Articles Posted in Commercial Truck Injury

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Blackwell Law Firm - Helping Truck Accident VictimsYou have been driving a dark stretch of rural Interstate or highway in Alabama at night. You have car trouble and must slow or stop. Suddenly, you are struck from behind by a large commercial truck.

It’s not a farfetched scenario. Some people must drive at night for work. Others choose to take long trips at night when our roads are less congested. If you have driven at night on the Interstate in Alabama, you will also see many large eighteen wheeler trucks. On poorly lit stretches of rural highways, it is absolutely essential that all drivers can see. And, all drivers must see far enough ahead to stop safely when necessary.

This is the exact scenario of some recent clients. A family was traveling through Alabama on the Interstate. While on a rural stretch of the roadway, they blew a tire and their SUV flipped. None of them suffered injuries (at this point). As they were trying to exit the overturned SUV, a large eighteen wheeler struck them. This rural stretch of Interstate was largely flat but unlit. The commercial trucker took no evasive action until just before the impact. He tried to swerve only at the last moment before the crash. He did not see the SUV or people in his path until too late. Why did the trucker not see the objects right in front of his truck until it was too late? After investigating the scene and vehicles, our experts concluded the trucker was driving too fast. He was overdriving his headlights. He did not see the distressed family in time to avoid a tragic crash. That crash left a family without a wife and mother.

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2543453615_9e9b04de1b_z-300x225We share our roads and highways with large commercial trucks on a daily basis. These large commercial trucks have rear guards to protect passenger cars. If you rear-end an eighteen-wheeler, you are protected from going under the back of the truck. Why do large trucks not also have side guards? That’s a question safety advocates have long asked.

Commercial trucks can have a very high ground clearance. I’m sure you’ve been in the lane next to a large eighteen-wheeler. If you are in a small passenger car, you may even look over and think that your entire vehicle could go under the truck. That is the danger. In a side impact, a passenger car can slide under the body of the truck. That causes the truck body to crash through the car windows and into the passengers. A simple collision can become deadly. These under-ride crashes can cause horrible head and upper body injuries, including decapitation. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimated almost 300 car passengers were killed in side-impact collisions with a semi-truck in 2016.

We need to remember — Deadly side impacts are not limited to passenger cars. In urban areas, commercial trucks frequently share our roads with pedestrians and bicyclists. A Department of Transportation study also revealed a substantial number of death in side crashes involving both pedestrians and bicyclists.

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truck-1565478_1920-300x201What are the most common causes of fatal occupational injuries? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2016 data, the six top causes of work-related deaths include:

  1. Transportation incidents
  2. Injuries due to workplace violence from people or animals
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Commercial Truck InjuryTruck driver health is a significant safety issue on Alabama highways. Federal regulations require commercial truck drivers to obtain a medical certification regarding their health. Recent events lead to the question — Are some trucker medical certifications bogus?

Last year, I wrote an article discussing truck driver health and its impact on highway safety. That article is titled “Are Truck Driver Health Issues Causing Accidents?” According to National Institute of Health (NIH) statistics, truck drivers suffer rates of obesity, diabetes, hypertension and sleep apnea at rates far higher than the general public. When left untreated, these conditions can create huge risks of highway accidents. With proper medical examinations and certifications, many unhealthy and unsafe drivers have the opportunity to get the medical care they need. This protects all of us from needless personal injury on the highway. And, it protects drivers by giving them the opportunity to restore their own health.

Last year, Federal authorities arrested an Atlanta-area medical examiner for issuing fake medical certifications. That examiner actually operated out of a truck stop. According to Department of Transportation (DOT) investigators, that examiner was issuing over 350 truck driver medical certifications a month. The DOT estimated more than 6,000 drivers from 48 states were impacted by these certifications. After reading the articles about that Atlanta-area medical examiner, I wrote a post asking “Are Medical Examiners Certifying Unsafe Truck Drivers?” In that post, I suggested discussion topics to improve the credibility of the certification process. These suggestions included:

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Commercial Truck On HighwayIn 2015, large commercial trucks were involved in more than 400,000 police-reported crashes on our nation’s roads and highways. Over 4,000 large trucks and buses were involved in fatal crashes. Many other crashes caused serious and permanent personal injuries. Truck safety is an important issue for all drivers. Truck safety is a frequent topic of discussion on this blog. In past posts, I’ve discussed trucking topics such as the medical certification process for truckers, trucker health issues, current highway safety regulations and the danger of distracted driving among commercial drivers.

In the last two decades, our cars and trucks have become much safer. Available designs and technologies have improved vehicle safety for everyone. When it comes to commercial trucking, several available technologies could promise to increase safety significantly. What are a few of those available safety technologies?

Lane Departure Warning Systems

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truck-945364_1280-300x183The U.S. Department of Transportation is halting its effort to better diagnose and evaluate truckers suffering from dangerous sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is a major safety issue among commercial truck drivers as well as railroad workers. Here is the lead paragraph from a recent Bloomberg article discussing this sudden announcement:

The Trump administration is halting a year-old effort to seek better ways to diagnose truckers and railroad workers who have sleep apnea, a health condition linked to deadly accidents.

What is sleep apnea? Sleep apnea is a breathing-related sleep disorder. A person suffering sleep apnea will have interruptions in his or her breathing during sleep. How can sleep apnea affect driving? Truckers must be very alert while driving on our highways. By impacting sleep, the disorder can greatly affect daytime alertness, performance and fatigue. Our firm has seen the tragic results of these problems in past cases.

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Would speed limiting devices in commercial trucks save lives? Yes. We believe these devices would prevent many needless personal injuries and deaths on our highways. At our firm, we have helped many families hurt in commercial truck crashes. We have seen the tragic results of collisions involving huge commercial vehicles.

We believe speed limiting devices in commercial trucks are a good idea. Most trucking industry professionals also recognize the benefit of these devices. What do others think? A recent article in the Insurance Journal starts with the following:

Years of pleas from parents whose son was killed by a speeding tractor-trailer, buy-in from some truckers and the promise of fewer highway deaths convinced U.S. officials in September to propose requiring speed-limiting devices on all large rigs.

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Photo by Mark Goebel
In June, I wrote a post discussing distracted driving by commercial truck drivers. You can read the post here: Distracted Driving And Commercial Trucks — A Deadly Combination. That post discusses a terrible distracted driving case where a truck driver crashed into a group of nursing students.

The crash killed five nursing students and severely injured others. Afterwards, the trucking company quietly settled claims from the families of the nursing students killed. However, one of the severely injured nursing students and her lawyer prepared for trial.

In January, a jury awarded $15 Million to this surviving nursing student. The student suffers from a traumatic brain injury caused by the crash. I have two instant takeaways from the jury verdict.

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Photo by C. WilliamsOpioid abuse has become a serious safety issue in car accidents and commercial truck accidents. We frequently investigate personal injury claims caused by an impaired driver. How has the abuse of prescription opioids affecting the commercial trucking industry?

A study published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine reveals troubling information. The use of alcohol and drugs among truck drivers on the highway is common. For people who routinely investigate serious commercial trucking accidents, the study simply confirms what they have already seen. Drugs and alcohol are a factor in many deadly commercial truck and car accidents.

The test data shows that alcohol, amphetamines (‘speed’), cannabis, and cocaine, are the most frequently used drugs by truck drivers on the road. That makes sense. In today’s environment, truckers are often paid by the mile and pushed to make hauls. Drugs like amphetamines and cocaine are stimulants which allow truckers to drive longer without sleep.

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Photo by 401kcalculator.orgIn an earlier post I asked — Are Truck Driver Health Issues Causing Accidents? We believe the answer is clearly, yes. Our firm has helped numerous Alabama clients injured in crashes caused by drivers with dangerous health conditions.

We understand commercial truck accident cases and the issues in those cases. Our recent investigations include crashes caused by drivers suffering fatigue from severe sleep apnea, drivers with known histories of seizures and drivers with drug abuse issues. For more information on the significant problem with truck driver health on our highways, you can read our prior post.

Federal regulations require commercial drivers to obtain a medical certification of their health. So, why are dangerously unhealthy truckers allowed on our highways? A primary reason is the medical certification process itself. That process is faulty with few checks or balances. The qualifications required under Federal law to be a medical examiner are low. And, medical certifications are rarely reviewed for accuracy or safety. This leads to a huge problem — biased medical professionals who will certify anyone for a price.