Determining Fault in Big Rig Cut-Off Accidents

One of the most hazardous maneuvers a driver can take is to cut in front of a big rig. Due to the increased momentum of tractor-trailers compared to a passenger vehicle, it is more difficult for them to make short stops or sudden turns without losing control of the vehicle. All too often, we represent people who were involved in collisions with a big rig, and the injuries stemming from those accidents are typically more severe. When a driver cuts off a big rig, and the operator of the semi is unable to avoid a collision, it might seem obvious that the driver of the passenger vehicle is at fault. Sometimes, however, trucking accident attorneys find that the driver of the truck may also be at fault.

What Happens When a Big Rig is Cut Off?

Commercial semi-trucks are big, and heavy. Let’s revisit a high-school physics lesson.

p = mv or momentum = mass x velocity


What this means is that the heavier mass and freeways speeds combine to make a tractor trailer not only a challenging vehicle to drive, but an even bigger challenge to stop. Vehicles like big rigs require more time and distance to stop than a regular passenger car. When a big rig is cut of sharply, they have very limited options to avoid a collision. Often, even though every attempt is made to avoid an accident, these massive vehicles simply cannot stop in time.

Cut Off Collisions – Not as Simple as They Seem

Determining fault in cut off collisions with big rigs can be more complicated than it seems at first. Trucking accident lawyers sometimes are able to determine that the driver of the big rig was negligent in some way, and could have avoided the accident.

While it is often the case that the driver of the vehicle that did the “cutting off” is found to be at-fault for the accident, big rig drivers who do not at least attempt to avoid the collision may be found negligent also. In scenarios like this, determining fault can be quite complicated, and will require thoroughly evaluating the details and circumstances that led up to the accident.


Who is at Fault?

Every detail of an accident resulting from a driver cutting off a semi truck will need to be examined and processed to actually determine fault. Yes, if a driver sharply cuts off a big truck, typically the driver of the car is liable. The driver of the semi, however, may also be found at fault if they did not stop in time to prevent the accident. A couple of factors we use to determine truck driver fault is their reaction to being cut off and what occurred leading up to the incident.

The expected response of a truck driver who is cut off is heavy application of the brakes and attempts to steer around the other vehicle. Usually, when a truck driver tries to stop or maneuver away from an accident, but is unsuccessful, they are not found to be at fault. Big rig accident attorneys do find that drivers who make no attempt to avoid the accident could be found negligent.

Regrettably, this does happen more often when the truck driver is distracted or tired, and they are not able to react quickly enough to avoid the accident.

When determining fault in big rig wrecks that result when a big rig is cut off by another vehicle, truck accident attorneys must consider both sides of the coin. Drivers who cut off other vehicles, especially semi trucks, are often found to be at fault for creating a dangerous situation leading to a crash. Yet big rig drivers may also be at fault for trucking accidents if they are distracted or overly tired and fail to use normal crash avoidance reactions. Fortunately, this information can be easily obtained from the onboard vehicle data recorders in trucks that are on the road today!

If you or a loved one was injured in an accident involving a tractor-trailer, give us a call at the Law Offices of Zappettini and Bradley or fill out our online form for a free evaluation of your case.