Truck accidents can be very serious and can happen in many different ways. Due to the large size of trucks, victims of truck crashes may suffer serious injuries, including head injuries, broken bones, internal damage or bleeding, soft tissue injuries, or back, neck, and spine injuries.
Sometimes people have questions about “no zone” truck accidents. The “no-zone” name originated with a federal highway safety program warning drivers to avoid the “no-zones” of large trucks, in an effort to reduce truck crashes. When a smaller vehicle is in one of the no-zones and an accident occurs, it’s called a no-zone truck accident.
No-zones are areas where the driver of a large truck such as a semi or box truck has limited or no visibility, due to the truck’s size and design. (No-zones also apply to other large vehicles, like buses.) These include the right or left side of the truck, where visibility is typically blocked by the trailer, the area right in front of the truck, which may not be visible due to the cab’s height, and the rear of the truck, which is also blocked by the trailer. Some trucks carry signs noting that if you can’t see the truck driver or their mirrors, they can’t see you – this is intended to help other drivers identify the no-zones.
You should avoid the truck driver’s blind spots as much as you can. If at all possible, try to avoid passing large trucks, but if it is necessary, do so as quickly as possible. Wait until you can pass the truck swiftly, and never linger in the driver’s blind spot.
When following a large truck, allow a wide following distance so you will be visible to the driver in their mirrors. Never tailgate a truck! Be especially careful to avoid the blind spots when a truck is turning, backing up, or changing lanes as you are more likely to be hit at these times. If you are in front of a big truck, don’t remain too close to the truck. Instead, pull out ahead a little so you will be easier to see.
You may also have seen signs on some trucks that note that the driver makes wide right turns – this is necessary when turning with a large trailer attached. When swinging wide to the left, the driver can’t see vehicles approaching on the right. You should never attempt to pass a truck turning right. Doing so puts you at risk of being in a serious accident where your vehicle could get smashed into the curb. The driver has no way of knowing that you’re there. Also, there’s no reason to pass a vehicle that’s turning off the road anyway – if you wait a few seconds, the truck will be permanently out of your way.
You should also avoid the blind spots of trucks making left turns, although right-turn accidents are more common.
Not always, no. First, determining fault in any type of auto accident is a complicated process, and it’s not always black-and-white. There are some accidents where it is very clearly one driver’s fault. But there are also many crashes where both drivers share some of the fault. In other words, it’s possible for both drivers to make mistakes that lead to an accident.
South Carolina deals with this ambiguity using modified comparative negligence statutes. Since 1991, these laws have made it possible for drivers to receive compensation for their damages, even if they were partly at fault for an accident. So if you are found to be less than 51 percent responsible for an accident, you can still collect damages for your injuries. However, your award will be reduced by the amount of responsibility you’re found to have. That means if you were found to be 15 percent responsible, your award will be diminished by 15 percent.
One important thing to note is that North Carolina, unlike South Carolina, uses pure contributory negligence law. If you happen to get into an accident across the state line in North Carolina, you will not be able to collect any kind of compensation if you are found to be even 1 percent at fault. But again, a skilled truck accident attorney may be able to fight these claims and help secure a settlement for you.
Coming back to no-zone truck accidents, in many cases, the plaintiff, or injured party, may be partly responsible for an accident. But truck drivers also have a responsibility to drive carefully. After all, their vehicles are very large and heavy, and difficult to stop. In many situations, it can take the length of a football field or more for a truck to make a complete stop! Even though it’s understood that truck drivers will have blind spots due to the nature of their vehicles, drivers are still trained and expected to physically turn their heads and check their blind spots before changing lanes or turning. This can at least reduce the area of their blind spots and allow them to spot some potential hazards.
Truck drivers also have to follow a variety of regulations to promote safe driving in general, such as not driving for more than a certain number of hours without rest. They’re required to keep logs of how many hours they drive each day to ensure they don’t go over. Today, most drivers are required to use electronic logs that are more difficult to fake than the older, paper variety. They shouldn’t speed or disobey other traffic laws. If any of these regulations aren’t followed, the truck driver may be partially or fully responsible for the accident.
Additionally, the courts do recognize that sometimes it is necessary to briefly pass through a truck’s blind spot, so drivers are not inherently at fault simply for being in a no-zone when the accident occurs (with the exception of rear-end accidents, where the rear driver is almost always considered to be at fault, regardless of whether a truck is involved). However, if you lingered longer than necessary in a truck’s blind spot, or took an unnecessary risk in passing through one, you are more likely to be found at least partly responsible for the accident.
Last, there may be plenty of fault to go around. Drivers are not the only ones who can be responsible for an accident. In some cases, a lack of vehicle maintenance on the truck or a faulty component may have contributed to the accident. There are some cases, for example, where a truck driver repeatedly reports a problem or something that needs to be fixed on the truck to the trucking company. Then the company fails to get the problem fixed, or puts it off, and an accident happens. If this lack of maintenance or repair work contributes directly to an accident, the trucking company may also share some responsibility. In other situations, a repair shop that did faulty work may be at fault.
Another situation we sometimes see is when a trucking company pressures drivers to make unrealistic delivery goals. This may lead to the driver putting in more hours behind the wheel than they should under federal regulations, falsifying records, or taking other shortcuts that can lead to an accident. As a result, the trucking company may also be partly at fault. This is also true if the company failed to properly train the driver.
As you can see, there are many ways for fault to be divided in any kind of truck accident, including those that take place when a vehicle is in one of the truck’s no-zones. You should not just assume you were at fault if you were in a truck’s no-zone when a crash occurred. Instead, consult a South Carolina truck accident attorney who can help you determine if you have a case.
If you do believe the truck driver or other party was responsible for the accident, the most common way to begin seeking damages is to file a claim with the truck driver’s or trucking company’s insurance policy. Fortunately, commercial truck drivers are required to carry substantial insurance policies with $750,000 – $1,000,000 in combined coverage for bodily injury and property damage. (Comparatively, drivers using a small personal vehicle are only required to have $25,000 per person in bodily injury liability and $50,000 per crash.)
However, the insurance company may reject your claim for various reasons, including on the grounds that the accident was somehow your fault. It may be upsetting if this happens, but remember that the insurance company doesn’t want to pay anything, and a court may not agree with their opinion that you were at fault. Contact a truck accident attorney right away when this occurs – in many cases, your lawyer can put together evidence to refute their claims that you were at fault. They may be able to negotiate to get a fair settlement from the insurance company, and if not, they can represent you in court. (Please note that most personal injury cases settle out of court.)
In some circumstances, there may be an issue with the insurance company refusing to pay not because they believe you were at fault, but because the truck driver or trucking company failed to follow some safety measures insisted upon in the insurance policy. If this happens, your lawyer may recommend directly suing the truck driver, the trucking company, or both.
It’s best to wait until you have a chance to speak with your truck accident attorney. Conversations with the insurance adjuster may seem innocent, but they may not be. The adjuster may be hoping you’ll say something they can use as evidence that you were at fault. They might start by asking a few simple questions, and put you at ease with their friendly disposition. But at the same time, they could be building a case to claim you were responsible. Even if they can’t prove the accident was entirely your fault, they can at least reduce the damages they have to pay if they can convince a jury you had even a small percentage of fault.
There’s another possible pitfall that may come up: They may offer you a settlement. You might be thinking, “What’s wrong with that? Isn’t it what I want?”
Yes, you want a settlement – a fair one that covers all your expenses, including medical bills, lost wages from when you missed work after the accident, pain and suffering, property damages to your vehicle, and loss of companionship in the event that a loved one died in the accident. A very common scenario that we see is when the insurance company makes an initial offer – but it’s much too low. Sometimes it may barely cover your current medical costs. But what if you’re still in treatment? What if you need continued care to treat your pain or even a permanent disability? What about your future healthcare costs? Your pain and suffering? Your lost wages from missing work? It’s hard to have any idea how much money you should be receiving for your injuries on your own. This is another reason an attorney can be helpful – they can assist you in figuring out what a fair settlement would be, then negotiate with the insurance carrier to get it for you.
If you or a loved one have been injured as a passenger in a no-zone or other kind of truck accident, don’t wait – please contact Auger and Auger right away for a free consultation. We’re happy to look over your case and explain your options for seeking damages. There’s no obligation. If you do choose to let us represent you, we have a zero fee guarantee – if we don’t win your case, we won’t charge you any fees. Call 855-969-5671 or contact us online today.