It’s a complicated question. As a lawyer, my first response is often “it depends.”
When a semi-truck tips over, it’s certain that something has gone wrong. We need to determine what exactly went wrong in order to order to understand who is at fault, and what should have been done differently.
When a semi-truck tips over because…
…the trucker didn’t prepare for weather conditions.
In this case, it’s likely that there was a semi-truck rollover because the driver failed to consider and prepare for high winds.
Part of the job of a professional trucker is to plan for weather conditions. Drivers need to look at impending snow or rain, and also possible high wind speeds. They are supposed to check the weather forecast for their location where they are going, and where they will be at the end of the day.
A new long-haul trucker might be surprised strong the winds gusts can be in a rural, mountainous area. That driver is probably not ready for high-wind hauling. All semi-truck drivers should be trained to account for the weather, traffic, and road conditions in each and every trip.
“If you’re in high winds, and you’re running light and the roads are slippery, you almost always have to park”
Owner-operator Al Hemerson, via Overdrive
… the trucker should have taken an alternate route.
If a truck driver is properly prepared for the weather, the preparation should have included alternate route planning.
Route planning is the job of both the truck driver and the motor carrier.
When wind gusts above 50 mph are in the forecast, it is imperative that the driver and motor carrier communicate to properly plan a safe route – especially in areas where there are only 1 or 2 main highways.
… they didn’t factor in an empty trailer.
If a semi-truck tips over in high winds, chances are good that the trailer was either empty or carrying a very light load.
In this case, the truck driver might be at fault for the crash because they failed to factor in the weight of the trailer.
Areas with frequent high winds are often marked with warning signs. And wind gusts are observable: a driver would notice the wind pressure on the trailer.
… dispatch pressured the trucker to keep driving.
A driver calls the motor carrier’s dispatcher and expresses concern 60 mph winds. The dispatcher advises the trucker to keep driving. Then, the semi-truck tips over.
In that case, both may be at fault for the rollover crash.
You know that your dispatch is going to pressure you into driving regardless of wind speeds.
They don’t care. They aren’t the ones driving the truck.
The dispatcher and the trucker must always put safety first.
The trucker should have known that 60 mph winds were a dangerous weather condition. The dispatcher should have helped the trucker to find safe parking, an alternate route, or adjust the schedule.
No matter who is at fault, it is very dangerous when a tractor-trailer topples over. Even if the truck crash doesn’t involve any other vehicles, it can tie up traffic for hours, or even close a major interstate highway. But a trailer with even a light load can cause serious damage if it falls on a passenger vehicle.
Most of these rollover crashes are both predictable, and preventable. When people are seriously injured or killed because a semi-truck tipped over, it is not an accident.