Commercial truck drivers have to go through a lot of training, supervised driving, and undergo stricter background checks compared to other drivers. However, even with all the training and education, semi-truck drivers can still make serious mistakes. When a large truck makes a mistake that involves a pedestrian, the pedestrian almost always loses.
Even a low-speed accident between a large truck and a bystander can be fatal. If the pedestrian isn’t killed, it can lead to serious or permanent injuries, including paralysis, brain damage, or disfigurement. Not all accidents are caused by driver negligence but truck drivers are at fault for a majority of fatal pedestrian accidents.
When the truck driver or trucking company caused the accident, they should be responsible for paying for the damage done. This includes medical bills, loss of income, and pain and suffering. If you or a loved one was injured in a trucking accident, contact our experienced personal injury law firm for a free consultation. Contact our office today online or by phone at 800-529-6162.
Collisions Between Pedestrians and Semi Trucks
Semi trucks are a necessary part of logistics in the U.S. We need trucks to deliver food, goods, and mail to big cities and small towns, across the country. A lot of the time on the road involves traveling on highways but delivering the cargo often means unloading it in a city or town. This takes the large trucks through busy urban areas. These roads have to be shared with other drivers and cyclists.
One of the most common places pedestrian truck accidents occur is at intersections. A pedestrian may be crossing the intersection when a truck fails to spot them, is racing a yellow light, or does not notice the crosswalk. The truck driver has a duty of care to others on the road, including pedestrians. This means yielding to pedestrians in a crosswalk, coming to a full stop at a traffic signal, and waiting until the pedestrian has cleared the intersection before continuing.
Collisions between pedestrians and tractor-trailers can occur at high speed or low speed. High-speed collisions are often fatal, or causing permanent and severe bodily injury. However, even a low-speed accident can be serious, especially when the victim is trapped under the semi cab, or falls on their head or back. Immediate medical attention may be necessary to give the victim the best chance of recovery after an accident.
Causes of Semi Truck Accidents
There are several possible causes of a semi-truck and pedestrian accident. These accidents can occur when a pedestrian is walking along a dark highway, crossing the street in an intersection, or walking through a parking lot. However, driver error is the most common cause of semi-truck accidents. Driver negligence can involve:
- Truck driver fatigue
- Impaired drivers
- Poor vehicle maintenance
- Brake failure
- Owner negligence for overloaded trucks
- Distracted driving
- Uneven loads
- Going too fast for road conditions
- Failure to follow traffic laws
- Failure to yield to pedestrians
- Failure to give cyclists room
- Negligent hiring
- Defective vehicles
- Improper training
A lot of the pressure that comes along with truck driving increases the risk of many of these accidents. Drivers are pressured by trucking companies and employers to make deliveries fast and on time. There are certain things the driver can’t account for, like traffic or road construction. However, they may be motivated to “make up time” by driving after they are tired, driving under the influence of drugs, or speed and fail to follow traffic laws. This can all increase the risk of a crash.
Truck and Pedestrian Accident Statistics
According to the National Safety Council (NSC), in 2019, more than 5,000 large trucks were involved in a fatal crash. Many other types of fatal vehicle accidents have been on the decline but fatal truck accidents have increased 43% since 2010. These fatal accidents involve other vehicles, cyclists, motorcycles, and pedestrians.
Of the fatal accidents in 2019 involving a large truck, 569 involved a “non-occupant,” including cyclists and pedestrians. For occupants in the truck, there were 892 fatalities. The majority of fatalities involved occupants of another vehicle, which accounted for more than 70% of fatalities.
There were about 160,000 non-fatal injury crashes involving large trucks in 2019. The number of trucking accidents increased 7% over the year before. This included about 4,000 non-occupant injuries, which would include pedestrians, motorcyclists, and cyclists.
A fatal large-truck accident is defined as trucks with a gross vehicle weight of greater than 10,000 pounds, not including buses or motor homes. While large trucks only account for 4% of registered vehicles in the U.S., they account for 10% of fatal vehicle crashes.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reported approximately 499,000 crashes involving large trucks in 2018, including 4,415 fatal crashes and 107,000 injury crashes. About 21% of fatal crashes involved a bicyclist, pedestrian, or nonmotorized vehicle.
Pedestrian Accident Injuries
Pedestrian accident injuries can range from minor to fatal. However, because of the size, speed, and type of semi accidents, pedestrian accidents generally involve serious injuries. Pedestrian accident injuries can include:
- Broken bones
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Whiplash neck injury
- Back injury
- Spinal cord damage
- Nerve damage
- Chemical inhalation
- Loss of a limb
- Eye injury
- Hearing loss
The extent of the injury may depend on several factors, including the truck speed, type of accident, age of the victim, and how quickly the victim got medical attention. Serious medical attention may include hospitalization, surgery, and long-term treatment. In some serious accidents, the victim may not survive and pass away because of the crash.
In some low-speed crashes, the victim may get up and claim to be okay, only to feel the full force of the accident later on. Sudden jerking motion that comes from a fall can lead to neck or back injuries that take time to develop. A day or two later, the victim may suddenly realize how serious the accident was.
Long-term medical care may be necessary for serious injuries. Some permanent and long-term effects of a severe accident may include:
- Reconstructive surgery
- Occupational therapy
- Speech therapy
- Physical therapy
- Mobility devices
- Pain management
- Medical devices
- In-home care
- Nursing home care
Who Is Responsible in a Tractor Trailer Accident?
In a personal injury claim, the negligent party is generally liable for damages. Negligence is the breach of a duty of care that causes injury and damage. All drivers owe a duty of care to others on the road, to drive as a reasonable driver would under the conditions. One of the ways to show negligence is through violating a traffic law that is intended to protect others on the road.
For example, if the truck driver was speeding and the high speed was a cause of the accident, the truck driver may be considered negligent. The negligent driver could be liable for damages to the injury victim, including covering medical bills and lost wages.
More than one party may share in liability for the accident. For example, the truck driver and the pedestrian may both be partly responsible for an accident. If the injured pedestrian was partly responsible, they may still be able to recover damages. Contributory negligence laws vary by state.
Pennsylvania has adopted the “modified comparative law approach,” under Pa.C.S. § 7202. As long as the plaintiff is not more than 50% responsible for their injury, they will be able to recover something for their injury. However, their recovery will be diminished in proportion to the amount of negligence attributed to the plaintiff.
Maryland is a pure contributory negligence state. This much harsher approach bars the injury victim from recovery even if they are 1% at fault for the accident. If a jury found the truck driver was 99% responsible for causing the accident but the pedestrian was 1% at fault, they may not be able to recover any compensation.
Trucking Companies and Vicarious Liability
The trucking company can also be at fault for the accident and liable for damages. Generally, the trucking company can be either directly liable or vicariously liable. If the company does something directly to increase the risk of an accident, like falsifying maintenance records, overloading a truck, or failing to properly train drivers, the company could have negligently contributed to the accident.
The company can also be liable because of the driver’s negligence. Under the legal doctrine of respondeat superior, an employer can be vicariously liable for the negligence of the employee when the employee is acting within the scope of their job. One of the reasons for this is because employers may have more financial resources to compensate an injury victim if the employee does not make much money.
Increasing use of independent contractors may erode some of the rights of a victim to recover compensation from the employer. Vicarious liability applies to those in an employer-employee relationship. If the driver is an independent contractor, the hiring company may not be liable. However, just because a trucking company says a driver is a contractor does not make it a fact. Some companies improperly try and classify employees as contractors to avoid liability. Talk to your truck accident lawyer about how to hold the employer liable when the driver is improperly classified.
Recovering Damages for Injured Pedestrians
After an injury accident, the pedestrian may expect the negligent driver to cooperate in order to make sure the victim gets the care they need. Unfortunately, trucking companies and insurance companies are not very willing to pay out anything. This can make the process of recovering damages very frustrating.
A personal injury case generally begins with your lawyer talking to the trucking company and insurance companies. This may involve negotiating for a settlement or making a demand for an award. If the parties responsible do not want to pay for your damages, your attorney will generally file a lawsuit.
A lawsuit does not necessarily mean your case will go to trial. The vast majority of personal injury and accident cases are settled before they ever go to a jury. However, the lawsuit is the legal process that may be necessary for the negligent parties to cooperate, take your case seriously, and exchange information.
Economic Damages After a Pedestrian Injury
Health care in the United States is expensive. Even a minor medical treatment can end up costing thousands. A serious injury after a semi accident could lead to hundreds of thousands in medical bills. The victim should not have to pay the costs for something that was not their fault. Health care damages can include:
- Medical bills
- Cost of future medical treatment
Loss of income is another type of economic damage. After an accident, the injury victim may not be able to work for days, weeks, or may never be able to return to their job. The injury victim may only be able to find work that pays much less than they were making before. Economic damages can include lost wages and loss of earning capacity in the future.
Non-Economic Damages After a Pedestrian Injury
Not all damage has a clear dollar amount. How do you put a price on suffering, disfigurement, or loss of enjoyment in life? Non-economic damages are intended to compensate the victim for losses that do not have a set financial value. Generally, the jury would consider the individual in light of their injuries, how their life has changed, if it changed their relationship with a spouse or children, and the pain the victim is suffering and will continue to suffer. These are known as non-economic damages.
Fatal Pedestrian and Truck Accidents
In a fatal semi accident, the victim is not alive to hold the negligent truck driver responsible. However, the surviving family members may be able to file a wrongful death claim to recover damages for the loss of a loved one. There may be a limited amount of time to file a wrongful death claim, so talk to your truck accident wrongful death lawyers for legal advice.
Truck Accident Trial Attorneys
If you or a loved one was injured in a truck accident, you should talk to an experienced personal injury attorney about getting compensation for your lost wages, medical bills, and pain and suffering. Your truck accident lawyer will help guide you through the personal injury claims process and advise you of your options. You should not have to suffer due to someone else’s negligence. Contact Gilman & Bedigian online or at 800-529-6162 for a free consultation.