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Truck Accidents Overview

A traffic accident involving a commercial truck, such as an eighteen-wheeler or big rig tractor trailer, can be much more catastrophic than an ordinary car accident. Semi-truck accidents comprise a significant number of motor vehicle injury accidents, as well as fatalities each year. With their tremendous size and sheer power, large trucks are one of the more troublesome aspects that drivers of smaller passenger cars have to overcome on a daily basis. With goods being transported all across the country via truck, there is an overwhelming amount of truck traffic that passes over California’s roads and highways.

A typical fully loaded large commercial truck can weigh 80,000 pounds. Because of the large size of semi-trucks any collision between a semi-truck and another vehicle is likely to result in serious, even fatal, injuries. An accident involving a large commercial truck may create liability for not just the driver of the trailer, the owner of the container being transported, as well as the owner of the load in the container. In the event that you or a loved one is involved in an accident with a commercial truck, you may be entitled to recover compensation for your injuries by bringing a legal claim against the responsible parties.

In truck collisions, federal regulation requires over the road trucks to carry various levels of insurance coverage, depending on the nature of materials hauled. The State of California requires a tractor trailer truck to carry a much higher minimum liability insurance policy than a typical passenger vehicle. Many times, trucking hauling, and leasing companies may argue over which insurance company is responsible for compensating the victim in a truck collision. Current federal regulations protect the innocent party by helping to ensure coverage.

When proving your case in a truck accident the primary legal theory of liability is negligence. One must prove that the other party (the truck driver, trucking company, or other party) was liable for the accident. A person injured in a commercial truck accident must show that:

  • The defendant owed the plaintiff the duty to exercise a reasonable degree of care to avoid injury, under the circumstances.
  • The defendant failed to exercise such reasonable care.
  • The defendant’s failure to exercise reasonable care was the cause of injury suffered by plaintiff.

There are a variety of reasons that a truck can cause an accident. There are certain factors that are more common than others. These fall into three general categories; driver error, external conditions, and defective equipment.

The most common cause of truck accidents is driver error. This can range from gross negligence to simple accidents. Lack of training or experience can lead to poor decision making that causes sudden lane changes, wide turns, and dangerous interactions with bridges and roads. Alcohol or drug abuse can impair a truck driver’s ability to drive. Fatigue and schedule pressure can take a real toll on truck drivers, causing accidents and fatalities.

External conditions can be a cause of truck accidents. Since trucks and tractor trailers are so large, they are at special risk in dangerous external conditions. Snowstorms, ice on the road, narrow bridges, and reduced visibility due to fog or rain can all cause accidents.

Commercial trucks are like any type of vehicle and can suffer from design flaws and defective equipment. These flaws can be fatal and cause injury or even death. Defective equipment and/or design can cause large trucks to roll over, jack knife, or have loss of driver control. Components such as brakes can fail, and features such as lack of side and rear bumpers can cause increased damage to the vehicle hit by a truck.

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