Most of us associate truck accidents with a truck driver’s mistake that seriously injured other motorists around them. But is it fair to always drop liability for a truck accident on the shoulders of a trucker? How many truck accidents are caused by cars, not the truck driver?
Based on information from the American Truck Association (ATA), about 80% of truck accidents across the country can be linked more to a driver’s mistakes than those of the truck driver. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) conducted its own study and found the percentage of car-caused truck accidents to be closer to 90%. If we assume a margin of error for each study and round to the average, then it is probably safe to say that 85% of all truck accidents are primarily caused by a negligent motorist, not the truck driver behind the wheel of the big rig.
Why Are Drivers Causing So Many Truck Accidents?
The exact cause of many car-related truck accidents is unknown. Driver negligence can come in many forms and cause all sorts of problems, after all. However, a prevailing assumption is that motorists in passenger vehicles have a difficult time gauging a commercial truck’s speed, braking abilities, turning capabilities, and so forth. Unfamiliarity with how the vehicle can be handled creates riskier driving situations whenever a motorist is near a semi-truck.
A few problems that can be seen in many car-caused truck accidents:
- Driving in blind spots: Commercial trucks have enormous blind spots when compared to passenger vehicles. Each blind spot on a commercial truck can easily hide at least one vehicle completely, and the blind spots on the sides can hide two or three. Motorists need to be aware of these blind spots and do their best to stay out of them. Lingering in a blind spot makes it much more difficult for the truck driver to notice the driver. It also reduces the trucker’s maneuverability in an emergency, which could practically force the truck to swerve into one of its blind spots and hit a driver that the trucker never even knew was there.
- Turning left in front of trucks: Left-hand turns without green arrows always carry an increased risk of an accident if drivers do not properly assess the speed of oncoming vehicles. Motorists who are unfamiliar with the size and speed of a truck are more likely to turn in front of one when it is unsafe to do so. Cutting off such a heavy vehicle is extremely dangerous because the average truck needs much, much more road to come to a complete stop compared to a smaller, lighter car. Drivers should err on the side of caution and not turn in front of an approaching commercial truck.
- Unsafe merging: Attempting to merge onto the highway can also be dangerous for drivers who misgauge the speed and relative location of tractor-trailers in nearby lanes. Some drivers may attempt to overtake a commercial truck when merging, only to run out of road in their lane and force a collision. It is oftentimes safer to try to get behind the next truck while using a turn signal for longer than usual, rather than trying to race and merge at the last second.
Are Drivers Solely Liable for These Crashes?
It is important to realize that a car-caused truck accident does not automatically translate to full liability being placed on the car’s driver. In many of the cases previously described, liability can be split between the motorist and the truck driver. For example, if a driver was hit by a truck when turning left, but that truck was breaking the speed limit at the time, then some or most of the liability could be placed on the trucker.
Depending on where you live, you could still file a truck accident claim with split liability. In South Carolina, for example, the state uses a modified comparative negligence rule for liability in personal injury claims, which allows someone to file a claim as long as they were not 51% or more liable for their accident and injuries. Imagine that you were assigned 30% liability for a truck accident in which you were hit while driving in the trucker’s blind spot. You could still demand 70% of your damages from the trucker, trucking company, and their insurers, which could be a significant amount of money when all damages are calculated.
Ultimately, if you are in a truck accident, and you think you are the one at fault, don’t just assume it. Work with a local truck accident attorney to see if liability could be split.
Injured motorists in Myrtle Beach can come to Joye, Nappier, Risher, & Hardin LLC for comprehensive legal representation after a truck accident. Our full-service firm is skilled in determining liability, calculating damages, and pursuing fair compensation with tenacity. Contact us now to learn more.