Due to the significant increase in size and weight of commercial trucks, Colorado trucking accidents can be catastrophic, causing severe injuries and even death. In 2019, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (“FMSCA”) identified over 510,000 accidents involving large trucks across the United States. Of those reported, 4,479 were fatal and 114,000 involved injuries. An astounding 83% of fatal crashes and 86% of non-fatal crashes in 2019 occurred on weekdays (Monday – Friday) with 78% of those crashes occurring between the hours of 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.
As drivers emerge from a post-pandemic era and return to the roadways, there is an increased risk of Colorado trucking accidents. To protect yourself and your loved ones from an enhanced risk of harm, it is important to know the most common causes of trucking accidents to reduce the additional risks of traveling on Colorado roadways.
Top 10 Causes of Colorado Trucking Accidents
- Speeding: Speeding is a major hazard on Colorado roadways. As commercial trucks are so much larger than passenger vehicles, speeding is even more dangerous for truck drivers. At increased speeds, a truck driver reacts more slowly to changes in speed or direction because of the momentum it builds, and drivers have less control. Some trucking companies may opt to use speed trackers or speed limiters on company trucks, but not all commercial trucks are equipped with this technology. Speeding is reckless and negligent, and truck drivers who speed should be held accountable for their choices.
- Distracted Driving: Like speeding, distracted driving is a dangerous, illegal, and reckless action, especially for truckers because of the size of their vehicle. Truck drivers who text or take their eyes off the road for even a few seconds can cause thousands of dollars in property damage and significant injuries, including death.
- Aggressive Driving: It is a well-known fact that truck drivers travel long distances and are on the road for long periods of time. Moreover, truck drivers may be under stress to make their deliveries on time. The combination of long hours and deadlines can make truck drivers more prone to road rage, potentially resulting in a truck driver’s failure to yield the right of way, tailgating, following too closely, or cutting another driver off. When confronted with road rage by a Colorado truck driver, it is best to remain calm and refrain from retaliation for your own safety.
- Fatigued driving: Trucking companies and their drivers are required to abide by regulations to keep fatigued truckers off the road and help them remain alert while driving. For example, truck drivers may only work a maximum of 14 hours within any 24-hour period, during which time they can only drive up to 11 hours. Truck drivers are required to take 10 consecutive hours off-duty time after driving 11 hours. Truck drivers are also prohibited from being on-duty for more than 60 hours in 7 consecutive days or 70 hours in 8 consecutive days. These requirements exist for the safety of all operators on Colorado roadways and violations can result in harsh penalties against the trucking company and/or truck driver. Yet, these mandates are sometimes disregarded because of company scheduling practices, company culture, or individual motivations. In those circumstances, trucking companies and truck drivers must be held liable for the dangers they willingly subject themselves and other drivers to.
- Severe weather: Inclement weather increases the risk of a trucking accident, as it can reduce truck driver visibility and make it challenging for truck drivers to control their vehicles. Rain, snow, ice, wind, and fog can be incredibly dangerous for drivers on Colorado roadways.
- Road construction: Truck drivers who encounter road construction situations may try to navigate the roadway on a road shoulder or median, which can cause increased safety concerns, including a heightened risk of a rollover accident or collision with another vehicle.
- Overloading Cargo: Commercial trucks that carry large loads can potentially experience tire blowouts. They may also tip after a turn or lane change because of the weight. If a load is external, flying debris or load slipping can also be extremely hazardous, causing other drivers to swerve, road obstructions or the debris may go through a windshield.
- Brake/vehicle failure: Though most truck accidents are due to truck driver error, this is not always the case; sometimes the vehicle manufacturer or trucking company can be considered negligent because the vehicle was not inspected or maintained properly or had a defective part. Brake failure is one cause of trucking accidents.
- Driving under the Influence: The FMCSA mandates that the blood alcohol concentration (“BAC”) limit for those with a commercial driver’s license is .04%, notably half of the .08% BAC limit for other drivers in all states. Truck drivers are forbidden to use alcohol, be under the influence of alcohol, or have any measured alcohol in their system while on duty, operating, or in physical control of a commercial vehicle. Driving while under the influence is a crime, no matter the circumstances, and can have extreme consequences for everyone on the road with the drunk driver. Truck drivers are no exception.
- Poor Lighting: At night, if the highways or roads that commercial trucks are traveling are poorly lit, truck drivers may have limited visibility, which can cause their blind spots to darken. It may also be harder for them to see curves, narrowing roads, or other drivers/motorcyclists.
Damages in Colorado Trucking Accidents
In Colorado, there are three primary categories of recognized damages to compensate a person injured in Colorado trucking accidents:
- Economic Damages: These damages include any financial losses you incur as a result of a trucking accident. Most commonly, these damages include medical bills and lost wages. These damages can encompass both past and future losses.
- Non-Economic Damages: These damages include non-monetary losses related to an injury such as physical and emotional distress, pain and suffering, grief, anxiety, frustration, and loss of enjoyment of life. In Colorado, these damages are subject to a cap in personal injury cases.
- Physical Impairment: These damages are similar to pain and suffering but arise as the result of impairments to the body, such as cosmetic disfigurement, neurological damage, and other impairments.
- Punitive Damages: In certain circumstances, punitive damages may be awarded against a truck driver and/or trucking company when conduct is attended by circumstances of fraud, malice, or willful and wanton conduct. Punitive damages act to punish the truck driver and/or trucking company and must be accompanied by facts to support the truck driver and/or trucking company recognized their conduct as dangerous and with disregard for the rights and safety of others. Punitive damages in Colorado, like in most states, are subject to a cap in personal injury cases.
Contact a Colorado Trucking Accident Attorney Today
Colorado trucking accidents can be complex and require extensive investigation and evaluation. At Bowman Law LLC, our Colorado trucking accident attorneys have helped thousands of people navigate their Colorado case. If you or a loved one have been hurt as a result of a Colorado trucking accident, please contact us today by calling 720.863.6904 or email us for a free consultation.
Jessica is a Colorado native. She is admitted to practice law in the State of Colorado as well as the United States District Court for the District of Colorado. Jessica is an active member of the Colorado Bar Association, Colorado Trial Lawyers Association, and American Association for Justice.