In 1994, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) began a public awareness campaign to educate drivers about the dangers of no-zones. The term no-zone refers to the large blind spots found on large tractor-trailer trucks, which make it difficult for truck drivers to see other passenger vehicles driving nearby. All vehicles have blind spots, but those on a semi-truck are significantly larger and more dangerous than blind spots on a passenger vehicle. In fact, the FMSCA estimates that one-third of all crashes between cars and trucks take place in the no-zone.
If you were injured in a trucking accident, Nebraska law entitles you to seek damages from at-fault parties in civil court, as long as you take legal action within the prescribed statute of limitations. Call the Robert Pahlke Law Group today at (308) 633-4444 to discuss the details of your case and to learn about the steps that you can take after being involved in a truck accident caused by a blind spot.
Where Are the Blind Spots on an 18-Wheeler?
Semi-trucks have four primary blind spots:
- Immediately in front of the truck’s cab, extending forward for about 20 feet
- Just below and behind the driver’s window
- The right side of the truck’s cab, extending backward diagonally
- Directly behind the truck’s trailer, extending for about 30 feet
These areas are referred to as blind spots because it’s nearly impossible for truck drivers to see anything located in these areas. Truckers are expected to do their best to check their blind spots before turning, changing lanes, or braking, but even with due diligence, they aren’t always able to see cars or other vehicles that are in their blind spots.
Why Do Semi Trucks Have Larger Blind Spots Than Passenger Vehicles?
You might be wondering why semi trucks are built the way that they are if blind spots are so dangerous and well-known. All vehicles have blind spots, but drivers of passenger vehicles can more easily turn their heads and see out of their side windows, or they are more likely to use their rearview mirrors to check their blind spots. Some factors that make a semi’s blind spots bigger than a car’s include:
- The length of the average semi truck spans from 70 to 80 feet long, which creates a large space of limited visibility. Trucks with triple trailers are more than 100 feet long, giving them some of the largest blind spots on the road.
- Big rigs are also much taller than cars, so when truck drivers are sitting in their cab, it’s difficult to see low-riding vehicles that are driving immediately in front of them or next to them.
- Semis do not have rearview mirrors to check blind spots.
Common Causes of Blind Spot Truck Accidents
A wide variety of scenarios might lead to a blind spot truck accident, but typically, these accidents stem from the fact that a truck driver did not see a smaller vehicle when changing lanes or turning, resulting in a collision with that vehicle. Some common causes include:
- Vehicles following each other too closely, whether a car is tailgating a semi or vice versa
- A truck driver’s aggressive driving, such as hitting the brakes to signal that a driver should back off or cutting off another vehicle
- A truck driver’s failure to check his or her blind spots before making a lane change
- Passenger cars traveling in a large truck’s blind spots
Types of Injuries in Truck Accidents Caused by Blind Spots
When a truck driver doesn’t see a vehicle in one of the truck’s blind spots, it might result in an underride collision, a sideswipe accident, a rollover accident, or a passenger vehicle being run off the road by the truck. The massive size and weight of large trucks cause bigger accidents with more property damage, more severe injuries, and a higher likelihood of fatalities than accidents involving only passenger vehicles. When individuals live through truck accidents, they might have suffered one or more of the following injuries:
- One or more fractures
- Deep lacerations that may leave permanent scars
- Neck injuries, such as whiplash
- Back injuries, including cracked vertebrae and herniated discs
- Spinal cord injuries that might lead to partial or temporary paralysis
- Head injuries that often result in moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
- Internal bleeding and organ damage
- Crushed limbs that might require amputation
- Burns, when a collision causes an explosion or fire
Who Is Liable for a Blind Spot Truck Accident in Nebraska?
The defendants in a truck accident case may argue that the accident victim was at fault for driving in the truck’s blind spot. If a motorist stays in the no-zones, he or she increases the odds of being involved in a truck accident. However, riding in a truck’s blind spot does not always make you responsible for the accident. If the truck driver failed to check his mirrors and clear his blind spots before maneuvering the truck, he or she may still be at fault for causing the crash. For example, truckers typically swing left before making a right turn at an intersection. If a truck driver doesn’t check to see if a vehicle is on the right, he or she may crush the smaller vehicle, sideswipe the vehicle, or force the vehicle off of the road.
Seeking Compensation in Nebraska Blind Spot Truck Accident Cases
When you hire a qualified Nebraska truck accident attorney to represent you in a personal injury suit, you may recover the following damages if a Nebraska court rules in your favor:
- Medical costs, including ambulance and emergency services, hospital stays, doctor visits, surgery, radiology, prescription medication, and more
- Future medical expenses when injuries are so severe that they require a lengthy recovery, multiple surgeries, or result in a permanent disability
- Rehabilitation costs, such as physical therapy and assistive devices—like crutches, wheelchairs, canes, and artificial limbs
- Lost wages from missing work due to hospitalization and recovery
- Future lost wages when a severe or catastrophic injury prevents a victim from performing his or her job
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium with a spouse
- Scarring, disfigurement, loss of quality of life, and other non-economic damages related to the injury
When a loved one loses their life in a trucking accident, surviving family members may be able to recover certain economic and non-economic damages, as well as funeral and burial expenses, by filing a wrongful death suit. Your truck accident attorney will advise you on the best course of action for you and your family.
Modified Comparative Negligence in Nebraska Blind Spot Truck Accidents
Determining liability in personal injury suits is rarely black and white. In most states in the U.S., comparative negligence recognizes the gray area of fault. Comparative negligence, sometimes referred to as comparative fault, is the notion of shared liability. Even if a Nebraska court finds that a defendant truck driver was negligent in a blind spot accident, a plaintiff might still be at fault to some extent. Once the court determines that a defendant acted negligently in a personal injury suit, it assigns a percentage fault to each party in the suit. The court will reduce a damages award by a plaintiff’s percentage of fault. If the court finds that a plaintiff was 50 percent or more at fault for the blind spot accident, Nebraska law bars him or her from recovering any damages.
Common Defense Strategies for Blind Spot Truck Accidents
Trucking companies and their insurance carriers don’t like to pay claims, so they often go the distance to avoid liability. Nebraska’s modified comparative negligence rule gives the defense an incentive to shift the blame to the victim, especially in blind spot accident cases. Here are some common arguments that the defense might use to convince the court that a victim is partially or wholly responsible for a blind spot truck accident:
- The passenger vehicle driver is at fault because he or she failed to avoid the truck’s blind spot.
- The passenger vehicle driver should have increased speed or slowed down to ensure that the trucker saw the vehicle in his or her mirrors and/or windows.
- Truckers have stressful jobs with many responsibilities, and thus it is the passenger driver’s responsibility to watch for trucks and drive with care.
Defendants may also attempt to attribute partial fault to plaintiffs by suggesting that they were violating traffic regulations, such as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, speeding, or texting while driving. Regardless of defense strategies, an experienced truck accident lawyer will argue against these attacks and aggressively pursue the best outcome given the specific situation and circumstances.
Get the Legal Help You Need After a Nebraska Trucking Accident
When you bring your case to the Robert Pahlke Law Group for help, we will investigate the accident to find proof that the truck driver caused the crash by failing to check the truck’s blind spots. Our team is dedicated to helping you seek compensation for the full cost of your injuries through an aggressive personal injury lawsuit. We represent victims of truck accidents throughout Nebraska, including for accidents that occurred on I-90, I-80, I-76, and I-25. Call the Robert Pahlke Law Group at (308) 633-4444, or contact us online, to schedule a free consultation and to discuss the details of your case with one of our skilled truck accident attorneys.