We’ve all experienced it: You notice a semi-truck in your rearview mirror that’s a little too close for comfort, and your heart starts pounding. If and when the truck passes by you without incident, it’s a sense of relief.
We can’t help feeling intimidated by semi-trucks in this way because the sheer size of these multi-ton vehicles can cause a lot more damage than most other vehicles on the road. And that’s why there are so many strict laws, rules, and regulations in place related to how these trucks must be maintained and driven. If any one of these laws or regulations is broken or overlooked at any phase during the process of a truck being built, maintained, driven, or loaded and unloaded, it can spell disaster on the road.
If you’re unlucky enough to be involved in an accident with a semi-truck, with so many moving parts and people involved, how do you know who to hold responsible for your accident injuries? You may be surprised to find that it’s not always the person or entity you first assume it should be.
Q: How do trucking accidents happen?
A: Trucking accidents can happen in many of the same ways that “regular” car accidents can happen. Reckless or distracted driving, disobeying traffic laws and signs, driving under the influence, road hazards such as inclement weather or construction, or malfunctions with the vehicles involved are all possible scenarios.
In the particular case of a trucking accident, however, any one of these situations can be made gravely more consequential because of the incredible size and mass of semi-trucks. The damage they cause can be devastating, which is why trucks drivers and trucking companies alike must adhere to more strictly regulated rules and laws regarding their vehicles and how they maneuver or use them. If the driver doesn’t take into consideration the proper way to drive, or the trucking company doesn’t take the necessary precautions for properly maintaining and packing their truck, they can become much more liable for causing a lot of damage.
Some of the most common types of trucking accidents are:
- Left-hand turn accidents
- Tire blowout accidents
- Accidents resulting from loss of control of the truck
- Cargo accidents
Q: What rules do truck drivers have to follow in order to prevent accidents?
A: The list here is long and technical, but in general, truck drivers have several laws they must adhere to when operating their vehicles. They must hold the proper commercial license that enables them to drive the vehicle, as semi-trucks don’t operate in identical ways to regular cars. They have specific acceleration and brake maneuvers to understand, and their larger size and slower speed must also be taken into account when sharing the road with other vehicles. Drivers must also properly maintain their trucks while on the road to make sure no potentially hazardous maintenance goes overlooked, and that no cargo in or on the truck can become loose. Drivers must also adhere to strict regulations on where they’re allowed to drive and park, and how long they’re permitted to drive before being required to stop and rest.
Q: What rules do trucking companies have to follow in order to prevent accidents?
A: The short answer is that trucking companies and manufacturers need to be diligent about running every facet of their trucking business safely. From building and maintaining trucks in order to ensure they operate correctly to staffing safe drivers to enforcing proper operational rules for their drivers and other employees, trucking companies are just as responsible for doing things safely as the truck drivers they put on the road. When they cut corners or make mistakes, they may be compromising the safety of the trucks and drivers they put on the road, which can lead to an accident.
Q: Who might it be possible to hold responsible for a trucking accident?
A: Contrary to popular belief, it’s not always the truck driver who might be held responsible for the accident caused by the truck they were driving. Because there are so many people involved in manufacturing the truck and its parts, maintaining it, loading or unloading it, and driving it, it’s possible that another party may be held responsible for an accident. Such parties can include:
- The truck driver
- Truck driver’s employer
- Trucking company owner
- Truck manufacturer
- Truck parts manufacturer
- Truck maintenance company
- Loading/unloading crewmember (if not associated with the trucking company owner)
If one or more of these parties is found to have contributed to the way the accident occurred, it’s possible that there will be multiple defendants in the case.
Q: How do you determine who to hold responsible for a trucking accident?
A: What makes crashes involving big rigs, semi-trucks, 18-wheelers, or tractor-trailers so complex and different is the multiple layers of liability and injuries resulting from the crash. Wading through those layers involves careful research and gathering of evidence that can all help your attorney start heading in the right direction to find the party at fault for the root cause of the accident.
The variety of evidence that needs to be gathered and carefully reviewed can include physical accident evidence (the vehicles involved, the location itself), accident recreations, witness statements, camera recordings, review of the truck’s cargo and loading methods, examination of the driver, examination of the trucking company facilities, and more. The steps of gathering and putting together these pieces of evidence are like constructing a puzzle: each piece will lead you one step closer to seeing the full picture behind the accident, and thus, who should be held responsible for causing it.
In the end, if it’s found that the accident was caused solely due to the truck driver’s decisions and actions on the road, it’s likely they will be held directly responsible. But if the evidence points to an issue with the truck or perhaps its cargo as being the direct cause of the accident, that’s when it may be possible to hold the trucking company or manufacturer responsible for the accident, even though they weren’t the one behind the wheel when it happened.
Q: What kinds of injuries can result from a trucking accident?
A: In our experience, clients experience these types of injuries as a result of a semi-truck crash:
- Minor to severe neck and back injuries
- Cervical spinal injury
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Pituitary dysfunction
Many of these injuries require therapy, surgery, or life care plans resulting in medical bills that can reach well over six figures and could have adverse effects—both physical and mental or emotional—on the crash victims for the remainder of their lives. That’s why it’s so important to make sure the party who is responsible for the accident is actually held responsible and made to provide the victim with the compensation they deserve.
Q: Why should I work with a trucking accident attorney after my crash with a semi-truck?
A: If it’s not evident by now, we’ll say it again: Trucking accidents can be incredibly complex thanks to the many people and circumstances involved, not to mention, the massive damage and injuries they can cause. To make matters even more complicated, many of these companies or businesses may be from other states. Additionally, each of these entities will be represented by a different multi-million-dollar insurance company, adding to the layers of complexity in the case. Commercial motor vehicle drivers and companies also abide by a different set of roadway rules and standards than a Class D driver. Many average drivers on the road are unaware of these specific rules and laws and so may not know how to appropriately build their case in relation to them. But an experienced trucking attorney will be well versed in these laws and can stand their ground in court.