When a loved one tells you they were rear-ended by another car, most people’s immediate reaction is one of worry or condolence, even before being told how severe the accident might have been. But when someone tells you they were rear-ended by a semi-truck or tractor-trailer, more often than not, the immediate reaction is closer to sheer fear or dread.

Why is that?

Because we innately understand that something big and heavy has the potential to do a lot of damage to something much smaller and lighter than it. Semi-trucks are no exception, and when you add high-speed or dangerous cargo to the mix, the equation gets even worse. But accidents with semi-trucks aren’t just severe for the damage they can cause—they can lead to pretty intimidating legal scenarios as well.

Q: What exactly makes semi-trucks more dangerous than other vehicles?

A: It all comes down to their sheer size and weight. Semi-trucks and tractor-trailers are multiple times heavier and larger than the next-largest vehicles they share the road with, and because of this, they have the ability to cause much more damage to those vehicles. These trucks don’t even need to be moving particularly fast to cause a lot of damage to smaller cars—when you have multiple tons of weight behind you, anything smaller that makes contact with you is always going to suffer much more pronounced damage.

On top of their advanced size and weight, semi-trucks are also harder to drive and control than other vehicles. It’s why you’re legally required to obtain a special license to drive them. If you don’t know how to manage their weight, length, speed, or special necessary maneuverability, you can cause some really serious accidents.

Q: How do injuries in trucking accidents differ from other car accidents?

 A: Any time an accident is more severe in the way the impact happens (again, thanks to one of the involved vehicle’s size and weight), there’s always a higher possibility that the injuries suffered will be more severe, too. A vehicle that’s drastically heavier in weight and size has a much higher potential to completely total a smaller vehicle, no matter if it’s hit from the front, side, or back. In some cases, a semi-truck that’s out of control can even flip and topple onto another car, completely flattening it. Most of those victims don’t survive. It’s very rare for a victim of any type of accident with a semi-truck to walk away with no injuries at all. The same can’t be said of “regular” car accidents.

Q: Are there specific safety measures or rules for truck drivers to minimize accidents?

A: Yes! As already mentioned, truck drivers must earn and train for a specific type of trucking license before they can even legally get behind the wheel of a semi-truck. But there are a plethora of additional rules and laws that these drivers must also follow in an effort to prevent accidents and keep other drivers safe. These include but are not limited to keeping certain rest schedules so that they aren’t driving drowsy, stopping at certain checkpoints to make sure their truck is in top shape and their cargo is secure, and even being permitted to drive in certain lanes, take specific roads, or make specific turns and other maneuvers.

Q: Why are trucking accident cases more complicated than other cases?

A: Because determining who to hold responsible for the accident may not be as cut-and-dry as many people might think. Most people involved in an accident caused by a semi-truck would automatically assume that the driver of the truck is the single entity to hold responsible for the accident. But it all depends on how the insurance companies or courts determine the accident was actually caused. Was it bad driving on the trucker’s part? Was it an issue with the truck itself, like a loose or popped tire? Was it the way the tuck’s cargo was loaded? Trucking accident cases are more complex than other car accident cases because sometimes, figuring out exactly what caused the accident, and therefore, who to hold responsible for it, can be very complicated.

Q: So who can be held at-fault for my accident with a semi-truck?

A: It all depends on what the direct cause of the accident is determined to be. It may be possible to hold the driver of the truck solely responsible if he was found to be driving recklessly, disobeying traffic laws, or otherwise. But if that trucker is employed by a cargo or trucking company, and it’s found they did not properly check his credentials or train him, then it’s possible that the company could be held liable for his bad driving instead. It’s also possible to find the owner of the truck in question responsible (whether it’s an independent owner or a company) if the cause is determined to be an issue with the truck itself. Or it can even be the people or company who loaded cargo onto the truck who are found responsible if that cargo was loaded incorrectly and fell from the truck, causing an accident. There are so many moving parts involved with building trucks, filling them up, and getting them to their destinations, and any one of them might be found at fault.

Q: What should I do if I’m involved in an accident with a semi-truck?

A: Though we would recommend working with a team of legal professionals in the case of any major motor vehicle accident, because of the inherently more severe and complex nature of trucking accidents, we very highly recommend that you contact a legal team as soon as possible after your accident. These complex cases need a truly expert eye to not only investigate them, but to best determine who to hold responsible, how much compensation to seek, and to make sure things move as quickly as possible. In circumstances with so many potential moving parts, evidence can change or even disappear quickly, potentially diminishing your case. The right trucking accident attorney will know exactly where to start, what to look for, and how to get to it so that you can focus on recovering from your injuries.