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Collision with an 18-wheeler semi-truck can be terrifying. Accidents with such heavy vehicles almost always end in causing injury to the people involved.

More often than not, the ones driving smaller vehicles or walking along the road are the ones who get hurt the most in such accidents. Even with advanced braking technology, the size of the vehicle can make it difficult to delay the moment of collision, and increases its impact manifold. Every year, more than    500,000 truck accidents occur within the United States.

Most collisions involving heavy vehicles are preventable. The work practices followed by the transport industry should limit the working of long hours by drivers, reduce prolonged night work, and discourage irregular work hours and early start times.

Even with rigorous professional training, long-haul truck drivers cannot ignore the biological need for sleep and rest. The risks associated with fatigue are greater for these drivers primarily because of the nature and demands of the job.

Follow these steps if you’ve been injured by an 18-wheeler semi-truck:

1. Get to a Safe Location

The impact of colliding with a heavy-vehicle can cause severe injuries and damage to property. These are situations when it may be more dangerous to stay inside the vehicle after the accident. Make sure that you vacate the vehicle without further hurting yourself. See the commotion on the road around you, before stepping out.

Be careful of broken glass, exposed wiring, and sharp objects. If you smell gas or fuel leak, then you need to step away from the vehicles immediately. There could be a fuel leak in any of the vehicles and can lead to fire or explosion. Ensure that everyone at the collision site is away from the vehicle. Never stand behind or in front of the vehicle, as you may not have a clear view of the oncoming traffic.

2. Inform the Police

Call 911 and stay on the phone until officers reach the accident spot. Do not hang up until the dispatcher/operator has instructed you to do so. He/she can guide you through emergency situations like the actions to take in case of an explosion due to fuel leak, or when severe injuries are sustained by victim(s).

If you aren’t gravely injured, then take pictures of the accident scene from various angles and distances. Show the images to the reporting officer and ensure that they are included as evidence in the accident report. Refrain from voicing your opinion about how the accident happened, as this may create a prejudice against you in the mind of the officer. You could be wrong in judging the situation.

Also, take pictures of skid marks on the pavement or the property damage from the accident. The images will ensure that your attorney, insurance companies, and the judge/jury are provided with a visual representation of the damages.

3. Seek Medical Aid

Check for your injuries and also see if the driver of the semi-truck requires immediate medical care. Ask the 911 dispatcher/operator to send an ambulance to the location, if you think the casualty may not be able to travel to the medical facility.

Driver fatigue is recognized as a major risk factor for all drivers, especially for long-haul truck drivers. This syndrome contributes to multiple road crashes, and can get worse with high-speed driving and consumption of alcohol. Fatigued truck driving accidents can be fatal for the drivers and the people in other vehicles traveling on the same route.

Obtain information from the truck driver about the driving schedule. Also, gather the names, phone numbers, and addresses of witnesses present at the accident site.

4. Obtain an Accident Report

A police officer may interview the drivers and any witnesses at the accident scene about the car accident. Don’t be harried by the number of questions, as these are designed to piece together the details to analyze the accident.

Ensure that you collect a copy of the report from the officer or from the local police station. The accident report may contain a statement about who was at fault based on the reporting officer’s judgment. Consult an attorney to help you with the legal proceedings that will follow.

Speaking about truck accidents, an experienced New Orleans truck accident attorney mentioned, "Many police reports do not include a determination of fault for the accident. You should understand that even if a police report states who was responsible for a car accident, this does not automatically mean that the accused is held legally responsible for damages, unless proven in court."

5. Contact Your Insurance Company

After you have spoken to your attorney, you need to inform your insurance company about the accident at the earliest. Once you have filed a claim with the insurer, the company will assign the claim to an adjuster. The assigned official will conduct a thorough investigation of the accident, including the condition of the vehicles, weather and traffic conditions, and the state of mind of both drivers. The transportation company owning the 18-wheeler semi-truck will consult its insurance company, and adjusters from both companies will mediate the claim.

You can ask your accident lawyer to represent you when handling correspondence with insurance adjusters. Post-investigation, the adjuster will finalize the settlement amount for the insurance claim.

After a crash, you may experience multiple emotions like fear, nervousness, or anger, which may obstruct you from making sound decisions. Accidents can easily happen when drivers of 18-wheeler trucks and trailers face situations like driver fatigue, overloaded trailers, negligence by overworked drivers, and so on. You need to calm yourself and bear in mind the above-mentioned steps to make a judgment on handling the difficult situation in the best way possible.

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How Employer Pressure and Pay Structure Can Increase Commercial Truck Accidents

(Source) When most people think of the most hazardous occupation in America, few people consider that driving a commercial truck would be near the top of the list. But, annual safety statistics clearly identify that individuals working within the transportation industry have the second highest level of job-related fatalities, averaging over 900 deaths per year. The only occupation that experiences a higher injury and fatality rate in America is the construction industry, averaging over 1,100 worker deaths per year. It is a sobering statistic when you consider how many commercial truck drivers there are on the road.  In the United States, there is an estimated 3.5 million licensed commercial truck drivers in the private sector.  Of the 15.5 million registered commercial trucks on the road, two million are tractor trailers. Despite the fact that statistics indicate a decline in fatalities and injuries in the commercial truck industry, truck driving remains a hazardous occupation that contributes to loss and injury on an annual basis.  We will discuss the laws and technology that are helping to tighten loopholes in policy and procedure, and the culture and compensation models that need to change to improve road safety. Accident Data for the American Commercial Trucking Industry The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration combines data for tractor trailers, or 18-wheel logistic delivery, with passenger bus data for an overview of commercial large vehicle accident statistics. The most recent reports from the FMCSA are available to the public, and compiles national accident data. In the "Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts" report (2014), the following accident statistics were shared, including: A five percent decrease in overall commercial truck and bus accidents was noted in 2014. A commercial bus/transport truck driver fatality rate of 3,744. An increase to the vehicle miles traveled (VMT) of 1.5 percent. A decrease in the number of injury crashes involving truck drivers (2009 to 2014) of 37 percent. There are many factors that contribute to an increased injury and fatality rate for commercial drivers. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimated (based on one independent study) that there were 120,000 fatal and injury-causing crashes that involved at least one transport truck in a 33-month review period.   The report cites six different factors that contribute to truck-driver fatalities and injuries in the United States. The first factor, which was estimated to contribute to more than 38 percent of commercial truck accidents was related to driver decision making. The second factor was recognition, which accounted for 28 percent of injuries, and relates to distracted driving incidents, including use of smartphone or tablet while driving, or other distractions inside our external to the truck. Non-performance was related to 12 percent of truck-driver fatalities and accidents, which includes physical emergencies (heart attack, stroke, or seizure) and falling asleep while driving. It is that statistic that has many within the industry defending that restrictions to driving time should be reduced.  However, both decision-making and distraction levels can be significantly impacted by driver fatigue, along with slower reflexes, cognitive functioning, and alertness. Environmental causes (weather and road conditions) accounted for only two percent of accidents and fatalities in the study. Identifying the Cause of Commercial Truck Accidents Since the 1930s, professional truck drivers have been required by law to maintain a logbook of destinations, miles traveled and rest breaks. In the United States, for every twelve hours that a commercial truck driver is on the road, he or she is required to take ten hours of time off to rest, relax, and recharge before continuing on long haul journeys. The problem with the paper method of tracking for inspectors has been historically well-known. Many truckers have opted to keep two separate paper logs (books) – one for inspectors, which comply with the safety and rest break regulations, and one for the owner/operator or trucking company, which logs actual time and miles traveled. The log can also be used as legal evidence in tractor trailer accident investigations. New legislation announced in 2016 will move to shorten how long drivers can legally operate transport trucks in service for commercial delivery. The Owner-Operator Independent Driver’s Association (OOID) sued the Safety Administration in an attempt to block the new laws, citing that requiring truckers to invest in unproven technology was unfair. The OOID also stated that its members felt that the new mandatory electronic log system (ELD) was no more effective than the traditional, paper method. This stance would protect the rights of truckers to falsify their travel logs, and potentially increase the number of fatigued drivers on the road, and the national fatality and injury rates for commercial drivers and general road safety. Employment and Compensation Structures for Drivers As truckers are paid by the mile, there is a tremendous personal incentive for them to deliver the shipment in the shortest amount of time possible. For long-haul drivers, the faster they deliver, the more quickly they are able to be assigned the next load. It has allowed drivers to optimize their earnings, while packing what many experts believe to be a highly fatigue-driven work week that can exceed one hundred (100) hours or more on the road. While it is illegal for delivery companies to offer a "fast delivery" incentive to drivers, within the industry, this kind of bonus structure is "off record" and common.  If given the opportunity to drive "double shifts" and past the legal requirement and earn a bonus, few commercial truck drivers would decline the chance to earn more, which is why incentives that circumvent existing distance and hour limitations are illegal.  They remain a strong part of the industry culture, however, and are confidential transactions between employers and drivers. While legal requirements create safer roads for both commercial drivers and other motor vehicles, continuing education and support from within the industry to change the business culture and the compensation model for commercial drivers must also change. This is already starting to happen from within the industry, through various organizations like the American Trucking Association, with the goal of making a long-term career in the transport industry safer.

Aaron Ahlquist

Aaron Ahlquist

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