Big rig accidents can impact your career, family, and health. If you’re involved in a commercial truck accident, it’s important to understand the causes, laws involved, and how to determine who’s responsible. Truck accident attorneys can offer assistance and help you decipher whether you have a valid truck accident personal injury claim.
Truck Accidents Involving Passenger Cars
Crashes that involve trucks and passenger cars often lead to serious injuries. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 5,000 fatalities occurred and an estimated 159,000 people were injured in crashes with large commercial vehicles in 2019.
Truck accidents may happen for many reasons. Some of the most common reasons for commercial truck accidents caused by truck drivers include:
- Inadequate training
- Fatigue or exhaustion
- Reckless driving
- Breaking safety and traffic laws
Sometimes, other drivers make errors that lead to collisions with 18-wheelers. Here are some of the ways that passenger car drivers cause truck accidents:
- Failing to get a disabled vehicle completely onto the shoulder of the highway
- Driving in the truck driver’s blind spots
- Driving in between two or more commercial trucks
- Abrupt lane maneuvers
- Merging without sufficient acceleration in front of a big rig
- Moving to the right of a truck that’s making a right turn
- Passing too close to a truck
- Misjudging a large truck’s speed
- Failing to accelerate and decelerate properly when a truck changes lanes
Even when car drivers have the right of way, it’s safer to practice caution when near these larger vehicles. Driving commercial trucks presents unique challenges, and that’s why all drivers must act responsibly and be aware of road hazards at all times when behind the wheel. Not doing so can be a violation of the law and lead to injuries or even fatalities.
Truck Accident Laws
It’s important to follow the law to prevent injuries and lawsuits. Failing to comply with federal or state driving laws provides the basis for personal injury claims. Truck drivers, owners, and manufacturers must comply with state and federal regulations.
Regulations control factors like how much weight a rig can carry or how much rest each driver must get. When a commercial truck is involved in an accident, proving a trucking law was broken greatly increases an injured person’s chances of recovering damages.
Federal Trucking Law
Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations establishes standards that carriers, owners, and drivers must meet to be compliant with the law. These laws help determine who’s liable in a trucking accident.
Federal law limits the number of hours that drivers can drive. Drivers of property-carrying commercial vehicles can work a maximum of 14 consecutive hours. Truck drivers also have to be off-duty for ten consecutive hours before starting a shift.
Additionally, truck drivers are unable to drive after being on duty for 60 hours over seven consecutive days or 70 hours in eight consecutive days. Federal law also requires truckers to record their driving information. Trucking companies are legally obligated to maintain a certain level of insurance depending on the materials they haul.
State Trucking Laws
Each state’s department of transportation creates trucking laws that cover the commercial vehicle industry. State trucking laws typically set speed limits, vehicle inspection requirements, and safety standards as well as additional sleep requirements for drivers.
Commercial Truck Accident Liability
Accidents involving commercial trucks can be convoluted when it comes to determining who’s liable. Commercial truck accident victims can file claims against:
- Truck drivers
- Truck driver employers
- Owners of the truck
- Cargo owners and loaders
- Truck maintenance companies
If a trucker causes an accident due to carelessness, then victims can bring an injury-related insurance claim or lawsuit. However, it’s vital to be aware of who’s responsible, and this is where a commercial truck accident attorney can be useful.
Commercial truck liability laws state that each person has responsibilities and obligations while driving. Truck drivers are liable for driving reasonably according to the law. They also have a duty to every other driver and pedestrian to exercise reasonable care for their safety.
How liability is assessed in a trucking accident claim will depend on where the accident took place. In some states, if you bear any responsibility for the accident, you can’t recover full damages. Some states divide liability based on your percentage of responsibility.
Truck Driver Employer Liability
A truck driver’s employer can be liable in an accident caused by their employee’s actions in some cases. Many trucking companies try to avoid liability by arguing that the driver is an independent contractor or wasn’t working when the accident occurred.
Civil courts often examine the following when determining if the trucker was an employee:
- Intentions of the driver at the time of the accident
- Driver’s conduct
- Type of work the employee was hired to do
Multiple Commercial Truck Accident Defendants
Sometimes, plaintiffs must file a personal injury lawsuit against more than one person or entity. Multiple defendants can be equally responsible for your damages.
Let’s consider that you’re involved in an accident with a commercial truck due to a faulty piece of equipment. In this case, you can sue the driver and the equipment manufacturer. Defendants will have to sort out their share of fault to reach a settlement or let a trial jury decide.
Liability For Intentionally Negligent Acts
Employers can’t be held liable for intentional torts (like assaults) committed by their employees. If employees aren’t acting within the duties of their job, then employers can’t legally be held responsible.
If you’re at fault, your lawyer can defend a claim against you by the trucking company’s insurer and negotiate for the lowest possible settlement. Your truck accident injury attorney can defend you against claims of liability, try to reduce your liability if you are at fault, and monitor your case to make sure that you’re being treated fairly.
Consulting With Commercial Truck Accident Attorneys
Handling a truck accident can prove difficult if you don’t have experience. Oftentimes, insurers don’t care if you have significant injuries and will make you lowball offers. It’s in their best interests to make these claims go away as soon as possible.
Your insurance provider’s job is not to make sure that you recover enough to get everything you need for medical expenses, lost wages, pain, and suffering, or other costs associated with the accident. Only your commercial truck accident attorney will be looking out for your best interest.