Can Poor Road Conditions Increase the Risk of Truck Accidents?
A truck accident can leave a trail of wreckage, including massive property damage and devastating injuries and fatalities. Unfortunately, because the average truck weighs approximately four times the weight of a regular passenger vehicle, it is usually the occupants of the passenger vehicles who suffer severe injuries. In fact, according to data from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System, 97 percent of fatal injuries resulting from truck accidents were occupants of the passenger vehicle. Although some truck accidents are caused by the truck driver who may have been distracted or drowsy, some truck accidents are beyond a driver’s control, including those caused by unsafe road conditions.
What are Examples of Unsafe Road Designs?
Truck drivers have a responsibility to obey the rules of the road and use extra caution during inclement weather, such as rain, snow, heavy fog, or high winds. However, some hazards are beyond the truck driver’s control, including roadways that have been poorly designed or have not been properly maintained. This can make driving conditions very unsafe, particularly when an 80,000-pound commercial truck approaches a stretch of road or highway that has not been properly maintained or is not well designed. The following are examples of poor road designs:
- Banking or camber: This refers to the curvature of the road. If the angle of the curve is incorrect, or if it is broken or not properly maintained, trucks can easily veer out of control or off the road. If there are other vehicles on the road, an out-of-control truck can cause a catastrophic, multi-vehicle accident.
- Blind curve: This is a dangerous curve on a roadway that makes it difficult, if not impossible, for drivers to see oncoming traffic.
- Dangerous intersections: This includes any intersection that has narrow lanes, sharp turns, or anything that requires mirrors.
- Inadequate road drainage: If water is unable to properly drain, it can cause dangerous flooding, which makes road conditions very hazardous, particularly for large trucks. When water freezes, it can create ice patches that cause trucks and cars to spin out of control or slide into oncoming traffic.
- Lack of proper guardrails: Guardrails are intended to prevent serious accidents and save lives. If they are missing or damaged, this is a serious safety hazard.
- Lack of proper signage: Road signs help alert drivers to conditions or hazards on the road ahead. They can include signs for road work, reduced speed limit, pedestrian crossings, and yield signs. If signs are missing, drivers may not have ample time to react.
- Merging lanes that are not long enough: Because of their large size, trucks require a longer merging distance compared to passenger vehicles. If the merging lane is too short, it can result in a serious accident, particularly if a passenger vehicle tries to quickly merge in front of a truck. This can result in a serious rear-end accident.
- No shoulder or inadequate shoulder: When there is not an adequate shoulder area for vehicles to stop, this can increase the risk of a collision.
- Overly narrow lanes: Large commercial trucks require ample space on all sides. When lanes are too narrow, other motor vehicles risk being side swiped by a large truck.
What Types of Poor Road Maintenance Cause Truck Accidents?
The following are examples of road maintenance issues that can cause serious truck accidents:
- Clear zone issues: Fallen trees, utility poles, and uncovered water drains are examples of objects that can create hazards on the road.
- Excessive oil or debris from road maintenance projects: Oil can make roads slippery. Motorists may swerve to avoid debris in the road.
- Faded road markings: When truck drivers and other motorists cannot see road markings because they are faded, they may not be aware of a potentially hazardous condition ahead.
- Failure to trim overgrown trees or plants: When trees, shrubs, and other plants become overgrown, it can prevent drivers from seeing signage, stop lights, and other important traffic signs.
- Oil and chip: This is the process of covering an existing road with a layer of oil and stone that seals the blacktop. It is less expensive than resurfacing, but large pieces of chip can come loose over time and cause vehicle damage.
- Positive guidance: When road signs are missing or hidden, or road lines are not properly painted or have become faded, this poses a serious safety hazard to cars and trucks.
- Potholes: If large potholes are not filled in or repaired, they can be extremely hazardous. They can also cause significant damage to vehicles.
- Shoulder drop-off: If the shoulder drops more than two inches from the road’s surface, it can cause a serious truck accident. If a berm is not installed along elevated roadways, this can also cause serious accidents.
- Wheel ruts: Roads that have not been resurfaced or properly maintained can develop grooves where car wheels dig into the road. This can make the surface of the road uneven and unsafe for large trucks and other motor vehicles.
- Work zones: There are several different signs that may be put up in and around work zones. In some cases, the signs can be confusing to oncoming motorists. Other times, the signs may be put up too close to the work site, so cars and trucks do not have enough time to gradually reduce their speed. As a result, truck drivers approaching a work zone will have to hit their brakes, which can cause dangerous rear-end accidents, jackknife accidents, and other serious collisions.
Examples of Truck Accident Injuries
Regardless of whether a truck accident is caused by the truck driver or road conditions that are unsafe, these accidents can cause devastating injuries and fatalities to the occupants of the passenger vehicles involved. If victims are lucky enough to survive the crash, it is likely they will suffer from severe injuries. The following are examples of serious injuries that are associated with truck accidents, including those related to unsafe road conditions:
- Brain injuries
- Broken bones
- Chronic injuries
- Emotional trauma
- Facial injuries
- Head trauma
- Internal injuries
- Neck and back injuries
- Permanent disability and/or paralysis
- Permanent scarring and/or disfigurement
- Spinal cord injuries
Who is Liable for Truck Accidents Caused by Unsafe Road Conditions?
- Truck driver: Truck drivers have a duty of care to drive in a way that is safe for road conditions. They are expected to check weather reports on a regular basis, reduce their speed whenever necessary, and take extra precautions when approaching a roadway that could have potholes or other debris on the road. If truck drivers breach their duty of care, they could be held liable for the accident.
- Trucking company: The company that employs the truck driver may also be held liable for a truck accident caused by poor road conditions. Because truck companies are represented by insurance companies, they will have more financial resources to cover the cost of property damage and injuries compared to a truck driver.
- State or local government agency: Municipal and state agencies are generally responsible for maintaining road conditions. If a truck accident occurs as a result of unsafe or poorly designed road conditions, the municipal or state agency may be held liable. However, it can be difficult to win a lawsuit against the state or local government because the agency’s assets are those of the taxpayers, who are innocent of any wrongdoing. Therefore, truck accident victims who wish to pursue legal action against a state or local government are urged to seek legal counsel from an experienced truck accident lawyer.
Depending on the circumstances of the accident, and the condition of the road where the truck accident occurred, it is possible that a number of the above parties may be partially liable for a truck accident. An experienced truck accident lawyer will determine the best legal course of action and guide a victim through every step of the process.
Los Angeles Truck Accident Lawyers at ACTS Law Seek Maximum Compensation for Victims of Truck Accidents
If you or someone you know was seriously injured in a truck accident caused by unsafe road conditions, do not hesitate to contact the Los Angeles truck accident lawyers at ACTS Law. We understand how devastating these accidents can be and how crucial it is that you receive the maximum financial compensation you deserve for your injuries. We will walk you through every step of the process and address all of your questions and concerns. Our skilled and dedicated legal team will not stop fighting for you until you are completely satisfied. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 833-ACTS-LAW or contact us online. Our offices are located in San Diego and Los Angeles, and we serve clients throughout southern California.