Rollover Truck Accidents: Causes and Liability

​Rollovers (Truck Accident)
Rollover Truck Accidents: Causes and Liability

Thousands of commercial trucks travel the roads at any time in every state. The economy of the United States runs on its commercial trucking fleet. If the trucks stopped running, everything would shut down.

There are bound to be trucking accidents with so many semi-trucks and 18-wheelers on the roads. The data shows that 107,000 large truck accidents involved injuries in just one year.

The same year saw over 4,000 large truck accident fatalities. Of those who died in semi-truck accidents, 15 percent of them were occupants of the truck. Pedestrians, bicyclists, and those riding motorcycles accounted for 16 percent of large truck fatalities. The final 68 percent of the fatalities were occupants of other vehicles involved in the crashes.

One of the common types of commercial trucking accidents is called a rollover. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) calls these big rig accidents overturns.

Rollovers or overturns happen when the truck or trailer overturns onto its side or rolls over several times. These types of accidents can be devastating and hurt a lot of people using the roads.

Being injured in a truck accident can completely turn one’s life upside down. Serious personal injuries can prevent you from working and keep you in treatment for months. You may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. Contacting a truck accident lawyer will help you recover the compensation you deserve.

You may have a lot of questions that a truck accident attorney will be able to answer. Understand that you don’t have to go through this alone.

5 Causes of Rollover Semi-Truck Accidents

There are five main causes of rollovers for large commercial trucks. Some of these causes are due to the driver's actions, while others are due to things outside the driver's control.

Driver Negligence

A driver who acts negligently increases the risk of rollover or overturn accidents. Included in this category are many inexperienced truck drivers. Long-haul truck drivers must undergo specific training and take written and driving tests to get a special CDL license. This license is a requirement for anyone who drives large commercial trucks.

Interstate drivers must be at least 21. They must pass a vision test and a physical every two years. Many trucking companies will also put newly licensed CDL drivers through an apprentice program before allowing them to take solo trips.

A truck driver who hauls hazardous materials also needs special training and special endorsements on their license.

But despite the testing and training, many new drivers cause rollover accidents due to inexperience or negligence.

A negligent driver can cause a rollover crash by:

  • Being distracted by texting or watching videos
  • Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Eating or talking on the phone while driving
  • Driving over the speed limit
  • Driving erratically
  • Driving aggressively, such as shifting lanes quickly or tailgating
  • Not following regulations regarding time behind the wheel
  • Falling asleep or briefly dozing off while behind the wheel

Any of these things could constitute driver negligence. If that negligence caused a crash and injured someone, the injured victim should contact an experienced truck accident lawyer. The lawyer will determine whether you're likely to succeed when filing to recover personal injury damages.

These complicated cases require consulting a truck accident attorney.

Lack of Semi-Truck Maintenance and Repair

Large commercial trucks journey an average of 45,000 miles per year for deliveries. The average 18-wheeler’s engine can last up to 750,000 miles, with some trucks going well over one million miles.

Putting this many miles on a truck will require a lot of maintenance to be done. When maintenance for a tractor-trailer gets neglected, things can go wrong.

Semi-trucks are complicated machines with a lot of moving parts. All it takes is one critical part to fail or break to cause a crash like a rollover.

Below are common maintenance problems that can cause a truck accident:

  • Old tires don’t hold traction well
  • Old tires suffer a blowout, causing the driver to lose control
  • Brakes fail, causing a driver to smash into other cars or lose control going down a hill
  • Headlights or brake lights don’t work
  • Steering fails
  • The trailer coupling breaks or fails, causing a fully loaded trailer to get loose

Federal regulations require big rig trucks to be regularly maintained and inspected. In addition, drivers must do a walk-around inspection of their truck and trailer before every trip.

Product Loading Dangers

Tractor-trailers can haul up to 40,000 pounds of product. In most instances, the truck drivers are not involved in the loading or unloading process; loading the product is usually left up to warehouse dock workers.

Due to the amount of weight involved, truckers must properly secure and stack the cargo. Improperly secured cases can shift and move around inside the trailer. Cargo movement happens more often when the truck travels around a lot of curves and turns in the road.

Unsecured products can also shift suddenly when a semi-truck driver has to swerve to get out of the way of an object in the middle of the road.

If the product shifts enough, it can cause the trailer to tip over, which will cause the truck to tip over as well.

Shifting loads can also be problematic if the driver has to hit the brakes quickly. Any sudden movement or stop could cause a rollover if the load inside the trailer is improperly loaded and secured.

Another problem due to improperly loading a trailer is overloading. When too much weight gets loaded into the trailer, the driver could have difficulty controlling it. Even if the load is properly secured, if the load exceeds the weight capacity of the truck, there could be problems.

Dangerous Roadways

Dangerously designed or built roadways and highways cause some rollover accidents. When highway conditions are difficult to maneuver, even an experienced semi-truck driver can have problems.

These road conditions could cause a rollover accident if the driver isn’t careful:

  • Tight curves or turns, especially on highways where trucks can go fast
  • A too-steep roadway, especially when there are curves in a steep downhill direction
  • Debris in the roadway that hits a tire
  • Anything that requires the driver to attempt to swerve out of the way
  • The edge of the roadway gives way when the wheel of the truck hits it
  • A steep drop-off at the edge of the roadway that causes the driver to lose control when a wheel hits it
  • Dangerous and improperly designed construction zones that cause truck drivers to lose control

Truck drivers new to a route can find themselves surprised by dangerous or changing road conditions and react poorly, causing a rollover accident.

Overcorrecting

Overcorrecting happens when a truck driver veers too close to the edge of the road. Upon realizing how close they are to the edge, they pull the steering wheel too hard in the opposite direction. Instead of steering away from the edge in a calm and controlled manner, they overcorrect the steer and tip their trailer over.

Who Can I Hold Responsible for Rollover Accidents?

With complicated trucking accidents, different people or corporations (and their insurance companies) could be held responsible for your injuries. Who is liable depends on how the rollover accident occurred and what was the main cause of it.

Every 18-wheeler accident case is going to be different. In some cases, there could be multiple defendants who are partially responsible for the payment of compensation to the injured victims.

The Driver

The long-haul truck driver could be liable if they did something negligent and reckless. If a truck driver fails to follow the rules of the road and causes a crash, they can be held responsible. A truck driver under the influence of drugs or alcohol while driving can also be held responsible for any injuries they cause.

The Trucking Company

The trucking company that employs the truck driver can be held responsible for truck accident injuries in two ways. First, through a legal concept called respondeat superior, you can hold an employer responsible for an employee's negligence. This can happen as long as the negligence occurs during the employee's work duties.

The second way a trucking company can be held responsible is if the trucking company did something distinct from the driver that was considered negligent.

Below are some examples of trucking company negligence:

  • Failing to properly hire truck drivers
  • Hiring truck drivers even though they don’t pass background checks
  • Hiring or retaining truck drivers who fail a physical
  • Failing to properly supervise drivers
  • Failing to conduct regular maintenance on their trucks
  • Sending trucks out on the road knowing that they are potentially not safe
  • Allowing their drivers to fudge their records and drive beyond the federally required time limits
  • Failing to adequately monitor their drivers’ rest periods and time behind the wheel
  • Failing to perform randomized drug and alcohol screenings of all drivers
  • Failing to terminate a driver who fails a drug or alcohol test

If you can prove that a trucking company did any of these things, you can hold it responsible, separate from the driver, for any injuries a rollover caused.

Another Motorist

Every year the news shows multi-vehicle pileups on highways. One car may cause these pileups, some of which can involve dozens of vehicles and injure many people.

If another motorist is the ultimate cause of a tractor-trailer rollover accident, you may pursue that person and their automobile insurance company for compensation.

However, in some cases, many different parties are partially at fault, and they may all be required to contribute to compensating the injured people.

Company Responsible for Loading the Trailer

Sometimes, the same company employs the people who load trucks and those who drive them. For example, Walmart uses company-owned trucks and hires truck drivers. Paid employees load the trailers, too.

But Walmart’s situation is rare. In many cases, trucks get loaded by employees from a different company than the one that employs the truck driver.

Most trucks pull up to a factory, production facility, or warehouse to have the product loaded by factory employees. If the employees load the product dangerously, failing to secure it properly or overloading the truck, it could cause a rollover.

If you can prove that the loading dock employees were the ultimate people at fault, then that company could be held responsible for any injuries that the crash caused.

Some semi-truck accidents can involve all of these potential at-fault defendants in one case. That is why these cases can be very complex and why you should have an experienced truck accident attorney on your side.

Get Help From an Experienced Truck Accident Lawyer

If a semi-truck rollover accident injured you, you might receive compensation for your injuries, losses, and damages. Contact an experienced truck accident attorney to help you with the case.

Most significant 18-wheeler accidents that involve serious injuries or fatalities are complex and difficult. That is why you shouldn’t ask just any lawyer to handle your case. You want a law firm that focuses its practice on successfully handling complicated and tough cases.

You need someone who can fight for your rights to receive full and fair compensation. The law firm you choose should have the knowledge, skills, and resources to take on huge trucking corporations and their insurance companies.