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18 Wheeler Accidents

18-Wheeler Accidents -- Insight From Experienced Truck Accident Attorneys

Large trucks, semis, and 18-wheelers are a leading cause of many traffic related deaths in the U.S. These types of accidents are particularly disastrous given a tractor-trailer or eighteen-wheeler can weigh 20 to 30 times more than a passenger vehicle. Due to this, commercial trucks are dangerous and essentially guaranteed to crush smaller vehicles in an accident.  

Truck accidents are different from car accidents, including those involving 18-wheelers because they’re complicated cases that will involve commercial trucking companies and insurance policies. It is crucial for a truck accident victim to take the right steps after a truck accident to ensure they receive fair and full compensation for their losses.

18 wheeler trucks come in all shapes and sizes, and haul many products including fresh produce, steel, cars, cattle, and gasoline. These vehicles have 18 wheels and tires in order to spread the bulk of the weight, which big rigs cargo capacities can be over 40,000 pounds and gross weights up to 80,000 pounds, over the largest possible area.

Though most semi trucks now have devices on their engines that limit speed set between 62 and 68 miles per hour for safety and economy, an accident involving them could be disastrous. Compared to average cars, trucks have huge turning radiuses and need between 40 and 50% more distance to come to a complete stop. They can’t just stop on a whim. 

18-Wheeler Accident Causes

All trucks are subject to state and federal laws and regulations to minimize accident risks. However, some truck drivers and commercial trucking companies will ignore safety laws in order to meet their deadlines and maximize profits.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) looked at more than 120,000 large truck accidents over a two-year period and concluded that driver error was the most obvious cause of most crashes.

Some other causes of 18-wheeler truck accidents include:

  • Poor driver training and truck maintenance. Commercial trucking companies must maintain their trucks in reasonably good condition before they are allowed on the road. As trucking companies are primarily driven by profit, they may not always fully invest the time and money it takes to properly maintain their trucks. The result of cutting corners and failing to properly maintain their trucks is not only poorly trained drivers, but poorly trained drivers who are driving poorly maintained trucks./li>
  • Fatigue. Most truck drivers become severely fatigued after driving several long hours over very long stretches of road, typically with little to no rest in between. The accumulated fatigue may easily cause them to fall asleep at the wheel or become distracted, causing a serious accident.
  • Distracted driving. It is not uncommon for a truck driver who has been driving for several hours to become bored or lose focus on the road.  It often happens that a truck driver will start browsing the internet or respond to text messages on their phone. Another example of distracted truck driving is playing around with the stereo, causing a seemingly harmless distraction that can last a few seconds, but which can result in serious harm.
  • Roadway design. Congestion, merging traffic, and limited capacity also play a part. In 1997, the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) published a report saying the way to reduce 18 wheeler accidents was to separate the trucks from the automobile traffic by either building elevated truck lanes or additional bypass lanes.

However, 8-wheeler accidents tend to have many contributing factors at play when it comes to the cause. Other factors commonly seen hand-in-hand with the aforementioned include:

  • Unfamiliarity with the road
  • Traffic flow interruptions
  • Traveling too fast for the weather conditions
  • Prescription drug or alcohol consumption
  • Sudden stops due to traffic control devices

Because of the immense size of 18-wheelers, the resulting injuries from big rig accidents are usually severe. These can include:

Who Is Liable?

In short, determining liability after a trucking accident tends to become a logistical nightmare. Trucking accidents are typically catastrophic from an injury perspective and they are highly complex from a legal standpoint. Further complicating matters is that multiple parties can be held liable. 

Depending on the circumstances of your particular accident, the truck driver, the trucking company, and the truck manufacturer can all be held liable for an accident. An injured driver can also share some degree of responsibility for causing a truck accident. It is important to recognize that an injured driver who is found partly responsible for causing a trucking accident may still recover some damages. 

California is a comparative liability state. Even an at fault driver may be entitled to file a personal injury lawsuit for some damages, regardless of whether or not he or she was partially at fault for causing the trucking accident.

Moreover, California negligence law states that any truck driver who is found guilty of negligence can be held liable for causing injuries and damages to another motorist. Any driver who was injured by a truck driver’s negligence is entitled to file a personal injury lawsuit. 

However, the injured driver needs to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the truck driver who hit him or her was negligent in causing the accident. In the state of California, there are three elements for demonstrating negligence in a trucking accident:

  • The truck driver owed the accident victim a duty of care
  • The truck driver breached his or her duty of care through negligence
  • The truck driver’s breach was the significant factor in causing a victim's losses

Furthermore, according to California strict liability law, designers, manufacturers, and any companies involved in a product’s chain of distribution can be held liable if a defective product causes a trucking accident. In strict liability cases, negligence is not a factor when determining liability. Any of the above mentioned entities can all be held liable, whether or not they made any mistakes that caused the trucking accident. 

Strict liability claims can be based on:

  • Faulty accelerator pedals
  • Faulty engine/transmission parts
  • Faulty tires
  • Faulty brakes
  • Faulty cargo ties or straps

Available Damages

If you were injured as a result of someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses. Damages are a type of monetary award that is determined by a court of law to help compensate an aggrieved individual for any losses or injuries sustained as a result of someone’s negligence.

Economic damages are intended to compensate a plaintiff for losses that a dollar amount can readily be attached to and are calculated by determining the amount of out of pocket losses an aggrieved individual has or will expect to incur as a result of their injuries. A few examples of economic losses include:

  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages

Non-economic damages are essentially intended to cover losses that are thought of as subjective and will not necessarily cover out of pocket losses. Non-economic damages may include compensation for:

  • Emotional distress
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Other non-economic damages

Moreover, the third type of damages a California court may award are known as punitive damages and are intended as punishment and are only awarded when a defendant’s behavior is especially harmful. They are relatively rare and in fact are only incorporated in 5% of all verdicts. Also, there is no real set standard for calculating and awarding punitive damages

West Coast Trial Lawyers Is Here To Help

If you have sustained injuries as a result of an 18-wheeler truck accident, you have the right to hold the guilty party responsible. A truck accident attorney at our firm can help you recover financial compensation for the losses you have suffered, including medical bills, property damage, lost wages, and pain and suffering from your injury.

Call us today at (888) 573-3619 or email [email protected] to schedule a free consultation with our experienced, caring and compassionate legal team.


If you have been injured in an accident, you can count on the legal team at West Coast Trial Lawyers to fight for your rights every step of the way. Contact us today to schedule your free case evaluation with a personal injury attorney.
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