Articles Posted in Fatal Trucking Accidents

When a large commercial truck is involved in a Maryland truck accident, a chain of events is set in motion that has the potential to result in a major catastrophe. Semi-trucks and other large transport vehicles are designed to carry tens of thousands of pounds of cargo across the nation’s highways. Often, this means traveling on hundreds of miles of open road. Unfortunately, the very design that makes trucks an efficient means of transporting goods also leaves them ill-suited to adeptly respond to sudden changes in the traffic pattern.

Semi-Truck RolloverOne example of a truck driver’s compromised ability to maneuver a large rig is when an accident occurs a short distance ahead of the truck driver. Due to the significant weight of these large trucks – even when they are not fully loaded – a truck driver has a greatly increased stopping distance when traveling at highway speeds. Additionally, the length of a semi-truck prevents a driver from making any spur-of-the-moment evasive maneuvers to avoid an obstacle ahead. When combined, these factors greatly increase the chance of a chain reaction truck accident.

All of this is to say that truck drivers have a difficult job. However, that does not reduce their responsibility to safely operate their vehicle at all times. This may mean slowing down below the posted speed limit or increasing their following distance to beyond what they normally would consider a safe distance. When a truck driver fails to take necessary precautions and ends up causing or contributing to a chain reaction truck accident, both the driver and the driver’s employer may potentially be held liable.

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Most motorists who have spent any amount of time on Maryland highways have probably noticed the frequency of construction vehicles working on or near the highway. These vehicles are necessary to help build and maintain Maryland’s infrastructure; however, when not properly operated or secured, these vehicles can pose a serious risk to motorists and cause Maryland truck accidents.

Construction VehiclesThese large construction vehicles have the potential to cause serious injuries or death when they are not used properly. Indeed, large construction machines are designed to tear down houses, break apart pavement, and move large amounts of earth. Those who use construction vehicles are responsible to operate the vehicle safely, but their duty does not end there. Operators must also ensure that the vehicles are properly secured when they are not being used.

Runaway Dump Truck Kills Two

Earlier this month, a tragic construction vehicle accident claimed two lives, including the vehicle’s operator and another nearby motorist. According to a recent news report covering the accident, the dump truck was parked at a work site that was located atop a hill near a busy roadway. At some point while the dump truck was unoccupied, it began to travel down the hill toward the road below.

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Semi-trucks and other large commercial vehicles used to transport goods across the country are necessary to the nation’s economy. Most of the time, truck drivers spend their time on highways, bringing goods from one side of the country to the other. These highways with long straightaways, several lanes, and wide shoulders were designed to accommodate large trucks. Of course, Maryland truck accidents still occur on highways across the state.

Dangerous CrosswalkAs truck drivers approach their final destination, however, it is likely that they will need to navigate smaller roads that were not designed for large trucks. These roads may present truck drivers with several difficulties, including limited room to turn, reduced visibility, and crowds of people both in the form of other motorists as well as those on bicycles and on foot.

While driving a large truck on a small city street may be challenging, truck drivers are still held to the same high standard as though they were driving on the open road. This includes refraining from drinking or taking drugs while on the road, following traffic laws and all posted signs, and also maintaining the required amount of rest between trips. When truck drivers fail to take the necessary precautions while driving, and they cause an accident injuring one or more people, they may be held responsible through a Maryland truck accident lawsuit.

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Any motorist who has driven for any length of time on a dirt road knows the potential dangers involved with doing so. Indeed, dirt roads can pose a major hazard to motorists who find themselves needing to use them. Many dirt roads are bumpy and rough and are little more than dusty paths. The dangers of dirt roads are increased when the road is one that is commonly used by large trucks.

Country RoadIn most cases, dirt roads are on private land, and depending on the circumstances, the owner of the road may be responsible for maintaining the road. Landowners owe a general duty of care to maintain their property in a safe manner. Of course, landowners cannot know of all hazards on their property, so generally landowners only are required to address known issues. However, the condition of a dirt road may be exactly the type of hazard that a landowner should address, especially when the condition of the road is suspect.

When a landowner fails to address a known hazard, and someone is injured as a result, the injured party may be able to bring a Maryland premises liability lawsuit against the landowner, seeking compensation for their injuries.

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Whether it be a police car issuing a citation to a motorist or an ambulance responding to the scene of an accident, emergency vehicles are frequently seen on the side of Maryland highways. While these emergency vehicles necessarily must park on the side of the highway for a number of reasons, the reality is that while a vehicle is parked on the side of the highway, the chance of causing a Maryland car accident increases.

Fire TruckOperators of emergency vehicles should follow certain precautions when leaving their vehicles on the side of the highway. For example, emergency vehicles should be pulled as far off the highway as possible to avoid obstructing traffic. When traffic must be obstructed, the operator of the vehicle should make sure that the vehicle’s emergency lights are activated to ensure that passing motorists take notice of the vehicle’s presence. Additionally, traffic should not be obstructed in a manner that leaves approaching motorists with insufficient time to come to a complete stop, such as around a curve or immediately after the top of a hill.

While state and local governments enjoy immunity in some Maryland car accidents, if a government employee acts negligently while carrying out a job-related task, immunity may not attach.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Florida issued a written opinion in a truck accident case that was brought by the family of a woman who was killed when her vehicle was rear-ended by the defendant truck driver. The case required the court to determine whether the owner of the truck, who was not driving at the time but was present in the vehicle, should qualify for a limitation of liability under a state statute. Since the court found that the owner of the truck “loaned” the truck to the passenger, the owner was entitled to a limitation of his liability.

Yellow Semi-TruckThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs’ daughter was driving on a divided highway behind the defendant truck driver. At some point, she attempted to pass the defendant. As she pulled back into her lane, she realized another vehicle in front of her was making a left turn. The plaintiffs’ daughter was able to stop in time, but the defendant truck driver was not able to stop his rig in time, and he collided with the back of the daughter’s vehicle, pushing it into oncoming traffic, where it collided head-on with another truck. The plaintiffs’ daughter was killed as a result of the collision, and her family filed this wrongful death lawsuit against the driver and the owner of the truck that rear-ended her.

The owner of the truck asked the court to limit his liability under a state statute that provides a maximum of $100,000 in liability in situations in which a vehicle owner loans out his vehicle to another person who negligently causes an accident. The truck’s owner explained that, while he was present in the truck, he had temporarily loaned the truck to the operator when he asked the operator to drive the truck while he took a nap in the back. The trial court found that the truck owner was in a joint venture with the truck’s driver and denied the owner’s request to limit his liability.

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Truck drivers, as well as the companies that employ them, have a duty to ensure that the vehicles they use to transport goods across the country are well-maintained and in good working order in order to prevent hazards to other motorists. Part of this duty requires truckers to double-check that their rig is safe to drive after each stop.

Dirty TireWhile it may seem that equipment failures on large trucks are rare, the opposite is true. Many of the parts on a semi-truck are rated at certain speeds, and when a driver exceeds that speed, there is an increased risk of equipment failure. Of course, any part of a semi-truck can fail, but tires are the main culprit and present the most serious risk of causing a serious or fatal accident.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration estimates that of the roughly 14,000 truck and bus accidents occurring between the years of 2009 and 2013, approximately 200 were caused by tire blow-outs. In some cases, tire blow-outs are due to manufacturer errors, but blow-outs can also be caused by user errors. For example, if a truck driver fails to ensure that a tire is properly inflated or drives on a tire that is too worn, blow-outs are more likely to occur.

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Large trucks always present a danger on the highway, due to their large and cumbersome nature. Moreover, construction zones are an area of increased risk, especially when they are not adequately marked or require drivers to stay in extremely narrow lanes.

Road ConstructionIn most cases, it is the truck driver’s responsibility to ensure that the truck safely navigates the construction zone. However, there can be times when the government entity or contractor responsible for marking and maintaining the construction area is liable. For example, if drivers are not given sufficient notice of a construction zone that requires they come to a complete stop, a contractor may be liable for this failure. Similarly, if the construction zone itself is unsafe due to excessively narrow lanes, debris left on the roadway, or other hazards, the party responsible for the construction may be liable.

In most other cases, the truck driver is responsible for making sure that he is able to safely travel through the construction zone. This may require the truck driver to slow down or even stop to double-check clearances. One of the most common accidents involving large trucks and construction zones is a truck driver’s failure to take notice of the construction zone. In such situations, trucks have been known to plow through construction cones, stopped cars, and even cement barriers, putting everyone from the construction workers to fellow motorists at great risk.

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The research is clear; left turns are generally dangerous for all motorists — and pedestrians. According to a study by New York City’s transportation planners, left-hand turns were three times as likely to cause a deadly crash involving a pedestrian as right-hand turns. Drivers turning left accounted for 19 percent of serious pedestrian and bicyclist injuries in New York City.

No Left TurnAccording to a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA), turning left is one of the most common pre-crash events, occurring in 22 percent of crashes, as opposed to 1.2 percent for right turns. About 61 percent of crashes that occur while crossing an intersection or turning involve left turns, as opposed to 3.1 percent involving right turns. The NHTSA also found that 36 percent of fatal accidents involving a motorcycle involved a left-hand turn in front of a motorcycle. Traffic engineers also claim that left-hand turns can cause congestion, further increasing the risk of accidents.

Vehicles turning left have to turn against the flow of oncoming cars, which some say is dangerous and builds up traffic. In fact, the parcel delivery company UPS instructs its drivers to almost never take left-hand turns, which the company claims saves millions of gallons on gas each year due to decreased time waiting in traffic. The company’s software determines the most efficient route for each truck, and generally that route avoids left turns. One UPS employee explained that when a motorist makes left turns, their car has to idle longer, which burns fuel.

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Late last month, an accident between a pick-up truck and a bus resulted in 13 fatalities. According to a news report covering the tragic accident, the driver of the pick-up truck may have been texting in the moments leading up to the fatal accident.

Truck WindowEvidently, about 15 minutes prior to the accident, another motorist who was driving behind the pick-up truck noticed that the truck was swerving, crossing in and out of the oncoming lane of traffic. The motorist called the sheriff’s department in two neighboring counties, telling authorities that the driver should be stopped due to his dangerous driving. However, authorities did not respond in time.

The pick-up truck eventually veered into oncoming traffic, directly into the path of a church bus with 14 occupants inside. The driver of the bus was unable to avoid the truck, and the two vehicles collided head-on. Twelve of the passengers aboard the bus were pronounced dead at the scene, and another was pronounced dead a short time later at the hospital.

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