How are commercial trucking accidents different from auto accidents involving only personal vehicles?
Below, we will take a look at commercial trucking accidents and what sets them apart from other types of personal injury cases, including:
- What a commercial truck is,
- Damages issues in commercial trucking accident cases, and
- Liability issues in commercial trucking accident cases.
Crashes involving commercial trucks cause more damage, requiring the trucking company or their insurance carrier to pay higher compensation. Tractor trailers, for example, can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds which can crush a smaller car or truck.
Another difference is liability – there may be multiple defendants in a commercial trucking accident case, there are more ways that individuals and companies can be liable for the crash, and your trucking accident lawyer must investigate the crash, the driver, and the trucking company, gathering information to prove who was liable and why.
Commercial Trucking Accidents – What is a Commercial Truck?
Crashes involving commercial trucks can be among the most catastrophic accidents on the highway. They often involve serious injuries or death, and one careless moment by a truck driver can change – or end – a person’s life in a heartbeat.
What are we talking about when we say, “commercial trucks,” though?
Eighteen Wheelers and Tractor trailers: The largest trucks on the road can cause the most damage in a crash. Because of the size and weight of these vehicles, they are more difficult to stop and can destroy another vehicle or even a building when they crash into it.
Semi-trucks: A “semi-truck” refers to the actual truck which contains the engine, while “eighteen wheeler” or “tractor trailer” refers to the combination of the semi-truck and the trailer that it pulls.
Delivery trucks: Delivery drivers who are speeding, driving recklessly, or taking risks to meet a deadline or in hopes of getting a tip from the customer may be liable for the damage they cause when they crash, including the potential for punitive damages.
Mail trucks: When postal delivery trucks wreck due to the driver’s negligence, they are liable for the damage they cause, but you may be limited to federal causes of action under the Federal Tort Claims Act or 42 USC § 1983 instead of state law.
Garbage trucks: Garbage trucks spend most of the day stopping and starting, making their way through residential neighborhoods where there is a high danger of accidents. If the crash is caused by the driver or company’s negligence, they are liable for the damage caused, but you may be limited to causes of action under the SC State Tort Claims Act if the truck was operated by a municipality.
Other heavy trucks: Any large or heavy truck can pose a serious threat to other motorists or pedestrians on the highway.
Commercial Trucking Accidents vs. Personal Vehicle Accidents
So, what are the differences between commercial trucking accidents and accidents that involve only personal vehicles?
Commercial trucking accidents often involve more serious injuries and a higher likelihood of fatalities. Because of this, they cost trucking companies and their insurance carriers more money – significantly more, in many cases.
For this reason, trucking companies and their insurance carriers will hire the best insurance defense firms to do all they can to shut down your lawsuit – often fighting both liability and the amount of damages, litigating discovery issues, and taking multiple depositions before considering a settlement.
What types of damages are you entitled to after a commercial trucking accident?
- Your medical expenses, including doctor’s bills, ER bills, hospital bills, ambulance bills, surgeries, and future medical costs if you have not finished treating your injuries at the time of settlement or trial,
- Long term care and vocational rehabilitation if needed,
- Pain and suffering,
- Compensation for scarring or disfigurement that cannot be corrected with surgery,
- Emotional distress and mental anguish, including compensation for mental injuries like PTSD, phobias, or anxiety,
- Loss of consortium and loss of companionship,
- Wrongful death damages including funeral and burial costs, and
- Punitive damages when the truck driver, trucking company, or other defendant’s conduct was willful, wanton, reckless, intentional, or grossly negligent.
Liability in trucking accident cases is often significantly more complex than liability in an auto accident case, and the trucking companies and their insurance carriers will fight to try to get out of paying full and fair compensation.
Commercial trucking accident cases often involve multiple defendants – every person or corporation whose negligence contributed to the crash can be held liable for the damage caused, which could include:
- The truck driver,
- The trucking company,
- The owner of the truck,
- The company that leases the truck,
- The manufacturer, distributor, or seller of a defective truck part,
- The parties responsible for maintenance on the truck,
- The parties responsible for securing the truck’s cargo, and
- Other third parties or municipalities may be liable for the crash.
Proving liability in a commercial trucking accident case may involve significantly more extensive investigations than a “typical” auto accident case, including your attorney’s independent investigation and evidence that we can seek through formal discovery, and may require:
- Accident reconstruction,
- Expert witnesses who can testify about the crash, the trucking industry, or safety standards,
- Hours of service logbooks to determine whether the driver complied with federal hours of service regulations,
- Drug and alcohol testing requirements and results for the driver,
- Maintenance records,
- The weight of the truck’s cargo and any records detailing the cargo weight and how it was secured,
- Analysis of the truck’s Event Data Recorder (EDR or “black box”), and
- Depositions of company employees and executives.
Investigations of commercial trucking accidents also involve determining whether the driver and company were following federal regulations like hours of service regulations, drug and alcohol testing, limitations on cargo weight, rules for securing cargo, rules for hazardous cargo, insurance coverage, vehicle inspections, and license endorsements based on the type of truck and the cargo carried.
Questions About Commercial Trucking Accidents?
If you or a loved one has been hurt by a commercial truck driver’s negligence, we may be able to help you recover the maximum compensation you are entitled to under the facts of your case and SC law.