Q&A: Tractor Trailer Accident – Who’s at Fault?

Tractor trailer truck on a highway.

Question: I was trailing two large semi trucks following each other for about a half of a mile. They were going extremely slow around 30 mph so I decided to pass them because you are allowed to pass on the road I was taking. I see no cars for at least 1 mile in the left lane. So I speed up to about 45 mph to pass them in the left lane while they were going about 30mph. (The speed limit is 45mph).

View from a car of passing a tractor trailer 18 wheeler on the highway.

As I get past the first truck and almost pass the second truck, the second truck turns on his left turn signal for maybe a second and makes a left turn into the company he works at without even slowing down from the speed he was going around (30mph). I hit the brakes and slammed into the truck.

Red car on side of highway very dented in a ditch on the edge of a farm field after a crash.

Highway Car Crashes with Trucks

Answer: At my office in Kingston, New York, we believe tractor-trailers are almost always in the wrong. They are big, loud, and dangerous. Jurors dislike them, and so do we.

The fact pattern set forth above does present some serious legal challenges, but there is hope for you. New York State law recognizes there can be more than one contributing factor to a vehicle accident. This legal theory is known as comparative fault. Under the circumstances described above, your conduct will be a substantial factor in the cause of the accident since you were passing in the left lane on a two-lane highway.

However, in my opinion, the tractor-trailer driver was also negligent. The truck driver had an obligation to check his/her mirrors prior to executing the left turn. He/she had an obligation to timely activate his/her turn signal, which is particularly important in a legal passing zone. He/she had an obligation to not obstruct the steady flow of traffic by traveling at too low a speed.

Consult with an Experienced Truck Accident Lawyer

You should consult with a personal injury lawyer in the Hudson Valley who is familiar with tractor-trailer accident litigation. “Big truck” cases are complicated. Your lawyer should be familiar with the federal and state transportation laws. In addition to typical car crashes, you should ask your lawyer if he/she has ever handled a tractor-trailer accident case in his/her career. These are not run-of-the-mill car accidents. They generally require timely investigations and the services of an accident reconstructionist. Your lawyer should have adequate financial resources to bankroll the case.