FindLaw’s Truck Accident section contains information and resources to guide you if you or a loved is involved in commercial truck or “big rig” truck accident. Truck drivers and manufacturers are held to higher standards than most other drivers, so if something goes wrong, the driver or the truck company may reimburse you for your injuries. Here you’ll find helpful information involving truck accidents and the law — including common causes of truck accidents and frequently asked questions — as well as tips on protecting your legal rights and what to expect after a truck accident.
Special Considerations in Truck Accidents
Accidents involving the large commercial trucks present some unique scenarios and issues. A typical fully-loaded “big rig” can weigh 80,000 pounds or more, compared to the average passenger automobile’s weight of about 3,000 pounds. Due to the great disparity in size and the basic laws of physics accidents with big rigs can be devastating. The large size of these vehicles also means that the acceleration, braking, visibility, and turning of big rigs are all limited.
Large vehicles such as eighteen-wheelers are prone to “jackknifing” under certain conditions, particularly during sudden braking and turning. This action may not result in liability for the truck driver where they jackknifed due to unforeseeable road conditions or an abrupt turn to avoid a motorist or other obstacle.
Commercial trucks also have difficulty on certain turns. Right turns often require the use of two lanes. Court decisions about whether drifting between lanes in such situations constitute negligence have been divided.
Trucks are often operated by a driver on behalf of a trucking or shipping company. As a result, identifying defendants in a truck accident may be different from an accident with another private motorist. Employers, contractors, trucking companies, and insurance companies may share liability for the driver’s negligence. Questions about liability can become complicated where the truck driver is an independent contractor, or where the truck was hauling hazardous materials.
Common Causes of Truck Accidents
Apart from the dangers posed by the size and lack of maneuverability of commercial trucks there are a number of situations that may contribute to accidents with other motorists. Some are the fault of the truck driver, while others are the result of common mistakes made by other motorists.
Truck drivers may pose an increased risk to other motorists where they have inadequate training, systems of compensation that encourage more and faster driving, and unrealistic schedules that result in drivers who are tired or rushed.
Motorists may increase the risk of an accident with a big rig where they abruptly change lanes or merge improperly, where they make a left turn in front of a truck with insufficient space or move to the right of a truck making a right-hand turn, or when they drive in the areas behind and beside the truck where the driver has limited visibility. Wind turbulence may push a car passing a truck unexpectedly and a slow entry into traffic can cause a truck to stop abruptly. Vehicles left on the roadside that provide insufficient space, driving between large trucks, and unsafe passing are additional hazards that motorists create for truck drivers.