On January 20, Chester Lee Mills Sr. was supposed to bury his wife, who had lost her battle with lung cancer. Instead, Mills was left to mourn the additional loss of his two children who died in a tragic truck accident en route to their stepmother’s funeral. Amanda S. Mills, age 25; Logan R. Mills, age 21; and Anthony Suggs, age 25, were travelling to Georgia to attend the funeral when they were hit by a semi-truck after losing control of their car on icy roads. Witnesses said that the tractor-trailer turned over onto the passenger vehicle, pinning the three people in the car until emergency vehicles were able to get to the scene.
While the truck driver made it out of the accident without injuries, Suggs and the Mills siblings were pronounced dead at the scene. The funeral was postponed once the Mills’ father learned of the accident and the death of his two children. The Indiana Highway Patrol said that the snowstorm and poor road conditions were at least partially to blame for the accident.
Common Causes of Truck Accidents
In 2009, there were more than 10,500 motor vehicle accidents between semi-trucks and passenger vehicles in Indiana, resulting in 82 deaths and more than 1500 injuries. According to the 2009 Indiana Crash Facts book, drivers of the semi-trucks were responsible for 30 percent of all fatal accidents and 52 percent of non-fatal accidents involving passenger vehicles.
While in some cases, a truck accident may be caused by the weather or other conditions outside of the control of the truck or passenger vehicle, in other cases, truck accidents are the direct result of the truck driver’s negligence. Some of the most common causes of trucking accidents include:
- Fatigued driving: truck drivers are under a lot of pressure to deliver their loads on time, or even early. This pressure can cause them to continue to operate a truck long after they should have pulled over for some rest. Even though federal regulations limit the amount of time truck drivers can spend behind the wheel in any given day and week, it is no secret that these regulations are often ignored – to the detriment of other drivers.
- Distracted driving: recently the federal government banned all commercial drivers, including truck and bus drivers, from texting while driving. But there are other distractions besides texting and driving that can take a truck driver’s attention away from the roadway, including the on-board computer systems used by truck drivers to communicate with their employers. In some cases, these systems allow truckers to connect to the Internet, where they can check their e-mail and surf the web, all while driving a 10,000+ pound vehicle down the road at 70 miles per hour.
- Improperly loaded vehicles: federal regulations place limits on the amount of weight that can be loaded on certain commercial vehicles. When these regulations are ignored and a truck is overloaded, it can be difficult for the truck driver to control the vehicle. It is just as important that the cargo is correctly loaded and secured in the truck to prevent it from shifting during the haul. Shifting loads also can make it difficult for the truck driver to control the vehicle, including when trying to stop the vehicle, which can result in an accident.
- Poorly maintained vehicles: commercial trucking companies are required by law to perform regular maintenance and inspect their fleets to ensure that their trucks are mechanically sound and running safely. Brakes and tires are two of the most important parts that should be checked regularly by commercial carriers. When these routine inspections are not performed, or when a known or suspected problem with a truck is not repaired, it can result in a catastrophic car accident.
- Speeding and other risky driving behaviors: just as other drivers, truck drivers are required to drive within the speed limit and follow other rules of the road. While speeding is one of the most common traffic laws that is broken, truck drivers also can cause accidents when they follow passenger vehicles too closely, cut them off when changing lanes or swerve into their lanes.
The Next Steps After a Truck Accident
If you have been involved in a truck accident, you have important legal options available to you. This includes the right to file a civil lawsuit against the truck driver responsible for causing the accident, as well as the trucking company that employed him or her. Depending on the circumstances of the accident, other parties also may share responsibility for the accident, including the manufacturer of the truck. An Indiana truck accident attorney experienced in handling accident cases can review your claim and determine all of the parties that may be responsible for your losses.