Sharing the road with an 18-wheeler can be a little frightening. Most drivers recognize the dangers of traveling alongside or in front of a big-rig. However, drivers can face danger when they are behind a truck as well – especially if that truck is reversing.
There is no specific data on how many truck backing crashes occur each year. In fact, the last comprehensive look at backup crashes was presented to Congress by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in 2009. At that time, they estimated about 18,000 people sustained injuries from backup accidents.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) 2019 data (the latest data available), in 19% of all fatal truck accidents and 22% of all accidents leading to injuries, the initial point of impact was the rear of the truck (about 27,000 truck accidents in total).
Why do truck backing accidents happen?
Most backing accidents are the result of blind spots, which are found on every side of the vehicle. Whereas larger mirrors can help drivers see the sides of their vehicles, most commercial trucks are not equipped with crash avoidance systems (to reduce front-impact accidents) and cannot use backup cameras while hauling a trailer (to reduce backup crashes). This means that drivers may need to conduct manual inspections of the area before they begin to reverse. Semi drivers should be trained with these potential risks in mind, but if their training is inadequate, or if they act negligently behind the wheel, their actions can lead to a truck accident.
Other reasons for backing accidents with trucks include:
- Missing signage around loading bays and docks
- Poor or inadequate lighting
- Low visibility due to bad weather or time of day
- Defective parts like brakes, mirrors, or warning systems designed to indicate a truck is going in reverse
- Inadequate clearance on either side of the truck
- Untrained or inattentive assistants
- Multiple moving vehicles in the area
- Reversing too fast
Where do backup truck accidents happen?
Most truck accidents happen on rural roads and Interstate highways, but backup accidents are different. These collisions can occur on roadways, but also:
- On private property, such as driveways
- On worksites, especially construction sites
- In work zones
- In parking lots
- While parking on a city street
- While reversing into a loading dock or bay
Backup accidents can involve almost any kind of commercial vehicle: an 18-wheeler, a garbage truck, a mail truck, or a delivery vehicle. Rental truck drivers may be at particular risk of causing harm, as most people do not have experience driving these vehicles. This lack of experience may cause them to make poor choices when it comes to backing out of spots or driveways, or putting the vehicle in reverse.
What kinds of injuries are caused by reversing trucks?
A collision with an 18-wheeler will almost always lead to injuries, no matter how it happens. Trucks are bigger and heavier, and the force of an impact is much more likely to hurt a person in a passenger vehicle. The most serious injuries caused by reversing trucks can include:
- Traumatic brain injury
- Traumatic amputation
- Crushing injuries
- Spinal cord injury and/or paralysis
- Multiple compound fractures
- Wrongful death
The risk of a backing accident turning fatal is even greater when it involves cyclists, pedestrians, and/or motorcycle riders, who are less protected than drivers and passengers in cars.
Who is liable for a truck backing accident in Virginia?
Any collision involving a commercial vehicle may have multiple liable parties. They can include:
- The truck driver. If the driver is negligent, he or she can be held liable for any injuries you sustain. Negligence can take many forms, including driving while impaired, fatigued, or distracted, or failing to follow safety protocols while in reverse.
- The trucking company. Trucking companies are usually responsible for the condition of their fleet, and may be held liable if a truck part fails and the driver is unable to control the vehicle. They can also be held liable if they fail to run a proper background check (to ensure all licensing is up-to-date) or improperly train their drivers.
- The loading site. Drivers deserve to have safe places to load and unload their trucks. Loading sites should have proper signage and lighting, and mark any areas where trucks will be unsafe (such as places with excessive potholes or drop-offs). If they are supposed to provide assistance but fail to do so, or failed to address any structural defects that could make the site unsafe, the site owners could be held liable.
- A third party. Even if a driver is following all the rules, accidents can still happen. If a worker runs behind the truck or a car tries to change lanes while the truck is already in motion, that third party may be responsible for any injuries that result.
Should I hire a Richmond truck accident lawyer?
While you are never legally required to hire an attorney, doing so may be in your best interest. Remember that truck companies have their own team of high-powered lawyers whose only goal is to protect the record and the profits of the company. For this reason, they are more likely to offer a lowball, unfair settlement which works in their favor, but not in yours.
Working with a Richmond truck accident attorney ensures that you have a voice at the table. At Phelan Petty, we understand that catastrophic injuries such as paralysis or brain damage will require a lifetime of care, and that the medical bills alone can create an untenable financial burden. We also know that our reputation as trial attorneys is well-established throughout the Commonwealth, and that insurance companies often provide a much more just offer because of it. When they do not, however, we are prepared to take your case to a jury.
If you were injured in a truck accident of any kind, we can help. Phelan Petty is based in Richmond and serves all of Virginia. Please call 804.980.7100 or fill out our contact form to schedule a free initial consultation.
Michael Phelan is a Virginia trial attorney who practices with a special focus on traumatic brain injury (TBI) cases, pharmaceutical and medical device claims, product liability cases, and truck accidents. Michael’s peers have consistently recognized him for his excellence as a trial lawyer, and his clients have praised him for his commitment to deep research, his outstanding communication skills, and his sincerity and dedication.