As disconcerting as it is to imagine, road accidents happen every day. In the last few years, the number of road accidents in the UK has been averaging around a hundred thousand annually. That is roughly a shocking 2000 reported road accidents per week!
A proportion of these accidents involve Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) or Large Goods Vehicles (LGVs), which have a significant presence on UK roads of approximately half a million.
For the purposes of this guide we will use the term HGV to denote both categories of the heavy and large vehicles.
Although HGV crashes make up a small percentage of total road accidents, they are quite often the most serious. The sheer size and weight of these vehicles, not to mention the added mass of goods in transit, makes them extremely dangerous in the event of a collision.
Statistics published for 2016 showed that the number of fatalities from accidents involving HGVs were between 3 and 7 times higher than those involving ordinary non-HGV vehicles. And there is no reason to suggest why these statistics would not be similar in the years since.
Thankfully, not every road accident is fatal, but it is easy to see why injuries caused by a collision with a HGV could well be a lot more severe than those caused by an RTA with another car.
If you have been a victim of an accident involving a heavy goods vehicle in the last 3 years, then this guide is for you.
Read on, to learn more about HGV accidents and how to file an HGV compensation claim if you have been a victim of one of these incidents.
Causes Of Heavy Goods Vehicle Accidents
One of the top causes of HGV accidents is lack of visibility.
Heavy goods vehicles are the giants of the road, measuring between 2.9m and 6.1m wide and a height of around 4 metres.
Due to the significant distance between the ground and vehicle cab (driver compartment), HGVs inevitably leave drivers with a blind spot, especially where small road users are concerned, such as cyclists and pedestrians.
Other common causes of HGV accidents include the following, but this is not an exhaustive list:
- Severe weather conditions
- A poorly maintained vehicle
- Badly loaded vehicle
- Driver error (e.g. negligent driving, speeding, falling asleep behind the wheel, or misjudging the braking distance of the vehicle)
How Do HGV Accidents Happen?
Given the huge number of HGVs on the road, both UK registered and those from abroad, accidents involving lorries and trucks happen more often than the Department of Transport would want to admit.
Whilst there are many ways in which a HGV accident can occur, the more common scenarios include the following.
Automobile manufacturers design HGVs to haul and transport massive amounts of weight (up to a max of 44 tonnes) in goods.
On occasion, HGV companies have been guilty of overloading a vehicle or not securing their haulage properly. As a result, this poses the risk of cargo falling out and hitting other motorists.
Vehicles faced with this happening in front of them will likely swerve or sharply brake to avoid being caught up in the incident and, as such, these type of road traffic accidents can lead to crashes of multiple vehicles.
Whether it is a head-on collision or side-impact, road accidents can be very dangerous, especially when an HGV is involved.
Even if the HGV was travelling at a relatively low speed, passengers in the smaller car could still suffer significant injuries, such as trauma to the head & chest area, fractured limbs, or severe neck and spinal cord injuries.
Many road users may have experienced this, especially when travelling along the UK’s busy motorway network.
HGVs take quite some time to come to a complete stop after braking, given that these are relatively large and heavy vehicles. Therefore, a lorry driver should always maintain a safe distance from the car ahead.
Failing to do so puts the truck at a higher risk of ramming into the back of other vehicles, especially in traffic jam situations or the sudden braking of the car ahead. The impact of a rear-end collision sends the body into a whiplash motion that could result in some degree of long-term damage to the neck and spine.
What Can You Do After An HGV Accident?
If you or a loved one are involved in an HGV accident, the number one priority is obviously to get medical treatment. However, you should know that you are entitled to seek compensation for injuries suffered if another motorist was at fault for the accident.
Every individual who gets behind the wheel of a vehicle, including all cars and lorries, owes other road users a legal duty of care. These include fellow drivers, cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians.
That legal duty involves taking reasonable precautions whilst driving, to ensure that any action you take or choice you make does not result in the injury of another person or lead to the destruction of property.
When a duty of care is owed, there is also the obligation to meet a ‘standard of care’. This is a term used to describe what is reasonable or acceptable in given circumstances.
And, when it comes to driving, reasonable behaviour means observing all set and legal road regulations (e.g. stopping at a stop sign, driving within the set speed limit, remaining in the correct lane, etc).
These regulations were put in place to protect all road users. So, when a driver is negligent in their duty of care or fails to meet the minimum standards of care, they may be held liable for any resultant accident. In these circumstances, the affected party has every right to pursue a personal injury compensation claim.
Who Can Be Held Responsible For An HGV Accident?
For a compensation claim to be legally viable, another party’s actions or negligent behaviour needs to have directly resulted in the claimant suffering financial loss, physical injury, or medical/mental anguish.
In the case of an HGV accident compensation claim, parties that could be at fault may include the following.
The driver of a heavy goods vehicle can be responsible for an accident, if they were driving dangerously or recklessly, or knowingly ignoring the safety standards that govern HGV driver operations.
There are a number of scenarios in which that can happen. Taking alcohol, illegal drugs or drowse-inducing medication before getting on the road, driving above the speed limit, or making an illegal turn, are just a few examples of traffic offences that HGV drivers may be found guilty of committing.
2. Trucking Operator/ Company
Several regulations govern the HGV industry.
For one, individuals have to undergo extensive and specialised driver training to acquire a driving license valid for heavy goods vehicles.
What’s more, an HGV driver is only usually allowed to drive up to a maximum of 9-hours in a day (with only a small number of exceptions) and take 45-minute breaks after every 4 ½ hours of driving. A vehicle also has to meet safety requirements and be in good working condition before being allowed on the road.
The responsibility for ensuring all this falls on the trucking company. Some companies fail in this duty by deploying drivers who are not well trained for the job, or forcing employees to work long shifts without adequate breaks, or putting a vehicle with known mechanical issues on the road.
In such cases, negligence would fall squarely on the HGV company should an accident occur.
3. Truck Mechanic
Another duty of a trucking company is to ensure that the vehicle receives proper maintenance, through regular servicing of the lorries.
Whilst the company may hold up their end of the deal, the mechanic may fail in their duty by performing a less-than-acceptable repair or maintenance job. Should their neglience and poor workmanship lead to a mechanical breakdown or accident whilst the truck is on the road, the mechanic is likely to be held personally liable.
4. Manufacturer Of The Vehicle
Sometimes, a truck can have a serious design or mechanical flaw that leads to an accident. In such cases, the manufacturer, designer, or supplier of parts is likely to be held accountable. A manufacturer flaw could be something like a defective break-line or tyres that blowout with minimal use.
What Do You Need To File An HGV Accident Compensation Claim Case?
Suffering an injury in an HGV accident, brought on by another person’s breach of duty, does not automatically mean you will receive financial compensation. The chances of a successful case will depend on you producing:
Someone has to corroborate your version of events stated in the claim. So, the more witnesses you can get (including photographic evidence of the accident and video footage from nearby CCTV or dashcam cameras), the better.
The police are a reliable source to get the evidence you will need. Police officers are usually called to the scene of an accident to document the case, especially those involving lorries (i.e. collecting physical and photo/video evidence, as well as getting witness accounts from other drivers or pedestrians who saw the accident happen, while the event is still fresh in their minds).
Proof Of Negligence
Evidence to support an HGV claim takes time to acquire, because it can often require quite a bit of investigation. It can include things like the lack of a valid driving license, a truck that has mechanical problems, proving driver error, and so on.
Evidence Of Injury
It is essential to compile detailed medical reports, including any x-rays, medical charts, treatments, the prognosis etc. Photos of your injuries and the treatment needed is also helpful.
Additionally, keep all receipts of prescribed medicine, doctor consultations, and taxi/transport costs when heading to the hospital to enable you to get the full amount of compensation due.
How Is Compensation Awarded To HGV Accident Victims?
HGV crashes are just like any other road accident when it comes to calculating compensation. You can claim compensation under General Damages and Special Damages.
‘General damages’ aims to compensate for the harm suffered, such as the physical pain, the impact of the injuries on your quality of life, and any mental anguish or anxiety experienced due to the accident. General damages are awarded depending on the severity of the injury.
Minor injuries, such as a soft tissue injury or a hairline fracture, may result in anywhere from a few hundred pounds up to several thousand in compensation.
On the other hand, severe injuries like a neck & spinal injury, brain damage, or a permanent disability would get much higher settlement amounts and they could be worth tens to hundreds of thousands in compensation.
Given that the severity of an injury can differ so much and each accident is considered on it’s own unique merits, we cannot easily give an exact settlement figure. Nevertheless, if you have suffered an injury due to someone else’s negligence, you are entitled to make a claim.
‘Special damages’ is awarded to reimburse specified financial losses, such as loss of income from work and the cost of adjusting to lifestyle changes after the injury.
It can include every medically related cost you have incurred, such as the money spent on prescription medication, walking aids, clinic costs, etc.
Special damages can also include travel expenses for trips to and from the hospital, and even include airfare for treatment sought overseas. It is important to keep all receipts and invoices to prove the out-of-pocket expenses you have paid.
Get Help After Your HGV Accident
When you decide to pursue HGV accident compensation claim, there is no better person to help you than a solicitor with experience in handling such claims. Like all personal injury-related claims, the legal time limit for filing a claim is within 3-years of the accident or from the moment you learned of the injury.
If you would like some legal assistance starting the HGV claims process or would like to discuss your case in more detail, you can schedule a call with an experienced claims advisor for some free, no-obligation advice using our online form.