Head-On Truck Collisions

July 5, 2024 | Andrew Ruiz
Head-On Truck Collisions

Head-on collisions with large trucks are some of the most devastating types of motor vehicle accidents. When a passenger vehicle crashes head-on into an 80,000-pound fully-loaded semi-truck traveling at highway speeds, the results are often catastrophic. Occupants of the smaller vehicle frequently suffer severe injuries or death.

If you or a loved one has been involved in a head-on truck collision, you need to understand the unique factors involved in these crashes and the legal options available to you. An experienced truck accident attorney can fight for the compensation you deserve.

Common Causes of Head-On Truck Accidents

Many head-on collisions with large trucks are caused by negligence by the truck driver or trucking company. Some of the most common factors include:

Driver Fatigue

Driver Fatigue after long hours on the road

One of the leading causes of head-on truck collisions is driver fatigue. Truck drivers often face pressure from their employers to meet tight delivery deadlines. This can cause them to cut back on sleep and drive when they're dangerously tired.

When a driver is drowsy, their reaction time slows down. They have a harder time making quick decisions. It's also more difficult to stay in their lane and not drift across the center line.

Long hours on the road can lead to something called "highway hypnosis." This is when a driver zones out and keeps driving without really being aware of what's happening. When drivers violate hours of service restrictions, they have a greater risk of highway hypnosis or even falling asleep at the wheel.

Fatigue is especially dangerous for truck drivers because their vehicles are so much larger and heavier than cars. The results can be catastrophic if a trucker nods off or fails to react in time.

Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is another major cause of head-on truck crashes. Distractions are anything that takes a driver's eyes, hands, or minds off the task of driving. The long, monotonous hours on the road can make distractions very tempting for truck drivers. Common distractions include using a cell phone, eating, drinking, adjusting controls, or even daydreaming.

When drivers are distracted, they may not notice their truck drifting across the center line until it's too late. The massive size of a truck means even a momentary lapse in attention can have deadly consequences. Truckers need to be extra vigilant about avoiding distractions, given the serious responsibility they bear for safely operating an 80,000-pound vehicle.

Impaired Driving

Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a major risk factor for head-on truck collisions. Alcohol and drugs impair a driver's judgment, coordination, reaction time, and ability to drive safely. Some truck drivers turn to substance abuse as a way to cope with the loneliness and stress of long hours on the road. Others may take illegal stimulants to try to stay awake and cover more miles.

Regardless of the reason, impaired driving drastically increases the odds of causing a devastating head-on crash. Even small amounts of alcohol or drugs can have an outsized impact on driving ability, especially in a massive semi-truck. Truckers who get behind the wheel impaired are putting everyone on the road at risk.

Speeding

Excess speed and aggressive driving is a leading cause of head-on truck wrecks. When truckers are running behind schedule, they may feel pressured to drive faster to make up time. But speeding makes it much harder to maintain control of a large truck, especially around curves or in poor weather conditions.

Speeding also increases the distance needed to stop the truck if a hazard appears. If the trucker comes upon slowed or stopped traffic and can't brake in time, they may swerve into oncoming lanes and crash head-on into another vehicle. The faster the truck is going, the greater the forces of impact in a collision. When a speeding semi-truck slams head-on into a much smaller passenger vehicle, the results are often fatal.

Improper Passing

Another frequent cause of devastating head-on truck accidents is improper passing. Truckers may try to pass slower vehicles on two-lane roads when there's not enough room to do so safely. The truck's large size makes it harder for the trucker to judge timing and distance when attempting to pass.

If an oncoming vehicle appears before the truck can complete the pass, the trucker may not have enough time and space to avoid a head-on collision. The truck may also force the oncoming vehicle off the road or cause it to swerve and lose control. Truckers must only pass when there is plenty of clearance and they are certain it's safe to do so.

Poor Vehicle Maintenance

Trucking companies have a legal duty to keep their fleet in safe operating condition. This means regularly inspecting trucks, performing necessary maintenance, and promptly repairing defects. When companies neglect maintenance to save time or money, they put everyone on the road at risk.

Poor maintenance of critical components like brakes, tires, steering, suspension, and lights can contribute to head-on truck crashes. For instance, if brake maintenance is delayed and the brakes fail, the truck may be unable to stop in time to avoid a collision. If a tire blows out because it was overly worn, the truck may veer out of control into oncoming traffic. Trucking companies must be held accountable if their negligent maintenance practices cause harm.

Equipment Failure

Even if a truck is well-maintained, defective or malfunctioning equipment can cause a head-on collision. For example, if a truck's steering system fails, the trucker may lose the ability to control the direction of travel. If the coupling device fails, the trailer may detach and careen into oncoming lanes. Defective tires may shred or blow out unexpectedly.

The manufacturer may be liable when faulty truck parts or equipment contribute to a crash. Manufacturers must ensure their products are safe and free of dangerous defects. When they cut corners and sell substandard products that put truckers and the public at risk, they must be held responsible for the devastation caused. A thorough investigation can help uncover what role, if any, an equipment failure played in a head-on truck wreck.

Catastrophic Injuries From Head-On Truck Wrecks

The overwhelming size and weight of a large truck compared to a passenger vehicle means those in the smaller vehicle tend to suffer the worst in a head-on crash.

Some common devastating injuries include:

  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI) - Violent forces in a head-on collision can cause the brain to strike the inside of the skull, leading to bruising, bleeding, swelling, and tearing of delicate brain tissues. TBIs can impair cognitive function, emotions, sensory processing, and communication. Severe cases may leave victims permanently disabled and dependent on round-the-clock care.
  • Spinal cord trauma - Damage to the spinal cord from the extreme impact of a head-on truck collision can cause partial or total paralysis, loss of sensation, and impaired bodily functions. Victims often require extensive rehabilitation and major life adjustments.
  • Crushed and amputated limbs - Head-on truck crashes can crumple a passenger compartment, crushing occupants' arms and legs. Amputation may be necessary if a limb is severed in the wreck or too badly mangled to repair. Losing a limb causes permanent disability and huge lifestyle changes.
  • Internal organ damage - Blunt force trauma from a head-on collision can rupture and severely injure internal organs like the lungs, liver, spleen, kidneys, and bowels. Internal bleeding and organ failure may be life-threatening.
  • Broken bones - Fractured arms, legs, ribs, collarbones, hips, and facial bones are common in high-impact head-on truck accidents. Victims may need multiple surgeries, lengthy immobilization, and extensive physical therapy to regain function.
  • Disfiguring facial injuries - Striking the steering wheel, dashboard, windshield, side window, or shattered glass can leave accident victims with severe facial lacerations, fractures, dental injuries, and scars. Plastic surgery and scar reduction treatments are often required.
  • Catastrophic burns - Leaking fuel and engine fluids can erupt into flames after a head-on crash. Severe burns cause excruciating pain, permanent disfigurement, and complications like infections, respiratory problems, and organ failure.
  • Crush injuries and compartment syndrome - Intense pressure from crumpled metal, broken glass, and twisted limbs caught in the wreckage can restrict blood flow and lead to cell death, nerve damage, and amputation. Delayed treatment worsens outcomes.

If you suffered these or other serious injuries in a head-on truck accident, you'll need extensive medical care and likely be unable to work for an extended period. You may be facing staggering bills at a time when you've lost income.

Taking prompt legal action is the key to protecting your rights and obtaining the financial security you need during this challenging time. Consult a knowledgeable truck accident lawyer right away.

Fatal Head-On Collisions With Semi-Trucks

Sadly, many people involved in head-on wrecks with large trucks do not survive. When a death occurs, certain family members can pursue a wrongful death claim to recover compensation for their profound losses. While no amount of money can bring back a loved one, a settlement or court award can provide much-needed financial stability and a sense of justice.

Damages in truck accident wrongful death cases may include:

  • Medical bills incurred prior to death
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Loss of the deceased's expected income
  • Loss of the deceased's love, support, and companionship
  • Surviving family members' mental anguish

A skilled truck accident attorney knows how to calculate the full extent of these losses and will aggressively advocate for the maximum possible recovery.

Liability in Head-On Truck Accidents

Head-On Truck Accident

Determining fault in a head-on truck crash is often difficult. A thorough, independent investigation is the key to identifying all parties who may share the blame.

Potentially liable parties may include:

The Truck Driver

If a trucker's negligence led to the crash, they can be held accountable. Examples of driver negligence include fatigued, distracted, impaired, or reckless driving, speeding, and violating traffic laws or trucking regulations.

The Trucking Company

Trucking companies are responsible for hiring qualified drivers, training them properly, supervising their performance, and ensuring compliance with safety regulations. They can be liable if they fail in these duties and a crash results. They may also be responsible for a driver's negligence under a legal principle called respondeat superior or vicarious liability.

Trucking companies must also maintain their fleet in safe operating conditions. Failing to conduct regular inspections, perform necessary repairs, or take unsafe vehicles off the road may expose them to liability in a wreck.

Other Negligent Motorists

If the actions of another motorist (not driving the truck) contributed to the head-on collision, they may share liability. Examples include a car that attempted an unsafe pass, veered into the truck's lane, or failed to yield the right-of-way.

Vehicle and Parts Manufacturers

If a defective truck part or faulty vehicle design played a role in causing the head-on crash, the manufacturer might be liable under a product liability claim. Examples include faulty brakes, tires, steering systems, or coupling devices.

Cargo Loaders

Improperly loaded or secured cargo can cause a truck to be overweight, unbalanced, or at risk for a cargo spill - all of which increase the chances of losing control and veering into oncoming traffic. The party that loaded the cargo may be liable for resulting accidents.

Government Entities

Sometimes, hazardous road conditions contribute to a head-on truck collision. Inadequate road design, negligent road maintenance, lack of signs or barriers, or failure to remedy known dangers can make a government entity liable if their negligence plays a role.

A seasoned truck accident lawyer will conduct a comprehensive investigation to identify all potentially at-fault parties in your head-on crash. The more parties that contributed to the wreck, the more sources of compensation may be available.

Maximizing Your Compensation After a Head-On Truck Crash

Securing full and fair compensation after a devastating head-on truck accident is challenging. Trucking companies and their insurers have teams of lawyers who find ways to minimize payouts and improve their bottom lines.

You need an experienced truck wreck attorney in your corner to level the playing field and fight for every dollar you deserve. Your lawyer can:

  • Conduct a thorough, independent crash investigation
  • Gather and preserve evidence before it's lost or destroyed
  • Interview eyewitnesses while their memories are fresh
  • Consult experts to reconstruct what happened
  • Identify all potentially liable parties
  • Place a full and fair settlement value on your claim
  • Handle all communications with the other side
  • Aggressively negotiate for maximum compensation
  • Take your case to trial if a fair settlement isn't offered
  • Cover all upfront costs of pursuing your case

The sooner you contact a knowledgeable truck accident lawyer, the better your chances of obtaining the best possible outcome.

Contact a Truck Accident Lawyer Today

If you've suffered an injury or lost a loved one in a head-on truck collision, the road ahead may seem overwhelming. Let a skilled truck accident attorney guide you through the legal process and fight for the justice and compensation you deserve.

Look for a lawyer with extensive experience with catastrophic trucking accidents and a track record of success. Most reputable truck accident firms offer free consultations and work on contingency, so you won't have to pay upfront costs.

The sooner you reach out, the sooner you can start on the path to recovery and hold those at fault accountable. Contact a personal injury lawyer near you today to discuss your rights and options.

 

Andrew Ruiz

Andrew Ruiz is an associate at Blakeley Law Firm, P.A. and focuses his practice on personal injury, including automobile accidents and slip and falls.  He received a Bachelor in Arts from Florida International University in 2014, and his Juris Doctor from St. Thomas University School of Law in 2019.  He is licensed to practice in all Florida State courts.

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