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When Can Semi-Trailers Decouple and Cause a Truck Accident?

Posted on: March 23, 2022

Our national trucking industry is the backbone of our economy. Every grocery store, retail establishment, and almost every commercial endeavor relies on the trucking industry in some way. The United States economy depends on trucks to deliver nearly 70 percent of all freight transported annually. That is why it is not surprising to see the number of big rigs on the roads and highways of our country at any given time. It is estimated that there are, on average, about two million tractor-trailer trucks operating at any given time in the United States. With this number of trucks on the roads, many accidents on our highways involve 18-wheelers. Given the fact that a fully loaded tractor-trailer can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, many of the big-rig truck accidents involve many vehicles, are extremely violent, and cause significant and serious personal injury.

There are many causes for 18-wheeler accidents. Some are normal causes, and some are unique to the industry and type of trucks being driven. For example, there is a major problem in the trucking industry of truckers spending too many hours behind the wheel and becoming overtired and falling asleep while driving. Another issue with tractor-trailers that cause many accidents are decoupling accidents. This is when the trailer decouples from the truck, causing mayhem on the roads.

Causes behind Semi-Truck Decoupling Accidents

With the amount of wear and tear put on trucks and trailers and the coupling devices that hook the two together, it is not surprising that sometimes the coupling devices fail in some manner. According to the Federal Highway Administration, long-distance trucks travel upwards of 100,000 miles a year, every year. This puts a lot of stress on the trailers and trucks. With this amount of stress, it could cause the coupling devices to fail. Obviously, when this happens, and a fully loaded trailer goes careening down the road, it could cause a significant crash and hurt a lot of people. There are several potential causes of coupling device failure, including the following:

  • Defective design of the coupling device
  • Defective manufacture in which improper materials were used
  • Improper usage of the coupling device
  • Driver error in driving in an erratic and unsafe way, putting extra stress on the coupling device
  • Failure to inspect the coupling device to make sure that it was in proper working order
  • Driver error in attaching the trailer to the truck

All these things could be the cause of a decoupling accident.

Who Is Responsible When a Decoupling Truck Accident Occurs?

Serious car accidents that involve one or more tractor-trailers are very complicated, and it is sometimes difficult to pin the fault of the crash on just one party or one entity. In many of these accidents, there are multiple parties at fault and lawsuits filed against all of them for the harm, injuries, and damage they cause. If there was a mechanical failure of the coupling system, the at-fault party may not just be the manufacturer of the device. Many other parties could also be at least partially at fault.

The truck driver. There are many ways for the truck driver to be responsible for a decoupling accident with a semi-truck. First, commercial truck drivers must have special licenses to drive the big rigs and special training. They are trained in how to hook the trailer to the truck. If they fail to do it properly, an accident could occur. Also, truck drivers are required to inspect their vehicles before they begin their trips. If they do not perform an inspection, they might miss a mechanical issue with the coupling device. In addition, they are supposed to drive in a safe manner. When long-haul truck drivers are unsafe and drive in an erratic or reckless manner, they could put extra stress and tension on the coupling device, causing it to fail on the highway.

The trucking company. If the driver fails in their duties or is negligent in some manner as it relates to the proper coupling of the trailer to the truck, then through the legal concept of respondeat superior, the employer is ultimately responsible for the negligent actions of its employee. However, trucking companies can be negligent and a cause of these types of semi-truck accidents separate and apart from the actions of their drivers. Often, truck companies fail to require proper safety inspections or enough safety inspections to catch any mechanical issues. Sometimes, trucking companies neglect the maintenance on their trucks to save money and time. Remember that every day a truck sits in a repair shop is a day that the trucking company is not making money. When both trucking companies and their truck driving employees break the rules, both can be held responsible for the damages and injuries that they cause.

The truck’s manufacturer. Truck makers can be held responsible for putting dangerous or defective products on the market. Not only can they be held responsible for a dangerous or defective design of a vehicle or parts of a vehicle, but also they can be held responsible for the dangerous or defective manufacture of a vehicle or part of a vehicle. With regard to the manufacture of parts of a vehicle, this could include the coupling device that is used with large trucks. If the materials used in the manufacture of the coupling device were defective somehow and the metal used was weak in some manner, this could be the ultimate cause of the decoupling and the accident. This can be determined by metallurgy testing.

Third-party company. In some instances, the manufacturer of the truck and the trailer could be different companies. Each could possibly be held responsible for a crash, depending on the facts of the case. Also, in many vehicle manufacturing, third-party companies are used for the design and manufacture of individual parts of the overall vehicle. Depending on what parts are involved in the cause of the accident, these third-party companies could also be involved in any litigation.

What Can a Tractor-Trailer Accident Lawyer Do for Me?

With many accidents that involve tractor-trailers, they can be very complicated incidents that have many vehicles, many drivers, different trucking companies, and related businesses, all of which have their own insurance companies involved. If you were seriously injured in an accident such as this, there could be many parties involved. This means there could be a small army of insurance adjusters, investigators, and lawyers helping the insurance companies argue that you are not entitled to have compensation for which you are entitled. You deserve to have your own aggressive legal team fighting for your rights to receive compensation for your very serious injuries.

Monmouth County Truck Accident Lawyers at Ellis Law Represent Clients Involved in Tractor-Trailer Accidents

Semi-trailer accidents can cause serious and significant injuries that often are permanent in nature. There are many of these tractor-trailer accidents that involve fatalities as well. The Monmouth County truck accident lawyers at Ellis Law are experienced in representing seriously injured victims in semi-truck accidents. In order for you to be fully and fairly compensated for your injuries, you need a law firm fighting for you that has the knowledge, skills, and resources to take on big trucking companies and even bigger insurance companies. For a free consultation, call us at 732-308-0200 or complete our online form. We are located in Freehold, New Jersey, and help clients throughout East Brunswick, Toms River, Middletown, Jersey City, Neptune, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, Monmouth County, Marlboro, and Ocean County, as well as Brooklyn, New York, and New York City.