Commercial Truck Accident Lawsuits

An accident with a commercial truck often means a higher likelihood of serious injury, higher insurance policy limits, and more complex liability rules.

If you're in a traffic accident with a commercial truck, you might face a greater chance of serious injuries compared with a standard (passenger vehicle versus passenger vehicle) collision. But you also could have a better shot at getting a fair outcome for your injury claim. That's because, when it comes to commercial truck accidents:

  • more than one party could have legal responsibility for the accident
  • state and federal regulations may make it easier to establish fault, and
  • insurance policies with higher limits are usually in play.

Larger Vehicles Tend to Cause More Serious Injuries

The size, weight, and design of commercial trucks all contribute to a greater chance of serious accident injuries when these vehicles are involved in a crash.

Commercial trucks can weigh many times more than a typical passenger vehicle. This not only increases the braking distance of a commercial truck, but can result in more energy transmitted into the smaller vehicle upon impact.

There are also higher ground clearances beneath many commercial trucks, like "big rigs." This can lead to a smaller vehicle getting wedged between the road and the trailer of a commercial truck. So it's no wonder that in fatal accidents involving a large truck and a passenger vehicle in 2019, 97% of deaths occurred in the passenger vehicle.

Safety is a big reason why regulations and insurance requirements for the commercial trucking industry are more stringent. Car insurance policies may have policy limits in the tens of thousands of dollars. But a typical commercial truck insurance policy will likely have limits approaching a million dollars or more. That means a more complete recovery is possible for the plaintiff. But it can also mean a harder legal fight or more challenging negotiations with insurance companies.

More Parties May Be Liable After a Commercial Truck Accident

In a typical two-vehicle traffic accident, the plaintiff can usually sue the at-fault driver or file a claim with their insurer. Sometimes, there will be other entities involved. For example, if the other driver was working at the time of the accident, an employer might be brought into the claim. Or if a vehicle malfunctioned, its manufacturer could be liable.

But with commercial truck accidents where the truck driver is at fault, it's standard for numerous other parties to play a role, such as:

  • the truck driver's employer
  • the owners of the commercial truck, its trailer, or cargo
  • the company or individual who loaded the truck with cargo
  • third party truck maintenance companies, and
  • multiple insurers of all of the above.

Not all commercial truck accidents will involve these potential entities. For instance, some truck drivers are independent contractors who own their big rigs. Other truck drivers are employees of a truck company that owns the trailers, but not the trucks.

Fault Issues Can Get Complex In Commercial Truck Accident Cases

With more defendants possible in a commercial lawsuit, the complexity of litigation can go up exponentially. So there's the initial challenge of tracking down every potentially responsible party. Then once that's accomplished, there's proving they played a role in causing the accident.

But the plaintiff's job isn't necessarily done just yet. Now they have the challenge of trying to figure out how much legal blame should get apportioned to each defendant. This can often lead to what amounts to a lawsuit within a lawsuit.

Depending on the legal theories involved, the plaintiff can sometimes get a full recovery from one defendant, then leave the multiple defendants to fight amongst themselves to figure out who will be responsible for what percentage of the plaintiff's damages.

Another way commercial truck accidents are more complex is with the added regulations and laws that could apply. For example, there are commercial trucking laws that apply to:

  • how long a person can drive a truck for a particular period of time
  • how much cargo a truck can carry at one time
  • the amount of drugs or alcohol that can be in the driver's body before the law will conclude the driver was impaired
  • the type of license the driver needs to transport certain cargo or operate a specific type of truck, and
  • the maintenance requirements for trucks and attendant equipment, like trailers.

These laws are important because they can help a plaintiff establish fault. Imagine the truck's brake failure led to the accident. The trucking company wants the brake manufacturer and maintenance company to take the blame. But if the trucking company violated the law by not servicing the truck often enough, then it's more likely that the truck company will bear the bulk of the legal blame for the accident, not the brake manufacturer or company hired to maintain the truck.

Next Steps After a Commercial Truck Accident

It's difficult enough to handle a car accident insurance claim or lawsuit without a lawyer. But trying to navigate the claim process or the court system on your own when the defendant is in the commercial trucking industry is downright inadvisable. You need to be able to substantiate the entire spectrum of your damages in order to get fair compensation for your injuries, including:

But on top of that, trying to figure out how to establish liability—under the complicated legal framework of federal and state laws, and with multiple parties in the picture—can be a monumental task. Finding a skilled and experienced commercial truck accident lawyer is your best first step toward getting a fair outcome.

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