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What is a "commercial truck?"

A commercial truck, also known as a big rig, is a vehicle used by many businesses for the transport of goods and other services. Some examples of commercial trucks are eighteen-wheeler tractor trailers, tanker trucks, delivery vehicles, and other large freight trucks which all require a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to operate. This does not include RVs.

How common are truck accidents?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, approximately 8% of all fatal crashes and 3% of all injury and property related crashes can be attributed to commercial trucks or big rigs. To put this into perspective, in 2012, 3,921 people were killed in commercial truck collisions and another 104,000 people were injured. That is approximately 29 commercial truck accidents for every 100,000 cars on the road.

Why is an accident involving a commercial truck more likely to cause injury than one involving passenger cars?

A commercial truck is more likely to cause serious injury in an accident with a passenger car because of the significant differential in weight and size between the two vehicles.  A commercial truck can weigh 80,000 pounds, or 40 tons while a passenger car weighs on average 3,000 pounds or 1.5 tons. A typical commercial truck or, big rig, is 53 feet long, 8 and a half feet wide and over 13 feet high, significantly larger than the average passenger vehicle. Due to this difference in weight and size, collisions with big rigs often have more serious outcomes.

What are the most common factors in accidents between commercial trucks and passenger vehicles?

Accidents involving commercial trucks are frequently caused by a combination of factors including; the truck’s attributes, performance capabilities, and/or driver error. Acceleration, braking, and visibility are all major factors that play into commercial truck accidents. Big rigs, tend to have much larger blind spots than a normal pickup truck or passenger car, these blind spots impede the driver’s ability to identify obstacles on the road. Passenger vehicles should not linger in a commercial truck’s blind spot or “no-zone.” Additionally, the truck driver’s overall mental and physical condition can play a factor in the accident as well. Driver inexperience, fatigue, failure to yield the right-of-way, and reckless driving can all be contributing factors.

Can I sue the truck driver's trucking company for my injuries sustained in the accident?

This depends on the employment relationship established between the truck driver and the trucking company. If this relationship is displayed, the trucking company can be held legally liable for the driver’s negligence under a legal doctrine known as “respondent superior”. However, if the truck driver is an independent contractor of a company, demonstrating the company’s liability may become more difficult. In this situation, the factor that becomes most crucial is the amount of supervision the company exercises over the driver.

Are there special laws and regulations that apply to truck drivers and their companies?

Yes, there are many federal and state regulations that truck drivers and trucking companies must adhere to. For drivers, this includes traffic and civil laws such as speed limit, weight and height maximums on roadways. Also included are Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and Department of Transportation regulations, which define how many hours a driver can be on the road, as well as the training and licensing requirements for drivers.

The trucking company’s insurance company contacted me. What should I do?

The first step, before talking to the insurance company, is to make sure you are protected. Contact an attorney immediately. The priority of the insurance company is to protect the interests of their company or client, not yours. Do not speak with the trucking company’s insurance company or claims adjustor without consulting an attorney. Do not sign anything without talking to your attorney.

What kind of damages can I recover?

Parties injured in a commercial truck accident as the result of a truck driver’s or other party’s negligence may recover damages for; medical expenses, lost wages, loss of future earnings, as well as compensation for disfigurement, physical impairment, and/or pain and suffering. In addition, family members of individuals killed in a commercial truck accidents are entitled to pursue a wrongful death claim seeking all of the above, as well as damages for the loss of care, companionship, services of the deceased family member and funeral expenses.

Why not just accept the insurance settlement offered by the insurance company?

Severe, life-altering or fatal injuries are common in accidents involving commercial trucks and passenger vehicles. A trucking company’s insurer is going to offer what they feel is the lowest reasonable amount, which often isn’t enough to cover medical expenses, lost wages, possible funeral expenses and/or pain and suffering. Consulting with an attorney can help you recover the compensation you are entitled to.