A large commercial truck, such as a semi-truck or an 18-wheeler, often weighs as much as 25 times more than the weight of a typical car. Due to a combination of this huge weight disparity and the basic laws of physics, accidents involving trucks pose a serious threat to people in the event of an accident. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, 44 people died in crashes involving a large truck or bus in Montana between 2011 and 2012. The national tally in the same period was an astounding 8,226.
Statistics show that truck drivers are generally more careful than car drivers, and often truck accidents are a result of unforeseen hazards on the road or the car driver's negligence. However, issues such as inadequate truck maintenance, truck driver fatigue and impaired driving are among the major causes of truck accidents. Therefore, it is important for a victim or surviving family members to highlight the truck driver or the trucking company's negligence in order to obtain compensation for an injury or death caused by an accident.
The defendants in a personal injury claim after a truck accident may not necessarily be the driver of the truck. The truck company, the truck driver's employer, the contractor or the insurance company may also be liable for damages suffered in a truck accident. In such cases, it is often a challenge for the victim to hold the defendant legally liable and, therefore, the victim must establish that the trucking company or the employer had some degree of control of the truck driver and the accident happened when the driver was acting at the employer's behest.
There are, however, some special considerations in the event of a truck accident. One such example is jackknifing, where the defendant may not be held negligent if the truck jackknifed due to unforeseen hazards on the road. Another such example is accidents that happen while a truck is turning. Often, large trucks need two lanes to make a right turn and, in the process, they block the road. This may not be considered a clear case of driver negligence, but there have been instances where a judge considered this sufficient evidence to establish a truck driver's fault.