We've all had that moment on the highway of noticing a semi-truck or tractor-trailer bearing down from the rear and had that "yikes" instinct.
While not every close encounter with an 18-wheeler becomes an accident (thankfully), some truck accidents can be devastating. In North Carolina, there were 177 fatalities in accidents that involved large trucks in 2018.
|Type of truck||Total crashes||Fatal crashes||Injury crashes|
|Unknown heavy truck||331||0||65|
There are a few important distinctions between a truck accident and a collision between passenger cars.
The first major difference between a truck accident and a car accident is likely severity. Certainly, a collision between passenger cars can be very serious or deadly. But a semi-truck weighs about 20 times heavier than the average passenger car, which means impact with a truck will usually have a stronger effect on the smaller vehicle's occupants.
The second main distinction is how liability is handled. In a car accident, liability usually rests squarely on one or both of the drivers. In a truck accident, there are several parties who might be liable or jointly liable in a lawsuit — including the trucking company, the truck owner, a cargo loading company, etc.
One thing is certain, regardless of how or why (or with whom) your accident happened:
Say you're in an accident where a semi-truck rolls over on the highway.
It could be any (or none) of these reasons. But your legal claim could be very different depending on which reason it is — and you likely won't know right away.
It's important to understand that there are 3 types of truck drivers:
Which type of truck driver is responsible for the crash is important from a legal perspective. Your lawyer can sort out important details such as how the driver is employed and who's responsible for the truck's maintenance.
The person or company that owns or leases any vehicle is responsible for its maintenance. If there's a contract between the owner and shipper, there probably are provisions in the contract that address maintenance. Even the truck driver might not know who's responsible for maintenance under the contract, so your lawyer will likely have to request that information during the discovery process.
If the accident was caused by faulty brakes or some other mechanical malfunction, liability could be on the manufacturer of the truck or of that specific part. If the accident was the result of improper loading or other cargo issue, or some failure that should've been detected during routine maintenance, that would be the fault of whoever had the responsibility to maintain and load the truck (the shipper, driver, owner, etc.).
Even if the accident was due to driver error, it could still be the company's liability (or the company and the driver could both be defendants). In certain circumstances, an employer is responsible for the negligent acts of an employee. Truck accidents sometimes happen because the driver was on the road for too long, went too many hours without sleep, or didn't take enough rest stops. The employer can bear some responsibility for those situations.
If there's a lawsuit to recover damages after a truck accident, the first thing that happens is that the plaintiff files a claim. In that claim, the plaintiff will allege that the defendant is solely at fault, or that their negligence caused the accident.
Sometimes, the court might find that the plaintiff has some degree of liability, however small. For example, even if the truck was speeding or made an unsafe lane change, perhaps the driver of the car could have reacted sooner in a way that would avoid a collision. In that situation, the court might find that the defendant (truck driver) is 95% liable and the plaintiff (accident victim) is 5% liable.
In many states, a plaintiff's award would be decreased by their percentage of liability. So, in the example above, if the plaintiff was entitled to recover $100,000 in damages, their total damage recovery would be subtracted by 5% and they'd receive $95,000.
However, the Tarheel State does things differently.
This rule might seem unfair, but it's the law.
That's why it's so important to find a North Carolina truck accident lawyer immediately who can evaluate all the evidence to determine who the correct defendant is (or if there's more than one) and strategize to prevent you from being held liable. This step can make or break your legal claim.
Although the possibilities are endless for how a truck accident happens, there are some types of accidents that are the most frequent. Knowing what types of truck accidents are common can help you to avoid being involved in one.
Both cars and trucks can have tire blowouts. When that happens, it can cause the vehicle to swerve into another lane, rollover, or jackknife. A tire blowout is usually caused by wear and tear, defective manufacturing, or routine maintenance deficiencies.
If a truck tire blows out, the debris from the broken tire could hit other cars, or the truck could collide with other cars if it swerves out of its lane.
A "jackknife" is when the cab and trailer portions of a big rig fold at the joint. If the back of the trailer moves faster than the cab, it creates a sharp angle that causes the truck to face 2 directions. If this happens, the driver no longer has control over the vehicle. A nearby car could collide with the swinging trailer or wedge underneath the rear of the truck.
A passenger car can slide underneath a truck, either from the rear or the side. The height difference in the vehicles could mean that the top or front of the car could be crushed and its occupants seriously injured.
There are many federal regulations for loading cargo, and the main consideration is that the haul must be immobile and secure. The truck's restraint system must be strong enough to keep cargo from sliding or shifting.
There are 2 ways an unsecured load accident could happen:
"Hazmat" stands for hazardous materials. This classification could include anything from gasoline, to pesticides, to lithium batteries, to dry ice. What classifies cargo as hazardous is if it's either highly flammable or could become harmful to breathe if it becomes airborne.
A hazmat accident can affect not just the drivers on the road, but also anyone in surrounding areas. If a toxic substance is released into the air or certain bodies of water, it can affect people in nearby communities.
Just like a truck accident can take any form — foreseeable or not — it can also have a variety of causes. One main cause of truck wrecks is driver error — either the truck driver's or yours.
It's not always the trucker's fault. As a passenger car driver, here's what you can do to avoid a truck accident:
Enjuris offers a variety of resources to guide you through legal recovery, whether it's making an insurance claim or moving into the personal injury litigation process.
Our free downloadable truck accident e-book provides information about how to handle insurance companies, how to make a claim, FAQs, where to look for extra help, and how to prepare for a first meeting with a lawyer.
The Enjuris law firm directory is your free resource for finding a North Carolina truck accident lawyer who's ready to handle your claim. The right lawyer should know the mechanics of the claims process, be a skilled negotiator, and be experienced with handling cases like yours. Hiring a lawyer is the best way to receive compensation for your truck accident injury.
Figuring out who’s at fault in a truck accident is complicated, and it’s probably a job only a truck accident lawyer can handle. There might be more parties involved than you realize, and knowing who is at fault can be the key to a successful truck accident lawsuit. Read more