Construction zones on Indiana highways require drivers to slow down and remain alert for speed limit reductions, lane changes, workers and construction equipment entering the roadway and other potential dangers. The hazards inherent in a highway work zone increase if a semi-truck or tractor-trailer approaches.
Because of their size and weight, 18 wheelers and other large commercial trucks require more room than other vehicles to slow down and come to a stop. A moment’s inattentiveness by a truck driver, whether caused by fatigue, distracted driving or any other factor, can be enough to cause a tractor-trailer to barrel into a construction zone and cause a serious accident.
The greater size and weight of large trucks also translates into greater destruction, injury and death in a collision. Federal statistics show that 72% of people killed in large-truck crashes in 2017 were occupants of other vehicles. In many cases, the truck driver walks away from a crash that has injured or killed someone else.
At Craig, Kelley & Faultless LLC, our truck accident lawyers have extensive experience representing injured victims of large truck crashes. Indiana truck accident attorney David W. Craig has handled hundreds of commercial vehicle accidents, representing clients from Indianapolis, Batesville, Richmond, Fort Wayne and throughout Indiana.
Our truck accident attorneys can investigate the cause of a highway construction zone accident involving a commercial truck or a construction truck. If the truck driver or another party other than you was responsible for the accident that caused your injuries, we can help you seek full compensation for your losses.
Craig, Kelley & Faultless is an experienced law firm that has successfully represented victims of truck accidents. Our law firm has the resources and commitment to determine what occurred in a large truck crash. Contact us online or by telephone at (800) 746-0226 for a free consultation about your accident and injuries. We have offices in Indianapolis and four other locations.
Why Truck Accidents Are Common in Indiana Construction Zones
The traffic congestion near a highway work zone illustrates the disruption that highway construction can cause. A construction zone may require closing one or more lanes of traffic and diverting traffic, which can create a bottleneck that causes a slow-down. Highway construction zones are more likely in the warmer months of the year. Significant traffic backups are more likely during weekday morning and afternoon commuter rush hours.
To be safe, a work zone must be designed and erected to control the movement of motor vehicles through the designated area of construction, maintenance or utility work and to keep traffic separated from workers and work equipment operating in the work zone.
Typically, a highway construction zone consists of four segments:
- Advance warning area, with signs and/or flaggers alerting drivers to the designated area ahead
- Transition area using barriers, channeling devices and/or lights to divert traffic from its normal path and away from construction work
- Protected workspace for workers, equipment, and storage
- Termination area, which lets traffic resume normal route and speed.
In some cases, flaggers and/or lead vehicles will control the flow of traffic to allow safe travel through a construction zone.
Most construction zone accidents involving trucks are due to the truck driver failing to reduce speed adequately when entering a work zone. Sudden lane changes and traffic shifts in a construction zone may cause problems for a trucker who is going too fast or is not alert.
On a dry, level road heading into a construction zone, the stopping distance required for a large truck (80,000 pounds fully loaded) traveling at 55 mph will be almost 50% longer than what is needed for a passenger car. At 40 mph, it will still be 36% farther.
Large trucks also have higher centers of gravity, which makes a truck more likely to sway or rock due to pavement changes and crossover slopes or significant lane shifts. Shifting cargo, particularly liquid loads, can exacerbate the effects on a truck’s handling.
Finally, trucks have more numerous and larger blind spots, which can make it more difficult to merge out of a closed lane or to see another vehicle attempting to merge into an open lane.
The most common types of work zone crashes involving large trucks are:
- Rear-end collisions. Most often, a semi-truck traveling too fast for conditions simply runs into the rear of the vehicle or vehicles ahead of it in traffic.
- These accidents may occur if the construction zone includes a lane-shift and the trucker has trouble while merging or swerves to avoid a rear-end collision and in doing so hits another vehicle.
- Head-on collisions. Typically, a head-on collision is the result of a trucker swerving to avoid another collision, failing to negotiate an abrupt change in traffic direction or the truck skidding across the centerline as it brakes. Head-on collisions are more likely during night-time hours.
Trucks in which the driver has braked too hard can lock up and skid. A tractor trailer may go into a “jackknife” skid in which tractor cab and trailer uncontrollably slide toward each other. Trucks may be tripped by stops, collisions and/or resulting cargo shifts, and roll over. Rollover accidents damage anything hit by the toppled truck and trailer or anything that runs into it, and cargo inevitably spills to cause additional damage or road hazards.
How Often Construction Zone Truck Accidents Occur
The National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse says there were 672 fatal crashes in work zones across the country in 2018, of which 203 (30%) involved trucks. Fatal truck accidents in construction zones caused 228 deaths in 2018 and an average of 236 each year from 2015-2017.
In Indiana in 2018, there were 21 fatal construction zone accidents, which matches the previous three years’ average. Nine of them (43%) involved large trucks. Truck-involved accidents killed 10 people in 2018.
The Clearinghouse estimates that there were 18,000 construction zone crashes involving large trucks in 2017 and 2,000 of them (11%) caused 4,000 injuries.
Overall, the Clearinghouse says commercial motor vehicles, which includes buses and trucks, are involved in almost 40 percent of fatal work zone crashes on urban interstates and over 50 percent of fatal work zone crashes occurring on rural interstates. Large commercial vehicles are also more likely than other vehicles to be involved in fatal work zone crashes on other principal highways in rural areas.
The National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse is a project of the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) in cooperation with the U.S. Federal Highway Administration and Texas A&M Transportation Institute.
Who’s Liable in a Truck Crash in a Construction Zone
Accident statistics and our experience investigating truck accidents tell us that in most cases a driver, usually the truck driver, is at fault for a commercial truck accident.
If the trucker is employed by a trucking company, the company is liable for its employee’s actions, including liability for a truck accident caused by the truck driver’s negligence. A motor carrier would also likely be liable if a malfunction of the truck, such as brake or tire failure, was found to have caused an accident.
In many cases, a motor carrier will insist that its truckers are independent operators and, therefore, the driver and only the driver is liable in an accident. Often a thorough investigation can demonstrate that the driver is an employee or that, legally, he or she should be treated as an employee. You may be entitled to make claims against the truck driver’s insurance and the trucking company’s insurance, if they have separate insurance.
Occasionally, an investigation into a construction zone accident finds that the contractors erred in the design and erection of the highway work zone and should be held liable for an accident. There are standards for highway work zone design and, if they were ignored and an accident occurred because of this negligence, a case could be made.
However, this points up an important factor regarding highway construction zones: they are temporary and can be changed at a moment’s notice. It is likely for some change to the configuration of a work zone to be made after a serious crash, especially if there is some indication that it can or should be made safer.
This makes it important to contact an attorney as soon as possible after being injured in a highway construction zone crash. At Craig, Kelley & Faultless, we can move immediately to document the scene of your accident before it changes and evidence is lost.
How an Indiana Truck Accident Lawyer Can Help You
The dedicated legal team at Craig, Kelley & Faultless LLC can investigate the construction zone truck accident you were involved in to determine what happened and who may owe compensation to you. If you were injured due to another party’s negligence, we will aggressively seek just compensation for you.
We pursue truck accident claims for clients on a contingency fee basis, meaning that we only get paid after we win your case.
Contact us today by telephone at (800) 746-0226 or online for a free consultation about your accident. If you are unable to come to us, we will come to you.