Car Accident Cases that Involve Commercial Semis or Tractor-Trailers Have Serious and Unique Legal Issues

By Richard F. Hitz

Crashes involving large trucks such as semi-trailers or 18-wheelers are among the most dangerous on Nebraska highways. Semi-trailers or 18-wheelers pose a threat to all motorists on Nebraska highways because of their sheer size.

Most deaths or life-changing injuries from large truck crashes are suffered by the occupants of passenger vehicles. The main problem is the defenselessness of people traveling in smaller vehicles. Trucks often weigh 20-30 times as much as passenger cars and are taller with greater ground clearance, which can result in smaller vehicles under-riding trucks in crashes.

Truck braking capability can also be a factor in truck crashes. Loaded tractor-trailers require 20-40 percent more distance than cars to stop, and the discrepancy is greater on wet and slippery roads or with poorly maintained brakes.

Another known crash risk is truck driver fatigue. Drivers of large trucks are allowed under federal hours-of-service regulations to drive up to 11 hours at a stretch and up to 77 hours over a seven-day period. Surveys indicate that many drivers violate the regulations and work longer than permitted in order to increase profits.

An injury from being involved in an accident with a commercial semi or “big rig” may be devastating or even fatal. The list of common crash factors, as compiled by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) for accidents involving commercial trucks, includes:

  • Braking failure
  • Traffic congestion
  • Prescription drug use
  • Fatigue
  • Aggressive driving
  • Driving too fast for road conditions
  • Unfamiliarity with the road
  • Road construction
  • Failure to stop at a traffic signal, stop sign, or crosswalk
  • Inattention

The above information is based on analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) and the IIHS.

If you have been injured or have lost a loved one in a truck accident, there are a number of parties, including the truck driver and their employer, who may be liable for your losses. However, it is not uncommon for these parties to deny fault or liability for a crash. An attorney can help establish liability for your crash, collect evidence to strengthen your claim, and help ensure that maximum compensation is sought from the appropriate parties.

If you have questions about an accident involving a commercial semi-truck, contact Rich Hitz at rich@carlsonburnett.com, or set up a free consultation by calling (402) 810-8611.

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