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Virginia Tractor-Trailer Accident FAQs

Our Richmond truck accident lawyers answer the most frequently asked truck accident questions.

While the typical passenger vehicle weighs approximately 3,000 pounds, a fully loaded 18-wheeler can weigh 80,000 pounds or more. Tractor-trailers frequently carry loads of hazardous or flammable materials. When they collide with passenger vehicles, occupants can be seriously or catastrophically injured or killed.

At Marks & Harrison, we believe that negligent truck drivers, trucking companies and other at-fault parties should be held accountable for causing accidents that injure passenger vehicle occupants.

Our firm was established in 1911. We have been successfully representing injured people in Richmond and throughout Virginia for more than a century. Our knowledgeable truck accident attorneys understand trucking regulations and how to handle large commercial truck accident cases.

We have provided answers below to some commonly asked questions about truck accidents in Virginia. To discuss the specific facts in your case, please call us today or reach us through our online form. We can provide a free, immediate consultation about your case.

Tractor Trailer Accidents

What damages can I claim if I was injured in an accident with a tractor-trailer that was not my fault?

If you have been injured in a commercial truck accident that was not your fault, you may be entitled to claim damages for medical expenses, past and future lost earnings, disfigurement, physical and emotional pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and other possible damages. Your best course of action is to consult with an experienced Virginia personal injury lawyer to find out if you have a case and what damages you may be able to claim. When you work with Marks & Harrison in a tractor-trailer accident claim, we will thoroughly investigate your accident to determine the full extent of your losses.

Who is liable for my injuries in a tractor-trailer accident that was not my fault?

Traffic accident cases with large commercial trucks can be very complex and involve multiple parties. The best thing to do if you have been injured in such an accident is to seek representation by a seasoned truck accident attorney who can investigate your accident and determine the liable parties. Depending on the cause of the accident and the circumstances in your particular case, responsible parties may include the driver, the trucking company, an equipment manufacturer, a repair or maintenance facility, or other possible parties.

If an 18-wheeler jackknifed and caused my accident and injuries, does that mean the driver was negligent?

That depends entirely on the circumstances surrounding the accident. If the driver was forced to brake suddenly or turn abruptly to avoid a collision, or if there were unforeseeable road conditions that resulted in the rig jackknifing, the driver may not have been negligent. However, if there was no valid reason for the driver’s actions that caused the tractor-trailer to jackknife and resulted in your accident, the driver may have been negligent.

What are some common causes of tractor-trailer accidents besides driver fatigue?

According to the NHTSA, certain moving violations committed by drivers of commercial motor vehicles cause serious accidents and can result in driver disqualification. Those violations include:

  • Speeding
  • Tailgating
  • Improper lane changes
  • Reckless driving
  • Improper turning
  • Drug- or alcohol-impaired driving

Equipment failure, overloading or improperly loading, failure to perform inspections, distracted driving, and sudden braking are other common causes of tractor-trailer accidents.

Is driver fatigue a major contributing factor to large truck crashes?

Yes. A joint study of the causes of large truck crashes conducted by the FMCSA and NHTSA stated that driver fatigue had been identified as an important cause of crashes. In an effort to reduce truck driver fatigue and the resulting accidents, FMCSA issued new Hours of Service Safety Regulations effective July 1, 2013 that limit the amount of time drivers are allowed to be on the road in any given day or week and require rest periods and a 30-minute break during the first 8 hours of a shift.

Which agency regulates large commercial trucks?

Commercial trucking is regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which was established in 2000 pursuant to the federal Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999. FMCSA issues regulations concerning all safety aspects of commercial trucking, with the goal of preventing commercial motor vehicle-related fatalities and injuries. These regulations apply to driver qualifications, equipment inspection repair and maintenance, records, safety fitness procedures, leasing and interchange of vehicles, and numerous other aspects of the industry.

What does it mean to drive in the “No Zone” of a large truck?

The “No Zone” includes the areas behind and on either side of a tractor-trailer in which the driver has very little or no visibility. Motorists should try to stay out of the areas at a short distance directly behind the truck or in the left or right rear quarters. If the truck driver fails to see your vehicle and executes a lane change, it could cause a serious collision.

How many accidents involving large commercial trucks occur?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that in 2013, there were 3,964 fatalities and 95,000 people injured in traffic crashes with large trucks. Of those fatalities, 71% were occupants of other vehicles and only 17% were occupants of the large trucks. Non-occupants accounted for 11% of the fatalities.

Why do accidents with tractor-trailers result in such serious injuries?

The physics involved in a collision between a large and heavy semi-trailer truck and a much smaller passenger vehicle typically result in serious injuries to the occupants of the passenger vehicle. Additionally, if the tractor-trailer is carrying a load that is hazardous or flammable, exposure to toxic materials or burn injuries can result.

What exactly are 18-wheelers, semis, and tractor-trailers?

“Tractor-trailer,” “18-wheeler,” and “semi” are different names for a semi-trailer truck. This rig consists of a towing engine or tractor with a semi-trailer to carry freight, which is attached just forward of the rear axle of the tractor so that a large portion of the weight is carried by the tractor. Hence, the name “semi-trailer,” as it does not trail completely behind the tractor. These are the big rigs that are employed commercially to haul freight.