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Big Rigs and Big Accidents


Approximately 5,000 people die every year and thousands more are are injured in the U.S. in accidents with semi-trucks and 18 wheelers. Most of these fatalities are the passengers and drivers of motor vehicles and smaller trucks involved in collisions with the big rigs; a small percentage are the drivers and passengers of the 18 wheelers themselves.

The size and weight of big rigs means that the collisions in which they are involved all too often result in severe injuries and/or fatalities. Below is a discussion of the most common causes of these collisions and what to do if you are involved in one.


While there are numerous reasons for collisions between big rigs and smaller vehicles on the road, the most common causes of an accident when the commercial truck is at fault are: (1) driver fatigue; (2) poor or faulty maintenance (leading to brake failure, tire blowouts, etc); and (3) distracted driving.

An example of driver fatigue in a commercial truck driver causing a collision resulting in severe injuries and a fatality is the tragic accident that occurred when a Walmart truck struck Tracy Morgan's limo bus on June 7, 2014. Tracy Morgan and several others were seriously injured; Morgan's friend and fellow comedian Jimmy McNair was killed. An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board concluded that the truck driver had been awake for 28 hours and driving for nearly 14 hours. Under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's Hours of Service regulations, the driver had exceeded the number of hours allowed to drive in one shift. While a shift can be 14 hours long, driving time is to be only 11 hours of the shift, and only 8 of the 11 hours can be continuous driving. The regulations also require minimum amounts of rest between shifts.

Accidents with big rigs also occur due to the unsafe driving practices of motor vehicles around and near large trucks. Car drivers can fail to understand the unique limitations of a big rig. For example, big trucks require extra braking time, extra room to make turns, and have many more blind spots along their large bodies than motor vehicles. Drivers of smaller vehicles should yield the right of way to big rigs, be conscious of their need for a large turning radius, and always be careful not to travel in a big rig's blind spot.


If you are involved in a collision with a big rig, the first and most important thing to do is seek medical attention for any injury sustained in the accident. Even if you think the injury is small enough to forgo treatment, treatment should nonetheless be sought and documented. Many times the true extent of a hit to the head or a jolt to the body is not immediately apparent to the injured person but can be discovered by appropriate tests.

If you are involved in a collision with a big rig and are not injured, then the best thing to do is to get as much information at the scene of the accident as possible. Take photos with your phone of any damage to your car or other property, and of the road to highlight the road conditions at the time of the collision and/or to show skid marks, broken glass, etc. Obtain the name of the truck driver and the company that owns the rig and which employs him/her. At no time should you give any statements about the collision, admit any liability or fault, or sign any papers.


As noted above, the size and weight of big rigs unfortunately means that collisions involving them often result in serious injuries and/or fatalities. This fact makes recovery of economic damages extremely important. Medical costs for a serious injury can be devastating, and lost wages-- possibly including lost future earning power--can be equally catastrophic to an individual's or family's welfare. In addition to these economic damages are the pain and suffering that an injured person endures, and the loss of companionship (consortium) often suffered due to serious injuries. These non-economic damages are also recoverable, and consulting a personal injury attorney is the way to ensure the best outcome of your case.


If you have been in a collision with a big rig and suffered injuries, contact Dave Thomas at The Thomas Law Firm for a free consultation.

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Thomas Law Firm
Located at 945 East Paces Ferry Road, Resurgens Plaza, GA 30326.

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