Big Rig Crash Liability After a Collision

One of the most terrible types of accidents to occur on the roads, is when a large, lumbering big rigs jackknifes, or loses control. After a driver of a small passenger car, or other form of motorized transport has been involved in a collision with a large truck referred to as a big rig, tractor trailer truck, 18-wheeler or semi the harm caused to the individuals in that passenger vehicle can be serious or terminal.

In many cases these are catastrophic crashes that result in fatalities or long-term disability for the individual unfortunate enough to be involved in the collision due to the sheer size of the large truck. Tractor trailers can weight upward of 80,000 pounds, where the average passenger vehicle weighs around 3,000 pounds.

These are commercial vehicles that weigh many tons more than passenger vehicles and this combined with speed is a no win proposition for the driver. Even in cases where the other vehicle in the collision is a larger or even carrier vehicle such as a bus the results are generally devastating.

Reasons Why 18-Wheeler Crashes Happen

There are various reasons why accident of any type on the roadway occurs, but when it involves a tractor trailer truck there are some common reasons these accidents happen. If the commercial carrier is at fault these accidents include:

  • Truck driver fatigue
  • Driver distraction
  • Improper training
  • Rushing for pickup or delivery
  • Unbalanced loads
  • Driving under the influence
  • Improperly maintained trucks
  • Defective brakes

There are some collisions that while result in the truck operator being at fault or partially at fault, the driver of the passenger vehicle may contribute in their actions sharing the roadway with these large trucks.

  • Areas of zero visibility, large trucks like passenger vehicles have areas where the driver is unable to see another vehicle. This can be especially dangerous for a vehicle to be in the non-visibility area of the truck when making turns or changing lanes.
  • Changing lanes in front of a big rig without enough space can be dangerous, since the size and weight of the 18-wheeler means it will need a larger amount of roadway to slow down or come to a stop.
  • Turning at intersections can be dangerous, since it may be difficult for the driver of a passenger vehicle turning to determine the speed of a big rig traveling straight at the intersection.
  • Failing to merge into traffic properly in the vicinity of a big rig or insignificant acceleration in merging in front of a tractor trailer truck.
  • Passenger vehicles traveling between two big rigs. When this occurs it can be dangerous, since wind can be a factor as well as blind spots for the trucks.

Parties That Can be Held Liable in a Tractor Trailer Accident

When a collision occurs between a tractor trailer truck and a passenger vehicle or even a passenger carrier there may often be more than one liable party in these cases. The operator of the big rig, the owner of the truck or trucking company and in some cases a manufacturer. The trucking company can often be held accountable when the operator of the commercial truck is inexperienced, fatigued, has a bad driving record or when the truck was improperly maintained leading to the crash. In mishaps where a defective part or design contributed or caused the accident the manufacturer can be held liable for the damages. This is what often makes these types of claims complex, since more often than not with a semi truck accident there will be more than one liable party.

Proving an 18-Wheeler Accident Claim

Big rig collision cases fall under personal injury law and to prove liability the injured party referred to as the plaintiff in the case will be required to show certain elements in order to prove their case and hold the negligent parties liable. These include:

  • Duty of Care: The plaintiff must show they were owed a duty of care, which means to exercise a reasonable degree of care in operation of the 18-wheeler.
  • Breached Duty of Care: The plaintiff will need to show the duty of care was breached by the defendants in exercising reasonable care or being negligent.
  • Injury: The plaintiff must show the failure to act with reasonable care was the direct result of the injuries sustained by the plaintiff.

Sources: NHTSA: Analysis of Big Rig Truck Accidents:

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