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Anatomy of A Semi-Truck Collision with A Passenger Vehicle

Cranwell & Moore P.L.C. Feb. 14, 2023

In 2019, a whopping 97% of fatalities from passenger vehicle crashes with large trucks were of those driving or riding in the smaller vehicle, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in an analysis of U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) data. The IIHS explains that tractor-trailers weigh “20-30 times” more than cars, so people in the smaller vehicle in a crash with a large truck are extremely vulnerable to severe injury or death.

By the Numbers

Every type of collision involving a large commercial truck and a car has its unique dangers. The breakdown of fatal crashes looked like this in 2019:

  • Head-on collision: 29%

  • Large truck side-struck passenger vehicle: 24%

  • Passenger vehicle rear-ended semi: 24%

In the third kind of accident, the car passengers face the risk of a catastrophic, often fatal underride accident in which the smaller vehicle slides under the truck. Underride accidents can also happen when the car hits the large truck’s side.

Other scenarios involving truck collisions with passenger vehicles include back-up collisions, and a variety of other factors like spilled freight, jackknifes or rollovers.

As for location, IIHS reports that more than half of fatalities from these accidents in 2019 occurred on major roads that were not freeways or interstates, where about another one-third of them happened. These kinds of collisions are also more likely to occur during the daytime.

Contributing Factors

Some of the factors that can contribute to this kind of accident include:

  • Truck driver distraction or fatigue

  • Truck driver failure to adjust driving for poor weather conditions

  • Missed or substandard truck maintenance

  • Truck driver failure to adjust braking practices for heavier loads

  • Violation of federal hours-of-service regulations

  • Truck driver alcohol or drug use, including prescription and nonprescription medication

  • Speeding, reckless driving or other traffic violations

  • Negotiating curves or turns too fast

  • Unbalanced cargo

  • Overweight load

  • Inadequate truck driver screening, training, discipline or oversight

  • Negligent hiring of unqualified or dangerous drivers

  • Defective design or manufacture of truck or truck parts

  • And others

How Legal Counsel Can Help

Of the many ways consulting with a lawyer can benefit a person harmed in an accident with a semi-truck, two things stand out. First, the attorney will launch a broad and thorough professional investigation of the accident, which are often complex incidents with contributing factors that may otherwise come to light. The trucking company and its insurer will investigate thoroughly, so uncovering all important information is important for the victim.

Second, through the investigation, the lawyer will analyze which parties might be responsible and have legal liability for the victim’s injuries and losses, including potentially the trucking company, truck driver, manufacturer or designer of dangerous or defective truck equipment, negligent maintenance or repair provider, road designer or engineer, government unit responsible for road design or maintenance, involved insurance companies and others.

The lawyers at Cranwell & Moore P.L.C., Attorneys at Law, in Vinton, Virginia, in the metropolitan Roanoke area, represent the victims of accidents involving large commercial trucks in Virginia and other states in the region as well as the surviving loved ones of those who have passed away in these collisions.