While any vehicle accident is frightening and dangerous, being hit by a large commercial truck is much worse than being hit by a car or SUV. If you happen to be riding a motorcycle when you’re hit by a truck, you will likely be seriously injured. While the average motorcycle weighs 500-700 pounds, a fully loaded 18-wheeler can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, and the motorcyclist generally has no physical protection beyond a helmet and heavy clothing.
For these reasons, motorcyclists are nearly ten times as likely as car occupants to be injured in vehicle crashes and almost 40 times as likely to be killed. Although motorcycles account for only three percent of U.S. vehicles, they’re involved in almost 15% of traffic fatalities. Motorcycle injuries and deaths are on the increase across the country and in South Carolina, where we have approximately 2,000 bike accidents and 100 resulting fatalities per year. If you’re a motorcyclist lucky enough to survive an accident with a semi-truck, your injuries are likely to be catastrophic and life-changing.
Examples of Truck-Motorcycle Accidents
Approximately 50% of motorcycle wrecks involve another vehicle. Types of truck-motorcycle wrecks include:
A tractor-trailer drifts across the center line and strikes a motorcycle head on. This is the most dangerous accident scenario for the cyclist involved.
A truck follows a motorcycle too closely and, due to faulty brakes or driver error, fails to slow down or stop in time to avoid a rear-end crash.
A motorcycle might be struck by a trucker who runs a light or a stop sign. A bike that’s stopped at an intersection could be hit by an unobservant trucker.
Blind Spot Mishaps
A commercial tractor-trailer has large blind spots on the sides and in the rear of the truck. A trucker who changes lanes without checking mirrors carefully can run a bike off the road or into other traffic on the highway.
Because an 18-wheeler has high bumpers and huge wheels that raise the trailer well above the pavement, a motorcycle can end up under the truck in an accident. This is one of the most dangerous accidents for the biker, who could be decapitated in such a crash.
Left Turn Accidents
A trucker turning left at an intersection might fail to see a motorcycle traveling straight and strike the bike from the side while turning.
The trailer of a semi-truck can swing out to the right or left due to unbalanced cargo and hit a bike in an adjacent lane, possibly causing a chain reaction crash.
The trailer of a truck that takes a sharp turn too fast can tip over, especially if its cargo is improperly loaded, and crush a bike in an adjacent lane.
Causes of Truck-Motorcycle Accidents
Because truckers are often pressured to meet tight delivery deadlines, they might speed or drive too fast for road conditions. Doing so increases their stopping distance, which is much longer than that of a smaller vehicle. Accidents can result.
Hours-of-Service (HOS) Violations
Drivers who violate HOS regulations laid out by The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) are likely to cause accidents due to too many consecutive hours behind the wheel.
Drug or Alcohol Impairment
The use of drugs or alcohol generally slows a trucker’s reaction time, reduces eyesight, and affects judgment. Stimulants taken to stay awake on the road can make the trucker nervous and lead to poor decision-making.
The use of a cellphone, tablet, radio, or GPS device takes a driver’s eyes off the road. Eating, drinking, smoking, or simply looking at roadside sites can also divert the driver’s attention from operating the truck, which can travel hundreds of yards in just a few seconds. A distracted trucker can cause a catastrophic accident in the blink of an eye if that eye is not on the road.
A truck’s brake system, lights, reflectors, horn, and other safety equipment should be inspected before every trip. If any such system fails, a catastrophic crash can result.
If loading dock personnel load a truck’s cargo improperly or fail to secure the cargo in or on the trailer, the truck’s load can shift and make it impossible for the driver to control the truck. Cargo that falls off a flatbed truck onto the highway can cause a multiple-vehicle chain-reaction crash.
Rain, snow, ice, fog, and strong winds increase the likelihood of a truck crash, especially if the driver does not slow down to accommodate the weather conditions.
Poor Road Conditions or Faulty Signs or Signals
If a road is not properly maintained or traffic signs or signals are missing or faulty, an accident is likely to occur. In such a case, a local or county government agency could bear partial responsibility for your wreck.
Truck-Motorcycle Crash Injuries
Because motorcyclists have almost no physical protection in a truck crash, their injuries are generally severe or fatal. Common injuries include the following:
- Fractured or crushed joints and bones
- Road rash
- Nerve damage
- Lacerations and disfigurement
- Spinal cord damage
- Concussion or traumatic brain injury (TBI)
A motorcyclist who survives a truck crash is likely to require surgery and expensive ongoing medical care, sometimes for life. It’s possible that such a survivor might never be able to work again. With the help of any attorney, the loved ones of a biker who dies in a truck crash can file a wrongful death action against the at-fault parties.
If you’re a motorcyclist injured by an at-fault trucker for any of the reasons listed above, you’re entitled to file insurance claims to recover all your current and future medical expenses, including:
- Transportation by ambulance
- Emergency room visits and hospitalization
- Diagnostic tests
- Follow-up and disability care
- Physical therapy
- Assistive equipment for your home or vehicle
- Home nursing care
- Psychological counseling
You’re also entitled to recover all lost income, including wages, bonuses, commissions, and lost earning potential. Replacement or repair of your motorcycle is the responsibility of the defendant(s). You’re also entitled to compensation for non-economic damages, including emotional trauma, loss of enjoyment of life, and physical pain and suffering, which could make up the largest part of your damage award.
Fighting the Insurance Companies of Multiple Defendants
Damage claims resulting from truck-motorcycle crashes are apt to be astronomically expensive for the insurers involved. Fortunately for you, trucking companies are required to carry liability insurance with very high coverage limits, and there might be multiple defendants who are partially responsible for your damages, including the following:
- Trucking company
- Truck owner
- Repair service
- Cargo-loading personnel
- Government agency
This means there is plenty of insurance coverage to compensate you for your damages, but don’t assume the insurer(s) will simply pay you because they’re supposed to. Insurance companies are in business to make a profit, not to lose money by paying out huge damage awards. Their adjusters and attorneys are well-trained to dispute, devalue, delay, and deny expensive claims. They’re likely to make you a quick, lowball settlement offer that won’t come close to meeting your expenses, more or less daring you to sue them.
If, however, you have an experienced attorney in your corner, you can level the playing field. Your lawyer will know how to investigate your accident to determine the fault of multiple defendants, estimate your long-term medical expenses, put a dollar amount on your pain and suffering, and make demands for fair settlements from all liable parties. If reasonable compensation is not offered, your lawyer can file multiple lawsuits on your behalf and fight for you in court.