Difference in Truck and Car Accidents | Personal Injury Lawyer Alexandria
How Do Accidents Involving A Truck Differ From Those Involving Cars?

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Accidents involving a tractor pulling a semi-trailer, a.k.a. truck, semi, big rig, and 18-wheeler, differ greatly from those involving passenger cars in severity, legal liability, and type. Since a truck weighs up to 80,000 pounds, a collision by a car that normally constitutes a minor accident will create much greater amounts of damage and personal injury when caused by a truck.


The braking system in a truck is pneumatic. Air lines and hoses are used to transport compressed air from storage tanks to the braking devices attached to the wheels. An inherent characteristic of this system is that compressed air has a greater distance to travel through the air hoses to reach the brakes at the rear of the trailer than it does to reach the tractor brakes. This, coupled with the fact that compressed air takes time to travel through the hoses, can cause a delay of approximately a second or more for the rear trailer brakes to engage after the tractor brakes have engaged.  

Under abrupt braking, and in this brief period during which the tractor is braking and therefore slowing itself but the trailer is not, a situation can arise in which the front of the trailer, which is fixed to the tractor, is being slowed by the tractor, but the rear of the trailer is still free to continue moving. The rear of the trailer will therefore swing either to the right or left pursuant to Newton’s first law of motion, creating an increasingly folded configuration between the tractor and trailer, simulating a pocket jackknife. This causes a loss of control of the vehicle as well as an invasion by the rear of the trailer into the adjacent lanes of traffic. Usually, the perpendicular relationship between the tractor and trailer involved in a jackknife prevents the entire unit from rolling over.


In circumstances in which the tractor and trailer remain largely in line, a rollover is caused when a truck takes a turn at excessive speeds. The maximum allowable height of a trailer is also the most common: 13.5 feet. Configured with a wheelbase of eight and one half feet, the relative extreme height can leverage the centrifugal force of the mass of a speeding and turning trailer to the point where it exceeds the centripetal force of the tires on pavement acting to keep the trailer moving along a curve. The top of the unit then tips over and the truck lands on its side. Improper loading of freight creating high or lopsided centers of mass contribute to rollovers.

Regulation by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

Because of the great potential for such large and heavy vehicles to cause damage and personal injury, the FMCSA limits drivers of commercial trucks to certain numbers of hours of driving during given periods of 24 hours, 7 days, and 8 days, and sets weight limits not only for the gross vehicle weight of a truck, but also for the distribution of that weight over the vehicle’s axles. If these hours or weight limits are exceeded, criminal and civil liability can result.

If you or a loved one has suffered an injury created by an accident involving a truck, learn your rights. Contact the Kamerow Law Firm, PLLC and let us help you recover compensation for your injuries.