Rear-end accidents involving semi-trucks can cause catastrophic crashes, resulting in life-changing injuries or fatalities. A recent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report found nearly 60,000 rear-end crashes annually in the U.S. in which a heavy vehicle strikes a smaller car.

Although it’s common to assume that a large truck is to blame for a rear-end accident with a passenger vehicle, other factors, such as the actions of other drivers and road conditions, may complicate determining liability.

Understanding when a semi is and isn’t liable for a rear-end crash can help you know your rights when filing for compensation. At Fieger Law, we often handle complex cases involving semis. If you’re hurt in a rear-end semi-truck crash, we can protect your interests and help you seek a fair settlement.

When Are Semi-Truck Drivers at Fault for a Rear-End Accident?

Typically, fault in a rear-end accident is placed on the driver who rear-ended another vehicle. The following actions may indicate semi-truck negligence, making the driver responsible for your damages:

  • Distracted driving: The truck driver was distracted by a phone, radio, or other device and failed to notice slowing traffic ahead, leading to a collision. If it’s proven that the truck driver was distracted, they may be at fault for the crash.
  • Failure to maintain equipment: While mechanical failure can sometimes be an excusable reason for a rear-end collision, the responsibility falls on the trucking company and the driver to keep their vehicle in good condition and notice any parts in need of repair or maintenance. Failure to do so can lead to liability.
  • Following too closely: Semi-trucks have much longer stopping distances than passenger vehicles. If the truck driver is following too closely and can’t stop in time when the leading vehicle slows down or stops, the truck driver may be found at fault.
  • Speeding: Driving over the speed limit or too fast for the road conditions can also result in a rear-end collision for which the truck driver would be liable.
  • Improper load: Improperly loaded or unsecured cargo can affect the balance and handling of a semi-truck, making it harder to stop quickly and potentially leading to a rear-end collision.
  • Impaired driving: For example, when a truck driver is under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or medication, impairing their judgment and reaction times.
  • Ignoring traffic conditions: When a truck driver fails to adjust their speed or driving behavior according to the weather, road conditions, or traffic flow, resulting in a collision.
  • Aggressive driving: Actions like tailgating, frequent lane changes without signaling, or not yielding the right-of-way can be considered aggressive driving. In these cases, the truck driver could be found at fault for a rear-end collision.
  • Violation of FMCSA regulations: If a truck driver exceeds the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s hours of service regulations, it can easily lead to fatigue and reduced responsiveness, resulting in an accident.

If a semi-truck driver acts negligently and rear-ends your car, our Michigan truck accident lawyers can help. We can investigate the crash to determine what caused the incident and help you seek compensation from the responsible parties.

When Would a Semi-Truck Driver NOT Be at Fault for a Crash?

Big rigs aren’t always responsible for rear-end accidents. Situations that may indicate another driver is liable include:

  • Abrupt lane changes: If another vehicle cuts off a semi-truck, the truck may not be to blame. The area directly in front of these large trucks is a blind spot, and due to their size and weight, they cannot decelerate as rapidly as smaller vehicles. 
  • Sudden stops by other vehicles: If the vehicle in front makes a sudden, unexpected stop or slow-down for no apparent reason, and the truck driver cannot reasonably stop in time despite following at a safe distance and speed, the driver of the front vehicle may be found partially or fully at fault.
  • Reversing into the truck: If the vehicle in front reverses into the semi-truck, the driver of that vehicle would generally be considered at fault.
  • Faulty signaling: If a car’s brake lights or turn signals are out or malfunctioning, it can cause the truck driver to misjudge the intentions or actions of the vehicle in front, causing a collision.
  • Obstacles on the road: If the vehicle in front is involved in evasive maneuvers to avoid an animal, person, or another vehicle and comes to a sudden stop or slows down unpredictably, fault may be shared or attributed to the emergency situation.
  • Road conditions: Slippery or hazardous road conditions that are not easily foreseeable could also play a role. For example, if an oil spill or ice patch causes the front vehicle to slide unpredictably, the semi-truck driver may not be at fault for being unable to stop in time.
  • Traffic violations by the front vehicle: If the driver of the vehicle in front is committing a traffic violation, like stopping in a no-stopping zone on a freeway, and this leads to an accident, the truck driver may not be fully at fault.

Tips for Driving Safely Around Trucks

While knowing who might be at fault in a rear-end collision is essential, defensive driving can prevent an accident from occurring in the first place. Here are some tips for driving safely around semi-trucks:

  • Maintain a safe distance: Keep enough space between your vehicle and the truck to react if the truck makes a sudden move or stops.
  • Avoid blind spots: Stay out of areas where the truck driver might not see you, especially directly behind or beside the truck.
  • Signal early: Give truck drivers ample notice of your intentions by using your turn signals well in advance.
  • Pass swiftly and safely: When overtaking a truck, do it efficiently without lingering in its blind spots.
  • Anticipate wide turns: Trucks need more space to turn, especially on the right. Give them the room they need.
  • Avoid abrupt lane changes: Sudden moves can be dangerous around large vehicles that can’t stop or maneuver quickly.

Get Legal Guidance for Your Semi-Truck Accident

Even when driving defensively, accidents with semi-trucks can still occur. If a semi-truck rear-ends you, our car accident attorneys at Fieger Law can investigate your claim and advise you on potential legal actions.

Our past settlements for truck accident victims include a $30,000,000 jury verdict for a woman wrongfully killed by a negligent truck driver. We can put our knowledge of Michigan traffic law to work for you, helping you win funds to pay for medical bills and other damages resulting from your rear-end collision.

Contact us today to schedule a free case review to learn about compensation options for your rear-end accident.