What to Know About Truck Accidents

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Written By Rocky Horton

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A commercial truck accident is a serious event. This article will teach you what to know about truck accidents so you can be prepared. Often, these trucks carry hundreds of pounds of cargo, with drivers who have been on the road for many hours. These conditions can potentially lead to both impaired driving and under-maintained equipment, causing a semi-truck accident.

In cases involving a tractor-trailer accident, the insurers of both drivers may not be the only parties involved in settling the damages. The company that owns the truck may also be liable under certain conditions.

If you sustained injuries in a heavy truck accident, you may be entitled to compensation. Speak with an accident attorney experienced in semi-truck accident cases to learn more about your eligibility for a settlement.

Semi-Truck Accident Statistics

Non-commercial and commercial trucks weighing at least 10,000 pounds account for 9% of all vehicles involved in fatal crashes, according to the NSC. In 2020, this amounted to 4,842 of these trucks being involved in a fatal crash, which is 4% of all vehicles registered on the road in the United States.

According to the same studies,107,000 of these trucks were involved in a crash-related injury, resulting in 147,000 injuries in total. All told, nearly 5,000 people died in 2020 due to heavy truck accidents, 71% of which were drivers or passengers from the other vehicle. This is due to the size and weight of a semi-truck, which keeps its driver comparably protected (only 17% of these crashes resulted in a truck driver fatality).

Remember that non-occupants, including cyclists, also factor into accident fatalities, accounting for nearly 600 of those deaths. The chance of a non-occupant being fatally involved in a semi-truck accident is higher than in a normal collision, also due to the size of the vehicles in these cases.

Common Causes of Trucking Accidents

The common causes of trucking accidents are similar to those in other vehicular crashes, including driving distracted or impaired. However, they can also have causes unique to driving heavy trucks. The most common causes include:

  • Fatigue, caused by drivers who have spent too long on the road with too tight of a schedule or who have neglected their required breaks
  • Distraction, caused by talking or texting on the part of either driver
  • Loss of control, potentially caused by a lack of proper screening or training for the drivers
  • Impairment, caused by driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Overloading, caused by company error or driver inexperience
  • Speeding, resulting in an accident due to either driver’s behavior
  • Aggressive driving, either from the truck driver or other cars on the road
  • Faulty maintenance caused by a lack of proper company procedure

As you can see, the common causes of truck accidents include factors in both drivers’ control, as well as some that are in the control of the company that owns and maintains the truck. This creates a wide range of possible defendants, which changes how cases are filed and settlements are calculated based on the distribution of fault for accidents involving these vehicles.

Common Injuries from Trucking Accidents

Common injuries from a truck accident are similar to those in any car accident, though they are often more severe due to the size and weight of the vehicle. These include:

  • Broken bones, which can occur anywhere on the body of either driver but are most commonly seen in the non-truck vehicle
  • Spine fractures, due to either blunt trauma or contortion of the body during the accident
  • Paralysis, resulting from spinal or brain damage
  • Brain injuries, sometimes known as closed head injuries, can happen even if there is no physical trauma to the head due to the extreme force of the impact
  • Crush injuries, affecting not only bones but organs and blood vessels
  • Amputations can result from the accident directly due to debris or can be required later due to damaged tissue and bone
  • Disfigurement to the body and face can result from the force of the crash or chemical burns from the contents of the vehicles

While many of these injuries are possible in accidents involving two passenger cars, they tend to be much more serious when a semi-truck is involved.

Semi-Truck Accident Insurance Claims

Semi-truck accident insurance claims can be more complicated than typical accident claims due to the laws involved and the potential for multiple defendants. Liability laws work differently with heavy trucks due to their potential to cause more damage, injuries, and fatalities on the road. These laws differ by state, so you’ll need to do research in your area to learn more.

As an example, Florida requires semi-truck drivers to have collision insurance amounting to anywhere from $50,000 to $750,000. The amount they need depends on the weight of the truck. Due to the potential ambiguity of those requirements, many trucking companies over-insure their drivers to make sure that if anything happens, they’re covered for damages.

Additionally, any trucks that frequently carry hazardous chemicals require even more insurance, depending on state laws. Due to the potential of deadly chemicals to cause even more lasting harm, some states require as much as $5 million in liability coverage for the drivers of these trucks.

Since insurance claims often involve not only the driver but the trucking company as well, these cases can be complicated. Knowing who to file against is an important initial decision that anyone seeking compensation should consider.

How is Fault Determined in a Trucking Accident?

Fault is determined in a truck accident or tractor-trailer accident the same way as in an accident involving other types of vehicles, just with a few added steps. As in any accident, the testimonies of both drivers, statements from any witnesses, and the police report from the scene factor into the insurance company’s determination of fault.

The evidence collected from the scene could include photos showing the damaged areas of the vehicles, damage on the road, or evidence of faulty maintenance on the truck. The possibility of company liability means that fault could shift to the manufacturer or maintainer of the truck rather than the driver. This is why recording evidence of the cause of the accident remains a crucial step in getting compensation for your injuries.

Can Trucking Companies Be Held Liable in an Accident?

Yes, trucking companies can be liable in a semi-truck accident, for several reasons. Due to potential corporate ownership of the trucks involved in the accident, the driver of the other vehicle can bring a lawsuit against both the truck driver and the company that owns it if the insurance policies won’t cover the damage.

Additionally, even the truck driver can sue the company if they believe they are at fault for the accident. This can happen if the truck crashes because it has been inadequately maintained, overloaded, or deemed faulty. A lawsuit can also occur if the truck driver was not scheduled adequate breaks by their managers and was driving fatigued at the time of the accident.

How Much is the Average Settlement in a Trucking Accident?

The average settlement in a tractor-trailer accident for 2015-2021 was $47,777.50. Not including tractor-trailers, the number was $35,412.80. However, these are only averages based on the available case data. Every settlement is unique, based on the conditions of each accident.

Major aspects that can change a settlement amount include who was liable, how serious the damage was (including injuries), and how many people were involved. Since truck accidents tend to be bigger, multiple cars and even non-occupants can be involved in the crash.

For example, consider the case of Clara Santos vs Sun Country Citrus Handling, involving a car that crashed into a tractor-trailer that the judge ruled was improperly parked on the roadside, resulting in serious head injuries and a $630,000 settlement with the company. Or consider the case of Lymon v Bynum Transport Inc., in which an accident involving a semi-truck driver, ruled to be negligent on the road, resulted in the 19-year-old Lymon becoming paralyzed, speech impaired, epileptic, and incontinent due to severe brain trauma.

Due to the plaintiff’s extreme injuries, the driver’s negligence, the company’s negligence in training and supervising their staff, and the projected cost of care for a 19-year-old with life-changing injuries, Lymon was awarded $65 million. So clearly, the case matters when trying to estimate compensation in these accidents.

What To Do If You’re in a Trucking Accident?

If you’re in a trucking accident, your actions immediately after the crash can impact your case later. Here are some steps and guidelines to follow:

  • Make sure you and your passengers are okay, moving your car, if possible, to a safer position.
  • Call 911 so that police and paramedics can arrive on the scene to begin filing reports and administering care.
  • Exchange information with the truck driver, including their name, insurance information, company name and address, and truck ID number.
  • Collect the contact information of any relevant witnesses.
  • Take photos of the scene, including damage to the cars and road or any evidence of faulty machinery.
  • Never refuse medical care at the scene since insurance adjusters can claim later that you weren’t injured.
  • Never discuss the accident with the insurance adjuster at the scene or admit fault to the police, the other driver, witnesses, or even your passengers. Even a simple apology can be interpreted as an admission of fault later.
  • Contact an experienced truck accident lawyer to discuss your eligibility and begin collecting evidence for your case.

Do I Need a Lawyer for a Semi-Truck Accident?

In any car accident, a lawyer can help you file on time, collect the right evidence, and get proper compensation for your injuries, but they are even more important after a semi-truck accident. Semi-truck accident cases are often much more complicated, involving more severe injuries, multiple plaintiffs involved in the crash, and even multiple defendants, including the company that owns the truck.

Remember that the insurers, whether yours, the other driver’s, or the company’s, are not your allies. They will try anything they can to prove that you were not seriously hurt or that you were negligent in the crash. To assemble the evidence needed to prove your case, an experienced tractor-trailer accident lawyer is the ally that you need.


A heavy truck accident can cause serious injuries and extreme property damage. While you can file for compensation on your own, the possibility that the case could involve corporate plaintiffs and multiple insurance companies makes it essential that you recruit an experienced truck accident lawyer to your team to get the compensation you deserve.

Rocky Horton

Rocky Horton


Rocky Horton is a health and safety expert from Chapel Hill, NC. He is the founder of AccidentAdvisor and has been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg, and other publications. Learn more.