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Primary Causes of Tractor-Trailer Rollover Accidents

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

The average tractor-trailer ranges from 50 to 75 feet in length, while travel lanes are about 10 feet wide. This means large truck rollovers can instantly block five lanes of highway traffic, causing major chain-reaction crashes. In fact, most rollover accidents involve mass casualties as trailers obstruct roadways and crush nearby vehicles. Many rollover crashes also result in cargo loss creating hazards and breaking windshields.

While commercial trucks carry high-value liability insurance policies, multiple claimants may assert their entitlement to available coverage. Connecting with a dedicated Texas truck rollover accident lawyer quickly can protect your right to recover damages for medical bills, lost wages, and pain.

Semi-trucks have higher centers of gravity than passenger vehicles. As such, they’re more susceptible to rollover accidents. These accidents occur when an unbalanced truck tips onto its side or a powerful crash force causes the truck to flip. Rollovers are among the most deadly types of truck accidents, and, as such, commercial drivers must train to identify tipping hazards and prevent rollovers.

Most rollovers occur due to truck driver negligence but occasionally involve poor roadway designs and cargo loading errors.

Consider The Most Common Factors Leading To Texas Rollover Accidents:Truck Rollover Accident Lawyer in Texas

#1. Speeding Around Curves

We’ve all seen the signs warning of semi-truck rollovers before certain highway exits and curves. These signs are strategically in areas where the speed limit and bank angle lead to an increased risk of large truck rollovers. Studies indicate almost half of all rollover accidents occur when truck drivers do not slow down while taking sharp curves, particularly those on Texas highway exits/entrances.

There’s a scientific explanation for these accidents, and drivers are well versed in rollover dangers. Anytime a vehicle travels around a curve, the centrifugal force of the curve pushes the vehicle in the opposite direction. The faster the vehicle is traveling, the greater the centrifugal force. The higher center of gravity and increased surface area of tractor-trailers make trucks especially vulnerable to rollover accidents on curves.

Most trucks must slow to around 25 miles per hour to reduce the centrifugal force and minimize rollover potential. Signs generally warn truck drivers about sharp curves and require reduced speed. Knowledgeable accident rollover lawyers frequently retain automotive experts to estimate the truck’s speed immediately following the crash.

#2. Steering Mistakes

A hitch links the tractor portion of the semi-truck, which contains the engine and power, to the trailer. As such, truck drivers do not have full control over the trailer itself. Over-steering, overcorrecting, and counter-steering to avoid hazards or compensate for drifting can throw the tractor and trailer out of sync. The tractor moves suddenly, and the trailer struggles to follow, which often results in catastrophic highway rollovers.

Overcompensation accidents generally occur due to drifting caused by truck driver fatigue or drunk driving. According to the CDC, both drunk and drowsy driving have similar physical and mental effects. Long-haul truck drivers making the trek across Texas frequently suffer from fatigue, especially at night. The FMCSA sets specific hourly driving regulations to combat drowsy driving.

These include the following:

  • An 11-hour daily driving maximum (13 hours to compensate for traffic/weather conditions)
  • A 14-hour driving window (drives must complete their 11 hours within this timeframe)
  • Resting for at least ten consecutive off-duty hours before restarting the driving window
  • Taking 30-minute non-driving breaks for every eight hours of driving
  • Maximum of 60 driving hours in a seven day week
  • At least 34 hours off duty before restarting weekly driving limits

Truck drivers must log their service hours, which employers often encourage them to forge. Many drivers have reported employers telling them to make timely deliveries by any means necessary, including driving without proper rest. This might place additional liability on trucking companies and employers.

#3. Poor Roadway Conditions & Design

Poor roadway traction and exit/entrance ramp designs frequently contribute to large truck rollover accidents. Trucks must travel at the minimum rate of speed necessary to navigate extremely sharp highway exits, which frequently frustrates drivers and causes additional merging issues. Likewise, reduced traction due to rain and oil spills may cause swerving and over-steering accidents. Semi-truck drivers often cause rollovers by traveling too fast for conditions, but these fundamental roadway design issues might also support municipal liability.

#4. Mechanical Failures

The FMCSA reports that brake system failures and tire blowouts often contribute to tractor-trailer rollover accidents. Commercial airbrake systems function using semi-computerized signals and lengthy brake lines. They must also quickly stop trucks weighing over 20 tons, which is why 18-wheelers require so many industrial-strength wheels. As such, semi-truck brakes and tires require regular maintenance. Drivers must even stop to check tires at certain mileage checkpoints and cannot operate with tire tread damage. Sometimes trucking companies forgo certain mandatory maintenance checks to save money and/or do not adequately respond to the driver’s reported mechanical concerns. Sudden failures frequently result in loss of control and overcompensation crashes.

#5. Intersection Collisions

Large trucks often struggle to navigate and turn through busy intersections. Semi-trucks often make wide turns, and doing so quickly could result in rollovers. Further, high-speed intersection (T-bone) accidents could flip smaller trucks. Some large truck drivers must also turn the wheel quickly to avoid vehicles in their blind spots. All these factors, including the busy nature of intersections, contribute to dangerous rollover truck crashes in Texas.

#6. Cargo Loading Errors

Tractor-trailers can carry nearly 40,000lbs of freight. Most trucking companies maximize this capacity to increase profit, and drivers generally make numerous unloading/loading stops along their route. Failing to properly distribute cargo can drastically increase the chances of rollover accidents. Likewise, improperly secured cargo may shift during turns. This could cause rollovers even when truck drivers are operating at recommended speeds.

Injuries That Happen During Tractor-Trailer Tipping And Rollover Crashes

Large truck tipping accidents frequently cause injuries not otherwise seen in Texas motor vehicle collisions. Most vehicles cannot sustain the weight and force of a falling semi-truck. Falling tractor-trailers may crush smaller passenger cars and motorcycles. Highway vehicles might drive directly into the rolled-over semi-truck at high speed resulting in crushed front ends and explosions. Innocent drivers must also execute emergency stops and maneuvers to avoid blocked travel lanes, but this often triggers chain-reaction crashes.

Claimants suffering from these rollover accident injuries might recover substantial damages with help from the right truck accident lawyer:

  • Paralysis (paraplegia and quadriplegia)
  • Spinal cord and nerve damage
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Amputations
  • Broken bones (especially legs and ribs)
  • Facial fractures and/or suffocation from airbag impacts
  • Punctured lungs and cardiac arrest (traumatic heart attacks)
  • Third-degree burns and smoke inhalation injuries
  • Herniated discs
  • Disabling back and neck pain (whiplash)
  • Blindness
  • Loss of bowel control (organ damage)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Unfortunately, many semi-truck rollover accidents result in fatal trauma. Some vehicle occupants suffer from immediate fatalities caused by broken necks, chest damage, and brain trauma. Occupants trapped in crushed or burning vehicles might succumb to their injuries in the hours, days, or even months following the accident. These serious conditions also frequently result in secondary trauma, including infections, organ failure, side effects from medications/treatments, chronic pain, and resulting depression. Rollover accident victims or their families may recover damages for both the primary and secondary trauma resulting from truck driver neglect.

Potential Personal Injury Claims After Large Truck Rollovers

Most truck accident claims involve lawsuits for negligence, gross negligence (recklessness), or wrongful death. Negligence—the most common claim—alleges that the truck driver acted below the accepted standard of care when driving. This cause of action includes traditional traffic violations causing rollover accidents such as distraction (texting), fatigued driving, offloading mistakes, speeding, traveling too fast for conditions, failing to obey traffic signs, and unsafe lane changes. Texas gross negligence claims alleged that the driver acted with reckless disregard for human life and safety.

Attorneys recommend filing gross negligence claims when drunk driving, forced and unlawful overtime, intentional mechanical safety violations, or extreme speed around curves causes rollover accidents. Victims must file these personal injury claims within two years of the accident date, with some exceptions for minors and incapacitated claimants. In Texas, claimants might recover exemplary (punitive) damages if the truck driver’s recklessness triggered the rollover accident.

Wrongful death claims allow immediate family members—the spouse, children, or parents of the deceased—to file personal injury lawsuits on behalf of unlawfully killed loved ones. Families have two years from the date of death (CPRC § 16.003) to file wrongful death litigation in Texas but must undergo certain administrative prerequisites. Wrongful death lawsuits might involve underlying negligence or gross negligence claims after large truck rollovers. They also covered deaths resulting directly from accident injuries even if the claimant survived the initial collision.

Demanding Insurance Settlements From Parties Liable For Commercial Truck Crashes

The FMCSA requires semi-truck owners to carry at least $750,000 in personal injury insurance, including coverage for vehicle damage. Work vehicles carrying hazardous materials must carry at least $5 million in coverage, and many companies carry higher policies with additional umbrella liability coverage protecting fleet owners.

Most personal injury and wrongful death claims resulting from rollover truck accidents settle with liable insurers. However, mass casualty accidents frequently present problems. This coverage applies to the accident, not each claimant. This means highway rollovers that cause chain-reaction crashes can lead to dozens of injured claimants sharing the same coverage cap of $750,000 to $5 million.

It’s essential to contact an experienced San Antonio personal injury lawyer quickly after large truck rollover accidents. Not only can our dedicated semi-truck crash attorneys protect your entitlement to commercial insurance settlements, but we might also preserve essential evidence from the crash site. Importantly, our dedicated legal team might help injured claimants and their families recover essential financial settlements/verdicts for medical bills, lost wages, physical pain, and emotional trauma. In many truck rollover cases, we can also demand punitive damages during litigation.

With our help, you might recover direct damages for:

  • Hospital, surgical, and in-patient nursing/rehabilitation costs
  • Medications and medical equipment expenses
  • Doctor, chiropractic, dental, and physical therapy bills
  • Cognitive and occupational rehabilitation
  • Home nursing and caretaker expenses
  • Lost income, including salary, business profits, and commission
  • Lost employment benefits, including healthcare coverage, retirement contributions, and paid vacation

Additionally, claimants or their families might recover pain and suffering (non-economic) damages after devastating 18-wheeler crashes. These damages include compensation for the claimant’s physical pain and discomfort, the frustration and inconvenience associated with constant medical visits, the claimant’s lost enjoyment of life and previous activities, and emotional anguish. Insurance companies normally calculate pain and suffering damages by multiplying the victim’s economic damages.

The Cost of Retaining Personal Injury Attorneys After Texas Truck Accidents

Innocent victims struggling to pay their medical expenses following tractor-trailer rollovers might have direct claims against the negligent truck driver, other negligent drivers, cargo loader, and defective brake manufacturers. They also generally have vicarious liability claims against the driver’s employer, truck owner, and trucking company.

However, fighting these national transportation corporations requires going up against teams of legal experts and defense lawyers. It’s nearly impossible for injured claimants and grieving families to obtain the compensation they deserve after devastating large truck rollovers.

For this reason, dedicated personal injury lawyers commonly accept viable rollover accident cases on a contingency fee basis. This delayed fee structure allows claimants to retain legal counsel without any upfront attorney’s fees or costs – no retainers, consultation charges, or monthly legal bills. Instead, your lawyer takes a portion of your overall financial recovery (settlement or jury verdict) as her fee. Most reputable firms even front all necessary claims, litigation, and expert witness costs. This means your attorney doesn’t receive payment unless she recovers needed compensation from negligent truck drivers, trucking companies, or insurance providers.

Get A Free Consultation To Discuss Your Semi-Truck Rollover Injury Claims

Texas has one of the nation’s highest truck accident rollover rates. Experienced truck accident attorneys know the devastation caused by truck driver negligence resulting in tipping, crushing, and loss of control accidents. Do not let commercial insurers take advantage of you after large truck rollovers.

Connect with a dedicated San Antonio truck accident legal team for free today.