Large truck accidents causing catastrophic injury are of increasing concern
Ontario arterial highways are consistently packed with large trucks. Experience and more stringent licencing requirements contribute to a higher skill level for most commercial truck drivers. Yet, even when a fairly small percentage of the vast number of trucks on Ontario roads are involved in collisions, the impact on smaller and lighter vehicle occupants is often deadly and catastrophic. In 2012, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation reported that large truck accidents accounted for, on average, 19 per cent of fatalities in this province, but large trucks represent only about 4 per cent of vehicles in Canada. The risk of fatal or severe injury is significantly higher in collisions involving large trucks than for all other types of vehicles.
When negligence or carelessness result in a truck accident, accident victims and their families can obtain compensation for their significant injuries. Financial compensation is intended to allow the injured person to reach the same level of wellness and function that they enjoyed before the accident. Accident victims are entitled to claim for accident compensation to pay for lost income if they are unable to work in the same capacity, medical and rehabilitation costs, non-earner benefits, home maintenance and housekeeping expenses, and funeral and death benefits.
The Injury Lawyers of Ontario (ILO) are highly experienced personal injury lawyers who specialize in negligence suits and accident claims for car and truck accidents. The ILO has local offices in many Ontario communities, where you can consult with a dedicated lawyer in your own community to help you understand your rights and learn about the process for obtaining an optimal settlement.
Catastrophic truck accidents involving large commercial trucks is a serious concern for everyone in this province. An Ontario study of heavy truck collisions carried out by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation concluded that on a per kilometer driven rate, heavy trucks have a fatality rate that’s more than twice as high as other vehicles. The same study also determined that 70 per cent of large truck fatalities involve tractor trailer trucks, although there are many other types of heavy trucks on the road. In any large truck collision causing a death or serious injury, it is almost always the other vehicle occupants who are killed (in 90 per cent of cases) or injured (in 74 per cent of cases). The driver of the large truck often walks away largely unscathed.
Near 2014 yearend, OPP voiced a concern over the number of commercial vehicle collisions they had responded to, so far, that year: 8,850 truck accidents resulting in 74 deaths. A related news release revealed that OPP too often see large trucks losing control and rolling over when their drivers fail to abide by ramp speed advisory signs or do not slow down on highway on and off ramps. One incident was highlighted where a tractor trailer jack-knifed after driving into a bridge support which resulted in about 15,000 litres of diesel fuel polluting a nearby creek. Chief Superintendent Chuck Cox, Commander of the OPP Highway Safety Division urged commercial motor vehicle drivers to take their responsibilities extremely seriously since large heavy trucks carry a much higher risk of serious injury, death, property damage and major disruption to traffic.
A September 2014 report aired by the CBC voiced some of these same concerns with respect to Northeastern Ontario highways. There, 80 per cent of collisions involve transport trucks and the resulting truck accidents are often catastrophic for the occupants of the other cars involved. However, it was found that the majority of truck accidents were caused by an act of carelessness by the driver of the other vehicle; common causes identified for these truck accidents are distracted driving and unsafe passing when car drivers are stuck behind transport trucks on two lane highways.
On October 3rd, 2015, a catastrophic multi-vehicle accident in the west-bound lanes of Highway 401 resulted in the death of four people. The accident occurred near Whitby, Ontario, and involved 21 vehicles, including three tractor trailer trucks. The fatalities in this collision included two children, ten and twelve year old brothers, as well as a 67 and 63 year old Pickering couple. In addition to leaving four dead, this terrible accident resulted in five people suffering critical and life-threatening injuries and eleven with serious injuries, all of whom were taken to Toronto hospitals.
The accident occurred as traffic was beginning to slow at a construction zone, when a fully loaded transport truck failed to slow down and rammed into the back of the vehicles ahead. This impact caused a chain reaction pushing the other vehicles into one another, leaving many vehicles crushed and barely recognizable. The weather and roads were clear at the time of the collision. Following an extensive investigation, OPP laid charges against the 73 year old driver of the transport truck that caused the collision. The Quebec driver faces four counts of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death as well as 11 counts of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily harm.
Common Causes of Truck Accidents
The Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) summary of accident statistics for 2012 concluded that when large trucks are involved in accidents, the truck drivers are likely to be driving appropriately in 68 per cent of cases, compared to other drivers at 39 per cent. They are also less likely to be driving while impaired. Nevertheless, for the approximately 32 per cent of large truck drivers for whom negligence was a factor in their collisions, the cost in terms of human life is much greater.
These are the most common causes of truck accidents where the commercial truck driver was at fault.
- Driving too fast for the conditions
- Following too closely
The following negligent actions are common causal factors in many car and truck accidents. These behaviours occur more often among drivers of cars and small trucks; however, large truck drivers also sometimes engage in these actions.
- Distracted or inattentive driving
- Impaired driving
- Improper driving actions / failing to obey traffic laws
- Driver fatigue or falling asleep at the wheel
Driver fatigue can be a problem for commercial truck drivers and is similarly a factor in collisions for drivers of cars and small trucks. To address this issue for commercial trucks, truck operators in Canada are restricted to drive no more than 13 hours in a day, and to have an 8 hour off duty break before being able to drive again. Large commercial trucks are also expected to comply with Ontario Ministry of Transportation standards; both police and Ministry officers complete safety inspections to ensure vehicles are safe and being operated by qualified drivers.
Other large trucks are responsible for 50 per cent of truck accident injuries
It’s been said that tractor trailer trucks (also known as semi-trucks, transport trucks and 18 wheelers) are associated with the majority of truck accident fatalities; these trucks are also involved in about half the injuries resulting from large truck accidents. There are many other heavy commercial trucks in operation; these ‘single unit’ trucks are responsible for the remaining half of serious injuries that result from truck accidents. Heavy trucks used in construction projects are less often integrated with normal traffic on Ontario roads and subsequently, less commonly involved in accidents. Included in this classification are cement trucks, cranes and dump trucks. There are also several types of heavy trucks used in municipal services and road maintenance, such as garbage trucks, snow plows and hydro repair trucks. Collisions with tractors pulling farm machinery are not uncommon on rural roads, particularly during fall harvest.
The summer of 2015 saw a number of heavy truck accidents involving ‘single unit’ trucks’.
- A collision between a car and a farm tractor pulling farming machinery just west of St. Catharines resulted in the tragic death of a 55 year old man in May 2015. The tractor driver faced charges of criminal negligence causing death and failing to stop at the scene of an accident.
- A pedestrian was fatally injured by a dump truck in Niagara Falls in June 2015. The 31 year old man was walking on a sidewalk when he somehow came into contact with the dump truck that was leaving a work site.
- In July 2015, a TTC bus collided with a garbage truck in Toronto, resulting in injuries for five people.
Helping truck accident victims obtain compensation for injuries
If you were the victim of a truck accident and experienced serious injuries, you may be entitled to compensation. Your first step should be to get expert medical attention for your injuries, if you have not already done so. It is also important that you closely follow your doctors’ advice while you are healing. Prompt medical treatment generally reduces the chance that injuries will worsen or lead to future complications. If you choose to make a claim for compensation, these medical assessments will contribute to evidence for your injuries and will demonstrate that you are taking active and appropriate steps to promote your recovery.
In a no-obligation consultation, the truck accident lawyers at Injury Lawyers of Ontario (ILO) can assess the unique circumstances of your accident and provide you with a frank assessment of the strength of your claim for damages. You have two options for obtaining compensation for your injuries.
Anyone seriously injured in a car or truck accident, is entitled to obtain compensation by making an accident disability claim to their insurance company under the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule (SABS) defined under the Insurance Act. This claim for benefits can be made regardless whether you were ‘at fault’ in the truck accident, which is why it is generally known as ‘no fault’ insurance.
If your injuries were caused by the negligence of another driver, as is often the case in car and truck accidents, then you may be eligible to sue the ‘at fault’ person for damages. Damages can include payment for expenses, such as lost wages or medical expenses, as well as an amount for pain and suffering. Your ILO personal injury lawyer can explain these options to you as well as the benefits that you may be eligible to claim, based on the severity of your injuries. You will find that it is a relief to know that your claim is in expert hands, while you concentrate on your recovery.