Common Truck Accident Types

September 27, 2022 | Article by Chain | Cohn | Clark staff

Common Truck Accident Types

Accidents with semi-trucks are typically more severe than accidents between regular passenger vehicles. The size and weight of trucks make them a dangerous force on the road. Understanding the different ways in which a truck might crash can improve your chances of avoiding an accident with one. 

Types of Truck Accidents

Truck accidents happen for many different reasons. Here in California, we see our fair share of big rig collisions. One thing we’ve learned is that when a truck goes down, there’s often some collateral damage. It’s rare that no other cars or people sustain harm in the midst of a truck crash.

Here are some of the common types of commercial truck accidents we see. 

Rollover Accidents

Semi-trucks and other large commercial vehicles have a higher center of gravity than regular passenger cars. When making sudden turns or swerving around obstacles, truck drivers must be very careful not to tip over. 

If a truck ends up on its side in a rollover accident, it becomes a hazard for everyone on the road. Semi-truck rollover accidents can happen for a variety of reasons. Even if the driver is doing everything right, they may experience an issue with a tire blowout or improperly loaded cargo. 

Underride Accidents

An underride accident occurs when a smaller vehicle collides with the back of a commercial truck and gets trapped under the trailer. If a truck stops too quickly and a small car or motorcycle does not have time to adjust, they may not be able to avoid this often-fatal type of truck accident. 

Jackknife Accidents

Large commercial trucks typically comprise a cab and a trailer connected by a hinge joint. If the back of the trailer swings forward and creates too sharp of an angle with the cab, the driver will lose control of the vehicle’s movements. Jackknife accidents can be caused by equipment malfunctions, locked wheels, dangerous weather, debris, loose cargo, speeding, and other maneuvering mistakes. 

When a speeding truck takes a tight turn on a slippery road, cargo might shift inside the trailer, causing it to slide. If a truck jackknifes, other drivers on the road can be in serious danger because the trailer will movefreely and unpredictably. 

Truck Tire Blowouts

Trucks have 18 wheels, many of which are paired side-by-side with other wheels in case one of them blows out while on the road. Tire blowouts can happen at any time because of dangerous road conditions, unbalanced cargo, or damaged tires. These accidents can be decreased by routine maintenance checks on the tires to ensure that none are showing signs of blowing out. 

When a tire blowout occurs, the truck might lose control and swerve into another lane, jackknife, or rollover completely. Debris from the trailer or the tire can fly into surrounding cars and cause drivers to react in a dangerous manner. Things happen quickly on the highway, and you might not have time to react to a truck experiencing a tire blowout.

T-Bone Accidents

Also known as broadside crashes or side-impact collisions, a T-bone accident happens when a truck crashes into the side of another car. This is most common at intersections where cars are constantly traveling perpendicular to one another and crossing paths. Truck drivers who run red lights, are intoxicated, drowsy, or distracted can cause T-bone wrecks. Improper turns may also lead to T-bone crashes. 

Side-impact collisions are especially dangerous for those in the passenger vehicle who are on the side that gets hit. There is not much protection on the side of small vehicles, and even at lower speeds a large commercial vehicle can do a lot of damage. 

Sideswipe Accidents

Similar to broadside crashes, sideswipe accidents involve the truck coming into contact with the side of a passenger vehicle. In sideswipe crashes, the two vehicles are usually traveling the same direction, which lessens the initial impact of the collision. However, the sideways movement often forces cars off the road or into other lanes, which could ultimately lead to a multi-car pileup. 

Sideswipe accidents happen when truck drivers fail to check their blindspots before changing lanes, fall asleep at the wheel, are drunk, or cannot properly maneuver their vehicle during inclement weather. 

Wide Turn Accidents

Due to the length of tractor-trailers, they cannot make tight turns that other passenger vehicles can. While left-hand turns are often doable, right-hand turns at intersections can be difficult. If a truck hopes to avoid the corner, it may need to create extra room for itself leading up to the turn. 

Truck drivers often swing their cabs wide to the left in order to make right turns. This can be extremely dangerous to other drivers because the truck will go into their lane. Drivers might also think the truck is turning left and pull up to the right of it, getting trapped when it changes direction. 

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recommends drivers continue straight through to the farthest lane of the road they’re turning into and then turn right instead of veering left. Turning like this can still be dangerous, and requires the driver to accurately judge the amount of time and space they have to make their turn. However, it is generally much safer than veering left at the beginning and can help to prevent wide turn accidents.

Head-On Collisions

When a truck crashes head-on with another vehicle, the consequences will almost always be severe. Whether the truck driver was being negligent, reckless, or lost control of their vehicle, there will be damage if they end up in the oncoming lane of traffic. The victim of a head-on truck collision can recover compensation for their injuries. 

Rear-End Collisions

Tractor-trailers are heavier and more difficult to maneuver than regular passenger vehicles. They may need more time to avoid road hazards or slow down to a stop. If a car stops quickly in front of a truck or the truck driver isn’t paying attention when the lead car brakes, the difference in size and weight between the vehicles can result in serious damage. 

Truck drivers should follow FMCSA following distances to keep other drivers safe and give themselves room to prevent crashes. 

Cargo Spill Accidents

If cargo in a tractor-trailer is not properly loaded or secured, it can lead to serious damage. Poorly stacked cargo can cause the truck to slide or tip over, resulting in a catastrophic accident. 

If the truck does not tip but loses its cargo, the spillage can create hazards for other drivers. Flying objects or large obstacles in the road can force drivers to swerve or make risky maneuvers. Liquid on the road can make it slippery and harder for drivers to maintain control. 

Depending on what caused the cargo to come loose, the driver may not be liable for an accident that happens as a result. If the driver was operating the truck in a way that contributed to the cargo getting loose, they may be held partially responsible. 

Brake Failure Accidents

Commercial truck brakes are held to a high standard of maintenance. They are checked constantly and replaced often to prevent any unnecessary accidents. If the brakes fail due to overuse, high-speed stops, improper installation, wear and tear, or poor maintenance, the blame might fall on multiple parties. 

Big rig drivers are usually trained how to apply their brakes to avoid accidents and brake damage. If the driver is not trained how to brake properly, the trucking company might be held liable for any resulting accidents, as might the truck driver. 

Truck Driver DUIs

Commercial truck drivers are subject to stricter DUI laws than regular drivers. According to California Vehicle Code Section 23152(d), it is a crime to drive a commercial vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .04% or higher—compared to .08% for normal motorists. 

When a truck driver drives under the influence, the consequences can be serious. Slowed reaction time coupled with the decreased stopping time of large vehicles negatively impacts the driver’s ability to effectively maneuver. 

Blind Spot Accidents

There are certain areas around every vehicle the driver cannot clearly see. Due to the size of semi-trucks, their blind spots are much larger than on normal passenger vehicles. 

It’s hard for truck drivers to see directly in front of, directly behind, and slightly back on either side of the vehicle. These areas are often referred to as “No Man’s Land” and are dangerous places for other drivers to be. Cars in blind spots are at an increased risk of being forced off the road or hit because the truck driver cannot see them. 

How to Avoid Different Types of Truck Crashes

As a regular driver on the road, you may not have much control of avoiding accidents with trucks. Many times it will come down to being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Still, here are some tips you can use to decrease the chances of being caught in a bad spot. 

Keep Your Eyes on the Road

One of the most dangerous things you can do is engage in distracted driving. There are more distractions than ever for California motorists. Looking at your phone, GPS, or radio can put you at risk for an accident in the moments you are glancing away. 

Even talking on the phone can be a distraction. While other passengers in the car might hear and see the same things as you, somebody on the other end of a phone call has no idea the situation you’re experiencing. If you are driving and an emergency vehicle needs to pass or there is inclement weather, a phone conversation could pull your attention away from handling those challenges. 

Distracted driving isn’t just limited to using a cell phone either. Eating, grooming, and any other actions that distract your eyes, hands, or mind can be considered dangerous. It takes seconds for things to change on the road, and if you get caught in a bad situation with a truck driver, the consequences could be devastating. 

Give Truck Drivers Plenty of Space

You can lessen the risk by staying far away from other vehicles if you want to avoid accidents with large commercial trucks. If you are following a truck, give lots of space between your front bumper and their trailer. If you are passing a truck, do not linger beside them. The more space you give a truck, the more time you have to adjust, stop, or swerve if something goes wrong. 

What to Do After a Truck Accident

If you are the victim of a truck accident in California, the first thing you should do is seek medical attention for your injuries. If you are in good condition, you can begin collecting valuable evidence and contact information from witnesses. 

Once you have reached a safe location, you should contact a truck accident lawyer as soon as possible. Truck accidents are often the result of several different factors. Determining liability can be complicated and might take specialized expertise to handle properly. A lawyer can help you recover compensation from truck drivers, companies, manufacturers, loaders, and any other parties that might be partially responsible for your injuries. 

Types of Truck Accident Damages

Depending on the severity of injuries you sustain, you may be able to recover significant benefits after your truck accident. You can pursue compensatory damages for concrete and abstract costs.

If you believe your accident happened due to gross negligence or intentional disregard for safety, you may be able to recover punitive damages. 

If you are the loved one of a victim who did not survive a truck accident, you can pursue wrongful death damages. 

Each of these types of injury compensation is meant to help you carry on with your life as though the accident never occurred. Though there are some things that cannot be fixed or replaced, we will make every effort to ensure you receive financial benefits for that suffering. 

Hire a Chain | Cohn | Clark Truck Accident Lawyer

Regardless of the type of accident you are in, if you are injured in a truck crash, you should reach out to one of our Bakersfield big rig accident lawyers as soon as possible. Even if you feel fine at the moment, you may have serious injuries that are still developing. We believe it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your physical health and financial stability. 

Call our office at (661) 616-9829 or fill out our online contact form for a free case evaluation. We will let you know if we think further legal action is necessary.