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Tractor Trailer Accident Lawyers

Legally reviewed by: Jenna-Marie Cosme September 26, 2022
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Commercial trucks are a big presence on the roadway, in more ways than one.

These large trucks typically clock in anywhere from 20-30 times the weight of a passenger vehicle. And with more than 2.9 million big rigs registered to drive on American roads in 2020 alone, it’s not uncommon for a commercial truck accident to occur and cause serious injuries.

But if you or a loved one have been involved in a semi-truck accident, a personal injury lawyer may be able to help you build a strong case, and seek the compensation you deserve.

Collision between a semi truck with trailer and a car

What Are Tractor Trailer Accidents?

While there are a number of big trucks on the road, tractor trailers refer specifically to the commercial trucks with the cargo trailers attached. And tractor-trailer accidents are considered any case where these vehicles collide with another vehicle on the road.

They can happen when the larger vehicle loses control, collides with a car, or spills their cargo across the road, or when a smaller vehicle hits the semi-truck.

What Causes Tractor Trailer Truck Accidents?

Driver fatigue, driving under the influence, or driver negligence on the part of the truck driver or other motorists on the road are some of the most common causes of truck accidents.

Unsafe road conditions can also be a factor, as well as bad weather. The trucking company can also have a hand in causing the accident, including by incorrectly loading cargo, failing to install certain safety measures on their large trucks, and not keeping proper driver logs.

Other causes of tractor trailer truck accidents could include negligence on behalf of the trucker, such as driving outside of their allowed hours of service. Still other truck accidents may be caused by preventable maintenance issues, such as tire blowouts.

What Are Your Legal Options After A Tractor Trailer Accident?

If you or a loved one have been involved in a truck crash, you may be able to take legal action and seek compensation.

Filing A Personal Injury Claim

If you wish to pursue legal action against the truck driver or trucking company, you can file a personal injury claim.

Typically, the process includes gathering evidence, filing the claim, and negotiating with insurance companies and the legal representation of the other parties involved.

The process can be complicated and overwhelming, but an experienced truck accident lawyer will know the best way to proceed, and can help you get through these steps with ease.

Scheduling a free consultation with a personal injury attorney will let them get to know your situation and help you start building a case for fair compensation.

Pursuing A Personal Injury Lawsuit

Most personal injury cases settle out of court, but sometimes, the trucking industry or insurance adjusters fail or refuse to reach an agreement with your truck accident lawyer.

In these cases, you can choose to file a lawsuit. Your legal team will call in their trial lawyers to bring your case before a judge and make their arguments on your behalf in open court.

What To Know About Tractor Trailer Truck Accident Cases

Before you file a personal injury case, there are a few factors you may want to consider.

Principle Of Negligence

In order to file any type of legal claim in the wake of a semi-truck accident, you will need to prove negligence.

This legal principle is established by:

  • Determining whether the party being sued had a “duty of care” in a certain situation.
  • Showing how that person or institution failed to meet their duty of care obligations.
  • Proving that the breach of care in question led to injuries.

Some states also practice something called comparative negligence, which may affect the maximum compensation you can seek.

In these states, any negligence found on your part will be deducted from the total payout you’re able to legally pursue.

Identifying The Liable Party

Aside from establishing negligence, your truck accident attorney will also have to identify a liable party or parties.

Liable parties can be any person or institution who contributed to the conditions that created the crash. In the case of an accident involving a large commercial vehicle, that could include:

  • The truck driver
  • The trucking company
  • Local or state governments, if unsafe road conditions were a factor

Your attorney will use the police report filed at the accident scene to help determine liability. But a capable personal injury law firm will also have a team of experts who can help identify additional liable parties.

If the verdict is made in your favor, these parties will ultimately be responsible for paying any damages found in your truck accident case.

Laws That May Affect Your Case

A number of additional state-by-state laws may impact your case, including:

  • Statute of limitations: How much time after the accident you have to officially file your personal injury claim.
  • Damage cap laws: These limit the maximum compensation you may receive for non-economic damages.
  • At-fault laws: In these states, the insurance company of the driver found at fault for an accident will be responsible for covering any medical expenses connected to the crash.
  • No-fault laws: In these states, all drivers are required to purchase Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance. This covers their medical costs in an accident.

Still, drivers in no-fault states may also seek compensation in cases of severe injury, where their medical costs exceed their PIP coverage limits.

Understanding Fault In Tractor Trailer Accidents

Fault is a relatively fluid term in truck accident cases.

There are several tiers of severity when it comes to assigning fault, essentially describing how intentional the actions were leading up to the crash. These include:

  • Negligence: This lowest level of fault is generally considered the closest to a pure accident. Cases of negligence typically include citations for driving fatigued or distracted.
  • Careless: The middle tier of fault, careless parties are those who disregarded the law in a way that contributed to the crash, such as through speeding or running a red light.
  • Reckless: This most serious level of fault describes parties who knowingly did something that was both unlawful and preventable in the lead up to a crash, such as driving under the influence or intentionally mishandling cargo.

The level of fault assigned to the liable party will most likely also determine the amount of damages you can pursue.

What Damages Can You List For A Truck Accident Claim?

Damages are the different types of costs, both financial and emotional, suffered in a motor vehicle accident.

Medical Expenses

Medical expenses are one of the most common types of damages in commercial vehicle crashes. This includes any medical bills you may incur in the wake of the accident, such as:

  • Surgery and hospitalization costs
  • Ambulance rides
  • Doctor visits
  • Prescription and over-the-counter medications
  • Rides to and from the hospital
  • Medical devices
  • Therapy or rehabilitation bills
  • Costs for at-home medical care

Property Damage

Property damage is also relatively simple to calculate in car accidents and other vehicle crashes. This class of damages includes any costs related to:

  • Fixing your vehicle
  • Replacing your vehicle
  • Public transportation or ridesharing costs made before finding a replacement or getting your vehicle back

Lost Wages

If you sustained an injury in an accident with a commercial vehicle that caused you to miss work, you may be entitled to lost wages compensation.

This designation of damages accounts for any promotions or bonuses you could have earned during the period of your injury, on top of any salary you may have missed out on.

In cases where serious injuries prevent someone from returning to their previous job, lost wages damages can also cover costs of any future diminished earning capacity.

Wrongful Death

In the most tragic semi-truck accident cases, truck accident victims may seek compensation for wrongful death. This type of damage covers expenses related to:

  • Burial and funeral services of a loved one
  • Any lost future income
  • Lost insurance pension
  • Loss of capacity to save money

Wrongful death also accounts for non-economic damages, such as the loss of emotional support.

Other Damages

Not all wages are directly tied to calculable numbers.

Many truck accident victims will also seek damages for “pain and suffering,” which are meant to compensate for any mental or physical anguish, disfigurement, or loss of the enjoyment of life suffered in the wake of the crash.

Common Injuries In Tractor Trailer Accidents

Unfortunately, colliding with a large truck at high speeds often leads to the need for medical attention.

Truck accident injuries can be small or severe, and include:

  • Cuts and lacerations
  • Bone fractures
  • Disfigurement
  • Dismemberment
  • Internal bleeding
  • Organ damage
  • Spinal cord injuries, including paralysis
  • Traumatic brain injuries and other head injuries

If you or a loved one have been injured in this type of collision, an experienced truck accident lawyer can help you build a strong case for compensation.

Types Of Tractor Trailer Truck Crashes

There are many different types of vehicle crashes involving trucks. Some of the most common causes of truck accidents include:

  • Jackknife accidents: Most commonly caused by unsafe road conditions or equipment malfunctions, these types of truck accidents happen when the trailer of a big rig swings around and pushes the cab of the truck to the side.
  • Semi-truck rollover accidents: The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) considers “rollover” accidents to be any case where a semi-truck flips onto its side or its roof. The truck may also roll over multiple times.
  • Wide turn accidents: Since large trucks need a lot of room to make wide turns, they can hit other cars or cause property damage in the process. Wide turn accidents also happen when passenger vehicles collide with semi-trucks while making a turn.
  • Blind spot accidents: This type of crash happens when a smaller vehicle is in the commercial vehicle’s blind spot. It might be caused by a semi-truck attempting to change lanes or perform other actions that squeeze the smaller vehicles off the road.
  • Underride accidents: Underride accidents occur when a passenger vehicle slides into the side or under the trailer of a semi-truck.
  • Override accidents: Override accidents happen when a big rig runs over a smaller passenger vehicle.
  • Load spill accidents: In these cases, the commercial vehicle will spill the contents of its trailer onto the road, causing an accident. It can be caused by a jackknifing incident, improperly loaded cargo, or malfunctioning safety mechanisms.
  • Head-on collisions: These crashes happen when two vehicles traveling opposite directions crash into one another.
  • Rear-end collisions: Rear end crashes happen when a vehicle hits the back of another vehicle. Often, these are caused by distracted driving, speeding, or tailgating.
  • T-bone accidents: In a t-bone accident, two vehicles traveling perpendicularly will crash. One vehicle typically hits the middle of the other — usually when running a red light or while driving distracted.

Tractor Trailer Accident Rates In The United States

Semi-truck accidents are unfortunately relatively common in the United States.

Numbers compiled by the  National Safety Council (NSC) found 4,842 large trucks involved in a fatal accident in 2020 alone. That number represented a 4% decrease from the previous year, but was still up 33% from 2011.

Further, the  Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reported 4,014 deaths in motor vehicle accidents involving commercial vehicles in 2020, with 68% of those fatalities representing riders of passenger vehicles, and 16% representing pedestrians, bicyclists, or motorists.

The numbers were up 28% from 2009, which saw the lowest number of casualties in commercial truck accidents since statistics on these types of crashes have been taken.

FAQs

Tractor-trailer accidents are a big topic, which can raise many questions.

What Percentage Of Accidents Are Caused By Tractor Trailers?

According to the  National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), as many as 4.4% of all car accidents in 2018 involved a large truck.

Why Are There So Many Tractor Trailer Accidents?

There are a number of reasons why large trucks are commonly involved in accidents.

The vehicles require anywhere from 20-40% more distance to make a full stop than a smaller passenger vehicle. Drivers often work long hours, and can be driving fatigued or in other dangerous conditions.

Demands on the shipping industry in the wake of the pandemic have seen more commercial trucks on the road. And other motorists on the road are increasingly distracted.

Is The Truck Driver Always At Fault In A Tractor Trailer Crash?

It’s possible for the passenger vehicle driver to be at fault, as well as the trucking company. Bad weather and unsafe road conditions can also contribute to a truck accident.

How Can I Get Compensated After A Truck Accident?

The best and easiest way to get compensated after a semi-truck crash is contacting an experienced truck accident attorney.

These experts will know how to file a claim, review your medical records and other documentation to look for all damages , and identify the appropriate liable parties in your case.

Reach Out to an Experienced Tractor Trailer Accident Attorney Today

If you or a loved one have been involved in a commercial vehicle accident, you may be entitled to seek compensation for any injury, trauma, or loss suffered as a result.

LegalFinders can help you schedule a free case evaluation with an experienced truck accident attorney, who can help you build a strong case and seek the fair compensation you deserve.

Article Sources

Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS)  — Truck Profile

National Safety Council (NSC) — Injury Facts: Road Users

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) — Fatality Facts 2020: Large Trucks

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) — Traffic Safety Facts Annual Report Table

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