Truck accidents differ from typical car accidents in how liability and damages are determined. As an experienced truck accident lawyer will explain, there are specific federal laws governing the trucking industry to help protect victims.
Large trucks, defined as any vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating over 10,000 pounds, are regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
This complex web of regulations, trucking company responsibilities, and insurance requirements means that proving liability — and securing maximum compensation — in a truck accident case requires specialized legal knowledge and experience.
A truck accident lawyer has the expertise to thoroughly investigate your accident, determine all responsible parties, and fight to recover damages for your injuries, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other losses.
At The Personal Injury Lawyers ™, our experts know just how to help. So, if you’re looking for a qualified truck accident attorney to handle your case, be sure to contact our team as soon as possible.
To schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your case and the types of damages you may be entitled to, simply call 312-999-9990 or contact us online today.
Working With a Truck Accident Attorney
A truck accident attorney is a personal injury lawyer who specializes in accidents involving commercial trucks and other large vehicles.
Unlike a typical car accident, truck accidents are governed by federal regulations and require experienced attorneys to determine liability and pursue maximum compensation. They may also involve more complex types of claims, such as multi-vehicle pile-ups, in addition to significant injuries resulting in higher medical expense damages.
Hiring an attorney is especially important because of the following factors:
Federal Laws Govern Truck Accidents
Commercial trucks are subject to regulations like the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) that govern things like driver qualifications, equipment standards, and hours of service.
Violations of these regulations can help establish liability in a truck accident. Truck accident attorneys are well-versed in these laws and know how to investigate whether a trucking company or driver failed to comply.
Higher Damages and Complex Claims
The size and weight of large trucks mean that their collisions often result in catastrophic injuries and damages. As a result, truck accident claims tend to be more complex and involve multiple parties and insurance policies.
The attorneys who handle these cases know how to identify all responsible parties and determine an accurate value of both economic damages like medical bills and lost wages as well as non-economic damages such as pain and suffering.
They’ll also work with accident reconstruction experts, medical professionals, and other specialists to build the strongest case possible. Plus, they can stand up to insurance companies (and their legal teams) to fight for the maximum compensation for your injuries, damages, and losses.
If a settlement cannot be reached, a truck accident lawyer can even file a lawsuit seeking damages and litigate your case in court.
What Constitutes a Large Commercial Truck?
To determine liability and damages in a truck accident case, it’s important to first establish what constitutes a “large commercial truck.” According to federal law, this includes:
- Vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of more than 10,000 pounds. The GVWR refers to the maximum load weight a vehicle can carry, including cargo and passengers.
- Vehicles that are used for commercial purposes like transporting property or passengers. This includes semi-trucks, tanker trucks, flatbeds, and passenger buses.
- Vehicles that cross state lines or engage in interstate commerce. Even trucks that only travel within one state can be subject to federal regulations if they are part of a larger commercial enterprise.
Applicable Federal Regulations for Commercial Trucks
As a truck accident lawyer investigates your case, they will consider several federal regulations that apply to commercial trucks and trucking companies. For example:
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR)
The FMCSRs establish standards for commercial motor carriers such as trucking companies and their drivers. Violations of these regulations, like failure to properly maintain vehicles or forcing drivers to exceed hours of service rules, can demonstrate negligence in a truck accident case.
Hours of Service Regulations
The Hours of Service regulations limit the number of hours a truck driver can operate their vehicle. Exceeding the limit can lead to driver fatigue, impairing the driver’s abilities and judgment.
Violating these rules may indicate negligence.
Commercial Driver’s License Requirements
Truck drivers must obtain a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) to legally operate their vehicles. CDL holders must meet vision, knowledge, and driving skills standards. Lacking a valid CDL or proper endorsements for their vehicle type suggests the driver should not have been operating the truck.
Vehicle Inspection and Maintenance
Federal law requires trucks and trailers to undergo routine inspections to ensure safety. Faulty equipment like defective brakes, tires, or lights can contribute to accidents.
Records of inspections and maintenance may reveal if the vehicle had any defects that could have caused or contributed to the crash.
Vehicle Weight and Size Limits
Trucks must adhere to limits on weight and dimensions like height, width, and length. Exceeding these limits, such as overloading a truck or failing to secure an oversized load properly, makes a vehicle difficult to maneuver and stop, increasing the risk of an accident.
Violating size and weight regulations is a common cause of truck crashes and a strong indicator of liability.
Cargo Securement Rules
Cargo must be properly secured to prevent it from shifting, falling, or spilling onto roadways. Unsecured cargo can affect the truck’s handling, stability, and braking.
Your lawyer will investigate if any cargo played a role in your accident.
Truck accident cases also involve commercial truck insurance minimums, company safety ratings, and corporate liability.
Your attorney will thoroughly examine the details of your accident under applicable trucking laws and regulations to determine all liable and at-fault parties who may be responsible for providing you with fair compensation for your damages and injuries.
Common Causes of Truck Accidents
In 2021 alone, 5,788 people were killed in traffic accidents involving large trucks. This number marked a 17 percent year-over-year increase from 4,945 killed in 2020.
Of those killed in 2021, over 71% of the deceased were occupants of other vehicles.
Every year, hundreds of people across the country are involved in accidents with large trucks. While devastating, these accidents are all too common and often caused by one of the following factors:
Truck drivers are often on the road for long hours, and driver fatigue can impair reaction times, awareness of surroundings, and decision-making. Federal regulations govern hours of service for truck drivers to try to prevent drowsy driving, but violations of these rules still frequently contribute to crashes.
A truck accident attorney will obtain the driver’s logs to determine if they were following the law.
Like all motorists, truck drivers can become distracted by mobile devices, navigation systems, eating or drinking while driving, or other activities that take their attention from the road. However, the enormous size and weight of large trucks make any loss of control or delayed reaction time extremely dangerous.
Commercial trucks have many complex mechanical systems, and failures of critical components like brakes, tires, or steering equipment can lead to a crash. Truck accident lawyers will work with experts to inspect the vehicle involved to identify any defective or improperly maintained parts that may have caused or contributed to the collision.
The contents and weight distribution of a truck’s cargo can significantly impact its handling and stability. Overloading a truck beyond its rated capacity — or improperly securing and balancing the load — raises the risks of a crash.
Attorneys will obtain records from the trucking company to determine if the vehicle was loaded in accordance with all safety regulations.
Like drivers of any vehicle, truck drivers must obey all traffic laws and posted signs. Violations such as speeding, reckless driving, running red lights, or aggressive lane changes endanger all vehicles sharing the road.
Lawyers will gather information from police reports, witnesses, and data recorders to identify any unlawful driving behavior involved in the incident.
Liability in Truck Accidents
When determining liability in a truck accident, an attorney will have to consider additional parties that could potentially be at fault beyond just the truck driver. Truck accident cases can be complex, as trucks are heavily regulated on both state and federal levels.
Federal laws govern trucking companies and their drivers. The FMCSR sets standards for inspections, maintenance, driver qualifications, hours of service, and safe operation.
Violations of these regulations could indicate negligence. Your attorneys may investigate the trucking company’s safety records and logs to determine if proper procedures were followed.
The trucking company that employs the driver and owns the truck may also share liability for any damages. Trucking companies have a responsibility to hire qualified drivers, properly train them, and ensure trucks are in working order.
Failure to fulfill these responsibilities could make them partially liable for any resulting accidents.
In some cases, a third party could be at fault, such as the company that loaded the truck or supplied a defective component. There may also be other passenger vehicles involved that contributed fault or caused the initial circumstances of the accident.
Your attorneys will thoroughly review the details of your accident to identify all potentially liable parties. They can then pursue compensation from multiple parties, if necessary.
Damages Available in Truck Accident Cases
Damages in truck accident cases also tend to be more extensive than in standard car accidents. Truck collisions often result in severe, life-altering injuries due to the immense size and weight of large commercial trucks.
Injuries from truck crashes frequently require extensive medical treatment and rehabilitation, sometimes costing millions of dollars over a lifetime. As a client, you may be entitled to compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages.
Truck accident lawyers can use life care plans developed by medical experts to determine the appropriate compensation for long-term care. They can also work with economists to calculate the total lost earning capacity for clients who can no longer work due to debilitating injuries.
Plus, while state laws cap punitive damages in standard car accident cases, there are no such caps for truck accidents under federal law.
Punitive damages are meant to punish defendants for reckless behavior and deter similar conduct in the future. They can only be awarded by a jury verdict.
Truck accident lawyers may pursue punitive damages when a trucking company’s actions show a reckless disregard for public safety and the case proceeds to a trial.
Unique Challenges in Truck Accident Litigation
Truck accident litigation presents unique challenges that require experienced attorneys to navigate. As a client, there are key differences you should understand.
First, truck accidents often involve substantial evidence as a result of the complex equipment used and the sophisticated systems often found on board the truck cab. Your attorney will need to gather evidence to prove liability, including obtaining the truck’s “black box” data and driver logs to show negligence.
Second, trucking companies frequently have complex insurance policies with high coverage limits. Your lawyer must determine all potentially liable parties and applicable policies to pursue fair compensation.
This may include the trucking company, truck owner, trailer owner, and any insurance providers.
Third, truck accidents can cross multiple jurisdictions if the truck travels interstate. Your attorney must determine where to file a lawsuit and which state’s laws apply based on where the accident occurred and company locations.
Federal regulations may also be relevant.
Finally, truck accident cases often have multiple named at-fault parties, requiring strategic litigation against each party. Your lawyer will need to prove how each defendant’s negligence caused your damages.
This could include improper hiring or training, unsafe equipment, excessive driving hours, or lack of vehicle maintenance.
Work With An Experienced Truck Accident Law Firm
All in all, you do not want to navigate a serious truck accident claim alone. The complexity of these cases only pales in comparison to the often devastating physical and emotional consequences that follow.
So don’t face them alone.
Instead, reach out to our team of qualified truck accident attorneys today. At The Personal Injury Lawyers ™, we have the experience you’ll need to navigate your case, and we will do everything in our power to make the process as straightforward and painless as possible.
To schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your case and the types of damages you may have been entitled to, simply call 312-999-9990 or contact us online today.