Accidents involving commercial trucks pose a substantial risk to the victims. Under U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) regulations, the heaviest commercial trucks weigh 80,000 pounds, whereas smaller passenger vehicles generally weigh a few thousand pounds.
This weight discrepancy means that when a commercial truck strikes another vehicle, passengers in the smaller vehicle may suffer life-changing and even fatal injuries. A truck accident attorney can help you in this situation.
What Vehicles Qualify as Commercial Trucks?
Commercial trucks participate in some kind of business-related activity.
Therefore, commercial trucks may include:
- 18-wheelers (also known as big rigs, semi-trucks, day cab trucks, and other terms)
- Fuel tankers
- Garbage trucks
- Dump trucks
- Package delivery trucks
- Concrete mixers
- Flatbed trucks
These are only a few of the many commercial trucks occupying American roads at any given time. If a vehicle is a truck and its operators use it in the course of business, the vehicle may technically be a commercial truck.
Often, commercial trucks refer to the largest, heaviest vehicles you will see on the road. Though 18-wheelers are the most common example of commercial trucks, construction-specific trucks are also prevalent.
Why Are Commercial Trucks More Dangerous Than Other Vehicles?
The heavy weight of a commercial truck is the primary reason it poses a hazard to objects and individuals it collides with.
This weight, along with other characteristics of commercial vehicles, can:
- Make the truck difficult to maneuver: A heavier vehicle is generally less agile than a lighter vehicle. Therefore, anyone operating a commercial truck must have the strength necessary to control the vehicle, especially around turns and at high speeds.
- Increase the risk of the truck tipping over: If a truck driver does not properly account for the vehicle’s weight, they may be prone to a rollover truck accident, especially when they drive too fast around curves and turns. A rollover accident can be a hazard to other motorists, as the truck may fall in the path of oncoming vehicles, leave debris on the roadway, and pose other dangers.
- Confuse the truck driver: Commercial vehicles generally have more components than passenger vehicles. Drivers must not worry only about the truck but also any trailer and cargo connected to the truck. If a truck driver lacks the necessary training, experience, or retention of trucking practices, they may be unable to operate the truck safely.
The lifestyle associated with commercial trucking can also be hazardous. Despite the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) imposing limits on how long a truck operator can drive, truckers are often on the road for long periods.
Hazards to safe driving for commercial truck operators may include:
- Odd hours, including nighttime driving
- Road rage, as truck drivers may encounter many unsafe drivers.
- Caffeine-related hazards, as truckers may ingest significant amounts of caffeine and experience adverse symptoms that affect their driving and decision-making.
Some truck drivers even resort to using legal or illegal stimulants to remain alert while driving. These stimulants may have dangerous effects on the truck driver, perhaps even contributing to an accident.
Who Is Responsible for the Safe Operation of Commercial Trucks?
Regarding the safety of commercial trucks, there are several different components to consider.
A commercial truck accident can result from:
- A defective truck or truck component
- Driver error
- Weather or road conditions
- Non-motorist human hazards, such as a pedestrian entering the roadway
Liability for a truck accident differs depending on the cause of the accident.
Liability for a Defective Commercial Truck or Truck Component
FMCSA § 396.3(a) states that trucking companies must systematically inspect and repair their trucks. While you may hold a truck manufacturer liable for a defective product, you can almost certainly hold a trucking company liable if it sends a defective vehicle or component on the road.
When a trucking company receives a truck from the manufacturer, it should complete an initial inspection. If the trucking company detects any defect in the truck, it should alert the manufacturer and keep the defective vehicle off the roadway.
Liability for a Driver Error
Year after year, data tells us that humans are the leading cause of motor vehicle accidents. Commercial truck drivers have a critical responsibility to exercise impeccable judgment and the greatest caution, as the slightest error can cause a fatal accident.
Some common truck driver errors that can cause a commercial truck accident are:
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Running red lights, stop signs, and yield signs
- Driving too fast for road or weather conditions
- Changing lanes in a dangerous manner
- Driving while tired
Truck drivers must also inspect their vehicles and cargo. In fact, a truck driver is the last line of defense in preventing loose cargo from falling into the roadway, truck defects from causing a catastrophic accidents, and other hazards.
When a truck driver makes an error that leads to an accident, their employer is usually also legally liable for the accident. The driver may also be personally liable.
Liability for Dangerous Weather Conditions
Ice, snow, rain, and fog are a few weather conditions that can cause a commercial truck accident. Such conditions are outside the control of any person, but trucking companies and truck drivers can control their response to these conditions.
Trucking companies should take action to protect their drivers and others from dangerous weather conditions, with options including:
- Ordering truck drivers to park their vehicles until road conditions are safe
- Ordering drivers to use extreme discretion before driving
- Closing operations in areas of the country where dangerous weather conditions exist
Truck drivers must also exercise great caution if they drive despite poor weather conditions.
A motorist may reduce the likelihood of a weather-related accident by:
- Using all available tools, including headlights and hazard lights
- Reducing speed to ensure safety in difficult driving conditions
- Pulling to the side of the road if they are not confident that they can operate their truck safely in the weather conditions
When in doubt about the safety of operating a truck, trucking companies and drivers should not drive.
Liability for Dangerous Road Conditions
Road conditions can be dangerous even in clear weather. For example, downed traffic lights and signs, dangerous placement of work crews, and confusing road design can increase the risk of accidents.
The municipality where dangerous road conditions exist may be liable when those conditions cause a commercial truck accident. However, there can be exceptions to this general rule. For example, the manufacturer of a traffic light may be liable if a defect in the light results in a commercial truck accident.
How Victims of a Commercial Truck Accident Can Seek Compensation for Their Damages?
A commercial truck accident can cost far more than a victim can afford to pay. Even if you can cover your accident-related damages, you should not have to. Those responsible for causing your accident should cover your damages.
Commercial truck accident victims can seek the money they deserve by:
Getting a Thorough Medical Examination
Whether or not you received medical attention at the scene of your accident, you may want to get a full medical examination because:
- You may have injuries or symptoms that were not present immediately after your accident.
- You want a formal diagnosis for every accident-related injury.
- You may protect yourself from worsening symptoms or new medical problems by getting a detailed treatment plan from a doctor.
For the sake of your potential financial recovery, you want to establish that your injuries resulted from your accident. Receiving a comprehensive medical exam as soon as possible after your accident can establish a clear connection between the wreck and your injuries.
Being Careful When Dealing With Insurance Companies (and Others)
Insurance companies have different motivations than accident victims. While the victim hopes to get fair compensation for their damages, the insurance company generally wants to save as much money as possible. This typically means giving the accident victim as little compensation as possible.
Because of its motivation to save money, an insurance company may:
- Blame you for the truck accident
- Offer you a quick settlement offer that does not adequately cover your damages
- Pressure you into accepting its offer
- Misrepresent your words and actions
- Act as if it will not provide any more compensation, even if you hire a lawyer
An insurance company may even try to discredit evidence that supports your claim. You may not immediately recognize that an insurance company is acting in bad faith, either. By hiring a lawyer, you can protect yourself from unethical tactics by one or more auto insurers.
Retaining a Lawyer to Lead Your Fight for Compensation
Truck accident victims may not have the energy or will to complete a lawsuit or claim. Even if you feel capable of handling a truck accident case, you still want to hire a lawyer to represent you. Many obstacles can complicate the matter and put your compensation at risk.
Hiring a lawyer is the right decision for you if you:
- Want money to cover all of your accident-related damages, but physical or cognitive injuries prevent you from leading your own claim or lawsuit.
- Believe that an attorney’s knowledge, legal training, and experience can benefit your case for compensation.
- You want to focus all of your attention on recovery.
- Want a law firm to cover the cost of your case
There are other valid reasons to hire a lawyer after a truck accident, and you may have more than one motivation for getting an attorney and file a claim for truck accident.
How a Truck Accident Lawyer Can Help You?
Truck accident lawyers will take over your case. Whether you have already begun seeing compensation or not, a lawyer will lend you their services. An attorney can:
Seek Evidence That Is Relevant to Your Lawsuit or Claim
Gathering evidence in truck accident cases may be more difficult than others. Certain evidence, such as data from a truck’s black box, maybe in a trucking company’s possession. Your lawyer can file a letter of spoliation to ensure that the trucking company does not destroy or dispose of such evidence.
Document and Calculate Your Damages
Your attorney will determine the cost of your accident-related damages.
They will also document those damages and may do so with:
- Medical images of your injuries
- Bills for medical services
- Bills for vehicle repairs
- Testimony from experts
- Bills for temporary transportation
If there are any other documents showing the economic and non-economic costs of your truck accident, your lawyer will gather them. This documentation will be a key piece of your attorney’s settlement negotiations.
Represent You in Settlement Negotiations
Your lawyer will be your representative in settlement negotiations. If successful, your lawyer will secure an agreement for liable parties to pay you the money you deserve.
Help You Decide Whether to Go to Court
Taking a car accident case to trial is one option for personal injury lawyers. A trial takes more time than settling and is more expensive for the law firm. However, a law firm should take your case to court if it is in your best interest.
Criteria You Can Use to Hire a Truck Accident Lawyer
When you’re searching for a truck accident lawyer in your area, you can ask yourself questions about a prospective firm.
Those questions may include:
- Does this law firm regularly handle truck accident cases?
- How many truck accident cases has this law firm won?
- What do former clients say about the law firm?
Law firms want truck accident victims to hire them, and they should be willing to go the extra mile to earn clients’ trust. You can complete a free consultation with most personal injury law firms, which is a sort of preview of the law firm before hiring it.
Call for a Free Case Evaluation With a Truck Accident Attorney
Do not take your choice of a Best Florida personal injury law firm lightly. You should be completely comfortable with your attorney and their firm before choosing them to represent you.
Even so, waiting to start your claim or lawsuit may have catastrophic results. You may face a deadline for filing your case, and your lawyer will work to beat any such deadlines. Still, your lawyer cannot start your case until you hire them, so act quickly.