According to statistics from the United States government, there are more than two million semi-trucks on the nation’s roads. These huge vehicles can weigh more than 80,000 pounds when they are loaded with cargo. Their massive weight and size are one reason why an accident involving a commercial truck often results in severe injury and/or death for occupants in the other vehicle.
Tragically, too many of those tractor-trailers are involved in truck accidents that result in fatalities. In one study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that spanned over a 33-month period of time, there were 120,000 fatal crashes that involved at least one tractor-trailer truck. In total, there were more than 140,000 18-wheelers involved in those accidents.
There are safety requirements the government has in place that all commercial trucks are required to follow. However, one of those safety requirements – truck bumpers – could actually be putting potential victims in more danger if they have been damaged or not installed correctly.
While truck bumpers are critical for the safety of any vehicles that are driving behind the truck, they can also create a danger. Tractor-trailers and semis sit higher off the ground than most of the other vehicles they share the roads with. When a passenger vehicle hits the back of a truck, the truck’s bumper needs to protect the vehicle from sliding under the truck, resulting in catastrophic and almost always fatal results. If a truck comes to a sudden stop or if the truck has broken down, because the bumper is higher, a vehicle smashing into the truck can actually go under and get stuck under the truck.
The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) has set the safety requirements for truck bumpers, also referred to as rear impact guards. These guards must comply with all of the requirements that were in effect the year the truck was manufactured.
The guards must be positioned so they extend horizontally within four inches of each side of the truck. The guard must also not be higher than 22 inches from the ground. The bumper must also be a minimum of 3.94 inches tall and placed within one foot from the rear of the truck. The bumper must also have certification confirming it complies with the standards set by the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS).
One of the most common – and dangerous – factors with truck bumpers is that they can become damaged. If this happens, the bumper may cause more serious consequences in the event of a rear-end crash. It is up to the truck company that owns the truck to make the needed repairs to the bumper in order to make sure it still complies with the FMVSS standards. If the bumper is not able to be repaired in order to be recertified, the owner is required to replace it. Failure to do so could leave the truck owner liable for negligence in the event of a truck accident and victim injuries or death.
Dangers of Steel Bumpers
Although the majority of truck bumpers are made of steel, there have been studies that show that steel bumpers are much more dangerous than bumpers made of energy-absorbing materials and can actually cause the accident to be much worse. Unlike steel, which can cause more damage, these new materials absorb some of the force of the impact rather than magnify it.
Call a Virginia Truck Accident Attorney
If you have been injured in a truck accident, you are likely facing major medical expenses and a long recovery. This can also mean loss of income and benefits because you are unable to work. When the accident was caused by another party’s negligent or reckless behavior, Virginia allows victims to take legal action in order to be financially compensated for all of these losses. Victims can also pursue damages for losses that are not economic, such as pain and suffering, scarring emotional anguish, and more.
Truck accidents can be more complex than other types of motor vehicle accidents because depending on the circumstances of the crash, there may be multiple parties who are liable for a victim’s injuries.
If you would like to discuss your situation, contact our office to speak with a seasoned Virginia truck accident attorney. Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn has been advocating for accident victims for more than three decades and will work diligently to get you the compensation you deserve.