A rollover accident occurs when a truck tips over onto its side, turns completely upside down or keeps turning over repeatedly. Because of their high centers of gravity, trucks are more likely to roll over than cars are. For example, the box trucks commonly used today for deliveries are relatively short in length, with high centers of gravity that make them likely to roll. A high-side dry freight trailer connected to a cab by a “fifth wheel” assembly also has a high center of gravity. This means the trailer is prone to twist, roll over, and either separate from the cab or pull the cab over with it, especially when the truck is rounding curves too fast or traveling on an entrance or exit ramp.
An 18-wheeler with a flatbed trailer is less likely to roll over because its center of gravity is relatively low, but even flatbeds are sometimes involved in rollovers. Any time a truck rolls over, it endangers not only the truck driver but also motorists traveling nearby, who are likely to suffer very serious injuries or death if they’re struck by a rolling truck or trailer.
Causes of Rollover Truck Crashes
Reasons for commercial truck rollover crashes include:
Curves in the road.
Sudden, sharp curves can be hard for a truck to negotiate, especially if it’s traveling at a high speed or its cargo is unbalanced. The weight of the cargo can shift and cause instability leading to a rollover.
Even on a straight road, cargo that’s improperly loaded, piled too high, or unbalanced on the trailer makes the truck less stable and harder to handle, increasing the chances of a rollover crash. In the case of tanker trucks, underloading can cause instability because the empty space in the tank allows the liquid that's there to shift from front to back or side to side, unbalancing the load and causing handling difficulty.
Speeding and reckless driving.
Truck drivers are held to strict schedules and expected to deliver cargo on time. There might even be financial bonuses for doing so in some cases, so drivers are motivated to cover as many miles as they can in a given period of time. This pressure to stay on schedule can lead to speeding, which is the primary cause of truck rollover accidents.
Driving long hours to meet delivery deadlines can leave drivers tired and drowsy, decreasing their attention to other vehicles on the road and slowing their reaction time to random highway hazards.
In addition to potential distractions like the radio, food, beverages, and roadside billboards, cell phones, and GPS devices also draw the attention of today’s drivers away from the road and other vehicles.
Drug or alcohol impairment is a factor in a significant number of truck rollover crashes.
Lack of training.
The shortage of available truck drivers today might cause trucking companies to put inexperienced drivers on the road before they’ve received adequate training, increasing the chance of rollover wrecks.
Wet surfaces, steep grades, winding curves, bumpy surfaces, potholes, loose shoulders, or debris in the road can affect the handling of a truck and increase the chance of a rollover accident.
Trucking companies are held to a high standard of vehicle maintenance intended to prevent accidents. Mechanics who maintain a company’s trucks should make sure all systems and equipment are in good shape and operating correctly. Before beginning a trip, drivers, too, are required to check equipment and systems that directly impact the safe operation of their trucks:
- Reflectors, lights, and flashers
- Windshield wipers
- Wheels and tires
Failure by a mechanic or driver to do all of the above could result in a serious rollover crash.
Rollover wrecks caused by potholes, debris, or other obstacles on the road are called “tripped” accidents. Rollovers resulting from other factors are “untripped” crashes. Most untripped rollovers are completely or partially caused by negligence on the part of the truck driver.
Injuries Resulting From Truck Rollover Crashes
In a rollover accident involving a commercial truck, which can weigh up to 80,000 pounds fully loaded, and a car or SUV weighing 4,000-5,000 pounds, the occupants of the smaller vehicle are likely to suffer one or more serious injuries:
- Spinal damage
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Fractured bones
- Cracked ribs
- Hyperextended or dislocated joints
- Pinched nerves
If you’re injured in a rollover crash caused by a negligent trucker, you’re entitled to file a claim against that driver’s insurer for your damages: medical expenses, property damage, lost income, and pain and suffering. If you’ve lost a loved one in a truck rollover crash caused by someone else, you’re entitled to file a wrongful death claim against the responsible parties.
Knowing exactly which parties are responsible, however, is more difficult in a truck crash than it is in a car accident. If you’re injured by a negligent commercial truck driver, you could have claims against the driver, the trucking company, a leasing agency, a mechanical repair service, the truck manufacturer, a parts manufacturer, or cargo loading personnel. We recommend you leave the job of investigating to determine each party’s percentage of fault, filing claims (including wrongful death if someone has died) against the defendants’ various insurers, negotiating with them to seek fair compensation, and filing multiple lawsuits if a reasonable settlement is not offered to an experienced truck crash lawyer while you focus on your recovery.
Protect Your Claim
If you’re physically able to do so, there are steps you can take at the scene of a rollover accident to strengthen and protect your claim for damages: Move to safety, call 9-1-1, stay at the scene, take photos of the vehicles involved in the crash and other evidence from the scene, note the presence of security cameras that might have footage of the wreck, exchange information with the at-fault driver but don’t discuss the wreck, get contact information from any witnesses, answer the questions of law enforcement when they arrive but do not elaborate or argue, don’t admit any fault to anyone, contact your insurer, and consult a truck accident lawyer soon.
Have You Been Injured In A Florence, South Carolina Area Truck Accident?
If you've been injured in a Florence truck accident you should speak with a truck accident lawyer as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our Florence, South Carolina office directly at 843.488.7540 to schedule your consultation. We are also able to meet clients at our Charleston, Conway, Myrtle Beach, Murrells Inlet, Mt. Pleasant, North Myrtle Beach or North Charleston office locations.