Taking the highway, interstate, or a toll road is part of the driving experience for just about every person licensed to drive a personal vehicle. Cars routinely operate on all types of roadways together with SUVs, work trucks, vehicles towing trailers, and semi-trucks, as well as a variety of two-wheel transportation modes. Most drivers will not experience a severe truck accident involving another vehicle over their lifetime, although seeing cars that have sustained vehicular damage, likely as a result of a wreck, is a regular occurrence.
But for those unfortunate enough to experience an accident that involves a much larger vehicle like an 18-wheeler, damage to the car and its occupants is usually much more severe than a typical multi-car accident. So when a driver is involved in an accident with an 18-wheeler, also called a semi, a big rig, a tractor-trailer, or even a semi-truck, who covers the potentially high costs associated with a devastating accident like this? Let’s look at what is involved with an 18-wheeler accident, what happens after the accident, and how to determine who might be financially liable for a truck accident like this.
When personal vehicles are involved in crashes with other similarly sized cars or trucks, damage to the car and driver or passengers can be minimal but can also result in a total loss of the vehicles involved as well as life-changing injuries or even death. Semi-trucks, however, are commercial vehicles that can weigh over 80,000 pounds when fully loaded, making them many times heavier than the average car or SUV. When a big rig truck is involved in a vehicular crash, most likely severe damage can occur as well as life-altering injuries or even loss of life for those in the smaller car or truck.
Drivers must share the road with these massive trucks since 18-wheelers transport necessary products across sometimes long distances and provide valuable services with the immense capacity these trucks are capable of transporting. Truck drivers are at the helm of these enormous tractor-trailers, and like any other mode of transportation, 18-wheelers sometimes collide with other vehicles.
These accidents occur for various reasons, sometimes causing horrible damage to the cars, SUVs, or trucks unfortunately involved. But drivers of these large trucks must go through rigorous safety training before driving an 18-wheeler, and many have years of experience behind the wheel of a semi. So, what causes these potentially devastating truck accidents? Let’s look at the common reasons why these oversized commercial vehicles happen.
Possible Causes for 18-Wheeler Truck Accident
Wrecks involving semi-trucks can happen for all kinds of reasons, but most accidents are due to dangerous conditions or negligence.
While all drivers must contend with poor weather conditions, driving an 18-wheeler in severe weather can be exceptionally perilous. Drivers are trained to be calm and confident in maneuvering their trucks in all situations, but pressures to keep rolling through bad weather to make load deadlines could encourage drivers to attempt to drive when taking a break might be a safer choice. Driving through snowstorms, heavy rain, or high winds can cause problems. Any of these conditions could potentially be the cause of an 18-wheeler accident, and trucking companies could be deemed liable for pressuring drivers to continue or even making drivers feel like they cannot decide for themselves if stopping would be safer.
Negligence: What is it?
The term negligence describes an action or lack of action a person or company takes. The legal definition of negligence states it is “conduct that falls below the standards of behavior established by law for the protection of others against unreasonable risk of harm.” Driver and company negligence are usually associated with 18-wheeler accidents, and each type describes the actions that contribute to a wreck.
Every driver is tasked with remaining attentive to all aspects of operating a vehicle, and semi-drivers are no exception. When an accident occurs due to a driver doing something like texting or using a mobile device while driving, the accident may be deemed due to driver negligence. Many times, accidents resulting from this type of driver negligence may result in settlements to the injured parties since the driver expects to know that these behaviors could result in dangerous driving. Another way a tractor-trailer driver could be negligent is when driving too fast, too close to other vehicles, or exhibiting apparent reckless behavior while behind the wheel. Experienced drivers are not exempt from being charged with negligent driving even if they do not have any past legal documentation of negligent conduct. The expected behaviors that lead to driver negligence are:
- use of a mobile device
- swerving or reckless driving
- speeding or driving too slowly
- driving while fatigued
- driving while impaired by a substance
Behavior that causes accidents can be attributed to the actions or lack of activities by a company. Owners of big rigs have a responsibility to keep the truck in working order through regular safety checks, and they also have a responsibility to prevent exhaustion or overwork in their drivers, putting all at risk while they are driving. Company negligence may contribute to the cause of a semi-truck wreck when:
- a truck is not maintained correctly
- safety testing is not completed regularly
- drivers are pressured to drive too long of hours or not to take necessary breaks
- drivers are not able to drive safely due to any action or lack of action by their employers
Victims of 18-Wheeler Truck Accident: What to Do
When a personal vehicle is involved in an accident with a large commercial truck like an 18-wheeler, victims should take steps to ensure that all injuries and damages are adequately covered and all legal avenues are pursued during the recovery period and settlement process.
How a Lawyer Can Help
Lawyers can help navigate the complicated steps that may be required for accident victims to take to receive a fair and appropriate settlement resulting from a wreck with a big rig. Since attorney-client privilege is necessary during all conversations, accident victims can share the events that occurred with their legal representation to help determine the facts and details of the incident. Facing devastating injuries, experiencing personal damage to property, and going through a traumatic accident can all be very challenging. Having a legal team to help navigate the sometimes-confusing process required to settle these types of truck accidents will help ensure that the outcome is favorable for those impacted by the wreck.
Is Going to Court Required to Resolve a Claim?
Heading into a courtroom is usually not something accident victims want to do, but sometimes it may be required to resolve a truck wreck claim. Legal representation will guide a client through the necessary steps for their specific situation, and sometimes it does end up in the courtroom. Usually, though, most parties do not want to go to trial as it carries a high risk for both sides. Instead, many claims are settled out of court through legal proceedings usually run efficiently by lawyers representing the injured party and the semi-truck driver.
Simply put, a settlement is a monetary compensation given to victims of truck accidents. Settlements put a price on the personal injury and losses of a victim, and these usually consider all manners of related lost expenses or future potential losses of the victim and any other injured parties.
Types of Claims and Losses
Personal Injury Since wrecks that involve an 18-wheeler and any other vehicle or property can create a substantial amount of damage or injuries, victims of these types of occurrences may need to claim a variety of types of losses when seeking compensation in a settlement. The injured party may have physical injuries that require immediate care and treatment and may impact the person’s ability to work or have an everyday life in the future, and all of this must be taken into consideration when claiming a settlement. One of the benefits of having a legal team representing the victim is that an experienced lawyer will know what types of future concerns should be considered when making a claim resulting from a big rig accident. Some of the most common and severe injuries that victims of these terrible accidents experience are:
- broken bones
- spinal cord, neck, or head injuries
- back and shoulder injuries
- dismemberment, disfigurement, lacerations, and other life-threatening cuts
- chronic pain
Property Loss In addition to physical injury, victims may experience property loss. In addition to the damage sustained to a vehicle, other property loss may be included in this accident claim if it was present and damaged at the time of the incident. Typical inclusions in a property loss settlement claim relating to this type of truck accident could be a trailer or other structure attached to or being towed by the vehicle impacted; property inside of the car (s); property included owned by or connected with a job like laptops or other materials used or provided; livestock, pets, or other animals involved; any property items carried in the vehicle or towed or connected to the car impacted like the contents of a camper. Property loss is calculated based on many factors specific to the accident and the severity of impact on all property of the victim or victims.
Future Losses Typically the most complicated calculations for settlement claims, these types of losses cover potential income or loss of a job that results from injuries or property loss or damage as a result of the wreck. Future income potential may be temporarily or even permanently impacted with personal injuries sustained in an accident with an 18-wheeler. For some, the victim or victims may recover in time from their injuries, but they will not be able to work during that time frame, so income loss during that period is considered when making a settlement claim. For other more severe injuries or ones that will never be effectively healed, victims may be left physically unable to work at their current job or career or may be able to work at a diminished capacity. In addition to income losses, future losses might be considered in a settlement if personal property is impacted by the wreck that was part of future income, like in the case of livestock that was injured or killed in a victim’s trailer. Legal representation will work with victims to assess and project potential future losses based on past precedents in similar cases.
Determining Fault in Truck Accident
One of the critical components of settling a truck accident case is determining the fault. This means that either the driver of the semi-truck or the driver of any other vehicles will be concluded to be the cause of the accident, and then that party or company that employs the driver will assume the liability for the settlement. All of the factors contributing to the accident will be considered when determining fault, including:
1. the state of the truck driver as well as any other driver involved
2. driving of the truck and the driver of the other vehicles at the time of the accident
3. corporate policies that influenced the truck driver or had an unintended influence on the truck driver
4. other circumstances on the road at the time of the accident, including weather, construction, or other issues
Who Covers the Cost of an 18-Wheeler Truck Accident settlement?
The party covers the settlement costs of an accident involving an 18-wheeler and other vehicles found to be at fault. If the fault is not determined outside of court, then a trial may be held to let a court determine fault after hearing the evidence from both sides. When a semi-trailer driver or the company is at fault, they can fight the finding of fault in court. This will hold up the final payout of any monetary compensation due for years. In this case, victims must wait until all legal proceedings before any settlement compensation is received.