Head-On Truck Collisions: How to Prove Fault
Head-on collisions are often the most devastating collisions you may encounter. Those who go through a head-on collision are likely to suffer from severe injuries, not to mention damage to your vehicle. Unfortunately, head-on collisions with commercial trucks are not uncommon, especially on large highways. Big commercial trucks, while essential to American commerce, are also a huge factor in many American head-on collisions.
While transporting goods from place to place is an important task, many truck drivers struggle to perform it as well as they should. This is often not due to lack of trying but increased pressure from the trucking company to deliver packages within a certain timeframe. With high pressure and long hours, it is no surprise that truck drivers cause many accidents while out on the job.
If you were in a head-on truck collision, do not hesitate to seek medical and financial support to get over your accident. You should also reach out to a personal injury lawyer who can help ensure that you get justice if the truck accident you are suffering from is not your fault.
Truck Collision Statistics in the United States
Truck collisions, in general, are fairly common in the United States. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), about 5,005 large trucks were involved in fatal accidents by the latest data. In that same period, 119,000 trucks were involved in injury-causing accidents, and 414,000 were in property damage accidents.
Fifty-seven percent of these accidents involving large trucks occurred in rural areas, and 25 percent occurred on Interstate Highways around the United States. Within the last several years, between 2 percent and 3 percent of truck drivers involved in fatal crashes were intoxicated with alcohol.
How Do Head-On Truck Collisions Usually Occur?
The reasons for head-on truck collisions vary considerably. The FMCSA reports that three main critical events lead to serious accidents with big trucks.
These three events include:
- Running out of the truck’s appropriate travel lane (into oncoming traffic or off the road).
- Losing control of the vehicle for various reasons such as speeding, cargo shifts, equipment failure, road conditions, etc.
- Colliding with the rear of another vehicle.
Most commonly, driver error is the critical action that leads to truck collisions. Driver inattention, distraction, or other driver mistakes cause at least 87 percent of all truck crashes. Of the remaining 13 percent of crashes, environmental factors caused 3 percent and vehicle failure caused 10 percent.
Most commercial truck drivers made errors common to drivers such as speeding, following other cars too closely, driving inattentively, or falling asleep. Drugs (more commonly, prescription drugs or over-the-counter medication) or alcohol also affect drivers.
The truth is, many truck collisions are the truck driver’s fault. Few, if any, commercial truck collisions are the fault of other drivers. Head-on collisions specifically occur when a truck veers out of its appropriate travel lane and hits an oncoming car.
The most common reasons that truck drivers veer out of their lanes include issues such as:
- Fatigue or sleep
- Ice or other environmental hazards on the road
If you were in a head-on truck collision, the driver who hit you was probably improperly operating their vehicle and caused the accident due to their own foolish and negligent actions. However, you may not know exactly how collisions occur, so you may need help proving that the truck driver caused your crash. This is why you need legal help.
How Do I Prove Who Was at Fault in My Truck Collision?
Proving who is at fault in your accident requires showing:
- The responsible driver (AKA the defendant) owed you a duty of care. Every driver on the road owes other drivers the duty of care any reasonable person could expect to avoid accidents.
- The defendant breached their duty of care.
- The defendant’s breach of duty caused the accident.
- The accident led to serious injury and loss for you and/or your loved ones.
By proving these four things, you can pursue a claim against the responsible driver. Most states, including Missouri, are at-fault states, meaning you can bring a claim against the person most at fault for the accident and recover compensation from that person.
However, you will need appropriate evidence to prove that the at-fault driver was actually at fault.
Some evidence you may need includes:
- Medical bills and records showing the physical and financial costs of your injuries.
- Photographs or video footage from the accident scene.
- A police report, which should detail the circumstances of the accident and how it officially occurred.
- Documentation of lost wages or a lost job.
- Eyewitness testimony from those who saw the accident.
- Testimony from a medical expert who can testify to the future costs your injuries will lead to.
- Testimony from your family and friends who can testify to the physical, mental, and emotional suffering you have endured.
- A written (or spoken) journal detailing the physical, mental, and emotional pain and suffering you have been dealing with since the accident.
Gathering evidence that fits the demands of the court can be a challenge. Getting in touch with hospitals, medical facilities, and police departments can be especially frustrating. For this reason, hiring a personal injury lawyer can make the evidence-gathering much easier and more effective. Make sure that you do everything you can to keep track of your suffering from the moment your accident first occurs.
Who Should You Hold Responsible for a Head-On Truck Collision?
In most cases, the at-fault driver should pay for a head-on truck collision. This driver may have acted with negligence or even willful foolishness in allowing the accident to occur. However, there are some situations where you may find that the driver is not entirely at fault for what happened.
There are a couple of reasons for this. One is that the employer may have unduly pressured the truck driver to work beyond their physical capabilities. Another is that the truck itself may have been damaged or poorly manufactured, leading the driver to crash without meaning to.
The FMCSA has set rules regulating how long and how often truck drivers can drive to prevent extreme fatigue.
Some of these rules include:
- Must not surpass a maximum of 11 hours of driving after a 10-hour break.
- Must not drive beyond 14 hours after coming on duty.
- Must take at least a 30-minute break after every 8 hours of driving
- Must not drive more than 60 hours in 7 days on duty or 70 hours in 8 days on duty without at least 34 hours off.
If a truck driver has been pressured to drive beyond these limits and crashed because of extreme fatigue, the truck driver’s employer could be held partly responsible for the accident.
Of course, if the accident happened because the truck itself malfunctioned somehow (through faulty brakes, a loose trailer, etc.), the manufacturer could be held responsible for the crash. In such a case, you will have to show that the truck driver performed appropriate safety checks and had every reason to believe that the truck was safe to handle.
What Damages Can I Collect After a Head-On Truck Collision?
Head-on truck collisions are usually extremely damaging. Trucks are heavy, while your passenger car is probably pretty small in comparison. Besides, hitting anything head-on is bound to do more damage than just about any other type of crash because the impact will be nearest to your body. You are almost certain to suffer physical, mental, and financial damage after a head-on truck collision.
The damages you could collect after such an accident can include both the economic losses and the non-economic damages you have suffered.
Some common damages collected after truck collisions include:
- Medical expenses. This category should cover both present and future expenses, including emergency room visits, surgeries, medications, ongoing therapy, and the purchase of medical equipment.
- Property damage expenses. This should cover costs to repair your car and other property (like a phone) damaged in the crash.
- Lost income. If you had to take time off of work to recover from your injuries, you could recover compensation for the wages you lost during that time.
- Lost earning capacity. Some injuries may leave you unable to return to your job or work as many hours as you used to.
- Emotional trauma and distress. After serious accidents, many suffer from PTSD, depression, and other mental distress.
- Loss of life enjoyment. If you cannot perform activities you used to love because of your injuries, you may recover compensation.
- Pain and suffering.
- Loss of consortium. If you are suffering from broken relationships because of the stress of your injuries, you may be able to claim compensation.
Depending on the circumstances of your case, you might be able to recover other types of damages as well. For example, if someone died in the accident, you can file a wrongful death claim and recover compensation for the end-of-life expenses of your loved one as well as lost support and services that they would have provided.
Understanding how to properly calculate your damages is difficult. Many factors may increase or decrease the amount of compensation you can recover based on your available evidence and the severity of your injuries. You should discuss your case with a personal injury lawyer so that they can help you figure out the right and just amount of compensation you deserve.
What to Do After a Head-On Truck Collision
If you are interested in pursuing a personal injury case, there are a few steps you would need to take following your collision to make sure it goes smoothly.
Immediately after the accident, you should:
- Call an ambulance to get immediate medical attention (and records).
- Call the police to file an official report.
- Take photos of the accident scene, paying special attention to any injuries or damage you see.
- Talk to witnesses to get contact information and statements.
- Exchange insurance information with the truck driver.
- Call your insurance company to report the accident.
- Call a personal injury lawyer to get started on your claim.
Once you have called a personal injury lawyer, you would get a good idea of what your case will look like. Some truck accident cases are easy to settle out of court. However, some cases must go to court for a judge and jury to decide. A lawyer will let you know what you can expect in your case.
After calling a truck accident lawyer, a few more steps will follow in your case before it concludes.
- Meet with the lawyer to go over the evidence and sign a contract.
- Gather evidence (such as medical records, police reports, and witness statements) with the help of your lawyer.
- File a complaint against the defendant.
- Receive a response from the defendant, either rejecting your complaint or making a settlement offer.
- Gather more evidence with help from your lawyers, who will conduct a thorough investigation in your case.
- Negotiate a settlement favorable to both parties.
- Go to court if an adequate settlement does not arrive.
- Present evidence and fight your case in court.
- Receive a verdict from the judge and jury.
- Receive your settlement check so you can get back to normal life as quickly as possible.
Finding a Good Lawyer After a Head-On Truck Collision
Get a good lawyer after a head-on truck collision. Gathering the evidence necessary to prove how the truck driver caused the accident is a challenge. A good lawyer can also help you find financial, medical, and emotional support so that your recovery is as smooth as possible.
If you have been in a head-on truck collision, reach out to a truck accident lawyer as soon as you can to move your case forward.
I represent individuals in Missouri and Illinois in all types of personal injury cases. In my short time here I have obtained a judgment for $2.5 million and settled a large class action lawsuit for a confidential amount.
I love the city of St. Louis and support it and give back whenever I can. Recently I was appointed by Mayor Francis Slay to serve on the Advisory Board for the Gateway Mall.
I am married to my lovely wife Lauren and we have two beautiful daughters, Mia and Bridget.