Determining Who Is At Fault in an 18-Wheeler Accident Lawsuit

Truck crashes remain a hazard on American roads, affecting motorists and pedestrians alike. In 2020, large truck accidents injured 99,500 pedestrians in the US. Usually, victims of truck accidents suffer serious injuries like spinal cord and brain injuries, broken bones, etc.

Accidents involving large trucks also often result in death. According to the National Safety Council, 4,842 truck crashes account for nine percent of all fatal motor vehicle accidents. 

Large truck accidents resulted in the death of 4,965 people in 2020. Of these fatalities, more than half were occupants of other vehicles, and 17 percent were truck occupants. Twelve percent of victims were bicyclists and pedestrians. 

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration identified semi-trailers, including eighteen-wheelers,  as accounting for 56 percent of fatal large truck accidents.  The truck driver, owner, or trucking company may be liable for damages.

If a truck crash injured you or a loved one, immediately consult a truck accident lawyer. You may be eligible to file an eighteen-wheeler accident lawsuit. Law firms generally offer free consultations to review personal injury claims.

Key Takeaways
  • Driver errors like distracted and fatigued driving cause most truck accidents.
  • Several parties, such as the driver, owner, and company, may be liable for a truck crash.
  • Crucial pieces of evidence for a truck accident claim include black box data, dispatch instructions, and log records.

Have you recently been injured in an accident?

Is an 18-wheeler different from a semi-truck?

People often call large trucks different names, like tractor-trailers, 18-wheelers, semi-trucks, and big rigs. While not all semi-trucks have eighteen wheels, those that do are called eighteen-wheelers. Eighteen-wheelers typically transport heavy cargo, including construction materials, gasoline, and other trucks or cars.

An 18-wheeler consists of two parts: the towing engine and the semi-trailer that hauls the freight. This description is why people call it a semi-trailer or simply a semi. Semi-trucks can be singles (one trailer), doubles (two trailers), or triples (three trailers), attached to one towing engine.

Eighteen-wheelers can also be a sleeper or day cabs. Sleepers usually have a compartment for the truck drivers to rest and sleep. It has a bunk and storage compartments that drivers can use anytime. Meanwhile, a day cab is designed for day trips. It does not have sleeping compartments and is used only for short trips.

Common Causes of an 18-Wheeler Accident

Driver error is a leading cause of commercial truck accidents. A small mistake like using a cell phone on the road can lead to multi-vehicle crashes. It is especially true if the at-fault driver operates a commercial vehicle like a tractor-trailer or a passenger vehicle.

Distracted driving

In general, distracted drivers kill about 3,000 people each year. Truck drivers diverting their attention from the road by talking, eating, drinking, etc., increases the risk of auto accidents.

According to the NHTSA, texting while driving creates a significant distraction. Reading or sending a text can take your attention off the road for at least five seconds. Truck drivers can only operate safely if the roadway has their full attention.

Twenty-five states, Puerto Rico, Guam, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, prohibit hand-held phone use while driving. Other activities that constitute distracted driving include adjusting the radio, grooming, reading, and interacting with passengers.

Fatigued driving

Fatigue adversely affects a driver’s decision-making capabilities and reaction time. In many cases, alcohol can interact with sleepiness, increasing driving impairment. The CDC revealed that commercial truck drivers are more prone to drowsy or fatigued driving.

There are several warning signs of fatigued driving:

  • Missing your exit
  • Hitting a rumble strip on the roadside
  • Feeling disoriented while driving
  • Drifting from your lane
  • Blinking or yawning frequently

If you experience these signs, ask a co-driver to drive or pull over to rest. Opening the window or turning up the radio to stay alert to your surroundings is not enough.

Generally, it is best to develop good sleeping habits to ensure a comfortable driving experience. In addition, avoid taking medicines that induce drowsiness before driving.


Driving too fast can lead to losing vehicle control, especially for commercial truck drivers who haul massive cargo. A tractor-trailer carrying a large load going fast is prone to rollover accidents.

Aside from providing less reaction time, speeding can cause more dangers for a big rig. For example, it increases stopping distance. On average, a fully-loaded commercial truck’s stopping distance is farther than that of a standard vehicle at the same speed.

In addition, speeding can also make it difficult to control large trucks on curves. Big rigs tend to jackknife when turning as the trailer swings into a “V shape” relative to its cab. If a truck driver attempts to approach a curve at high speeds, it may lead to a rollover accident.

Likewise, speeding increases the risk of the tires separating or blowing out. It is especially true if the tires don’t have the correct pressure.

Poor truck maintenance

Trucking companies keep inspection records and maintenance logs to ensure their vehicles are running smoothly. Poor truck maintenance can increase the likelihood of brake and tire failure and steering equipment malfunction.

If your truck was involved in an accident, poor vehicle maintenance might be a factor in proving your liability. Other things that insurance companies look into include the following:

  • Lack of reflective tape
  • Failure to place blind spot mirrors
  • Defective air brakes and couplings
  • Broken tail lights
  • Shredded tires
  • Brake failure

Liable Parties for a Semi-Truck Accident

Depending on the scenario, several parties may be liable for a commercial truck wreck. For instance, is the truck driver an independent contractor or an employee? Does a company own the commercial vehicle, or does the driver own it? These circumstances will help determine who is liable for damages in an eighteen-wheeler accident lawsuit.

Truck driver

If the truck driver’s actions caused a semi-truck accident, chances are the truck driver is at fault for the incident. These actions include what they do before getting behind the wheel. 

The truck driver has a duty to inspect the rig for proper maintenance and loading of cargo. Suppose a maintenance issue or cargo shift caused the truck crash. In that case, the truck driver may be liable for the accident.

Other reasons that will make a truck driver accountable include the following:

  • Driving while intoxicated with drugs or alcohol
  • Using a phone while driving
  • Speeding
  • Disobeying traffic laws
  • Falling asleep while on the road

Trucking company

Trucking companies are responsible for ensuring the competence and safety of their truck drivers. A trucking company is accountable for an 18-wheeler truck accident in the following instances:

  • Hiring truck drivers without a commercial driver’s license
  • Allowing drivers to operate commercial trucks without proper training
  • Failing to conduct alcohol and drug testing on their drivers
  • Forcing drivers to drive longer than is legal or safe
  • Failing to inspect and maintain their trucks before use regularly
  • Not taking action against their truck drivers who engage in unlawful practices

The trucking company may be partly or wholly liable for a commercial truck accident if they are negligent employers. You can get compensation through a personal injury claim if you prove they acted irresponsibly.

Truck owner

Sometimes, the driver or trucking company does not own the motor vehicle. In that case, the truck owner may assume some responsibility for damages. They are responsible for conducting regular inspections, looking over engine function, and the general upkeep of the commercial truck. Truck owners may be partly liable for accident victims if they fail to perform these duties.

Third parties

Cargo loaders or shipping companies may also be at fault for a commercial truck wreck if they did not correctly load or secure the freight. Big rigs in transit, especially on long hauls, can compromise the tractor-trailer’s balance. It can result in loss of vehicle control, a tire blowout, or a transmission and brake failure.

On the other hand, vehicle part manufacturers may also be responsible for a semi-truck accident. Suppose a design or manufacturing defect caused the truck crash. Then the court can hold the manufacturer liable for the incident.

Common Injuries From an 18-Wheeler Truck Accident

Because of their weight, size, and decreased maneuverability, tractor-trailers are more prone to being involved in serious wrecks. Eighteen-wheeler accidents often result in catastrophic injuries. These include damage to the spinal cord, spine, or brain. It may also include fractures, severe burn injuries, and loss of limbs. 

A catastrophic injury generally results in long-term or permanent functional disability or disfigurement. It also permanently affects the truck accident victim’s quality of life.

Traumatic brain injuries

Head injuries can be severe and result in long-term disability. For instance, a concussion is a traumatic brain injury caused by the brain bouncing around in the skull. Aside from concussions, traumatic brain injuries (TBI) come in the following types:

  • Coup-contrecoup 
  • Brain contusion
  • Diffuse axonal injury
  • Penetrating injury
  • Second Impact Syndrome

Some TBIs are relatively mild, resulting in short-term symptoms such as headaches and loss of consciousness. In other cases, they can lead to significant brain damage that permanently affects the victim’s physical and cognitive function. Some people slip into a persistent vegetative state. 

Spinal cord injuries

This injury occurs when the spinal cord is severed or damaged in some way. It can result in partial or total paralysis at the point of damage or below it. 

Generally, external trauma causes a spinal cord injury. Severe whiplash from a semi-truck accident’s impact can lead to long-term effects, including a partial spinal injury. In some cases, blood loss, tumors, or stenosis can develop into complications that harm the spinal cord.

If the commercial truck accident is severe enough, bone fragments may break and lodge into the spine. It can happen in neck and head injuries, not just from direct trauma to the back. For instance, when the neck and head are compressed or forced sideways, it can contort the spine.

Broken bones

Motor vehicle accidents that involve big rigs or commercial trucks are always at risk of causing broken bones in a truck crash. The most common types of broken bones are impacted, complete, spiral, and comminuted.

Depending on the severity of the semi-truck accident, it may cause one or more of the following types:

  • Impacted – bones are forced into each other
  • Complete – total break of the bone
  • Spiral – bones are twisted
  • Comminuted – bones shatter into several pieces

The treatment for these injuries varies based on the type of injury. Casts or splints can treat minor fractures, but complex cases may require surgery.

Evidence To Support Your Truck Accident Claim

Every personal injury claim requires solid evidence that supports their case. The most common pieces of evidence in a motor vehicle accident include the following:

  • Police report
  • Photographs
  • Witness statements
  • Phone records
  • Medical bills and records
  • Paystubs
  • Expert witnesses

However, regarding 18-wheeler accidents, supplementary documents may determine the party at fault for the incident. For instance, the bill of lading is a legal document that details information about the involved parties, the cargo, and its delivery address.

You may also want to keep and safeguard the cab camera footage and the black box data. Cab cameras will record if the truck driver was driving negligently or doing something else. Meanwhile, black box data can show the truck’s speed, whether the driver used brakes, and other relevant crash details.

Other essential records or details that may support your truck accident claim include the following:

  • Dispatch instructions
  • Driver’s information
  • Log records
  • Repair, maintenance, and inspection records
  • Weight information

Recoverable Damages From Truck Accident Settlements

Personal injury claims can help truck accident victims recover from their losses. These claims include economic and non-economic damages. 

Economic damages seek to compensate for financial loss concerning the commercial truck wreck. It includes lost wages, medical expenses, and property damage.

Meanwhile, non-economic damages put a value on other losses like loss of consortium, pain and suffering, and mental anguish.

Insurance companies typically make truck accident settlement offers that cover all the accident victim’s losses. But in case they refuse or delay providing a reasonable settlement amount, the injured victims may opt to file a lawsuit.

Pro Tip

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulates service hours to avoid fatigued driving and mitigate accidents on the road. Those operating 18-wheeler trucks may only drive a maximum of 11 hours and should be off-duty for 10 consecutive hours prior.

Why You Need a Credible Semi-Truck Accident Attorney

Insurance companies covering truck companies and their employees may have the resources to make it difficult to get fair compensation. You will need all the professional help you can get. Seek legal advice from a reliable truck accident lawyer to support you in filing an eighteen-wheeler accident lawsuit.

The Personal Injury Center has the knowledge and network to help truck accident victims recover maximum compensation for their losses. You can browse through our collection of legal resources to answer any of your concerns regarding your accident claim.

Upon request, we can also connect you to a semi-truck accident attorney through our free consultation.

Have you recently been injured in an accident?

Let a personal injury lawyer help with your truck accident claim. Contact The Personal Injury Center to find a lawyer for you. 

FAQs on Eighteen Wheeler Accident Lawsuit

In 2020, the NSC recorded 643 wrongful deaths from large truck crashes in Texas. The state represented 12.8 percent of fatal large truck accidents in the United States.

The FMCSA stated that more than 20 percent of large truck accidents happened when truck drivers drove too fast. The best way to avoid these accidents is to travel at a consistent speed appropriate to the weather and road conditions.

Accident claims involving 18-wheeler truck accidents vary from state to state. But in general, accident victims must file their personal injury cases within two years from the date of the incident.