Overturned semi-truck: 7 reasons why it happens
A rollover crash involving a semi can have deadly consequences. A large commercial truck has a massive size advantage over most other vehicles on the road, weighing as much as 20-30 times more than the average passenger vehicle. Big rigs also have high centers of gravity, making them susceptible to scary rollover accidents where the semi’s wheels lose contact with the surface of the road and the truck overturns on its side. Other truck rollover accidents result in the semi flipping completely upside down.
According to research by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the majority of fatalities in accidents involving large commercial vehicles are passengers in other cars. The IIHS data also points out that “45 percent of deaths among occupants of large trucks occurred in crashes in which their vehicles rolled over.” In short, everyone on the road is at risk when a semi-truck tips over.
What causes a semi-truck to roll over?
Rollover crashes involving a tractor-trailer, 18-wheeler, or another type of big commercial vehicle can generally be broken up into two categories: “tripped” and “untripped.” When a semi-truck is tripped, its wheels leave the roadway after striking an object or coming in contact with soft soil. For instance, a big rig may overturn when its wheels collide with a curb or guardrail, with the tripping force on the wheels causing the truck to roll over.
An untripped rollover crash occurs when the centrifugal force of a top-heavy semi-truck induces the big rig to skid out of control and flip over. For example, a large commercial vehicle with an unbalanced cargo load takes a curve too fast and overturns.
7 ways negligence plays a role
While other drivers are sometimes to blame, most rollover crashes involving a large commercial vehicle can be traced back to trucker or trucking company negligence. Some of the most common ways a big rig can overturn include:
- Speeding – Going too fast through a curve can throw off the truck’s center of gravity and cause it to tip over. Big rigs also need more time to slow down for sharp turns, stops, traffic jams, and hazardous road conditions. Even the most experienced truck drivers are at risk of applying the vehicle’s brakes too fast or jerking the steering wheel when going too fast, which can cause the truck to skid out of control and overturn.
- Distracted driving – Truckers are barred from texting while driving, however, some continue to defy that law. Keep in mind that freight drivers often travel long distances and are also vulnerable to other distractions – even if the distraction isn’t a cellphone. Simply being inattentive and not giving his or her full attention to the road ahead can lead to a trucker performing a sudden maneuver that results in the semi-truck rolling over.
- Impaired driving – Commercial truck drivers are subject to frequent testing to ensure the trucker isn’t operating under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, opioids, PCP, or any other substances banned by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Use of these substances while operating a semi-truck can cause the driver to become too drowsy or fall asleep at the wheel, which in turn can lead to a rollover crash. Even some prescription medications can have adverse side effects that make it too dangerous to drive a big rig.
- Improper cargo load – If a truck’s cargo is not properly secured or balanced, it can shift and cause the truck to overturn. Along with the overturned truck itself, whatever the big rig was transporting can pose a hazard to others in the event it spills out onto the roadway.
- Poor vehicle maintenance – An 18-wheeler has a lot of moving parts and pieces, and if one of those components fails, it’s easy for the trucker to lose control and for the truck to roll over. For instance, poor tread can lead to a dangerous tire blowout. Brake failure is also a common cause of truck rollover accidents.
- Not adjusting to weather conditions – Heavy rain, fog, wind, and other weather-related hazards should cause a trucker to drive even more carefully, but that’s not always the case. While it would be easy to blame Mother Nature for a crash, it’s the driver’s responsibility to operate the big rig in a way that’s safe for the conditions at that time.
- Losing control of the semi – Over-steering, under-steering, overcorrecting, not downshifting, and improper braking can all lead to the trucker losing control and a big commercial vehicle flipping over.
What all these issues have in common is the role of recklessness on the part of the trucking company. Trucking companies put extreme pressure on their drivers to make unrealistic delivery schedules, which results in speeding on the road and rushed loading and maintenance off the road. Truckers drive distracted, in part, because they often drive straight through breaks that would otherwise be opportunities to complete non-driving tasks. The trucking companies have a legal responsibility to put safety first, but too often, it takes a back seat to profit.
How a lawyer can help
Cases involving truck accidents are rarely straightforward and often complex – and the same can be said for truck rollover crashes. That’s because in any given accident with a commercial vehicle, there may be multiple parties that can be held legally responsible for a victim’s damages. Most trucking companies also have high-limit insurance policies, meaning the stakes are high and they have a vested interest in paying you as little as possible.
At Pajcic & Pajcic, our highly skilled legal team has extensive experience successfully handling cases involving truck accidents. In one case, we obtained nearly $3 million for a client who was severely injured in a bad highway crash involving a dump truck and a van.
If you’ve been seriously injured or a loved one died due to a rollover truck crash, contact us in Jacksonville for a free and confidential case evaluation. Our attorneys can review the details of your case and explain your legal options so you can decide what to do next.