A car became partially wedged under a semi-truck in Holmesburg. Officials stated that the accident occurred when the semi was attempting to make a wide right turn from the left lane into a parking lot. The car, which was in the right lane, failed to stop for the truck and become caught beneath its wheels.
Unfortunately, as horrific as this type of accident is, it’s not uncommon, particularly in urban areas where turn lanes are often narrow and offer limited space for trucks to maneuver. In fact, this type of commercial vehicle accident is common enough to have its own nickname: squeeze play, or right turn squeeze. It is also common enough that truck drivers are required to signal 100 feet before making a turn, and they must display a warning sign on their truck so that others are aware that it makes wide turns.
How Does a Wide Right Turn Truck Accident Happen?
As explained by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, large commercial trucks are unable to make turns or maneuver as easily as other types of vehicles due to their size. Large trucks are up to 14 feet long and have a high center of gravity that prevents them from making the same sharp turns as other vehicles without tipping over. These trucks require 55 feet of space in which to turn. The term “squeeze play” refers to a vehicle that gets squeezed or crushed between the truck and the curb or, as in the news story above, gets wedged beneath the truck tires during the turn. Some of the reasons this occurs include:
- The truck driver didn’t use his or her turn signal before completing the turn. The driver of the vehicle squeezed may have assumed that the truck was going straight and pulled into the turn lane alongside it.
- The car was in the truck’s blind spot. Big rigs have significant blind spots on all four sides, but particularly on the right-hand side. If the driver didn’t see the vehicle move alongside the truck, he or she may have assumed there was room to make the turn.
- Inadequate training. The drivers of commercial trucks are required to undergo training on how to make wide turns safely and the trucking companies who hire these drivers also have a responsibility to ensure that the driver is prepared before allowing him or her to take to the roadway.
- The truck driver failing to wait for other vehicles to clear the intersection before making the turn.
- Reduced visibility due to snow or rain, particularly at night, making it harder for truck drivers to see other vehicles that are turning or are in other traffic lanes that may be impacted by the wide right turn.
Another type of accident involves a vehicle in the lane to the left of the truck getting struck by the truck as it makes the wide right turn. Because these trucks are so difficult to maneuver, particularly in crowded spaces, the driver often veers the truck to the left to make the turn. If there is a passenger car in the left-hand blind spot, the driver risks running into it as it swings around the turn.
A look at national news stories can give you a better glimpse of how these accidents occur and the damages that they cause. Here are five real-life examples of wide right turn truck accidents:
- A 49-year-old motorcyclist died from injuries sustained in a wide turn accident with a construction truck. Both the truck and the motorcycle were approaching a work zone in which a construction flagger was stopping the northbound traffic to allow for the construction truck to make a wide right turn into a parking lot. The motorcyclist disregarded the flagger and continued traveling northbound until she collided with the turning truck.
- A truck driver pleaded guilty to causing the death of a woman after attempting to make a wide right turn in a tight intersection. Witnesses stated that, on the evening in which the accident occurred, the truck driver had to make an extremely wide turn due to how tight the intersection was. At the time in which the driver was turning, the woman, who was a pedestrian, was crossing the street in accordance with the crosswalk signal. The driver did not see the woman and struck her with the truck. The woman became trapped beneath the driver’s wheel as he continued to make the turn and was then pulled beneath the truck’s front axle. She was also run over, possibly by the truck’s rear tires. The driver of the truck was not even aware that he had hit the woman until about a week after the accident. He settled a civil suit out-of-court with the woman’s family before pleading guilty to criminal charges for the accident.
- A female driver sustained serious, but not life-threatening, injuries after her car collided with the side of a fuel tanker that was making a wide right turn. As the semi pulled onto the highway, the depth of its turn caused it to drive into oncoming lanes of traffic. The truck driver failed to see the oncoming car as he was completing the turn. When the car hit the fuel tanker, it caused the tank to rupture and spill about 50 gallons of fuel on the roadway.
- A man was killed after a semi-truck carrying an oversize load attempted a right turn. While the truck driver was making the turn, the trailer it was hauling extended into another traffic lane. The man’s vehicle collided with the trailer, and he was pronounced dead at the scene. During the investigation, authorities discovered and cited the truck driver with administrative violations.
- A motorcyclist sustained moderate injuries when the bike ran into a semi-truck that was making a wide right turn into the truck driver’s own driveway. According to witnesses, two cars that were traveling behind the truck were stopped, waiting for the truck to complete its turn. The motorcyclist passed both of those vehicles before striking the side of the truck. The motorcyclist was briefly knocked unconscious during the accident but expected to survive.
Who Is Liable in a Wide Right Turn Truck Accident?
Liability is a legal term for determining who is at fault in an accident. Fault may be assigned to more than one individual, particularly in the case of a truck accident. Liability is proven in court by establishing that:
- There was a duty of care owed to the injured party by the at-fault party. An example of a duty of care in this type of accident would be that a truck driver would have the duty of care to safely perform right turns, checking his or her blind spots, using turn signals, and ensuring that there were no other cars immediately alongside the truck while the maneuver was being performed.
- There was a breach in this duty of care. In the above example, say the driver failed to use his or her turn signal before making the turn, and therefore, the driver behind the truck was unable to interpret the driver’s intentions. The failure to use the turn signal would be the breach in the duty of care.
- This breach caused the accident, which resulted in damages.
Some examples of potential liability in a wide turn truck accident include:
- The truck driver for turning when it was unsafe to do so or failing to check the blind spot.
- The trucking company for not providing proper training to the driver on how to safely complete a right turn.
- The driver of the passenger car for failing to yield right-of-way or making an unsafe turn.
Does the warning sign posted on the truck about how it makes wide right turns release the truck driver from liability? Certain types of liability, yes. If the truck driver is engaging in other negligent behavior, such as forgetting the turn signal or attempting to take the turn too fast, then he or she may still be found liable.
Tips for Avoiding Wide Right Turn Truck Accidents
While it is impossible as a driver to completely eliminate all risk of accidents, as there are so many factors out of your control, there are some things you can do to avoid this type of collision. Here are some tips:
- Don’t linger in a truck’s blind spot. Remember that there are blind spots on all four sides of the truck, particularly on the right-hand side. The longer you’re driving where the truck driver can’t see you, the more likely it is that he or she will forget that you are there.
- Don’t pass a truck on the right side, particularly if it seems to be slowing down to make a turn. As already mentioned, the right side of the truck is where the blind spot is the most significant. While the driver has a duty to use his or her turn signal when making a turn, it is not unusual to see one who doesn’t. Don’t make the error of a forgotten turn signal a life-changing—or even life-ending—experience.
- Never try to squeeze by a truck during a right turn or get between the truck and the curb. Not only are you likely in the truck driver’s blind spot, but you’re at increased risk of the squeeze play.
- When stopped at an intersection, avoid pulling forward so much as to prevent a truck driver from being able to complete his or her turn safely.
- Leave on time for your engagement. Many accidents are caused because drivers are in a hurry to get to work, an appointment, or other engagement. This leads to risky behaviors, such as passing trucks on the right-hand side. Additionally, a truck driver is required to ensure that the roadway is clear when making a turn so wide that it will infringe upon other lanes of travel. If you’re speeding, it is harder for the driver to see you approaching before he or she begins the turn and it also makes it harder for you to stop and, therefore, avoid having an accident.
What Should I Do if I Was Injured in a Wide Right Turn Truck Accident?
The most important thing you can do after suffering injuries in an accident involving a truck making a wide right turn is to focus on your recovery. Injuries from this type of accident are often extremely serious. Another important early step is to talk to an experienced truck accident attorney, who can:
- Help you understand the legal options you have based on the facts of your case.
- Determine all sources of liability and insurance resources available to seek a fair settlement.
- Establish a value for your case based on the damages you’ve sustained and the impact that your injuries will have on your professional and personal life.
- Negotiate with the insurance providers of all liable parties in an attempt to obtain a settlement.
- Guide to you as to the pros and cons of accepting or rejecting a settlement offer.
- Rely on the skills of accident reconstruction, medical, and other experts who can help make your case.
- Represent you in litigation, including adhering to all filing guidelines, attending all pre-trial hearings, deposing witnesses, and preparing opening and closing statements, if no settlement is reached.
- Oversee the payment of settlement or award money.
- Represent you in appellate court if the defendant(s) should opt to appeal the case.
- Protect your legal rights throughout the case.
Injured in a truck accident? Contact an experienced truck accident lawyer to discuss the details of your case and determine your eligibility to seek compensation for your injuries.