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What Happens When a Parked Truck on a Highway Causes an Accident?

Published on Jan 13, 2022 at 8:17 pm in Truck Accidents.

Parked trucks

Many of us have heard incidents of parked big rig accidents mentioned in local news reports. A small passenger vehicle traveling on the highway fails to see a tractor trailer parked on the shoulder of the road or exit ramp and strikes the much-larger truck—resulting in a serious crash and, many times, fatality. These accidents often occur at night, and frequently under conditions of inclement weather like rain, snow, or fog.

Although it may seem as though a collision involving a stationary vehicle must necessarily be the fault of the moving vehicle’s driver, cases involving parked trucks are more complicated. Because commercial truck drivers have an obligation to follow strict federal and state regulations regarding where and how trucks can be parked, drivers in violation of these rules may be held liable for an accident their parked truck causes.

Let’s take a closer look at the laws governing truck parking on public roads and highways. Parked truck accidents cause a small percentage of truck-involved accidents, but they are almost always preventable. And in our role as truck accident lawyers at Golden Law Office, we work continually to ensure that not even one preventable death is allowed to happen due to trucking industry negligence. For more information concerning accidents involving a tractor trailer or other commercial truck referred to as a big rig, semi-truck, or 18-wheeler, reach out to an attorney at Golden Law Office with questions.

Semi-Truck Parking Laws

Under most circumstances, a truck is not legally allowed to park and rest on the side of the highway in non-emergency situations. Truck stops and rest areas exist so that drivers in need of sleep do not simply pull their vehicles to the side of the road and park. Parking on the shoulder for extended periods of time poses a danger to the truck drivers themselves, but even more so to other motorists traveling the roadways. The large size of a commercial big rig can make it difficult to avoid, especially under conditions of low visibility—like at night, when trucks are more likely to park and rest. Both federal and state-level laws prevent semi-trucks from using highway shoulders as resting areas.

Kentucky statutes state that no vehicle is allowed to park, stop, or stand on the shoulders of any toll road, interstate highway, or other fully controlled access highway, including exit ramps. Vehicles with a gross weight of over 44,000 pounds may not park, stop, or stand on the shoulders of any state-maintained highway, except in emergency situations or when directed to do so by an officer of the law. Vehicles that are parked on highway shoulders for emergency reasons may not remain for more than 24 hours continuously, and can be towed at the cost of the owner if left longer.

There are also federal regulations for 18-wheelers stopping or parking on the side of the highway. Big rigs parked on the shoulder of highways or exit ramps have a legal duty to make their vehicles visible to other motorists by taking certain precautions. If, for example, a truck driver needs to stop temporarily to deal with a mechanical issue or handle an emergency, they must complete a series of mandatory safety precautions. These include:

  • Activating the vehicle’s emergency hazard lights immediately
  • Placing warning signals like flares, cones, or triangles at specific distances from the truck
  • Having all warning signals placed within 10 minutes of stopping
  • Taking necessary precautions when stopping in business or residential districts, or on divided or one-way roads
  • Placing warning signals at required locations with consideration of hills, road curves, and obstructions
  • Avoiding flames if any flammable liquid is leaking
  • Following the required protocols for parking during daylight vs. nighttime hours

Parking an 80,000-pound vehicle directly beside the path of cars traveling 65 mph or more is always a dangerous situation. It’s for this reason that federal regulatory agencies like the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) create such stringent guidelines for parking a commercial motor vehicle safely. When truck drivers disregard these laws and cause the injury or wrongful death of another person, they can be held liable for their actions.

Accidents Caused by Parked Trucks

The damages suffered in a parked truck accident are particularly catastrophic when they occur along high-speed routes like highways and interstates. When these types of crashes happen, it is usually because a car, light truck, motorcycle, or SUV does not see the parked semi until it is too late to brake or swerve to avoid collision. This typically results in impact between the front of an upcoming vehicle and the rear of a stationary 18-wheeler, or in an underride accident when the smaller vehicle becomes trapped under the trailer of the truck. Potential damages in serious truck accidents like these include vehicle damage, severe personal injury (often—broken bones, lacerations, disfigurement, or head, neck, or spine injury), and psychological trauma such as fear of driving and PTSD.

As with every type of motor vehicle accident, there are certainly many elements involved in a collision between a parked semi-truck and a moving passenger vehicle. In some situations, the negligent or illegal actions of a truck driver may be the cause of the accident. There are also situations in which cars are responsible for truck accidents. This may be the case if a truck is parked legally, and a drunk, impaired, distracted, drowsy, or otherwise inattentive driver collides with the standing tractor trailer.

To determine exactly what events transpired to result in the crash, law enforcement will conduct investigations after a truck accident. When you are represented by a truck accident attorney after a collision, your legal representative will dig deeper into the factors contributing to the accident, examining evidence and data such as trucking company records, police reports, photographs of the accident scene, video footage, truck black box data, and all state and federal regulations pertaining to the circumstances surrounding the parked truck collision.

Help After a Truck Accident in Kentucky

No matter how safe we as motorists may try to be, there is a high number of truck accidents in Kentucky each year. Our state, like the rest of our nation, benefits enormously from the services the trucking industry provides. But we also have to suffer the consequences of the harmful actions of negligent truck drivers, owners, operators, and companies that prioritize profits over safety. As truck accident lawyers, the attorneys of Golden Law Office fight hard for justice on behalf of each client we represent. Through every individual case of personal injury, we work to hold the trucking industry to a higher standard of safety.

If you were injured in an accident involving a parked commercial truck, we understand that your case is highly complex and requires extensive experience and expertise. Having successfully represented numerous injured accident victims in some of the most complicated motor vehicle crash cases in our state, we as Kentucky auto collision lawyers have what it takes to stand up to the defenses of trucking companies unwilling to admit to wrongdoing.

To speak with one of our attorneys, we invite you to schedule a meeting at no cost to you. During your initial case evaluation, we will listen to your story and provide a knowledgeable and honest opinion about your legal options for recovery.

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