18 Wheeler Trucking Accidents: Causes and Course of Action

White Volvo Semi-truck on Side of Road

Motor vehicle accidents and incidents can cause severe and sometimes catastrophic injuries to individuals. They can also result in significant damage to personal property. 

However, not all motor vehicles are the same. Accidents that involve 18 wheeler trucks can be especially detrimental due to the size and weight of the trucks. 

An 18 wheeler truck is a type of semi-tractor-trailer truck often used to carry and transport products from place to place. While drivers of these trucks are held to higher standards than drivers of other vehicles, accidents can still occur due to driver mistakes or company negligence.

While truck accidents account for only about 15 percent of all motor vehicle accidents in New York, you must be able to recognize the causes behind such accidents and what course of action to take if you become a victim of one. 

What Causes 18 Wheeler Trucking Accidents?

Eighteen wheeler trucking accidents and accidents involving motor vehicles can occur as a result of several factors. Regardless of a driver’s skill, errors and dysfunctions can occur. 

Becoming familiar with what causes 18 wheeler trucking accidents can help both drivers and companies prevent the occurrence of a catastrophic incident. 

Aside from this, knowing what caused an accident is crucial when filing a claim or a lawsuit for compensation. To prove responsibility for an accident, you must determine how or why it occurred. 

If you or someone you know was involved in an 18 wheeler trucking accident, it may have occurred due to any of the following common causes

Distracted Driving

Distracted driving occurs when the driver is not paying attention to the road ahead or other vehicles on the road. Distracted driving is the main cause of almost 25 percent of all motor vehicle accidents. 

Inattentiveness while driving can be caused by a preoccupation with other thoughts or activities. One of the most prominent of these activities is cell phone use while driving, which in some cases can be even more detrimental than driving drunk. 

Other causes that may lead to inattentiveness while driving include fatigue and/or the use of drugs or alcohol. 

Maintenance Errors

In regards to commercially used trucks and vehicles, maintenance errors can be a significant cause of 18 wheeler trucking accidents. A lack of maintenance can result in malfunctions with parts of a vehicle, leading to catastrophic crashes. 

All trucking companies are required to follow local and sometimes federal laws when it comes to the maintenance and operation of their vehicles. For example, they are required to perform regular maintenance checks and inspections on their vehicles. 

If the cause of an accident is determined to be a structural or motor malfunction, the company can be held financially responsible to anyone who has become injured as a result of these safety violations. 

Extreme Weather

Weather can be a major cause of an 18 wheeler trucking accident. Heavy rain, snow, or ice on the roads can cause dangerous driving conditions. This can result in a driver losing control of a vehicle and getting into an accident. Such weather events can also reduce visibility on the road, making it hard for a driver to observe obstacles, signs, or other vehicles. 

During extreme weather events, drivers should not be on the road, especially while operating heavy vehicles for long periods. Companies and employers of trucking companies should cease all commercial activity during extreme weather events to prevent potential accidents. 

Shipment Loading Errors

The way products and goods are loaded onto a truck can cause an imbalance in its weight, leading to an accident due to the lack of stability of the vehicle. This is especially important in regards to 18 wheeler trucks, as they are often not enclosed. 

If an 18 wheeler trucking accident occurs due to a loading error, the loading company may be held responsible for the incident and any damages or injuries that incur. 

Hiring Negligence

Truck drivers are held to higher standards than drivers of other vehicles. This is because trucks are harder to drive and therefore require more driving skills and experience. 

If a company is facing a shortage of drivers, it may hire any drivers it can, even if they do not have the sufficient skill set. If someone is injured in an accident due to an error in hiring, the hiring company may be held responsible. 

After an Accident: Steps To Take

Regardless of why an accident occurs, you may have a right to compensation. This applies if you were the driver or passenger of an 18 wheeler truck during the accident or if you were a driver or passenger of another vehicle involved. 

To ensure that your rights are secured after an accident occurs, there are a few important steps you must take before you can file a claim.

Safety First

The first few seconds after an accident occurs can be disorienting. Once you realize what happened, assess yourself for injuries. 

If you can, get yourself to a safe place. For example, move to the side of the road where you will not be at risk of injury from further collisions. 

Call for Help

Once you’re in a safe location, call for help. You want to make sure the police respond to the scene and document the accident by way of a report. Get as much information as possible from the responding officer, such as the names of the officers and agencies they work for. 

This ensures that as many parties as possible are present after the accident first occurs and can therefore record how and why the accident occurred. You will need as much evidence as you can get if you decide to file a claim. 

Seek Medical Attention

After you call for help, make sure that you are examined by a medical professional or taken to a hospital if necessary. This is important because even if you feel fine or don’t appear to have serious injuries, you may have suffered internal damage. 

Aside from this, seeking medical attention as soon as possible after an accident occurs can help establish what injuries were caused by the accident. You will need these records when filing for compensation. 

Document as Much as You Can

If you are well enough to do so, gather as many details about the accident as you can. This can include taking pictures of the accident and asking for statements and contact information from witnesses. 

While the police and other first responders will do their best to document the scene, you can never have too much evidence. It will be useful in determining the cause of the accident and therefore identifying the responsible parties. 

You should also take pictures and videos to document the scene. Photographs of the damage to the vehicles, the roadway where the accident occurred, and any visible injuries can be extremely helpful in proving your case later on.

Understanding Your Rights

Before you file a claim after an 18 wheeler trucking accident, you must understand what rights you are entitled to and what money and benefits you may be eligible for. 

Determining Eligibility

If you were involved in an 18 wheeler trucking accident, you may be eligible for compensation if the following applies: 

  • You were injured in any way due to the accident. 
  • Your injuries prevent you from working or partaking in normal daily activities. 
  • Your injuries lead to permanent impairment, disability, or death. 
  • The causes of the incident are unclear, and liability for the accident is questioned. 
  • You are not eligible for support from insurance companies. 

Because it can be difficult to determine if you are eligible to file a claim, it is best to consult with a lawyer or legal team to determine what types of money and benefits you are eligible for. A lawyer can also help you determine what money and benefits you are entitled to so that you are not sold short by insurance companies or responsible parties. 

If you were recently involved in an 18 wheeler accident, reach out to Schwartzapfel® Lawyers, P.C. at (516) 342-2200 to speak with one of our experienced attorneys. 

Filing a Claim

After you have taken the initial steps after an accident and determined your eligibility, filing a claim should be the next item on your list. 

While filing a claim can be a long and arduous process, it can make a difference in ensuring that you receive the compensation you need and are entitled to. 

Here are the most important steps in filing a claim: 

Dealing With Insurance Companies

After an 18 wheeler trucking accident or any other motor vehicle accident, you should contact a lawyer immediately, even before notifying your own insurance company. Unfortunately, even your own insurance company does not always have your best interests at heart. \\

Also, you may at some point be filing a claim for underinsured motorist (UM) benefits against your own insurance company. So they can and will use any statements you make against you. 

Filing a claim can also potentially raise your insurance costs. An insurance company may even deny your claim to avoid paying a settlement. Luckily, a lawyer can help make negotiations with a stubborn insurance company. 

Prove Responsibility for the Accident

As aforementioned, determining the cause of an accident and identifying the responsible parties is crucial to filling a claim. This is because, without proof of responsibility, you might not be able to receive compensation from a specific individual or group of individuals. 

Cases in which responsibility is not allotted to a specific party but is rather attributed to driver error may garner different results than those in which a specific party is held liable. 

Determine the Value of Your Injuries

To determine how much compensation you are eligible to receive, a lawyer will assess the cost of the injuries you incurred during the accident. This cost includes: 

  • Medical bills pertaining to treatments, surgery, hospital stays, medication, and rehabilitation. It may also include travel expenses to and from hospital visits. 
  • Any wages you may have lost if you were unable to work due to your injuries. This could also include any losses in contributions to your annuity, pension, and any other retirement benefits.
  • Funeral costs if the injuries from the accident lead to death. 
  • A lump-sum payment if you suffer severe injuries or if those injuries lead to impairment or disability. This also includes the amount of pain and suffering you may have experienced due to your injuries. 

How a Lawyer Can Help

Because claims for compensation following an 18 wheeler accident, or any accident, contain many steps, consider hiring a lawyer to help. 

A lawyer can help you through every step of filing your claim, from determining eligibility to discussing a settlement. A competent lawyer can help ease the process as well as improve results, ensuring that you receive the compensation you need and deserve. 

Lawyers Have Legal Knowledge

While you might be able to go up against insurance companies and responsibilities on your own, you may not have the legal knowledge to ensure that your rights are not being brushed aside. 

Insurance companies and other parties do not want to pay for compensation, and they do not want to be held responsible for any injuries you incur in an accident. They will not inform you of the money you are entitled to or the benefits you are eligible for. 

Unlike an insurance company or responsible party, a good lawyer cares about you and your case. They will inform you of the rights you are entitled to and fight so that you receive them. 

Negotiating a Settlement

Even if you can successfully file a claim with the help of a lawyer, you may not receive the money and benefits that cover all your needs. An insurance company or a responsible party will not be willing to pay a cent more than the minimum they can get away with paying. 

Because lawyers are familiar with tactics that opposing parties use, they can work to negotiate the best possible settlement for you and not let any company get away with the bare minimum. 

At Schwartzapfel® Lawyers, P.C., we can provide you with an experienced and competent lawyer to help you make the most of your claim. Contact us today at (516) 342-2200. 

We are committed to our clients and will fight to ensure that their rights are secured. We have helped dozens of people in the past and can also help you. 

Eighteen-wheeler trucking accidents can result in severe and long-lasting injuries. Whether or not you were behind the wheel, you are entitled to rights under the law and deserve compensation to help you recover. 


The Police Department City of New York | NYC GOV

New York State Fact Sheet on Cell Phone Use | Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research 

6 Steps to Becoming a Truck Driver | Learn to Become 

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