Every motorist, passenger, pedestrian, and bicyclist needs to share the road with others. But trucks (we're talking about commercial trucks, semi-trailers, or "big rig" vehicles) involve more than just the driver. When you share the road with a truck, you're also sharing with its driver, manufacturer, shipping company, cargo loader, or even other entities.
That's why a truck accident tends to be more complex than an accident between 2 passenger cars. The size and bulk of a truck increase the likelihood of accidents, and a car driver who gets into a collision with a large truck is at risk for suffering severe injuries. Therefore, a truck accident can result in high costs to an injured person and determining who's liable for those costs can present challenges unique to trucks and the trucking industry.
The table below shows Tennessee truck accident fatalities in 2010 and 2017 (the most recent year for which data are available):
|Number of fatalities||82||121|
|Fatalities per million people||12.92||18.02|
These numbers reflect fatal crashes involving large trucks, as reported to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
Here's how Tennessee ranks in relation to other states:
One of the keys to avoiding a truck accident is knowing what causes them. Sometimes the truck driver causes an accident, but there are times when the passenger driver is at fault.
It's impossible to predict how an accident can happen, but there are a few common types of truck accidents.
Here are some of the ways a truck accident happens:
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.
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.
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.
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.
It might seem like some types of truck accidents are without fault or human error.
For example: If a tire blows out, who's to blame?
Sometimes, accidents are just that… accidents. But the concept behind personal injury law is that someone needs to be held liable in order for you to recover any damages.
Damages are the costs you can recover after you're injured in an accident.
Personal injury law aims to restore the injured person to the financial condition they'd be in if the accident hadn't happened. Damages would cover expenses that include:
If the accident resulted in very serious injuries, you might also be able to recover damages for losses that don't have a specific financial value, including pain and suffering (or other emotional distress), loss of consortium, or punitive damages.
So, who pays for these damages?
Tennessee is also a comparative negligence state, which means each driver is assigned a percentage of liability for an accident. A driver who is more than 50% at fault for an accident cannot recover any damages in a lawsuit. If your liability is 50% or less, the amount of damages you can receive would be reduced by the percent of your liability.
In other words, if your damage award was $60,000 and you were 20% liable, the amount you receive would be reduced to $48,000.
But in a truck accident, sometimes liability isn't clear.
Even if it seems to be the result of driver error, it can be complicated because a driver's legal status related to the vehicle can affect the outcome of a claim.
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.
Aside from being related to the truck, itself, there could be liability for road conditions, poor sign visibility, or other issues. Other parties involved could be highway road crews, government agencies (like the department of transportation), or others involved with maintaining roadways.
If you've been involved in a truck accident, Enjuris offers a variety of resources to help you navigate the legal system. For starters, our free, downloadable Truck Accident Ebook includes worksheets and guides to prepare for your first meeting with a lawyer, along with additional detail about how to handle your truck accident.
You should also reach out to a respected Tennessee truck accident attorney near you who is experienced, skilled, and ready to handle your claim.
Lastly, remember this:
A trucking company, manufacturer, or another potentially liable party in a truck accident likely has deep pockets and a team of lawyers who defend these cases every day. Their sole objective is to pay out as little money as possible to an injured person. Your insurance company, alone, might be no match for that — because your claims adjuster handles hundreds of cases a day, too.
A personal injury lawyer helps individuals who have sustained injuries in accidents to recover financial compensation. These funds are often needed to pay for medical treatment, make up for lost wages and provide compensation for injuries suffered. Sometimes a case that seems simple at first may become more complicated. In these cases, consider hiring an experienced personal injury lawyer. Read more