A traffic accident involving a commercial truck, such as an eighteen-wheeler or other large freight carrier, can be much more catastrophic than an ordinary car accident. A typical fully-loaded large commercial truck can weigh 80,000 pounds or more, while an average passenger automobile weighs approximately 3,000 pounds. Because of this size disparity, and due to the basic laws of physics, any collision between a commercial truck and another vehicle is likely to result in serious, even fatal, injuries. While statistics show that truck drivers are generally much more careful on the road than automobile drivers, and thankfully the incidence of fatal crashes involving trucks and other large vehicles has declined in recent years, large truck crashes still accounted for 5,350 fatalities and 133,000 injuries in 2001.
The unique danger posed by commercial truck accidents can be made worse depending on the nature of the freight the truck is carrying. For example, if hazardous or flammable materials are on board, secondary injuries attributable to such dangerous cargo can result, including burns and respiratory injuries.
In the event that you or a loved one is involved in an accident with a commercial truck, you may be entitled to recover compensation for your injuries by bringing a legal claim against the responsible parties. This article will provide an overview of such a claim.
Proving Your Commercial Truck Accident Case
As is true in most injury cases that are centered around truck accidents, the number one legal concept of culpability in commercial truck accident cases is “negligence.” In brief, an individual or business entity is culpable if they failed in their duty to exercise reasonable care given the circumstances, and the plaintiff’s wounds resulted from that failure.
Hence somebody hurt in a commercial trucking accident must show that : Accused ( driver, trucking company, or other party ) owed the accuser the duty to exercise a fair degree of care to avoid injury, given the conditions.
This component is just about always instantly met, by the virtue of the undeniable fact that all drivers on the road owe a legal duty of reasonable care to fellow drivers, passengers, and pedestrians ; Accused didn’t exercise such reasonable care, or in legally precise terms “breached” the duty of reasonable care ; Defendant’s neglecting to exercise reasonable care was the reason behind injury suffered by complainant.
In order to ensure a complete legal recovery for injuries suffered in an accident involving a commercial vehicle, it is important that you and your attorney identify as many potential defendants as possible. In many such cases, the truck driver may not be the only person or business entity legally responsible for the accident. Trucking companies, contractors, employers, and insurance companies may be obligated to compensate you for your injuries.
When a commercial truck accident occurs, if an employment relationship is established between the truck driver and a trucking or shipping company, then that company can be held legally liable for the driver’s negligence under a legal theory known as “respondeat superior.” Under this liability doctrine, among other things your attorney will need to show that the company exercised some degree of control over the driver, and that the accident occurred while the driver was acting in the course of the employment relationship. Establishing the liability of a third-party company can become problematic when a truck driver is an independent contractor of a larger company. In such a situation, the key issue becomes the amount of supervising done by the company. The potential liability of trucking companies, employers, and contractors is a key factor in assessing recovery through insurance coverage, as all these entities will likely carry separate policies that will apply to the accident.
In some rare cases, the manufacturer or shipper of hazardous materials carried by the truck may also be legally responsible for any injuries that were caused or made worse by the type of cargo on board. For example, if a shipper fails to advise a truck driver or trucking company of hazardous material contained in a load of freight, the shipper may be liable for injuries that result if that material catches fire or is released.
Are You Due Damages?
If you’re entangled in an accident where a commercial driver was to blame, you could be entitled to receive legal compensation for any physical, emotional and money losses that resulted from the accident. This is a complicated area of the law because its is generally hard to place a dollar worth on wounds that include death, paralysis, disfigurement, emotional trouble, discomfort and suffering, costs of hospital treatment, lost revenue, and loss of earning capacity. In considering and presenting your claim, a talented lawyer will consider every aspect of the harm and loss you have suffered due to your accident, to ensure you receive fair compensation for your wounds.
Truck Accident Cases & Special Considerations
The operation of huge commercial trucks on roads presents certain unique hazards that aren’t a consideration where normal passenger cars are in trouble :
- Jackknifing – Enormous big-rig automobiles like eighteen-wheelers are susceptible to jackknifing in certain circumstances, particularly during unexpected braking and turning. The undeniable fact that a van jackknifes isn’t in itself evidence of operator carelessness, because many accident scenarios present problems in which there is not any practical technique to avoid jackknifing without hazarding some other kind of disaster. As an example, operation of a truck which has jackknifed might be held to be non-negligent where the jackknifing was due to unforeseeable slipperiness of the road, or to a sudden turn done to avoid a motorist or stalled car.
- Turning Accidents – Commercial cars are long, and can be tricky to turn. It is usually required for the driver of a commercial truck to use 2 lanes of traffic to make a right turn, to avoid running the rear wheels into parked automobiles or over a path. While also not a clear cut case of neglectfulness, some courts have held that driving a commercial auto in this way ( turning from an insider lane or occupying 2 lanes ) is adequate to sanction the truck driver’s fault.
Why Get Legal Help After A Commercial Truck Accident?
Any traffic accident concerning a commercial truck is probably going to result in significant physical injury and property damage. In the event that you or a family member are involved in such an accident, after receiving correct medical therapy you might need to consult a professional attorney to make sure that any potential legal claim is correctly considered and that your legal rights are protected. Particularly given legal cut offs for filing suits, meeting with a attorney promptly is the easiest way to guard your rights.