When we think about all the possible causes of accidents, the usual culprits — at least — involve one of the drivers. Perhaps someone was overtired or drunk. Perhaps they were texting. Maybe they were going too fast, took a turn too sharply, or did something that cost them control of their car. Our blame is usually directed towards them and their drivers when something goes wrong.
Sometimes, though, the driver is not solely to blame. Sometimes the other culprit is the road itself, causing even the most experienced driver helpless to crash.
What do road defects look like in Tennessee?
The most famous of all road defects is the pothole: a broken piece of asphalt that causes a tire to slip or fills with water during a storm and “tricks” a driver into thinking the road is level and even. Road defects, however, can be categorized:
- Unsafe design. Unsafe road design is a leading cause of crashes. It can include roads with poor drainage, narrow shoulders, poorly designed intersections, or dangerous curves.
- Hazardous conditions. Bad weather is a primary cause of hazardous conditions, but it is not the only one. Missing or broken lights, faded lines to mark lanes, overgrown shrubbery and landscaping, and missing guardrails can all create hazardous conditions.
- Failure to warn. Sometimes, the road itself is fine, but there are dangers ahead in a work zone, or because of a train crossing. Perhaps a big storm took down tree branches or caused a rockslide. These hazards require warnings.
Not all types of road defects fit neatly into one category. For example, potholes and crumbling asphalt can be caused by road overuse or by poor design, if the materials used are not the right ones for the soil.
Road defects can lead to catastrophic truck accidents
We know that any cause of a car, truck, or motorcycle accident can lead to devastating injuries. These are a few of the most common types of collisions that are known for causing catastrophic and even fatal injuries:
- Rear-end collisions
- Head-on collisions
- T-bone crashes
- Blind spot crashes
- Intersection collisions
- Overloaded/unsecured cargo
- Back-up accidents
- Wide-turn crashes
Often, the cause of a collision is a driver’s negligence. The overall state of the roads themselves, however, start to play a role when they fall into disrepair and neglect. For example, an abundance of deep potholes is a major danger and contributing factor, as people either swerve suddenly to avoid them or drive too fast right over. Crumbling edges and uneven, narrow lanes pose their own dangers, as do improperly placed construction signs, repair materials in the road, and lanes closing without adequate warning.
All these factors and more can cause a driver to lose control regardless of the vehicle they’re in, but the risks are even higher when the driver is in a truck. Because of a truck’s size and weight, they must be maneuvered with a precise level of care and control. Sudden factors that cause other drivers to swerve or the lanes to narrow can affect certain essential truck safety measures, such as leaving appropriate space to stop or having room to move around another vehicle. If the road in question is a highway, the truck driver is likely traveling much faster, and speed make everything more dangerous.
Motorcycle riders are also at risk
Passenger vehicles are at risk of a collision with a truck from a road defect, but motorcycle riders may have it even worse. They have little to no protection from outside elements and are more likely to suffer a catastrophic injury in a wreck. Despite the maneuverability of these vehicles, a slip on wet leaves or a tire going into a pothole can be enough to throw the rider and/or passenger. If a motorcycle rider is hit by a truck, the results are almost guaranteed to be fatal.
What the FMCSA says are the cause of critical events involving trucks
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) carried out a study on the different causes of truck accidents throughout the country to break down exactly how these tragic accidents occur. Among the key variables considered for the study was something they called a “critical event,” defined as “The action or event that put the vehicle or vehicles on a course that made the collision unavoidable. The critical event is assigned to the vehicle that took the action that made the crash inevitable.”
Three major types of these critical events were assigned to large trucks:
- Vehicle loss of control, due to speeding, cargo shift, systems failure, or poor road conditions.
- Running out of the travel lane, either off-road or into another lane.
- Colliding with the rear end of another vehicle in the truck’s travel lane.
Notice how two of these three causes are related to the roads themselves. Even when road defects are not the direct cause of a crash, they can still play a role in making things worse. As previously stated, it is generally assumed that at least one driver in any accident is at fault and accepting fault for an accident can cost you thousands of dollars.
What should you do if a road defect caused a truck accident in Nashville?
If you believe a road defect or design caused your truck accident, the best thing you can do is document everything and get legal help as quickly as possible. Take pictures of the scene of the accident from as many angles as possible if you’re able to do so. Keep all medical forms and paperwork and bring them to us. Road defect claims are very different from traditional truck accident lawsuits, so you’ll want to schedule your free consultation as soon as you can. Because of Tennessee’ comparative negligence laws, there could be multiple liable parties in your claim, and we can help you make your claim for damages.
Rocky McElhaney Law Firm is your advocate when you’ve suffered an injury because of a truck accident. To schedule a free initial consultation at one of our offices in Nashville, Hendersonville, or Clarksville, please call 615-425-2500 or fill out our contact form.