This article will help you understand how to manage your case and potential lawsuit if you have been involved in a commercial truck accident. Below you'll find a list of the most common causes of commercial truck accidents, an insight into Federal and state laws, gathering evidence to make your case as an injured passenger or provide for a good defense if you're a defendant truck driver, understanding the utility of expert witnesses and a general appreciation for compensation for damages due to injury.
Introduction to Commercial Truck Accidents
Commercial truck accidents can cause extensive personal injuries and damage because of the sheer size and weight of these vehicles. Commercial trucks are thousands of pounds heavier than the average passenger car. In most commercial truck accidents, automobile passengers are much more likely to suffer serious injury and sometimes death. These kinds of accidents are also usually more complicated than the typical passenger car accidents and it may be important to have an experienced lawyer or legal professional at an early stage.
Federal and State Laws
Commercial trucks must obey certain laws and regulations, which vary from state to state, that do not pertain to passenger vehicles. State laws will include speed limits and driver sleep requirements that are specific to commercial trucks. Federal law requires a driver to keep a log that has information about their route, sleep records and any violations of Federal regulations. State and Federal regulations may also require truck companies to carry insurance covering the transport of specific types of materials.
Common Causes of Commercial Truck Accidents
Common causes of commercial truck accidents that are the fault of the truck driver include:
Many times the passenger vehicle driver will be responsible for causing commercial truck accidents. Some common but unsafe driving practices by passenger drivers are:
- Driver fatigue, not obeying the sleep requirements and falling asleep at the wheel - clearly the most frequent driver-caused truck accident type
- Driving after taking drugs or alcohol
- Mechanical failure and poor truck maintenance
- Poorly trained driver
- Road rage
- Driver not having enough experience
- Load not properly secured
- Speed violations
- Disobeying other traffic laws
- Driving and staying in the truck driver’s blind spot - if you can’t see the driver's face or body in his or her rearview mirror, they probably can’t see you
- Unsafe and abrupt lane changes
- Left hand turns in front of oncoming trucks as a result of misjudging speed of oncoming traffic
- Unsafe freeway onramp merges
- Not giving trucks room to change lanes
- Insufficient acceleration when pulling onto the road in front of a truck
Discovering and Proving Who is at Fault
It is sometimes difficult to prove who is at fault when a truck accident occurs since there are many factors to take into consideration. First, it is necessary to identify all the parties who may share liability or fault. These parties can include the truck driver, the trucking company, the truck manufacturer, other vehicles that may have been on the road and involved in the accident and the insurance companies of these vehicles.
Next, evidentiary inquiries will take place and investigators will review the truck driver’s log, actions, credentials and training. Information will be gathered on how the load was secured and inspected. Other maintenance records will also be taken into consideration. Investigations will determine whether driver may have been under the influence of alcohol or drugs or simply lacked sufficient sleep time, spending too many hours on the road in violation of Federal regulations.
Evidence from the scene of the accident will be collected as well as witness statements that will be contained in a police incident report which may be used to determine fault. Cell phone records between the driver and the trucking company may be relevant information as is any documentation of driver training and DMV records that may related to the driver’s safety record.
If the accident involved truck failure, evidence will be collected that might indicate the product liability of the truck manufacturer. Research into other accidents using the same or similar equipment produced by the manufacturer may also be useful.
Defendant and Trucking Company Defenses
The trucking company and other potential defendants will be gathering evidence to prove that they are not liable. The trucking company may seek to avoid responsibility by determining whether the truck driver was driving the truck for personal reasons (and not under direction of the company) or as an independent contractor (and not an employee of the company.) In both instances the truck driver alone might be found to be solely liable for damages. Additionally, the defendants will look for evidence that the passenger vehicle driver was at fault. A defendant's investigator will probably seek information that suggests any of the following took place:
If you are the victim of a commercial truck accidents, you may wish to first contact an attorney before providing insurance investigators with any statements other than your name, address and insurance company information. It is highly inadvisable to sign any medical releases until your attorney advises you that doing so would be acceptable.
- The driver of the passenger vehicle passed and changed lanes unsafely
- The driver of the passenger car crossed the center line or divider
- The passenger car driver was drinking or under the influence of drugs
- The passenger car driver was speeding or in violation of other traffic laws
- The passenger car driver was in the truck driver’s blind spot
- The passenger car driver was negligent or practiced any unsafe driving habits
Experts who specialize in commercial truck accidents can reconstruct the scene of the accident with reasonably good precision. They can use computer technology as an aid towards proving what happened and who was at fault. Specialists in trucking safety, forensic specialists and metallurgists can provide expert testimony that may be useful for proving and winning a case.
In general, compensation for damages suffered in a commercial truck driving accident will include medical care and expenses, rehabilitation, loss of wages and earning ability, pain and suffering, disfigurement, loss of consortium (benefits of your marital relationship) for you and your spouse, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of lifestyle and, in some circumstances, punitive damages.
If you are injured in a commercial truck driving accident, it is difficult for any person who doesn't specialize in personal injury law of this nature to obtain the most compensation for your injuries. In addition to understanding the complex nature of these cases, an experienced attorney will also make the best negotiator to deal with other parties and insurance companies.
- Accident & Injury Law:
- Truck Accident
Truck Accident Commercial Truck Accident Law: Prosecution & Defense
By Michael Wechsler |
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