Around 2:30 a.m. this New Year’s Eve, a garbage truck collided with a passenger vehicle while travelling eastbound on I-275 near the Blue Rock Road exit. As is common in these types of accidents, the driver of the garbage truck was not injured, but those in the car were taking to the hospital. Truck accidents are all too common in Ohio. Another garbage truck claimed the lives of four in Vinton County back in May of 2016. This is not surprising since the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reports that in 2014 alone, 3,978 commercial trucks and busses were involved in fatal collisions throughout the country.
When someone is seriously injured or killed by a negligent driver, it can devastate the lives of all those involved. When an accident happens, an injured driver may find himself without a vehicle and unable to work. Worse yet, he may be physically unable to work. Over time, this can mean losing a job – in many cases the family’s sole source of income. On top of all this, there are the physical pain, suffering and mounting costs of medical treatment. For many, these become just too much, leading to financial ruin and bankruptcy. The situation can be much worse when a large truck is involved. And it is not just tractor-trailers causing the damage. As the Cincinnati garbage truck accidents demonstrate, there are a lot of heavy vehicles on the road that can cause devastating injuries, even in low-speed accidents. This is why it may be better to think of these as “commercial vehicle accidents” than simply trucking accidents.
If you are injured by a commercial vehicle, it is important to hire an experienced Cincinnati injury lawyer. These types of accidents demand a different approach.
Three Important Considerations
1) There are many types of commercial vehicles beyond the “big rigs” we all see on the highway.
Commercial and cargo vans, delivery vehicles, commercial and school buses, public transit vehicles, large moving trucks, garbage trucks, and some tow trucks can all be considered commercial vehicles, depending on the weight and purpose.
2) Commercial vehicles are regulated by the federal government.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration sets forth specific regulations to protect the general public. These include hours of service rules and limits on weight and use of commercial vehicles. It also sets rules for driver training and licensing that states must follow. Large trucking companies and passenger lines know these rules, but they do not always follow them. When drivers work past their allowable hours of service or when companies force drivers to haul more weight than their vehicles are capable of safely handling, horrible accidents can happen.
3) It takes less to cause serious or even fatal injuries when a commercial vehicle is involved.
Unlike smaller passenger vehicles, commercial vehicles are operated in a completely different way. Some of the differences may include air brakes, manual transmissions with as many as 13 gears, cargo that is loaded top-heavy, or liquid cargo that can create heavy surges when stopping too quickly. Each of these can create a potential hazard, especially when a negligent driver is behind the wheel.
A Few Commercial Vehicle Accidents
- Airbrake Failure. Air brakes operate differently than your typical passenger vehicle. They work because an air chamber is able to build pressure, and when the brake pedal is depressed, the air forces the brakes to engage. The whole process, however, depends on having enough air to stop. In mountains or hilly areas, inexperienced drivers can overuse their brakes, leading to failure. This is why you will see “runaway ramps” in a lot of mountainous areas. Many fatal accidents have occurred because of drivers overusing their brakes and being unable to stop in time to avoid hitting another vehicle.
- Right turn collisions. When a tractor-trailer combination makes a right turn, the driver must attempt to keep the trailer close to the curb so as not to mislead other vehicles into thinking the rig is going forward. Some drivers will attempt to swing wide by first moving far to the left and then attempt to cut back to the right to make a tight turn. In general, if the turn is too tight to make properly, a responsible commercial vehicle operator should continue driving and find a safer route. Although very slow moving, these types of accidents result in the trailer actually crashing over the top of smaller vehicles, trapping passengers and even killing them.
- Overhang accidents. If you have ever looked at the back end of a school bus, you will notice that there is a considerable amount of the bus hanging over the back axle. This means when the operator makes a turn, that overhand can swing out and hit objects, including other vehicles or even buildings and permanent structures. Again, although often slow moving accidents, the power and inertia of an overhang accident can crush a passenger vehicle.
- Tip Overs. These accidents usually happen at on-ramps or off-ramps. Those yellow speed limit signs are not suggestions, especially for top heavy commercial trucks. When a truck fails to slow down enough to make the turn, the high center of gravity can tip the truck over. Other vehicles travelling close by can be crushed and trapped underneath. These are even worse when hauling hazardous materials.
- Failure to Stop. By far, however, the most common cause of trucking accidents is a large, extremely heavy vehicle following too closely. It takes significantly longer to stop an 80,000-pound commercial vehicle than a passenger car. This is especially true in bad weather conditions.
Statutes of Limitations
Like all Ohio personal injuries, there are strict limits on how long you can wait to file a lawsuit for injuries. In general, you have two years to bring a claim for injuries sustained in an auto accident. However, Ohio law has many exceptions that can affect your right to bring an action. For this reason, when someone is injured or killed due to a negligent commercial vehicle operator, it is crucial to contact an aggressive and experienced Cincinnati accident lawyer who can review the unique facts of the case. Contact the Ohio Car Accident Lawyers for a free consultation today.