Herrling Clark Law Firm Ltd.
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Commercial Trucks and Rear-End Collisions

It is not surprising that commercial trucks are more difficult to maneuver than other vehicles. Commercial trucks generally are more limited than passenger vehicles when it comes to controlling acceleration, braking and visibility — an important factor that contributes to commercial truck accidents.

Every year almost 400,000 trucks are involved in motor vehicle crashes, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Of these accidents, 18 percent are rear-end collisions.

Commercial trucks are involved in two types of rear-end collisions. The first involves a commercial truck rear-ending another vehicle, while the second results when a vehicle strikes the back of a commercial truck. Of these two types of accidents, it is more common for a commercial truck to rear-end a passenger vehicle.

Safety Risks Associated With These Accidents

Regardless of the type of rear-end collision that occurs, the results can be devastating. These accidents are often catastrophic for many reasons, the first being the disproportionate sizes of the vehicles involved. A commercial truck often weighs 80,000 pounds or more, while the average passenger vehicle weighs closer to 3,000 pounds. This disparity in size leads to serious and potentially fatal injuries.

Another reason for the severity of accidents involving commercial trucks is based on the design of the vehicles. The bumper on a semi-trailer is often higher than that found on a passenger vehicle. As a result, the bumper and frame of the commercial truck can enter the occupant compartments of the vehicles they strike, which greatly increases the risk of serious injury. This can be an issue both when a commercial truck strikes a passenger vehicle and vice versa.

Potential Causes for Rear-End Collisions Involving Commercial Trucks

Generally, if a car strikes another from behind it is the fault of the striking vehicle. This theory of liability is supported by one of the most basic rules of the road: leave enough room in front of you to be able to stop if needed.

This rule holds true for accidents involving commercial trucks. If a commercial truck rear-ends a passenger vehicle, it will likely be at fault for the accident. These accidents are often the result of faulty brakes on commercial trucks. A study by the Michigan State Police Motor Carrier Enforcement Division’s Fatal Accident Complaint Team found that truck brake conditions often play a role in crashes where the commercial truck struck another vehicle. In these accidents, the “incidence of defective or poorly adjusted truck brakes was almost twice as high as in cases where other vehicles struck trucks.” If this is the case, the argument that the commercial truck driver be held liable for the accident is even stronger.

The study by the Michigan State Police also found that, overall, rear-end collisions involving commercial trucks were most likely to occur on divided highways like interstates. The increase of accidents on these long stretches of roads was found to be the result of a relaxed vigilance on the part of drivers. Drivers are not as alert because the roadway is fairly straight and lacks stoplights or intersections. As a result, the driver has a decreased ability to quickly respond to an unexpected slowed or stopped vehicle.

Although a rear-end accident caused by a commercial truck is more common, collision of a passenger car into a truck is more likely to result in fatalities. The study conducted by the FMCSA found that this type of accident was more likely to occur when visibility was diminished, such as during the evening.

The increased occurrence of these accidents at night may be connected to the visibility of commercial trucks. Researches with FMCSA noted that trucks involved in this type of accident were often in violation of lighting regulations. As a result, it may not be easy for the driver of a passenger car to see the commercial truck, let alone notice that it has stopped or slowed.   

Although the driver of the impacting vehicle is generally liable for rear-end collisions, in cases like this there is a strong argument that the commercial truck driver is at least partially responsible. If the commercial truck was in violation of lighting regulations the company or driver may have contributed to the accident.

In addition to faulty brakes and lighting violations, other factors that can contribute to commercial truck accidents include:

  • Driver of the truck received inadequate training
  • Compensation based on faster delivery leading to focus on speedy delivery of product instead of safety
  • Unrealistic schedules that lead to fatigued driving

Any of these factors can result in liability on the part of the commercial truck driver or company. As a result, those injured in these accidents are likely eligible to receive compensation to cover medical and rehabilitative expenses.

If you or a loved one was injured in an automobile accident involving a commercial truck, it is important to seek the counsel of an experienced truck accident lawyer to better ensure your legal rights and remedies are protected.

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Herrling Clark Law Firm Ltd. is located in Appleton, Wisconsin, and serves clients in Fox Valley, Outagamie County, Brown County, Door County, Kewaunee County, Manitowoc County, Sheboygan County, Fond du Lac County, Calumet County, Winnebago County, including Appleton, New London, Clintonville, Neenah, Oshkosh, DePere, Fond du Lac, Sheboygan, Manitowoc, Kewaunee, Sturgeon Bay, Marinette, Neenah, Chilton, Menasha, Shawano, Waupaca, Wausau, and Green Bay, Wisconsin.
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