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Fatal Truck Accidents: How Common Are They?

Truck accidents claim the lives of hundreds of New Yorkers each year. Large commercial trucks are essential to our state’s economy, but these large vehicles cause incredible damage when they smash into other vehicles on a road. At Powers & Santola, LLP, our team of New York wrongful death lawyers can assist anyone who lost a beloved family member in a collision with a commercial vehicle. Do not hesitate to contact us to discuss your case.

Who Dies in Truck Accidents?

Any collision is devastating, but not all occupants are equally vulnerable. By far, those in the smaller sedan or light truck bear the brunt of the accident.

In 2021, 4,714 people died in large truck accidents, according to data compiled by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Here is how fatalities were distributed:

  • 16% were occupants of the truck
  • 68% were occupants of smaller vehicles, including passengers in those vehicles
  • 15% were pedestrians, motorcyclists, or bicyclists

As you can see, the truck’s size provides protection for those inside. Meanwhile, those in smaller vehicles or walking on foot are much less defended and can suffer fatal injuries.

Fatal Accident Trends

Should you be worried about fatal truck accidents? The statistics say “yes.” Fatal truck accidents go up and down each year, but we do see an alarming rise over the past decade. Look at the number of fatalities from 2011 to 2022:

  • 2011: 3,384
  • 2012: 3,529
  • 2013: 3,616
  • 2014: 3,663
  • 2015: 3,876
  • 2016: 4,023
  • 2017: 4,115
  • 2018: 4,164
  • 2019: 4,142
  • 2020: 4,038
  • 2021: 4,714
  • 2022: 4,766 (estimated)

Most fatal accidents (74%) involved collisions with tractor-trailers, which have two parts. The remainder involved vehicles which were single units.

Truck Size Contributes to Fatalities

Why do large trucks cause so many fatalities? As mentioned by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, some factors include:

  • Weight. Trucks weigh up to 30 times more than smaller sedans. This heavy weight will cause serious damage to a car, which increases the odds of serious body trauma.
  • Height. Tractor-trailers also sit much higher off the ground, which can lead to fatal underride accidents. The smaller vehicle slides under the trailer, usually at the sides. The leading edge of the trailer will peel back a smaller vehicle’s roof, with devastating fatal head injuries resulting.
  • Braking issues. Other leading factors in fatal truck accidents include braking. A fully loaded tractor-trailer needs up to 40% more space to come to a complete stop than a car. Some inexperienced truckers are not aware of this fact, so they end up causing fatal override accidents when they follow vehicles too closely.
  • Driver fatigue. Trucking is a difficult profession. Long-haul truckers are on the road for more than 10 hours every single day.  Fatigue is a major contributing factor to all accidents, including fatal ones. The government has passed rules to limit the hours a trucker works, including time on the road hauling. These rules have helped reduce fatalities over the past decade, but industry groups put pressure on the government to loosen the regulations.
  • Distraction. Truckers face many distractions as they try to get to their destination. They might look at a cell phone or onboard electronic console, which means they don’t see a vehicle scooting in front of it or trying to merge on the highway. Distraction also leads to accidents when a truck is backing up to offload cargo.

Accidents Happen on Major Roads

We see trucks morning and night whizzing down the freeway, as well as pulling downtown to make deliveries or pick up freight. According to federal data, accidents happen in the following areas:

  • Interstate roads and freeways: 36%
  • Other major roads: 48%
  • Minor roads: 16%

These numbers are not surprising. Collisions at high speeds tend to be more dangerous because of the forces generated, with trucks going the fastest on the highway and major roads. When vehicles are moving slowly—which they do on side streets—then it is easier to avoid hitting someone.

Hire the Best Lawyer for Your Needs

Anyone who has lost a beloved family member in a truck accident should consult Powers & Santola to discuss whether they can bring a wrongful death claim. This is a legal claim family members pursue after the death of a spouse, child, or parent involved in an accident.

Fatal truck accidents are some of the more complicated we handle. There are numerous issues to untangle:

  • Liability. Who is responsible for the accident? You might assume the trucker is. But other responsible parties could include the trucker’s employer, the company that owns the truck, mechanics, manufacturers, or the company that owns the freight. We can only seek compensation if we can prove fault for the collision.
  • Comparative negligence. Don’t be surprised if the defendant blames your loved one for causing their own fatal accident. They might allege speeding, distracted driving, or tailgating. Unfortunately, the deceased is no longer with us to defend themselves. We need to rebut these allegations, nonetheless, otherwise you risk receiving much less in compensation.
  • Evidence. The evidence we rely on for fatal truck accidents is often hard to find. We doggedly search for witnesses to the crash and put the trucking company on notice to preserve relevant evidence. We might rely on toxicology reports, employee records, or onboard electronic data. An experienced truck accident lawyer is a big help.

Speak to Powers & Santola, LLP, today. With a wrongful death claim, we can seek compensation for your losses, including income your loved one could have earned had he or she survived the crash.

Have Questions? Call Us Today

Losing a loved one is a devastating emotional experience. Some people feel as if they can’t leave the house for months. Our firm extends our condolences to anyone struggling to move forward after losing a spouse or child. Nonetheless, you want to protect your legal rights to compensation, so call our firm today to schedule a consultation with one of our wrongful death attorneys. New York gives families a limited opportunity to bring a lawsuit, so contact us right away.

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