Physical injuries from motor vehicle accidents result from external forces acting on the human body. Even so-called low-impact collisions can result in serious and long-lasting injuries. A fully loaded semi tractor-trailer weighs 80,000 pounds (even a semi with an empty trailer can weigh over 30,000 pounds).
Compare that to the average civilian vehicle, which weighs in at around 4,000 pounds, and it is no surprise that a collision with a big rig, no matter how seemingly minor, can cause severe injuries. And it is not unusual for injuries to take a day or two—sometimes even longer—before physical symptoms begin to manifest.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (“FMCSA”), a division of the United States Department of Transportation, the number of trucking accidents in the United States is increasing. Of the representative sample taken from 120,000 large-truck crashes in a 20-month period, the FMCSA determined that the large trucks were to blame for the accident in 55% of two-vehicle crashes. From the same set of data, the FMCSA estimates that when the large truck is at fault, 87% of the time it is attributable to driver error, 10% to vehicle malfunction, and 3% to environmental factors.
With trucking accidents, there are usually added layers of complexity, not just because injuries tend to be more severe, but also because there are more parties potentially liable.
Although the truck driver can be held liable for his own negligence, claims can also usually be brought against the trucking company either for their indirect responsibility for their employee’s actions undertaken while in the course and scope of his employment (through a theory of vicarious liability called respondant superior) or directly for having unreasonably entrusted a vehicle to the employee, failing to implement or follow sufficient hiring policies, failing to properly inspect or maintain vehicles in their fleet, or encouraging unsafe driving practices, to name a few.
Additionally, in some circumstances, the truck designers, manufacturers, and vendors may be held liable if a component of the truck was defective.
Another layer of complexity is added by virtue of the parties’ places of residence: although the accident may have occurred in Nevada, the driver and trucking company may live in different states or even countries, which can make investigation more difficult.