas highways are especially susceptible to driver fatigue. For this reason, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) sets hours of service regulations for commercial truck drivers. These regulations limit truck driver hours and mandate certain rest/sleep breaks.

Drivers must also keep detailed logs of their regulatory compliance. Failure to abide by these regulations, which employers often subliminally encourage truck drivers to violate, often results in automatic injury liability.

Fatigued driving accounts for many devastating head-on truck collisions. Overworked truck drivers frequently lose sight of lane markers or turn onto the wrong side of the road. Likewise, many overly fatigued truck drivers will take the wrong highway ramps causing devastating head-on crashes with exiting vehicles.

Some truck drivers even accelerate down the wrong side of seemingly empty highways before their minds process the mistake. It’s too late to protect on-coming drivers from many of these accidents.

#2. Brake and Mechanical Failures

Fully loaded semi-trucks require special commercial airbrake systems, multiple axles, and 12 to 18 wheels due to their weight. However, the FMCSA reports that brake failures and tire blowouts commonly contribute to devastating truck accidents. These catastrophic failures often occur when large trucks quickly decelerate due to sudden highway traffic conditions or roadway hazards. Truck drives often lose control of the vehicle and, to avoid rear-ending smaller cars, execute emergency turns onto the highway median.

Unfortunately, speeding truck drivers without sufficient brake systems may overcompensate on the emergency turn and propel the truck into oncoming traffic. These sudden head-on truck accidents most often occur when the truck driver is traveling over posted commercial speed limits.

#3. Drunk and Impaired Driving

In addition to fatigue, many overworked truck drivers turn to prescription drugs and alcohol. They might also suffer from deteriorating health after years on the road. Similar to fatigued driving, drunk and drugged driving account for many head-on truck accidents. Drunk truck drivers frequently take the wrong highway exits, turn into oncoming traffic, or swerve over roadway medians due to visual, physical, and mental impairment. Many truck drivers do not realize they’ve crossed highway medians until it’s too late.

#4. Wide Turns

Tractor-trailers cannot easily navigate around sharp curves. As such, semi-trucks must make wide turns in urban areas. Trucks making sharp—normal by passenger-vehicle standards—right turns often momentarily enter the opposite lane of traffic at the corresponding intersection. The driver must then quickly compensate for the wide turn by crossing back over into his travel lane. Inexperienced truck drivers often misjudge the space needed to make the turn, including the distance between their 18-wheelers and stopped cars.

This may result in direct head-on collisions with vehicles in the left land. Improper turns, including misjudged wide turns and failures to yield, account for the majority of head-on truck collisions in urban areas.

Catastrophic Injuries Suffered in Head-On Accidents

Passenger-vehicle occupants and motorcyclists disproportionately experience catastrophic and fatal injuries after head-on truck collisions. Trucks drivers sit in elevated tractors above the impact site, but drivers and front-seat passengers are in line with the truck’s front end. Smaller sedans and riders frequently get jammed under the trailer, while SUVs have their hoods and windshields crushed.

In most head-on truck crash cases, victims suffer from the following disabling or fatal trauma:

  • Double Amputations – Many head-on accidents, especially high-speed crashes involving large trucks, cause compressed front ends. Vehicle occupants often get wedged under the trailer and/or crushed under their dashboards. This configuration frequently results in multiple comminuted femur and leg fractures requiring double amputations or, at the very least, multiple surgeries and long-term disabilities.
  • Burns – The impact force of head-on truck collisions often results in engine, oil, and mechanical failures. The vehicle may also flip and sustain oil tank damage. Car fires erupt suddenly and burn quickly while trapping passengers in crushed vehicles. Such fires result in widespread third-degree burns and fatal smoke inhalation injuries. Unfortunately, many serious burn victims suffer for months before succumbing to infections or organ failure.
  • Traumatic Brain Injuries/Diffuse Axonal Injury (DAI) – Sudden brain trauma causes many head-on truck accident fatalities. When the brain internally impacts the skull with enough force, it causes severe brain bleeding and swelling. Without immediate medical attention, many victims suffer from brain death within 20 to 30 minutes. DAI injuries occur when the initial crash force propels the passenger’s head forward and then backward following deceleration. The sudden force damages delicate nerves in the brainstem, often resulting in brain death. Most severe traumatic brain injuries cause brain death, comas, or vegetative states. However, they can also result in memory loss, blindness, and numerous cognitive disabilities.
  • Spinal Cord Damage/Paralysis – Crushing accidents caused by 18-wheeler impacts often pin smaller vehicle occupants to their seats. The initial force or resulting swelling often permanently damages the spinal cord, which sends signals from the brain to the body. This nerve damage prevents brain signals from traveling below the damaged area resulting in paraplegia or quadriplegia.
  • Facial Fractures – Nearly all front-end truck crashes result in immediate airbag deployment. While airbags save lives, the explosion required for deployment often causes facial fractures and even suffocation. Negligent truck drivers and employers still bear liability for injuries caused by working airbags. However, defective airbags might give rise to alternative products liability claims for exacerbated injuries.

Speed is the leading factor in determining injury severity. The faster the truck was traveling, the more forceful the head-on collision. Slow-moving wide turn accidents may result in serious but non-fatal injuries such as whiplash or herniated discs, but high-speed truck accidents generally result in fatal brainstem and spine injuries.

Parties Potentially Liable For Truck Accident Injuries

Head-on collisions do not generally occur absent negligent or reckless conduct. Whether the trucker drove drunk or the fleet owner failed to perform necessary tire maintenance, these types of tractor-trailer accidents frequently support personal injury or wrongful death claims. Surviving victims might file negligence, gross negligence (recklessness), or products liability claims in civil court.

Because head-on crashes often involve extremely reckless conduct, such as driving on the wrong side of the road, many claimants may demand additional punitive damages. Injured claimants have two years from the crash to file personal injury lawsuits, and families have two years from the death to file wrongful death litigation. Special extensions apply if the victim was a minor or suffered from disabling brain trauma necessitating legal guardianship.

Attorneys recommend taking time to identify all potentially liable parties before filing truck accident litigation. Because big rig collisions generally involve working drivers and third-party vehicle owners, most cases involve vicarious liability. Vicarious liability principles hold employers automatically liable for the negligent and reckless conduct of their employees.

In most tractor-trailer crash cases, claimants might sue:

  • The truck driver
  • The truck’s registered owner
  • The truck driver’s employer
  • Manufacturers and/or sellers of defective parts
  • Other drivers partially responsible for the crash

Experienced 18-wheeler accident lawyers can help victims and their families identify liable parties, demand evidence of insurance coverage, and file injury litigation.

Damages Recoverable After Head-On Collisions

Regardless of liability, most commercial truck accident claims settle with liable commercial truck insurers. The FMCSA requires semi-truck owners to carry at least $750,000 in liability insurance for non-hazardous freight transportation and $5 million for hazardous freight. Most reputable trucking companies carry higher liability policies and umbrella insurance coverage if the claimant’s case commands higher damages.

Because head-on collisions involving tractor-trailers generally result in catastrophic injuries and deaths, these cases frequently support valuable settlements. Injured claimants or their families might demand financial compensation for economic and non-economic losses, and many victims might demand punitive damage awards.

Direct economic damages often include:

  • Medical bills
  • Rehabilitation expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Lost career advancement opportunities
  • Lost health insurance coverage
  • Lost pensions and retirement contributions
  • Medical equipment and medications
  • Home nursing care and household help
  • Treatment for related psychological disorders such as PTSD

Pain and suffering (non-economic) damages compensate victims for their incalculable physical pain and emotional anguish. They also cover the imputed value of the claimant’s lost enjoyment of life and daily frustrations. Immediate family members might also demand loss of consortium and companionship damages in personal injury and wrongful death cases. Insurers generally consider the nature of the claimant’s injuries, such as prolonged suffering from burns, and overall economic damages when making pain and suffering settlement offers.

Lastly, victims of head-on truck crashes in Texas might demand exemplary damages. These special damages are only available if the truck driver acted with extreme disregard for the life and safety of others. Juries might award punitive damages against the driver when the truck drove on the wrong side of the road due to driver impairment, possibly from drugs, alcohol, or extreme fatigue. Experienced truck accident injury lawyers know how to maximize the value of these damages in head-on collision cases.

Benefits of Hiring Injury Attorneys After Commercial Truck Crashes

Major corporations often own commercial trucks. As such, these wealthy entities frequently have teams of legal professionals dedicated to reducing their liability. This might involve destroying essential evidence, pressuring grieving families into accepting insufficient settlements or making unreasonable evidentiary demands from severely injured claimants.

Retaining a truck accident lawyer can prevent these underhanded tactics by protecting you from insurance harassment and evaluating all insurance/defense communications. Represented claimants also frequently recover five to ten times more damages than those without dedicated truck accident lawyers.

Most importantly, reputable Texas personal injury attorneys accept viable truck accident claims on a contingency fee basis. This means they don’t get paid unless you recover valuable settlements or jury verdicts after head-on collisions. Even then, they only take a percentage of your overall recovery.

These law firms even front necessary litigation and claims costs, including investigator expenses, expert witness charges, and administrative fees. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to obtain the damages you deserve after a head-on semi-truck accident without a dedicated attorney on your side.

Fight Trucking Companies After Head-On Collisions

Catastrophic large truck crashes change lives in a minute. Whether you’re suffering from disabling paralysis or struggling with the loss of your loved one, you need an experienced truck accident lawyer handling your claim.

The right attorney will know how trucking companies seek to avoid liability, and they can battle back against inadequate settlement offers by insurance companies. Set up a free case evaluation as soon as possible to fight for your rights.