How Can Lawyers Help After Commercial Truck Accidents?Truck Accidents
If you were in a commercial truck accident, you know how terrifying it can be. Any accident, no matter its size, is an awful and painful experience for everyone involved. But some accidents are far more dangerous than others.
Commercial truck accidents are huge affairs. The size of commercial trucks makes driving them extremely dangerous. When commercial trucks are in an accident, the damage they cause is often catastrophic. For drivers of other, smaller vehicles, being in an accident with a commercial truck will likely result in significant and long-lasting damage.
If you’ve suffered from a commercial truck accident, you may want to know how to start the recovery and where to go for help getting back on your feet. In this article, you’ll find answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about commercial truck accidents and guidance on what to do next.
How Do Commercial Truck Accidents Happen?
Commercial truck accidents happen for many of the same reasons any car accident happens—usually from distracted or negligent driving or vehicle malfunction. However, some of the details surrounding commercial truck accidents are more complicated than those surrounding passenger car accidents.
Commercial trucks, often defined as semi-trucks or tractor-trailer trucks, are some of the largest vehicles on the road. Semi-trucks with trailers weigh in at around 35,000 pounds empty, and when you add a full load they usually weigh around 80,000 pounds. And these trucks are busy on the roads—about 71 percent of America’s freight is moved by these large carriers.
Drivers of these large commercial trucks are regulated in an attempt to avoid common accidents. Drivers must have to have a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), must be at least 18 to drive intrastate or 21 to drive interstate, and must pass a medical and eye exam before acquiring their license. CDL drivers are also required to regulate how much rest time they have in between long shifts. They must rest for at least 30 minutes every eight hours and must take at least 10 hours off after 11 hours of driving.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), around 4,000 fatal crashes involve large trucks every year. A majority of all large truck accidents, around 87 percent, are caused by driver error such as fatigue, distraction, speeding, or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. 10 percent of accidents are caused by vehicle error, 3 percent are caused by environmental factors.
The most common reasons commercial truck accidents occur are due to driver errors that could be avoided. For example, if drivers took the breaks required by law to get enough rest, they may have fewer accidents related to exhaustion. If they avoided distraction from eating or setting up music by doing it before they started driving, they could avoid accidents related to distraction.
However, in some of these cases, it’s not all the truck driver’s fault. What if the truck driver was forced to drive more than they could handle to get a load somewhere on time? Or what if the truck’s brakes failed at the worst moment? It’s not always clear who is at fault in such situations.
Who Can Be Held Responsible for Commercial Truck Accidents?
Obviously, truck drivers will be held responsible for negligence. If they are found to have been speeding, driving distracted, driving drunk, etc., they will be held accountable for the crash they caused.
However, other parties may have helped cause commercial truck accidents.
- The manufacturer. Some crashes are caused by vehicle malfunctions, most commonly involving tire problems or brake failures. Vehicle problems are not the fault of the driver and are usually not the fault of the trucking company either. In the cases where the commercial truck failed, the manufacturer could be held responsible for the crash.
- The trucking company. There are rules and regulations for all trucking companies. These rules include how companies can treat their employees, how much they can load on the trucks, and what employees they can hire. If a company forced a driver to drive beyond the time limit set by the FMCSA, overloaded a truck, or hired a driver without a CDL, they could be held liable for the accident.
- The local government. In very rare cases, the local government might be held responsible for a crash. This type of case usually occurs if there is a roadway hazard such as a large pothole that the government should have taken care of but didn’t and that hazard leads to a crash.
What Seven Steps Should I Take After a Commercial Truck Accident?
After a commercial truck accident, you will probably be frightened and confused.
However, you should take these seven easy steps to make sure things go as smoothly as possible following the crash.
- Stay calm and, if you can, get off the road.
- Call an ambulance so medical professionals can make sure you and others are treated for any injuries.
- Call the police to get an official accident report filed.
- Exchange insurance and contact information with the other driver.
- Get witness statements and contact information for any witnesses.
- Get the medical treatment you need to begin the recovery process.
- Reach out to a truck accident lawyer to file your compensation claim.
If a commercial truck accident wasn’t your fault, you are entitled to some measure of compensation. You can claim compensation for pain and suffering, medical expenses, loss of wages, loss of relationships, loss of life enjoyment, emotional trauma, etc.
Make sure you speak to a truck accident lawyer before taking any settlement from an insurance company. Most insurance companies will do their best to provide the lowest amount possible in compensation. Commercial truck drivers and companies must carry insurance for accidents, but that doesn’t mean they want to pay you everything you deserve.
Your best bet after a commercial truck accident is to have a little patience and talk to a truck accident attorney who can help you deal with the insurance company. Lawyers know how to get their clients the compensation they deserve. Don’t hesitate to contact a truck accident lawyer today with any questions you may have after your commercial truck accident.
Nathan Hughey, an attorney and fourth-generation South Carolinian, founded Hughey Law Firm in 2007. Before that, he spent five years defending nursing homes and insurance companies. Leveraging his experience, he now advocates for those injured or wronged by such entities, securing over $220 million in verdicts and settlements.