T-Bone Tractor-Trailer Accidents

Tulsa T-Bone Tractor-Trailer Accidents

A T-bone tractor-trailer accident occurs when a large commercial truck collides with the side of a vehicle. The front of the tractor-trailer crashes directly into the side of a passenger car or truck, forming a “T” shape. Generally, side-impact or broadside collisions are nicknamed “T-bone” accidents for this reason.

Why Are T-Bone Collisions Involving Large Trucks So Dangerous?

T-bone collisions involving large trucks usually result in serious or debilitating injuries. Passengers seated on the side of impact are especially vulnerable to catastrophic injury or death. While most modern motor vehicles are designed with safety measures to protect passengers from broadside collisions, they are ineffective against an impact from a large commercial vehicle.

Tractor-Trailers Frequently Crush Smaller Vehicles

The disproportionate size and weight of tractor-trailers and passenger vehicles mean the smaller vehicle is often crushed. Tractor-trailers can weigh between 60,000 and 80,000 pounds when fully loaded. A passenger car can weigh as little as 3,000 pounds. Even a large SUV may only weigh 10,000 pounds. In a T-bone truck accident, the tractor-trailer still weighs eight times more than the largest SUVs on the market.

Additionally, tractor-trailers typically have tall front structures compared to passenger vehicles. The height of large commercial trucks can overwhelm smaller vehicles, causing them to easily ride over the side of a car in a T-bone tractor-trailer accident.

The Sides of Most Passenger Cars are Structurally Weak

Millions of cars lack side impact protection. Passenger vehicles, including large SUVs, typically have reinforced front and rear frames outfitted with crumple zones. A crumple zone is a part of a car that is designed to crumple on impact and take the bulk of the force of a collision. Unfortunately, reinforced frames stop short and leave a structural gap along the middle of the vehicle where a crumple zone is non-existent.

Reinforced frames allow vehicles to deflect away from a striking vehicle, protecting the passengers inside. Without adequate structural support, the side of a car will buckle inwards and into the seated passengers. Occupants can suffer catastrophic bodily damage. When the force of a T-bone tractor-trailer accident is great enough, the smaller car may literally split in half.

What Injuries Are Associated with T-Bone Tractor-Trailer Accidents?

Critical and life-threatening injuries are typically associated with T-bone tractor-trailer accidents.

  • Head And Brain Injuries
  • Neck Injuries
  • Spinal Cord Injuries
  • Lacerations
  • Broken And Fractured Bones
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

However, the most common injuries in T-bone tractor-trailer accidents are crush injuries. Passengers on the side of the car that the truck hits are often “crushed” and pinned by the force of the impact.

Why Are Crush Injuries So Severe?

Crush injuries are some of the most severe, painful, and deadly physical traumas an accident victim can experience. An accident victim can suffer crush injuries in two ways.

Sudden Extreme Force

Crushing injuries can result from excessive blunt force. A T-bone tractor-trailer accident can push the side of the car into the passenger area, causing direct physical trauma to the soft tissue or bones:

  • Crushed bones: Bones can easily break and fracture on impact. Under extreme pressure, bones can suffer multiple open fractures, causing the bones to splinter or shatter and protrude through the body. Fractures are notorious for developing complications like blood clots and infections.
  • Lacerations: Intense compression force can cause the soft tissue to rip open, causing deep cuts. Open wounds are susceptible to infection.
Prolonged Compression

Conversely, crushing injuries can develop when the upper body and extremities experience prolonged compression. Intense pressure on limbs and torso cuts off the flow of blood and deprives muscle tissue and organs of oxygen:

  • Amputation of limbs: The prolonged compression of a person’s arms and legs will cut off blood and oxygen flow. Without oxygen, nerve and tissue cells begin to die. If an accident victim is trapped in the rubble of a T-bone accident for more than six hours, paramedics might not be able to restore blood flow to the compressed limb before muscle death. Arms and legs may need to be amputated.
  • Organ failure: Organs work together in multiple systems, e.g., the digestive and circulatory systems. When organs are deprived of oxygen for too long, the delicate tissue will die. Unlike arms and legs, people rarely survive the death of multiple organs, i.e., organ failure.
Crush Syndrome

Crush syndrome describes a medical paradox where both the deprivation of blood and oxygen and the return of blood and oxygen can cause multiple organ failures and death.

Dying muscle tissue will release proteins and electrolytes into the bloodstream. While proteins and electrolytes are good for muscles, they are considered toxins in the bloodstream and cause permanent damage to the kidneys and the heart. When a body part suffers a prolonged crushing force, the toxins have nowhere to go and will continuously build.

If blood flow is restored to compressed body parts four to six hours later, the toxins that have been building can flood the body, causing shock, multiple organ failure, and death. Injury victims can suffer for hours waiting for paramedics to safely remove them from the crash site without causing more harm by inducing crush syndrome.

While both types of crush injuries are serious, prolonged oxygen deprivation is the most severe. T-bone tractor-trailer accidents are notorious for causing crush injuries in passenger vehicle occupants.

T-Bone Accidents by the Numbers

T-bone accidents impact the weakest point of a passenger car’s structure, causing devastating injuries. According to a study on side-impact collisions, an average of 8,000 people are killed in T-bone accidents every year. In addition, more than 69,000 people are serious or critically injured.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) researched fatal collisions involving large commercial vehicles and passenger cars, focusing on fatality rates. Data collected in the last reporting year shows that 24% of passenger vehicles involved in a T-bone tractor-trailer accident suffered occupant fatalities.

Tractor-trailers are massive commercial vehicles that weigh 20-30 times more than the average car. Truck drivers often escape collisions unscathed while the passenger car occupants take the bulk of the damage. Large truck accidents are so severe that passenger car occupants account for 97% of all fatalities.

Common Causes of T-Bone Tractor-Trailer Accidents in Oklahoma

Common causes of T-bone tractor-trailer accidents primarily involve truck driver negligence. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) conducted a large-scale commercial vehicle causation study, focusing on serious and fatal truck collisions.

The parameters of the causation study used the following factors:

  • Large tractor-trailers involved in a truck accident with a passenger vehicle
  • Occupants of the passenger were seriously or fatally injured

A nationally representative sample was chosen from severe truck accidents over the previous three years.

Types of Driver Error Causes

The results showed that most severe and fatal truck accidents were caused by driver errors broken down as follows:

  • 12% of accidents were due to driver non-performance: Non-performance errors may include truckers passing out while operating the vehicle due to driver fatigue, alcohol impairment, drug use, or medical reasons.
  • Recognition errors were made by 28% of truck drivers: Recognition, or perception errors, typically involve distracted driving. A truck driver may be eating on the go, adjusting the GPS controls, or have simply let their mind wander on a long haul. Recognition driver errors occur whenever truck drivers allow their attention to be taken off the road.
  • Decision errors accounted for 38% of collisions: A truck driver decision error often involves willful negligence or reckless driving. Examples of decision errors may be speeding too fast for conditions, following too close to the car in front, or running a red light.
  • Driver performance errors caused 9% of truck accidents: A commercial truck driver is specially trained to handle massive motor carrier vehicles. A performance error occurs when drivers misjudge the distance of other trucks and cars, panics, fail to act, overcompensate, or exercise poor control.
Risk Factors That Increase the Possibility of a Truck Crash

Truck accidents are coded according to the type of collision and associated risk factors. Relative risk factors demonstrate that even when a kind of truck accident is uncommon, the risk associated with the accident can be high.

For example, only 3% of collisions involved a sick driver. However, an ill truck driver will likely have slow reaction times and poor decision-making skills. Additionally, sick drivers tend to be distracted easier. A sick truck driver may only be responsible for 3% of accidents, but the risk of a collision is high at 34.

Conversely, brake problems contributed to 29% of all tractor-trailer accidents. However, the risk of being involved in an accident was a low 2.7.

The most common factors in T-bone truck accidents include:

  • Illegal maneuvers by a driver, including running a stop sign or light: Occurred in 9% of accidents but have a 26.4 risk factor
  • Following too close: Resulted in 5% of crashes but has a risk factor of 22.6
  • Cargo shift due to improper loading: Occurred in 4% of collisions but carries the highest risk factor at 56.3
  • Traveling too fast for conditions: Resulted in 23% of crashes and has a risk factor of 7.7

Driver negligence is the most common cause of T-bone truck accidents and risk factors. The T-bone tractor-trailer accident lawyers of Graves McLain can provide legal advice and representation to file a personal injury claim and recover compensation. You can schedule a free consultation by dialing (918) 359-6600.

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