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How Do Accidents With Parked 18-Wheelers Work?

When an 18-wheeler is parked on the shoulder of a roadway or stopped in a lane of traffic, this can lead to a particularly devastating type of accident that can result in long-term, disabling injuries and, in many instances, fatalities. The disparity in mass between an automobile and a mammoth truck is so great, when a car hits an 18-wheeler, it’s like smashing into a brick wall. This already incredibly dangerous situation is made even worse when the 18-wheeler is illegally parked or stopped at night and its trailer is poorly illuminated. In this article, we’ll explain when and where 18-wheelers are allowed to stop on the side of the road and the safety protocol they must follow. We’ll also talk a little bit about dealing with trucking companies and getting the most value out of your case.


Questions answered on this page:

  • When is it legal for an 18-wheeler to stop on the side of the road?
  • Is the trucking company liable if you hit a parked 18-wheeler?
  • Is it legal for 18-wheelers to park on residential streets?
  • What are the rules for 18-wheeler trucks parking on the shoulder of a highway?

What makes commercial trucks liable for accidents?

To put it in simple terms, the only way a parked or stopped 18-wheeler can be considered liable (or partially liable) for an accident is if they’ve negligently parked and that was a contributing factor in the accident. So how do you know if an 18-wheeler parked or stopped in a negligent fashion? Here’s an example: A semi-truck pulls over onto the shoulder of a highway, but the trailer is still jutting out into traffic. If another car crashed into the trailer, then it’s likely the semi-truck driver would be found at least partially liable for the accident, since it was parked in a dangerous manner that clearly contributed to an accident. However, the key term is “contribute,” because there are some situations where an 18-wheeler can be illegally parked, but not contribute to an accident.

For example, if an 18-wheeler truck was parked in a “compact car only” spot, that’s clearly illegal, but it’s not really causing any accidents in the same way as our previous example.

Examples of parked or stopped 18-wheelers causing accidents

Here are the most common situations we’ve handled in our past cases:

  • Though they are not supposed to, sometimes 18-wheelers simply stop in the middle of the road and park. Nonetheless, trucks sometimes break down and can’t keep driving. When this happens, the law requires that many safety protocols go into effect. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s regulations, when an 18-wheeler becomes disabled and is parked on the shoulder of a roadway and/or a lane of traffic, the driver of the truck is required to set out either flares or triangular orange reflectors at intervals of 50 feet. Obviously, the reason for doing so is to warn other motorists well ahead of time that a disabled 18-wheeler is in or near their path. However, there are many truck drivers who ignore these requirements and simply choose not to set out these warning devices. Other times, their employer fails to provide the devices. As a result, someone can easily crash into the rear of the truck, either seriously injuring or killing the occupants.
  • Another very dangerous scenario is when an 18-wheeler is moving extremely slowly on a roadway — particularly at night. Many motorists mistakenly believe that the truck is moving much faster than it actually is because the lights on the truck create an illusion. When an accident takes place due to a vehicle hitting a slowly moving 18-wheeler, the question then becomes, was the truck rolling slowly from a complete stop? If that is the case, then the truck driver may have failed to yield the right of way. If the truck was slowly rolling because it was suffering some sort of mechanical defect, then the driver of that truck has violated federal requirements by not getting off of the road and setting flares or triangular warning reflectors. Either way, the driver of that truck has committed an act of negligence.
  • The truck might also be disabled and in the road because of a prior accident. This is actually quite common. We’ve litigated many cases where, for example, a truck was driving too fast and flipped over or spun out at a turn. When motorists came along on the same stretch of roadway after the accident, it’s often the case that they don’t have time to stop and crash into the disabled truck. In many cases, it’s an issue of the 18-wheeler following the car in front of them too closely. The law holds every person or company to account for the results of such accidents.
  • There are some roads that 18-wheelers aren’t allowed to be on at all, thus, they can’t park here, either. This includes places like residential areas and any roadway where a sign is posted that says trucks are prohibited. Often times, there is a weight limit for vehicles.
  • Just like any other vehicle, 18-wheelers are allowed to park on the shoulder of a highway or use the emergency lane, but they’re only allowed to do so if there’s an actual emergency. For example, a trucker can’t simply pull over onto the shoulder to eat a snack or take a nap — and if someone crashed into the back of that truck, a jury would likely find the trucker partially at fault for the accident.
  • Lastly, truck accident victims can be the 18-wheeler driver themselves. Trucks legally parked on the side of the road can be “sitting ducks” for cars or other 18-wheelers, even if the parked truck has employed proper warning procedures. One common example of this is where an 18-wheeler is broken down on the side of the road, but another trucker or motorist veers off the street and hits them. The other motorist is perhaps sleepy, intoxicated, or distracted by a cell phone. Truckers and their families have the right to sue those negligent motorists for their losses. It’s less common that commercial truckers are the victims of these kinds of wrecks, but it does happen and trucker do have rights.

On a related note, if an 18-wheeler is hauling hazardous materials, the FMCSA states that they must be parked at least 5 feet from any major thoroughfare. You can read the verbiage from the FMCSA below:

§ 397.7: Parking.

  • (a) A motor vehicle which contains Division 1.1, 1.2, or 1.3 materials must not be parked under any of the following circumstances–
    • (1) On or within 5 feet of the traveled portion of a public street or highway;
    • (2) On private property (including premises of fueling or eating facility) without the knowledge and consent of the person who is in charge of the property and who is aware of the nature of the hazardous materials the vehicle contains; or
    • (3) Within 300 feet of a bridge, tunnel, dwelling, or place where people work, congregate, or assemble, except for brief periods when the necessities of operation require the vehicle to be parked and make it impracticable to park the vehicle in any other place.
  • (b) A motor vehicle which contains hazardous materials other than Division 1.1, 1.2, or 1.3 materials must not be parked on or within five feet of the traveled portion of public street or highway except for brief periods when the necessities of operation require the vehicle to be parked and make it impracticable to park the vehicle in any other place.

Citation: [59 FR 63925, Dec. 12, 1994]

Why Trucking Companies Don’t Want to Compensate Accident Victims

Trucking companies and their insurance providers are not “required” to compensate you after an accident, even if the 18-wheeler was parked illegally. It surprises some people to know that even if the police investigators decide that the trucker was responsible for the accident that hurt you or took your loved one, there is no automatic payment system in place. It may seem outrageous, but the trucking company is under no direct duty to so much as offer you an apology. That’s why we have the court system: you must force them to pay you.

For further reading on this subject, read our article: Do trucking companies have to compensate me?

Even in a case where the truck driver knows he is 100 percent at fault, the defendant trucking company will still “litigate” (fight your case in court) in an effort to save as much money as it possibly can. Here’s why: when the driver of a car strikes a parked or stopped 18-wheeler, it’s possible that the car’s driver will at least bear some modicum of liability. For example, if the driver of the car was texting or intoxicated, then maybe a court would decide that the driver bears some responsibility. As a result, you can be certain that the trucking company will litigate the case in the hopes of finding every shred of evidence to push back on your case.

The bottom line is that, more so than just about any other kind of case, the defendant will pull out all the stops to put blame on you.

Failure to Maintain Why some trucks are simply too unsafe for the road...Read More >

Compensation Available In Parked 18-Wheeler Accidents

If you have suffered an injury in an accident caused by the driver of an 18-wheeler, your attorney can help you obtain compensation for the financial losses (known as “damages” in legal terms) that you have incurred due to that accident. These damages can be the medical bills, repair expenses, lost wages, and many more.

If you have suffered the tragic loss of a loved one due to another party’s negligence, you can seek both wrongful death damages and survival damages. Wrongful death damages can be sought by the family of the deceased to cover expenses such as funeral bills and property damage, and to also provide restitution for pain and suffering and other less tangible forms of damages. Survival damages can be sought by a family member on behalf of the lost loved one, and pursue compensation for losses the fatality victim would have incurred had he or she survived the accident. These include medical bills, lost wages, lost earning capacity and more.

However, due to the fact that these kinds of cases offer a defendant ample opportunity to mount a defense, you will need an experienced attorney to have any reasonable chance of winning. You will encounter incredibly powerful opposition that will work feverishly to either make sure you get as little as possible for the suffering you have experienced, or you get nothing at all.

Please give us a call at (855) 326-0000 (toll free) for a confidential and free consultation. We will walk you through all the aspects of your case, give you our honest opinion of the strengths and weaknesses of your claim, and let you know how we may be able to help.


Related Articles for Further Reading:

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