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Understanding the Causes of Truck Rollovers

Rollovers are among the most destructive accidents on the roads, resulting in severe injuries and even fatalities. They occur when physical forces cause a vehicle to tip onto its side or its roof, perhaps rolling multiple times. The chances of rolling over are greater for vehicles with high centers of gravity — especially large trucks. Due to the greater size and weight of these conveyances, rollovers of commercial trucks are often the most devastating.

There are two basic types of rollovers — tripped and untripped.

A tripped rollover occurs when a truck hits an obstruction in the road, such as a curb, ditch or guardrail. The impact is typically sideways, rather than head-on, so the truck loses stability on the impact side. Another scenario is a side impact with another vehicle, raising the wheels on one side of the truck. These impacts create lateral forces that can cause the truck to tip over.

An untripped rollover occurs when a truck is making a sharp turn or following a tight curve, typically at high speed. While the tires are pointed toward the turn or curve, the inertia of the truck’s weight pushes the vehicle in the other direction, overtaking gravity. Strong winds and gusts can also lead to rollovers, especially on open plains.

There can be multiple contributing causes for a rollover. The following are the chief ones:

  • Speeding — When a truck exceeds safe speed, it becomes more difficult to control, especially on curving or winding roads. Abrupt braking compounds the danger of a rollover, since it augments the inertial force pulling the truck in the opposite direction of the front tires.
  • Human error — Careless, reckless or aggressive driving increases the likelihood of a rollover. This includes tailgating, sudden lane changing, unsafe passing and driving while intoxicated or fatigued. It also includes mistakes due to inexperience, such as failing to timely downshift when approaching a curve, turn, traffic slowdown or visible obstruction.
  • Load Issues — A truck might be loaded beyond safe weight limits, which increases the inertial force that can lead to a rollover. Alternatively, the cargo might not be balanced or properly fastened. Cargo that shifts during transit can cause a loss of stability.
  • Parts malfunctions — Large trucks like tractor trailers semi trucks have complex mechanical systems consisting of multiple parts. A brake failure on steep downgrades or curves can create a risk of a rollover, as can steering malfunctions, gearshift problems and tire blowouts. Many of these issues can be traced to poor maintenance.

The cause of the rollover has direct bearing on who is potentially liable to pay damages. Responsible parties for a trucking accident can include the truck driver, the trucking company that employs him, the cargo loader, the truck’s maintenance provider and any parts manufacturer.

If you’re hurt in a Kansas truck accident, Patrick C. Smith, Attorney at Law in Pittsburg provides effective representation. To schedule a free initial consultation, please call 620-308-6692 or contact me online.

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