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Jason R. Schultz P.C

Causes of & Liability for Rollover Truck Accidents

Rollover truck accidents are, fortunately, not a frequent occurrence. Overturn, also called rollover, was the cause of only four percent of fatal large truck crashes and two percent of all nonfatal truck crashes in 2015, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

Nevertheless, rollover truck accidents carry significant risk for truck drivers, drivers of other vehicles, and other road users. In the event of an accident, the investigation must center around the cause and contributing factors of the accident. Once established, it will affect which parties are liable for the wreck and any damages that victims suffered.

What Causes Large Truck Rollovers?

According to the National Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), three things combine to cause truck rollover crashes: the vehicle, environment, and driver characteristics/behavior. The NHTSA has a complicated formula it uses to calculate the likelihood of a rollover. The variables in the equation include:

  • Speed limit. An increase of 10 miles per hour in the speed limit can increase the likelihood of a rollover by over 170 percent.
  • Curvature of the road. A truck is six times more likely to have a rollover accident on a curved road than on a straight road.
  • Weather. Trucks are three times more likely to rollover in adverse weather than in good weather.
  • Light (daylight, dark but lighted or otherwise). Poor lighting can increase rollover odds by 40 percent.
  • Weight, length, and width of the vehicle. A longer truck, however, is less likely to roll over than a shorter truck, probably due to the shift in the center of gravity.

Thus, truck drivers or carriers that fail to account for such variables could increase the risk of a rollover. For example, a truck driver who exceeds the speed limit or fails to slow down for a curve in the road could increase the risk of a rollover. Or a truck carrier that overloads a truck could increase the risk of an overturn accident.

Who Is Liable for a Truck Rollover Accident?

That depends on what caused the truck to roll over. Some common causes and possible liable parties are:

  • Driver error. There are many ways in which driver error can lead to a truck rollover accident. If the driver was negligent and the negligence caused the crash, the truck carrier that employs the driver will be vicariously liable for the accident. Common types of driver negligence include speeding, distraction, inattention, drowsiness, drug or alcohol impairment, and carelessness.
  • Tire failure. A tire blowout can cause the truck to careen and topple. If the tire failed due to ordinary wear and tear, the tire manufacturer is not likely to be liable; in that case, the carrier may be liable for failing to maintain and inspect the truck. But if the tire was defective, the tire maker may be responsible.
  • Brake failure. Similarly, a truck carrier may be liable for failing to maintain and inspect the truck’s braking system. But if the brakes were defective, the brake manufacturer can be liable.
  • “Slosh” effect of liquid cargo. If the slosh effect caused a rollover and the truck did not meet the required standards for the transport of liquid cargo, the truck carrier could be responsible.
  • Imbalanced loads. Truck loads must be properly balanced and secured to prevent shifting during transport. And drivers have a duty to inspect the cargo and verify it is properly loaded and secured. If a truck’s improperly loaded cargo led to a rollover, the carrier could be liable.
  • Defective roadways. Potholes, loose gravel, standing water, snow, or ice might cause the truck driver to lose control of the vehicle. Debris, rockslides, and objects on the road can force the driver to swerve suddenly, which can lead to rollovers. Your lawyer can investigate to identify whether a government agency or other party caused the adverse roadway conditions or failed to maintain the road, which could leave the party liable.

What Is the NHTSA Doing to Prevent Rollover Truck Accidents?

To address the problem of rollover truck accidents, the NHTSA issued new requirements for heavy and large buses. Beginning August 1, 2017, most large trucks will have to contain Electronic Stability Control (ESC) systems. The ESC systems for large trucks and buses will add two important safety features:

  • Roll stability control
  • Automatic braking of individual wheels and reduction of engine torque to help the driver maintain control of the vehicle

The NHTSA expects heavy vehicle ESC systems to prevent over half of untripped rollover crashes and nearly 15 percent of loss-of-directional-control wrecks. The NHTSA estimates that these regulations will prevent over 1,750 collisions and almost 50 deaths a year once all large trucks and buses have ESC systems.

Legal Help for Victims of Rollover Truck Accidents

Large truck accidents are far more dangerous for people in passenger vehicles than occupants of large trucks. Seventy-one percent of the deaths in 2015 and 72 percent of the injuries were occupants of other vehicles, not the large trucks, reports the NHTSA.

If you suffered injuries in a rollover truck accident that was not your fault, contact the personal injury team at the Law Office of Jason R. Schultz, P.C. and we will set up your free consultation. Call us today at 404-474-0804.


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