Truck Accident Cases are Substantially Different From Car Accident Claims

According to the American Trucking Association, as many as 80 percent of communities throughout the United States receive goods and raw materials transported exclusively by trucks. Trucks move 11 billion tons of freight throughout the U.S. every year, and each day these trucks collectively travel thousands of miles throughout the country.
In many cases, trucks arrive safely to their destination. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Trucks can become involved in accidents with other motorists, with bicyclists and with pedestrians. When an accident occurs, the damage can be significant and the injuries serious or fatal. These accidents may have legal implications that differ in substantial ways from traditional car accident cases and it is very important for all involved in a truck accident to have an understanding of how and why truck accidents differ from crashes involving other types of vehicles.
Truck Accidents Are Often More Serious
One of the most fundamental differences between truck and car accident claims is that truck accidents are often much more serious than crashes involving other types of vehicles. Truck accidents may be more likely to cause serious or deadly injuries as a result of the significant size and weight discrepancy between a truck and a passenger car.
Trucks may have a total vehicle weight of as much as 80,000 pounds. The average passenger car, on the other hand, typically weighs just 3,000-5,000 pounds. The size difference can result in the impact of a truck being devastating. The large size of a truck also means that a pedestrian, motorcycle rider or bicyclist hit by a truck would experience a far greater force and would be much more likely to be seriously injured or killed.
Because of this size discrepancy, it should come as no surprise that drivers and passengers in other vehicles are most often the victims of truck accident injuries. In fact, statistics from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) indicate that only 15 percent of those killed and 22 percent of those injured in truck crashes were occupants of the truck at the time of the incident.
The FMCSA also reports that large trucks represented seven percent of vehicles in fatal car accidents in 2009 despite the fact that they accounted for only four percent of all registered vehicles on the road.
Truck accidents may also be more deadly not just because of their size but because their unique design and features makes certain types of crashes more likely to occur. These include underride accidents, where a car slides underneath the body of a truck; rollover crashes where the top heavy truck falls onto its side and potentially crushes other cars; and jackknife accidents where the rear trailer of a truck swings out at an angle from the rig that the trailer is attached to. Any of these types of crashes has a high probability of causing serious injury to other motorists on the street at the time when the incident occurs.
Multiple Parties May be Liable for Truck Accidents
Because truck accidents may be much more serious than crashes involving other types of vehicles, the damages and losses caused by a truck crash may be much greater. The laws allow those who sustain serious injuries and losses to obtain monetary compensation from those responsible for causing the crash. The compensation should cover medical bills; pain and suffering; lost wages; emotional distress and/or the wrongful death of a family member killed in a truck crash.
When serious lifelong injuries or death occurs, the damages owed to cover all of these losses can be very substantial and can sometimes total in the millions. Obtaining this compensation will require injured victims to take legal action through either the negotiation of an out-of-court settlement agreement or through suing the responsible party in court and proving their claim against the named defendant.
Truck accident cases differ from car accident claims because the driver of the vehicle may not be the primary party to pursue a claim against. Typically, when a driver causes an accident, the claim is resolved with his/her insurance company. An individual truck driver, however, may not have sufficient insurance to cover the huge losses sustained in a truck accident. As such, it makes sense not just to pursue a claim against the truck driver but also to hold the trucking company that employs him legally accountable for losses.
A trucking company can be held legally responsible for an accident caused by the company’s own negligence. The company may be considered negligent if it fell short in any of its obligations to the general public, such as by hiring inexperienced drivers; failing to check into a driver’s background; providing inadequate training and supervision; encouraging or allowing safety violations; or failing to maintain its fleet. Demonstrating that the trucking company breached these or other obligations to the public and/or was unreasonably careless in its practices and policies can allow accident victims to obtain compensation from the trucking company.
Accident victims may also allege that the trucking company is responsible for the crash under vicarious liability rules. A truck driver acts as an agent of the trucking company under these legal rules. Agents are seen as acting on behalf of the company and any action the agent takes while performing his work, it is the equivalent of the company itself taking that action. A careless or negligent driver is thus the equivalent of a careless or negligent trucking company.
Differing Rules Apply to Truck Drivers
One final important way that truck accidents differ from car accidents is that trucking companies have special regulations that apply only to commercial drivers/commercial trucks. For example, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) imposes maximum hours-in-service rules to limit the amount of hours that a driver may operate the truck without taking a break to rest and sleep.
When a driver violates any laws and regulations- including those applicable only to truck drivers- this can be used as evidence that the driver was negligent and thus that the trucking company was negligent as well. The additional applicable rules that apply only to trucking companies and commercial transportation can thus make it easier for injured victims to pursue a claim against the driver and trucking company.
An experienced attorney knowledgeable about truck accident claims can evaluate your case, help you to determine if the truck driver or company violated any rules or regulations, and can assist you in building a claim to show that you are entitled to compensation for your losses caused by the truck crash.
References:
http://www.trucking.org/Newsroom/Trucks%20Are/Trucking%20and%20the%20Economy.pdf
http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/facts-research/LTCO2009/2009LargeTruckCrashOverview.aspx