Large trucks are generally more likely to roll over than passenger cars because they are more susceptible to external factors like wind, centrifugal forces, road hazards, and crashes with other vehicles. A truck rollover accident occurs when a truck flips over and lands on its roof or side.
Many drivers and passengers die in truck rollover crashes, and survivors sustain catastrophic injuries like spinal cord damage, traumatic brain injuries (TBI), broken bones, and severe damage to internal organs.
What are truck rollover accidents?
Truck rollovers are accidents that happen related to a truck’s lack of stability when it travels around a corner, curve, or attempts a turn. A truck’s stability relies on its center of gravity – the location on a truck where the weight is equal on each side – and its track width (the distance between the right and left wheels).
The inconsistent shape of a truck makes it challenging to locate its exact center of gravity. For example, a semi-truck will have a different center of gravity than a dump truck. In addition, whether a truck is loaded and, if so, how the load is distributed, also affects its center of gravity. Generally, the most unstable trucks have the highest center of gravity and the narrowest track width. Here’s how load instability can lead to a rollover:
- As workers load an empty trailer, its center of gravity moves higher.
- A loaded semi, among the tallest trucks on the road, has the highest center of gravity, rendering it somewhat unstable.
- When a truck driver takes a corner or curve too rapidly, force pulls the trailer’s weight away from its center of gravity.
- The faster a trucker operates his rig, the more likely the truck will skid and possibly roll over.
Generally, when a truck travels too fast for traffic, road, or weather conditions, drivers should keep their distance to avoid becoming involved in a truck rollover accident.
Factors leading to truck rollover accidents
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), more than 78 percent of truck rollovers occur due to driver error. The FMCSA found that a “first harmful event” – something dangerous that precipitates a rollover – is a factor in over 98 percent of all truck rollover accidents. Here are some of the most common first harmful events that can lead to truck accidents:
- Speed is the number one factor in nearly half of all truck rollover crashes. In 2019, there were 860 fatal crashes in areas with posted speed limits of 70 to 75 miles per hour, and 24 fatal crashes occurred in areas with posted speed limits between 80 to 85 miles per hour. According to the FMCSA, approximately 20 percent of all fatal truck crashes occur in areas with these posted speed limits.
- Truck driver inattention. Research has shown that inattentive driving is a a leading cause of truck accidents, including rollovers. Drivers who lose focus on the front of their trucks is a very common and truck operators who are drowsy or get caught up in other distractions are the most likely to cause rollover accidents.
- The sheer size and weight of trucks. Commercial trucks are extremely large and typically weigh between 20 to 30 times more than the average passenger car, which gives them a less stable center of gravity and makes them more prone to rollover accidents.
- Loss of control. Some of the maneuvers truckers make can cause them to lose control of their truck and result in a rollover. These moves include poor steering (oversteering and understeering), overcorrecting, following other vehicles too closely, poor reactions to other drivers or hazards on the roadway, improper braking, and failing to downshift to decrease speed.
- Mistakes made at intersections. Some truck rollovers happen because drivers do not sufficiently scan the road, particularly at intersections. Trucks that spend more time traveling on two-lane roads and city streets must scan and process information at intersections to make proper decisions about turning and lane changes. The failure to do so can lead to unpredictable maneuvers that may lead to a truck rollover.
- Poor truck maintenance and improper loading. The condition a truck is in before it ever takes the road can increase the likelihood of a rollover accident, and truckers do not always have control over maintenance and loading issues that could result in deadly rollover accidents. Trucking companies have a duty to perform regular maintenance on trucks and ensure that trucks are properly loaded.
- Other drivers. When the drivers of smaller, lighter-weight passenger vehicles behave unpredictably, commercial truckers are sometimes forced to take evasive action to avoid a collision, and roll their truck as a result.
Compensation for truck rollover claims
If you were seriously injured in a rollover truck accident due to another driver’s negligent actions, you have the right to seek compensation for your losses through a personal injury claim. If your claim is successful, you might be entitled to recover compensation for:
- Property damage – The party who caused the accident can be held liable for the costs of repairing or replacing a vehicle damaged in the accident.
- Present and future medical bills – Money to cover the cost of reasonable and necessary medical care required to treat accident-related injuries.
- Out-of-pocket costs – Incidental expenses incurred because of accident-related injuries, such as costs for travel to and from medical appointments.
- Lost wages – The loss of compensation due to time missed from work while recovering from injuries sustained due to the accident.
- Diminished earning potential – The reduced ability to earn a living resulting from long-term or permanent accident-related injuries.
- Pain and suffering – Compensation for the intangible losses sustained due to a rollover accident, including physical pain, mental anguish, and emotional suffering.
At Phelan Petty, we are experienced with complicated truck rollovers and give these cases the time, attention, and resources they deserve. Our team will work hard to obtain the maximum compensation you deserve. To schedule a free consultation with one of our Richmond-area truck accident attorneys, please call our offices or fill out our contact form today.
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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.