Even the most experienced truck driver can be involved in a dangerous situation. Imagine going downhill while towing a massive trailer and all of a sudden you lose control of your ability to brake or slow down. As terrifying as that sounds, runaway trucks do occur, putting the truck drivers and those around them in immediate danger.
Truck accidents often leave catastrophic damage and severe injuries. Because commercial trucks are heavier and have more moving parts than average vehicles, it is quite possible for a malfunction to occur. Large, commercial trucks are put under a lot of stress given the speed at which they travel. If a malfunction occurs, either in the braking system or the coupling mechanism holding the tractor and trailer together, or any other equipment, the truck driver then may lose control of the vehicle.
While traveling downhill, especially on steep declines, the stress put on the truck’s equipment is amplified even more. If the driver does not use the brakes properly, or they were not maintained correctly, or there was a mechanical defect, this would lead to a failure and the driver will lose control of the vehicle. This leads to a runaway truck event. A runaway truck happens when:
- The trailer begins to travel faster than the tractor, causing the loss of control.
- The rear trailer jackknifes, which is when the coupling malfunctions and the trailer swings out perpendicular to the tractor, causing both to form an “L” shape.
- The coupling malfunctions and the trailer is disconnected completely from the trailer.
- The driver loses control of the vehicle and is unable to stop, particularly downhill.
What Causes a Runaway Truck?
It is difficult to determine what causes a truck to become a runaway truck, but there are a few common reasons:
- Driver error: A truck driver must be focused at all times and pay attention to how their truck is reacting to certain conditions. Often, a truck driver may be able to tell if they are traveling too fast or their brakes may be overheating. As soon as this happens, the truck driver must make the necessary adjustments quickly and safely and attempt to get the truck operating normally again. If the driver fails to react accordingly, either due to distraction, inexperience, or negligence, then the driver or their employer may be found liable for a runaway truck accident.
- Trucking company: Trucking companies are legally required to maintain their trucks safely and properly. Failing to do so can lead to a malfunction in a truck’s safety equipment, such as its brakes or tires. When a malfunction occurs, it is very possible that it will lead to a runaway truck or loss of control. A trucking company can also be held liable for a truck accident if they allowed a dangerous driver to operate their trucks, such as not passing a background check, or a driver that did not have the proper licensing.
- Manufacturer: Although a rare occurrence, it is possible for a truck’s equipment could be defective from the factory. If this is the case, then the part manufacturer may be held liable for a runaway truck accident.
- Brake failure: Brake failure happens more commonly than you may realize. Commercial truck drivers put their braking systems under major stress.
What Should I Do After a Runaway Truck Accident?
Although runaway truck accidents are not as common as other collisions, they are one of the deadliest. Each year, there are approximately 4,000 runaway truck situations in the United States, which accounts for less than one percent of all truck accidents. The vast majority of these can be prevented by either the driver’s actions or a runaway truck ramp.
A runaway truck ramp is designed to help prevent these types of accidents. Normally located on highways in emergency locations, a runaway truck ramp is usually at the end of the decline where a truck driver can veer over. The ramp will slow it down away from traffic. These ramps use gravel or sand or wire nets to slow down the truck should the truck’s brakes fail. Another version of a runaway truck ramp is a steep incline with a dead end, which uses gravity to slow down the truck.
Because many truck accidents lead to catastrophic injuries, the most important thing to focus on after an accident is your health. However, if you are fortunate enough to come away with minor injuries, there are some steps to take following a truck accident that could be beneficial:
- Get help: Check the condition of yourself and your passengers, as well as those in the other vehicle as long as it is safe to do so. Do not put yourself in harm’s way while assisting others. Stay where you are if you have to, and call an ambulance immediately so you and the others can get medical treatment right away. Even if you do not feel injured, it is important to get medical attention. Many injuries can surface hours, if not days, after an accident.
- Call 911: Call 911 and make sure the dispatcher knows how many vehicles and people are involved in the truck accident. The dispatcher will then send the police as well as emergency responders to the scene. You should always obtain a police report, even if the damage or injuries seem minor. This can help you in a future claim.
- Get evidence: Gather evidence of the accident as long as you feel well enough to do so and that it is safe. Get photos of all injuries and property damage, including debris left over from the vehicles that may be out on the road. Get video of the scene if you can too, as it can show the weather and certain conditions.
- Get information: Make sure to get the contact and insurance information of everyone involved in the truck accident. Make sure to get the truck’s license plate number and other identifying information, such as the truck driver’s employer or trucking company.
- Witnesses: If possible, get contact information from witnesses. This will be beneficial for your case.
- Do not admit fault: It is important in all accidents to keep the conversation minimal with only the important details and to answer any questions from the police honestly. You do not want to admit fault or apologize for anything, as it could be used against you in the future.
Statute of Limitations in Ohio
A truck accident can lead to devastating damage and injuries. Because of this, each state as well as the federal government have laws that regulate commercial trucking. If you have been injured in a truck accident, you should know that you have a time limit to file a claim.
The statute of limitations is the time limit to file a lawsuit. In Ohio, the statute of limitations is two years for an injury starting from the date of the accident. A wrongful death claim must also be filed is two years from the date of the person’s death. Failing to report within the statute of limitations will likely lead to a case dismissal.
Cincinnati Truck Accident Lawyers at the Wolterman Law Office Help Those Injured in Runaway Truck Accidents
A runaway truck accident can lead to catastrophic damage and serious injuries. If you have been injured in a truck accident, one of our experienced Cincinnati truck accident lawyers at the Wolterman Law Office can help you. Let us protect your rights. Call us today at 513-488-1135 or fill out our online form for a free consultation. We are located in Loveland, Ohio, and we proudly serve clients in Hamilton County, Fairfield, Norwood, and Forest Park.