Why lawyers see important differences between truck and car accidents and what you need to know to successful seek compensation following a truck accident
Lucy King* The vast number of car and truck accidents may seem to lump them together as ‘auto accidents’, but there are some key differences involved in both of them when it comes to the legal end of the accident event.
Even though semi-trucks and large commercial vehicles share all of the same roads with small sedans and compact vehicles, the consequences of a truck accident can be far greater.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration indicated that there are around 510,000 large truck crashes each year.
And so too can be the potential parties liable for a lawsuit as a result of the accident.
We spoke with an experienced California truck accident lawyer to find out more about just what should be done when you are involved in a truck accident and how you can best protect your legal rights and receive the compensation you deserve.
Different Accident Types
There are several types of motor vehicle accidents that are reported in the ‘standard’ auto accident, such as T-bone accidents, rear-end crashes, and even head-on collisions. However, when semi-trucks are involved, there are several additional types of accidents that may be reported.
Consider some of them –
A common type of truck accident is the underride accident, which occur when one vehicle enters underneath a semi-truck or commercial vehicle. These accidents often end with the vehicles becoming trapped with drivers and passengers inside and can be horrific in terms of emotional and physical damage. These are accidents that drastically slows the time it takes for emergency crews to reach victims and perform medical treatment on them.
The jackknife crash is another type of truck accident that can occur, which occur when the trailer swings around and comes to rest parallel to the cab. These accidents can cause rollovers and even multi-vehicle accidents.
We also see many truck accidents occur as a result of cargo shifts. When cargo is not loaded correctly, the trailer can tip over and spill out all over the roadway, blocking traffic and increasing the chances of multiple other vehicles becoming involved in crashes.
There are also issues relating to driver training, the ‘running out of road’ issue where big rigs simply do that, driver fatigue, speeding, poor brakes, following too closely and other factors.
The point with these cases, apart from the often more severe consequences of an accident, is that the liability issues will frequently run with both the driver and other parties, thus making the legal issues more complex.
Different Causes of Truck Crashes
In addition to seeing different types of accidents occur when semi-trucks and large commercial vehicles are involved, we see many different causes that contribute to these accidents and which can have an important impact on the subsequent legal action that might be taken.
Without a doubt, any car or truck crash can take place as a result of driver errors. When drivers are impaired, distracted, or engaging in other careless actions, the chances of accidents taking place are increased.
However, with semi-trucks, there are often other parties that also contribute to these accidents and determining their culpability is often a key factor in determining what liability and compensation is or should be involved.
Many truck accidents, for instance, take place as a result of improper maintenance. Trucks and commercial vehicles are required to undergo thorough inspections quite often. Failure to ensure there is proper maintenance undertaken or to neglect to check brakes, check tires, and to verify that other components on the truck are functioning correctly, can lead to a serious accident – and liability.
Another common cause of truck accidents is cargo loading companies engaging in negligent actions that lead to liability also. Cargo is required to be loaded in a very specific way. It is important that it is distributed evenly and safely secured. When cargo companies overload the trailers or place all of the weight on one side, for instance, it can lead to a serious accident.
Human error plays a major role in cargo loading errors with poor practices, bad or no supervision, inadequate training and other issues that can lead to errors in cargo loading, overloading, poor stacking of cargo and failure to adequately secure a load.
Trucking companies also operate under tight timeframes and there can be pressures applied to meet deadlines and delivery times that can see safety precautions slip – and accidents result.
Finally, many truck accidents take place as a result of trucking companies engaging in reckless hiring practices. There are also many instances where trucking companies push their drivers to make it to their destinations on tight deadlines. As a result, they violate traffic laws and federal regulations that are set in place for trucking companies.
Due to the potential that one or more parties may be liable for a truck accident, the process of filing a personal injury claim is quite complex.
Liability in a Truck Crash
There are multiple parties who can be held liable for truck accidents taking place. These parties can include:
- The Truck Driver: If a truck driver engages in any negligent action while behind the wheel and causes a crash to occur, they can be subjected to a personal injury lawsuit.
- The Truck Company: If a trucking company engaged in any act of negligence either during the hiring or supervising of a truck driver, they can be held liable for any accident that is caused.
- The Cargo Company: If the cargo company was negligent or reckless when loading the cargo onto the truck’s trailer, they could be held accountable for any accident.
- The Maintenance Company: If the maintenance company fails to adequately maintain or inspect the involved truck, they can be held liable if a defective part or a product failure leads to the accident occurring.
- The Owner of the Truck: If the owner of a truck fails to verify that the driver is actually qualified to operate the vehicle, they can be held liable for any of the resulting damages.
- Part Manufacturer: If a defective part or all nonfunctioning parts caused a truck accident to occur, the manufacturer of the failed part can be held liable for the resulting damages.
A thorough investigation is needed to determine who is liable for any damages that are suffered in a truck accident.
Truck Accidents Involve Larger Insurance Policies
Truck crashes are notorious for causing severe injuries to those involved. Due to the potential for significant damage and severe injuries in a truck accident, insurance coverage for trucks tends to be much larger than that for regular cars.
Truck companies are required by law to carry higher insurance limits compared to individual car owners. This is because the consequences of a truck accident can be far more devastating. The increased coverage helps ensure that victims have access to adequate compensation for their medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages resulting from the accident.
The minimum amount of liability insurance required for commercial trucks can vary depending on various factors, such as weight and the type of cargo they carry. However, these amounts can easily reach multiple millions of dollars. In some cases, trucking companies may select to have even higher coverage for their drivers and vehicles. These much larger insurance policies play a critical role in providing financial protection not only for victims but also for trucking companies themselves.
The various factors that are potentially involved in trucking accidents mean that the lawsuit process is considerably more involved and often more complex that the more standard car accident situation. Being aware of the complexities and potential liability issues is going to place the truck accident victim in a better position to achieve the best financial outcome possible.
Source: Soliman Law Group, CA
Lucy King is legal and public affairs writer who writes for publications in the US and Canada. She publishes as blog on consumer and service affairs. She recently wrote ‘9 Key Factors to Think About When Choosing a Personal Injury Lawyer’