Semi-trucks, tractor-trailers, 18-wheelers; they go by many names, and come in several different shapes and sizes. But all these large transportation trucks have strict rules and regulations they must follow on the road. That’s because when a semi-truck or other large truck of this caliber is involved in an accident with other cars, they tend to cause more severe damage and destruction than average.
Because of their sheer size, weight, and limited maneuverability, semi-trucks and their drivers must diligently follow certain rules and laws set forth to protect other drivers on the road. If they don’t, and their actions cause an accident, they could face serious consequences. If you’ve been involved in a blowout accident, left-turn accident, or shoulder accident with a semi-truck, it’s important to know who’s at fault, and why.
Semi-Truck Tire Blowout Accidents
Semi-truck blowout accidents occur when a truck tire deflates, experiences damage, or shreds as the truck is moving. When that happens, debris from the tire can fly out and cause damage to the cars around it. But in the worst of scenarios, if a tire blows out and the driver of the truck loses control of their vehicle, it can lead to swerving and rolling over. Semi-trucks’ size and cargo hauling weight make them especially dangerous when that happens.
A tire blowout can be caused by many preventable scenarios, which is why truck drivers and their employers are required to perform very thorough inspections of their tires. If they don’t, they could miss such simple causes as:
- Under inflation: When a truck’s tires aren’t filled with the appropriate amount of air, the tire can shred.
- Bald tires: When a tire’s tread, or the ridges that give it traction, are worn down or burnt from the friction of the road, the tire can break apart.
- Tread separation: When a tire isn’t fitted correctly, the metal rim becomes separated from the rubber tire, leading to dangerous bouncing and jostling.
- Spare tire use: Sometimes the use of a spare is necessary, but spares aren’t designed for long-term driving. If they’re overused, they could break apart.
- Overloading: Semi-trucks haul large and heavy loads, but they have limits. If the cargo hold of the truck is overpacked, it puts undue pressure on the tires, causing strain and wear.
If a truck driver misses any one of these obvious fixes, it could cause a blowout accident. Even if the truck driver has followed the regulations and maintenance of their truck, a blowout can still occur by driving over debris or experiencing a manufacturing defect. In these cases, it may still be possible to hold a third party legally responsible for the damage caused.
Semi-Truck Left-Hand Turn Accidents
A left-hand turn accident occurs when a car turning left misjudges the speed or distance of oncoming traffic, or misjudges its own speed when making the turn, resulting in a car colliding with them. Left-hand turn accidents are among the most common car accidents to occur for all types of vehicles. But when it comes to semi-trucks, that misjudgment can be even more deadly.
A semi-truck turns more slowly than a regular vehicle, and also has a much longer body to get all the way through the turn. Where a normal-sized vehicle may make a left turn successfully, a semi-truck can instead cause massive danger attempting that same turn. So, no matter what speed the cars around them are traveling, left-hand turns are always risky for semis to make.
Because semi-trucks usually have an unmatched size advantage over other cars on the road, if another car hits them, that car is likely going to suffer more damage than the semi-truck. Whether it’s a head-on collision, a T-bone impact, or a rear-end swipe, the smaller vehicle is almost always the one that comes out worse for wear. The same is unfortunately true for the driver and passengers inside it.
Several trucking companies have actually banned or strongly discouraged their drivers from making left-hand turns. That’s because when it comes to left-hand turn accidents, the truck making the left turn is usually the one found at fault for the resulting accident. Even if the truck clearly signaled it was turning, and even if you may have had enough time to attempt to avoid an accident, the law says that you, as the oncoming driver, do not have to slow down or stop for left-turning drivers. So you are likely not at fault for this type of accident.
Semi-Truck Shoulder Parking Accidents
Though you’ve likely seen large semi-trucks parked along the side of highways, exit ramps, and even city streets with some frequency, most times those trucks are not actually allowed to be parked there. Truck stops and other designated semi-truck parking areas exist for more than just giving truckers a place to rest. They exist to protect other drivers on the road.
Even if the truck is the one parked out of the driving lane, and a smaller moving vehicle is the one to hit it, it’s almost a guarantee that the smaller car involved in the accident will come out worse for wear. Again, this is because semi-trucks have so much size and weight advantage over most other vehicles they share the road with. And this is why semi-truck parking is highly regulated.
Unless otherwise noted by road signage, the shoulder of the road is only meant for emergency stops. That rule applies to all vehicles. Once the emergency has been resolved, the vehicle must legally vacate the shoulder. A vehicle stopped where it shouldn’t be is ripe for being struck by other cars moving past it, or for causing other accidents around it. And when the vehicle parked on the side of the road is a semi-truck, it’s a much more dangerous hazard. Its size draws the eyes of other drivers, decreases visibility around it, and gives less room for reaction or avoidance. All those disadvantages make it much more dangerous than other stopped vehicles.
Truck drivers have federal laws to follow that limit the number of consecutive hours they’re allowed to drive and the number of hours they must rest before driving again. In an effort to follow these regulations, drivers will usually pull into a truck stop. But when the nearest truck stop is too far, or if all the parking spaces are filled by other trucks, truckers may resort to just pulling onto the shoulder to rest. Though they’re following one federal law, they’re actually breaking another one by doing so. So if you happen to cause an accident with a semi-truck on the shoulder, you may not actually be found at fault for it.
If you’ve been involved in any of the above semi-truck accident scenarios, you may assume your claim will be straightforward, but that isn’t always the case. Trucking laws are nuanced, and trucking companies are often large and complex, making determining who to put at fault or sue challenging. You need an experienced trucking accident lawyer to help you identify the responsible party, build your case, and win the compensation you deserve.
The Whisler Law Firm has years of experience helping clients face truckers and their insurance companies in settlement hearings and in court. And because the nature of trucking accidents can cause such severe injuries, we’re ready to do all the legal heavy lifting for you so you can focus on your recovery. Call our office at 833-529-5677 or fill out our online form to request a free consultation with our team, and we’ll help you determine how to get the justice you deserve.