Why Truck Accidents Are More Complicated Than Car Accidents
Drivers and their passengers who are injured in accidents with trucks may receive well into the six figures, and possibly more, when it comes to their settlements. The reason that this amount can be so large is that these cases are more complex than ones involving auto accidents. Here are some ways that your truck accident claim or lawsuit can be more complicated.
The Injuries Are More Severe
It goes without saying that trucks are much bigger than passenger vehicles. According to federal regulations, trucks may weigh up to 80,000 pounds, including the cargo that they are carrying. Even with smaller semitrucks, there is a large disparity between their size and the other vehicles on the road. The larger the truck, the more momentum and force that they carry into a crash. This results in greater injuries.
People not only have a much higher statistical chance of being injured in a crash with a truck, but they will also suffer more. Truck accident injuries can be catastrophic and require medical treatment for years if the victim even survives the crash. With more serious injuries, certain elements of the claim, such as lost wages and pain and suffering, are likely to be higher than they would be in the average car crash.
The higher dollar total means that there will be more of a negotiation with the insurance company to settle the claim. This assumes that the insurance company is even willing to settle at all. It will take much more time and several rounds of negotiation before the insurance company is willing to write a check that fully compensates you or your loved one for the harm that he or she has suffered.
A Company May Be Involved and Responsible for Your Injuries
When a truck has been involved in an accident, there is a good chance that it was being driven by an employee who was on the job at the time of the accident. In practical terms, this is helpful for plaintiffs who now have a company that they may be able to sue. When a person was on the job at the time of the accident, his or her employer is responsible for his or her negligence because the worker is an agent of the company. Corporate defendants mean that there are deeper pockets to sue with a bigger insurance policy. If the damages are for more than the insurance policy, the company will have the assets to pay the judgment.
However, this means that the truck driver’s employer might use various arguments to try to escape liability in the case. It could argue that the driver was not on the job when the accident happened or that the vehicle’s operator was not an employee. Suing a company also introduces their lawyers and insurance company into the equation. While most truck accident cases eventually settle without a trial, corporate defendants mean more lawyers and adjusters looking more closely at your claim. This could delay a possible settlement. At the end of the day, it could give you a stronger chance at getting a better settlement.
Who Is Responsible May Not Be an Easy Call
There are multiple possible defendants involved in a truck accident. For starters, a truck accident could involve a multi-car pileup, so it may be unclear who actually caused the crash. The truck driver could certainly argue that he or she was not at fault because he or she was taking defensive action to avoid the negligence of another driver on the road.
There could even be third parties that were not part of the immediate accident that could possibly be responsible for the crash. For example, the truck company may argue that the driver did nothing wrong, and the failure of the truck itself or a key part caused your injuries. This could be something like the brakes or steering on the truck. The large truck may have careened out of control because the driver tried to hit the brakes and they did not work. In that case, your lawsuit would become a product liability case against the maker of the truck or the specific part that failed. This is a complicated court action requiring scientific and expert testimony.
Trucking Regulations Come Into Play
In a trucking accident, you need to have an understanding of the applicable trucking regulations. These could come into play in the determination of liability. When the driver or company has broken one of the many federal rules that govern the trucking industry, it could be proof of their negligence.
One example of this relates to the rest rules that truck drivers must follow. They must limit their shifts to avoid driving for too long and getting tired. Drivers cannot operate their vehicles for more than eight hours in a row without taking at least a 30-minute break. Shifts may not be longer than 14 hours, and that can include a maximum of 11 hours driving. This follows at least 10 consecutive hours of not driving their vehicles.
When drivers break these rules, they put everyone else on the road at risk. Tired truck drivers have less control over their reflexes and risk falling asleep behind the wheel. Drivers must keep shift logs, and newer trucks automatically log the truck’s operation hours electronically. When these logs show that the truck driver broke these rules, they could be automatically responsible.
There Are Maintenance and Cargo Issues
Numerous federal regulations require the trucking company and the operator to maintain the vehicle in a certain condition. Even if the operator’s driving negligence was not the cause of the accident, the failure to maintain the truck could have contributed to your injuries.
Alternatively, the truck could have been overloaded, or the cargo may not have been properly secured. The truck could have been transporting dangerous materials, but the company may not have taken the proper steps to move it safely. This could include flammable and hazardous cargo, such as chemicals or gasoline. This will require proving negligence in a whole different way than a driver making an illegal turn or speeding. Therefore, you need a trucking accident attorney with specific knowledge of how trucks work beyond just showing how the driver made a mistake.
When dealing with truck accidents, there are many more facets and sides to the accident than there is in a passenger car crash. While every incident has its own complexities, there are many more pieces to the puzzle in a truck accident. In addition, truck accidents have many more possible defenses that need to be overcome.
The stakes can be high in a truck accident case, especially because damages can reach seven figures based on the severity of the injuries. You need the legal firepower on your side to deal with the trucking company’s defenses.
If you or a loved one have been injured in a truck accident, you need legal help on your side to get the compensation that the law allows. Contact a trucking accident attorney at the New Brunswick law firm of Rebenack Aronow & Mascolo, L.L.P. at (732) 247-3600 to schedule your free initial consultation.