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How Common Are Truck Accidents?

Driving next to a large truck makes many motorists nervous. These feelings are justifiable, considering nearly 5,000 commercial trucks were involved in fatal collisions in 2019. Incidents involving large trucks can cause significant damage due to the weight and size of these vehicles.

Trucks accidents are relatively common, even though they make up a small percentage of highway traffic. Commercial trucking vehicles such as 18-wheelers, dump trucks, and tractor-trailers make up only 4% of automobiles on the road. Unfortunately, truck accident injuries are common, and many victims seek compensation to pay for medical bills and lost wages.

Here is everything you need to know about the prevalence of truck accidents, the causes of these collisions, and what you should do if you are involved in such a crash.

The Commercial Trucking Industry

According to American Trucking Associations, there were almost 40 million commercial trucks on U.S. roadways in 2019. Trucks transported more than 10.2 billion tons of freight in 2020, representing 72% of the total domestic cargo. The trucking industry employs millions of workers, including about 3.3 million commercial truck drivers.

Many truckers drive for many hours without breaks to fulfill quotas. While there are restrictions requiring drivers to take breaks, driver fatigue is a leading cause of trucking accidents.

The Prevalence of Commercial Vehicle Crashes 

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, there were 4,862 fatal crashes involving commercial vehicles in 2019. More than 112,000 people suffered injuries in these crashes, and billions of dollars in property damage claims were paid.

You may assume that most truck collisions occur on major interstates where traffic is heavy. However, statistics show that most crashes occur in rural areas and on small highways with relatively little traffic.

Common Causes Commercial Truck Collisions 

Trucking accidents happen less frequently than passenger vehicle collisions, but the injuries are often more severe due to the large size of these vehicles. Here is an overview of the most common causes of truck accidents.

Drowsy Driving 

The National Sleep Foundation estimates that nearly 6,500 people die each year in crashes involving fatigued drivers. Drowsy driving is particularly dangerous when commercial trucks are involved.

Driving a commercial truck is a stressful occupation requiring lots of long hours. Some drivers spend several days on the road without checking into a hotel, while others sleep for a few hours in the back of their trucks. It is common for trucking companies to require drivers to deliver goods within an unrealistic time frame, causing truckers to drive without sleeping or taking breaks.

Fatigued drivers are more likely to fall asleep at the wheel or make driving mistakes. Research shows that lack of sleep affects a driver’s awareness of hazards, ability to sustain attention, and reaction times. While federal regulations require truckers to take breaks, these rules are not consistently enforced.

Distracted Driving

Many drivers are guilty of talking on a cell phone or eating while operating a vehicle. However, these risks are amplified when involving a large truck. Truckers often drive for long distances and may text or watch movies on their phones to entertain themselves. Even the simple act of changing the radio station can divert a driver’s attention and cause an accident. Any action that takes a trucker’s eyes off the road for a few seconds can cause a collision.


It is almost impossible for a trucker to avoid speeding if they try to make a delivery on a tight schedule. Because of strict cargo deadlines, a trucker may drive well above the speed limit to avoid late penalties.

A speeding semi-truck is a hazard to themselves and other cars on the road. Smaller cars may swerve to avoid speeding trucks, which can cause accidents.

Poor Truck Maintenance 

It is often the trucking company’s responsibility to service the vehicle by regularly performing repairs and routine maintenance checks. However, some employers fail to maintain trucks to save money properly. Trucks that are improperly maintained pose a hazard to the trucker and other cars on the road.

For instance, companies should replace tires regularly to prevent skidding and hydroplaning in bad weather. Also, companies should also replace windshield wiper blades, air filters, oil filters, and spark plugs periodically to keep commercial trucks working correctly.

Liability in Truck Accident Cases

You need to prove liability after a commercial trucking accident injury. However, determining liability in these accidents is complex because many people are responsible for keeping commercial trucks safe. While drivers are responsible if they violate a traffic law, the trucker’s employer may share liability if they fail to properly service the truck.

You must prove the trucker is a direct trucking company employee to show liability. Some organizations deliberately maintain loose connections with employers in case of trucking accidents. If the trucking company can prove that the trucker is an independent contractor, it is not responsible for any damages.

In some instances, automotive mechanics may share responsibility if they fail to fix a safety hazard on the truck properly. The company that manufactured the vehicle may also share responsibility in some cases if it failed to design a safe vehicle.

Many personal injury victims hire lawyers to help prove liability in trucking accidents. It is challenging to prove responsibility without the help of a knowledgeable professional, and you will need help gathering evidence to prove your claim.

Truck Accident Damages

Many truck accident victims are eligible for compensation for their injuries. Depending on the nature of your injury, you may be eligible for the following damages:

  • Medical expenses: The responsible party must cover your ambulance costs, hospital fees, surgical procedures, and in-home care services.
  • Pain and suffering: You may get money to compensate for the physical distress, anxiety, and pain resulting from the crash.  
  • Lost wages: Some victims get money to cover their living expenses for a certain period if they cannot work following the accident.  
  • Diminished earning potential: Some serious injuries that prevent you from working in the future may warrant compensation for diminished earning potential. 

This is not a comprehensive list of damages available to truck accident victims. Contacting a lawyer can help you understand the compensation you deserve.

How Personal Injury Lawyers Can Help 

A personal injury lawyer can assess your case and determine which party is responsible for paying for damages. Here is the list of services a car accident lawyer may provide:

  • Investigate the circumstances of the incident
  • Complete paperwork on your behalf
  • Investigate the role of the trucking company 
  • Recommend a medical professional for your injuries 
  • Negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf
  • Interview witnesses 
  • File a lawsuit with your local court
  • Appeal an unfavorable court decision

Keep in mind that each truck accident case is different, and an attorney can help recommend the best course of action depending on the circumstances of your case.

Work With Fielding Law

Were you injured in a trucking accident and need compensation to pay for medical bills? At Fielding Law, we focus on personal injury and auto accident cases. We are familiar with commercial trucking laws and may help establish liability in your case. Let us negotiate with the insurance company so you can focus on recovering. Contact us today to arrange a no-obligation consultation with a personal injury attorney.