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Illegally Parked Commercial Trucks in Trucking Litigation

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Illegally Parked Commercial Trucks in Trucking Litigation


Common carriers must follow commercial driving requirements, industry practices, trucking company manuals, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Vehicles, particularly large commercial trucks, illegally or unsafely parked on the side of the road may lead to serious catastrophic crashes. State and federal regulations are in place to prevent accidents involving unsafe parking. However, truck drivers often stop on the shoulder of the roadway or along an exit ramp. To decrease the risk of an accident, truck drivers parked or stopped for an emergency must follow regulations set forth by the FMCSA.

What Are the Risks of Illegally or Unsafely Parked Commercial Trucks?

Drivers traveling along on-ramps and merging onto the highway may face a safety risk when a semi-truck parks along the side of the roadway. Drivers may face many dangers when a large commercial truck is parked on the on-ramp beside oncoming vehicles traveling at highway speeds. Common factors involved in accidents involving unsafe or illegally parked commercial trucks include:

  • Warning Hazards: Drivers of large commercial trucks that are stopped along the side of the road are required to activate hazard lights and use safety triangles, as outlined in 49 CFR 392.22. Depending on the size of the big rig, the trucker has an obligation to have their truck flashers on and place three warning triangles behind the trailer immediately or within 10 minutes. The reflective side of the triangle must place oncoming traffic to make it easier for approaching motorists to spot. Different rules apply depending on the location of the parked truck on the roadway or highway.
  • Visibility: Large commercial trucks are required to have conspicuous reflective material on specific areas of the trailer and truck. Insufficient reflective or light striping are contributing factors to crashes involving stopped big rigs. Catastrophic and fatal collisions often involve parked flatbed trailers without reflective striping or lights along the side of the truck. This may make it difficult for oncoming motorists to spot these vehicles at night and when roadway visibility is compromised by inclement weather conditions.
  • Lane Obstruction: Cases involving tow trucks or tractor-trailers partially obstructing traffic lanes are not uncommon, especially on the highway. A catastrophic or fatal crash may occur when a tow truck or tractor-trailer is partially blocking a travel lane on the highway, particularly when an approaching driver is unable to spot and avoid the large vehicle. Commercial trucks that are parked on on-ramps or exit ramps, highway shoulders, and other areas must make their vehicles visible to oncoming traffic through specific precautions. These include warning signals like flares, hazard lights, warning triangles, and more.

Accidents involving parked big rigs often occur due to distracted drivers, tractor-trailers failing to meet visibility requirements set forth in the FMCSA, parked in unsafe locations, or a combination of these contributing factors. If you were injured or lost a loved one in a crash involving a parked commercial truck, it is a good idea to have an experienced attorney review your case in detail in a free consultation. At AutoAccident.com, we proudly offer free, friendly case advice.

Why Are Crashes Involving Parked Semi-Trucks Catastrophic?

Accidents involving parked commercial trucks are particularly catastrophic due to the truck’s underride. This is attributed to the higher ground clearance that big rigs have compared to most passenger vehicles. Smaller cars are likely to go under big rigs upon crashing, and the results are often severe or even fatal in some cases. Common injuries in underride truck accidents include spinal cord injuries, internal trauma, traumatic brain injuries, head trauma, amputations, and more. The severity of injuries will depend on the area of impact, passenger vehicle safety features, speed, and other factors.

Disputed Liability in Accidents Involving Illegally or Unsafely Parked Trucks

When a parked vehicle, such as a big rig, is struck by a moving vehicle, it is often assumed that only one individual is responsible for the incident. However, that is not always the case. Other factors may be the cause of an accident involving a parked tractor-trailer, such as negligence on the driver’s part to lawfully park their truck in a safe area. Parked commercial trucks pose significant risks and dangers on the road or highway. Federal regulations are in place for lawful and safe vehicle parking. As such, truck drivers are expected to park their vehicles safely and lawfully.

Insurers representing truck drivers and trucking companies may attempt to dispute liability and deny claims by injured parties and surviving family members. Insurance carriers may allege that the claimant was negligent for failure to spot and avoid the parked truck. This is where an experienced commercial truck accident lawyer steps in. The right attorney will have the resources to conduct an in-depth investigation into the incident. They may also work with experts like a crash reconstruction specialist who can analyze the factors that caused or contributed to a commercial truck accident.

In a big rig crash case, accident reconstruction serves a pivotal role in determining how the incident occurred and who caused the truck accident. Crash reconstruction may uncover a wide array of factors that led to the incident, such as visibility issues due to the lack of conspicuous reflective material on the big rig, failure to use warning hazards, fluorescent orange triangles, and more. As an expert witness in a civil case, a collision reconstruction specialist may develop 3D models or submit written reports to demonstrate how the incident happened.

Why is Collision Reconstruction Important in a Commercial Truck Accident Case?

Crash reconstruction specialists use many methodologies to determine what factors played a role in the cause and severity of a tractor-trailer collision. To be deemed credible in the courtroom, an accident reconstruction expert must have formal education and training in the field. They must be well-versed in simulation tools, engineering, mathematics, physics, and vehicle dynamics. Key aspects of accident reconstruction include:

  • In-depth investigation of the vehicle(s) involved in the crash
  • Analysis of photos taken at the scene of the accident, visible injuries, and property damage
  • Review of medical records to determine if the available evidence is consistent with the reported injuries
  • Evaluation of published studies, vehicle crashworthiness reports, eyewitness accounts, deposition transcripts, police reports, and other documents

Collision reconstruction specialists may review other evidence, such as the truck’s black box or event data recorder. This data and other documentation may be crucial in commercial truck accident cases. Accident reconstruction animations, testimony, and reports from experts may be part of a civil case to resolve disputes and establish the opposing party’s liability. It is particularly useful in cases where the defense alleges comparative fault on the plaintiff’s part.

Liability in Cases Involving Legally Parked Trucks

A case was filed in December 2010 in Del Norte County, California, against a trucking company whose truck driver lawfully parked their big rig in front of an establishment and off the side of southbound U.S. 101. The incident occurred in Crescent City, California. Plaintiff’s counsel alleged that the big rig was parked unsafely and obstructed the view of drivers traveling on Anchor Way attempting to merge onto U.S. 101. The case was taken to trial, where a jury returned a verdict assigning comparative fault to the defendant for causing the incident.

Seeking Compensation in a Case Involving a Parked Commercial Truck

If a truck driver or trucking company fails to uphold state and federal regulations, they may be held liable for a subsequent tractor-trailer collision. Trucking companies may be held vicariously liable for the behaviors and actions of their employed truck drivers, like distracted driving, speeding, and unsafe or illegal parking. Holding the other side accountable in a personal injury claim or wrongful death action can help claimants cover losses associated with the incident. It is suggested to retain legal counsel immediately in these matters, as evidence may be lost or destroyed over time.

A letter of preservation of evidence also referred to as a spoilation letter, is drafted by an attorney and sent directly to the other side. This outlines what evidence must be preserved from being destroyed, puts the common carrier on notice of a claim, and necessary action must be taken. If the opposing party willfully alters or destroys evidence, sanctions or penalties may be placed on the defendant. Examples of the types of evidence that should be preserved include driver logs, truck driver drug and alcohol testing results before and after the incident, load information, maintenance records, and more.

Truck Accident Lawyer in California

Cases involving illegally or unsafely parked commercial trucks are challenging to navigate. As such, an injured party or surviving family member may benefit greatly from having an experienced California truck accident lawyer review their potential case in detail in a free consultation. At AutoAccident.com, we provide free, friendly case advice at your convenience. Call (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400 to set up a free consultation today. We operate on contingency, meaning no upfront or out-of-pocket costs are due for representation. Our legal team only gets paid if we successfully resolve our client’s case.

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