Types of Truck Accidents

May 20, 2024 | Thomas L. Stroble
Types of Truck Accidents

Semi-trucks are everywhere on the highways, and they are always at risk of crashing into smaller vehicles, often when a trucker or another party makes even the slightest error.

While each truck crash is unique, large commercial vehicles collide and crash in common ways, and the type of accident can often assist injured victims in identifying the cause of the collision and liability.

After any type of crash, allow a truck accident attorney to evaluate what happened and your legal rights.

Schedule a Free Initial Consultation Today!

Most Common Types Of Truck Crashes

Truck crashes come in many varieties, with the following types the most common:


Imagine driving next to a big rig on the highway, and it swerves and rolls onto your vehicle.

This involves a truck that can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, so the odds of serious injury or death are high. Trucks have a high center of gravity; if they change direction or turn too quickly, the trailer can rollover.

Truck rollover accidents happen in some accidents because the driver is going too fast or driving recklessly. Other rollover accidents happen because of truck driver fatigue or cell phone distraction. Sometimes, the accident may happen because the trailer is loaded incorrectly, leading to a dangerous imbalance.

Rear-End Crash

A rear-end truck crash is dangerous because of the huge weight disparity between commercial trucks and regular cars. A big rig slamming into the back of your car can obliterate the vehicle and severely injure or kill you.

Trucks take much longer to slow down and stop than cars. All it takes is for the truck driver to nod off or lose focus for a second or two, and a devastating rear-end crash happens.

Common reasons that trucks rear-end other vehicles are distraction, fatigue, aggressive driving, and tailgating. Also, inexperienced truckers who don’t obey federally mandated following distances often get into rear-end collisions.

Head-On Crashes

An American truck was damaged in the accident.

Head-on collisions with tractor-trailers are fairly rare, but the result may be fatal when they happen. A truck can lose control on a two-way road and drift into oncoming traffic. Head-on accidents also may happen at stop signs, red lights, and intersections when the trucker goes the wrong way.

Head-on wrecks are often due to alcohol, fatigue, drug use, and distraction. If you’re hit head-on, the chances of severe injury or death are high. You’ll need a truck accident lawyer to calculate the full extent of your damages carefully.

If you lost your loved one in a head-on crash with a trucker, you should speak to a truck accident attorney. You can receive compensation for your loved one’s death.

Jackknife Crashes

A truck jackknifes when its trailer swings wide around the pivot point behind the right and folds like a jackknife. This type of truck crash is extremely dangerous because the out-of-control, skidding trailer can slam into multiple vehicles and objects on the highway.

The most common reason for a truck jackknife is that the driver brakes too hard and fast. When the driver uses excessive brakes, especially on a wet road, the tractor may slow faster than the trailer, leading to fishtailing and jackknifing. Taking a turn too fast also can cause a jackknife accident.

T-Bone Crash 

A T-bone accident, also called a broadside or side-impact collision, often happens at busy intersections. A big rig going through an intersection may run a red light and slam into another vehicle on the side.

T-bone crashes are usually devastating for the smaller vehicle, especially for passengers or drivers on the side of the impact. Truck drivers cause many T-bone crashes because of fatigue, distraction, and intoxication.

Sideswipe Crashes

A sideswipe in a truck crash is like a T-bone accident, but the other vehicle hit usually goes in the same direction as the truck. A sideswipe accident can happen when the trucker doesn’t see another vehicle in their blind spot. The driver can also lose control of the rig in bad weather or because of a blowout.

Wide Turn Crashes

Truck drivers must carefully navigate turns, especially to the right. The truck driver may attempt to make the right turn by swinging wide to the left so the trailer doesn’t run over the curb or hit other vehicles. However, sometimes, the driver will turn too wide to the left and smack into smaller cars and trucks.

The FMCSA states that truckers should go straight through the farthest lane of the road they are turning onto instead of veering left. Then, they should complete the turn by going right to the closest lane. This manner of turning still means the truck driver must correctly judge distances, but it is usually safer.

Do Truck Accidents Always Lead To High Compensation? 

An accident involving two container trucks resulted in severe damage to the rear truck, which was painted yellow.

Tractor-trailers are merely 5 percent of all registered vehicles in the U.S. However, big rigs find themselves in about 13 percent of all fatal motor vehicle accidents. Those who survive regularly face lifelong challenges.

Of the people seriously injured or killed in truck crashes, approximately 70 percent are passenger vehicle occupants who might pursue injury claims.

Truck crashes often cause severe injuries, which can lead to considerable compensation. However, truck insurance companies are notorious for denying or reducing claims as much as possible.

It’s not unusual for the insurance company to even try to blame the injury victim for the accident. This is where bringing in an experienced truck accident lawyer can make the difference. The attorney will determine who was to blame for the crash and your true damages.

How Difficult Are Truck Crash Cases to Win? 

Many truck accident clients think that if they tell what happened to the insurance company, they will get fair compensation. Or, if the case goes to court, the victim will explain everything to the jury and find in their favor. But that isn’t how many truck accident cases work.

In insurance negotiations and court, convincing evidence has to speak for your side. Your truck accident attorney will say many things to prove your case, but it all comes down to strong evidence of liability and harm.

For example, a truck accident case can involve a T-bone crash where the trucker ran a stop sign and slammed into the victim’s car. The police report may say that the trucker was at fault. But if you or the attorney don’t prove that the police report is admissible evidence, a slam-dunk case can be harder to win.

Even a relatively straightforward truck accident case can be difficult to win. That’s why you should hire an experienced and tenacious truck accident lawyer with an impressive record.

Should You Wait to Hire a Truck Accident Attorney? 

Many injury victims don’t want to hire an attorney and file a lawsuit because they aren’t the type to sue. They might even feel greedy.

But if a truck hits you, attorneys already started working on your case—for the defendant! Even if the trucker or the employer was clearly wrong, the carrier and insurance company already started building a defense.

It isn’t unusual for the trucking company and insurance provider to be on the crash scene within minutes to find evidence that helps their side. So, you should ask yourself if you want to be the only one in the truck crash case without an attorney. Definitely not.

Waiting to hire a truck accident attorney can also cost your side important evidence to prove liability. Trucking companies send representatives immediately to crash scenes because they know that time matters.

After medics treat people at the scene, law enforcement focuses on opening the road. This means physical evidence won’t sit there long, eyewitnesses will leave, and memories will fade. So, evidence vital to your case can slip away fast. Always hire an experienced truck accident lawyer immediately.

Truck Regulations That Affect Claims And Lawsuits

Various makes and models of big rig semi-trucks with semi-trailers are parked at a truck stop under a lighted shelter at night.

There are many state and federal rules for trucking companies and their employers. The Department of Transportation (DOT) administers most of these rules. If a trucker or employer violates any of these regulations and there is an accident, it can lead to fines and potential civil litigation.

A seasoned truck crash attorney knows how trucking regulations apply to claims, including: 

  • Hours of service (HOS) rules: Truck drivers can only drive a certain number of hours at a specific time. Drivers must also have enough off-duty hours between driving periods to ensure safety. The limit is 11 hours per day of driving, with at least 10 hours in a row off duty. Drivers and employers must keep HOS logs showing the hours for every driving and rest period. Drivers and companies violating HOS rules can trigger many fatigue-related accidents. 
  • Driver qualification standards: DOT also mandates that drivers have extensive training and qualifications. They must take commercial driving classes and provide their work history, medication certification, and driving safety record. Truck companies that hire unsafe drivers can be liable for damages after an accident
  • Drug and alcohol screening: Trucking companies must test their drivers for drugs and alcohol regularly, randomly, and following incidents. If the truck driver gets into a drug or alcohol-related accident, there can be serious legal and civil consequences. 
  • Insurance requirements: U.S. law requires trucking firms to carry at least $750,000 in insurance coverage, but many carry more. More money can be available for a claim or lawsuit, so talk to a truck crash lawyer in your city about your case. 

Another important difference between truck crashes is that most big rigs have a black box or data recorder. This unit collects information about the truck and how it is driven. Although they are not required by federal law, most trucks have them. These devices can be critical when filing a truck crash claim.

Whether you were in a rear-end, T-bone, or other type of truck crash, you should always retain a big rig accident attorney to assist you. These cases are complex, challenging, and difficult to resolve for the most compensation. But your truck accident lawyer knows how to make it happen.

Can You Hire a Regular Car Accident Lawyer? 

Car accident lawyers usually have experience with the process, but truck accidents are a different animal.

Truck crash claims or lawsuits are often, but not always, much more complicated than car accidents. Because fewer trucks crash, many auto accident attorneys don’t have extensive experience with this type of litigation.

Many experienced accident attorneys don’t have the skill, experience, or financial resources to take on a large trucking carrier or its insurance company. A plaintiff who wants to win a large truck accident case should select a skilled litigator whose practice handles many truck accident claims every year.

Also, look for a lawyer and law firm with a long record of truck accident settlements and verdicts.

Does the Police Report Matter? 

A police officer at the police station is writing a report on a truck accident, either documenting the case or registering a complaint.

Suppose the police respond to the truck crash scene, and the officer writing the report blames the trucker. Case closed, right?


Don’t assume that the police report blaming the truck driver means you get compensation. A police report can document helpful evidence, but it isn’t definitive. The judge or jury is the only entity that can make a definite decision on liability. As noted earlier, police reports aren’t always allowed in court as evidence.

However, in many cases, the police report can be useful for showing the insurance company that their client is likely liable. The truck crash attorney you select will determine which case evidence is most persuasive in the settlement negotiations or court case.

Contact a Truck Accident Attorney Today 

A huge, scary truck smashing into your car is terrifying, and you might not know what to do or where to turn.

The first thing is to get immediate medical attention because you might have devastating injuries. Second, contact an experienced truck accident attorney to represent you.

Truck accidents cause horrific damages and injuries, so don’t attempt to settle your case with the carrier’s insurance company. Your attorney knows what your case is worth and won’t allow the insurance provider or carrier to short-change you. 

Contact a personal injury attorney in your area now!  You don’t pay legal fees out of pocket. Nor will you pay anything unless your attorney wins.

Schedule a Free Initial Consultation Today!

Thomas L. Stroble Author Image

Thomas L. Stroble


Mr. Stroble is a highly accomplished graduate of Michigan State University, with degrees in both science and law. He specializes in commercial lawsuits and personal injury cases. Licensed to practice law in Michigan and even the U.S. Supreme Court, he’s a well-qualified legal expert. Besides his career in law, he loves outdoor activities and volunteers as a part-time police officer in Birmingham.

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