While any vehicle accident can be financially, emotionally, and physically damaging, collisions involving semi-trucks or big rigs are often catastrophic and fatal. In these collisions, occupants of small passenger vehicles are likely to suffer more severe and devastating injuries than truck occupants, resulting in more complicated compensation claims.
Even if you are an attorney, it is wise to consult with an experienced and credible truck accident attorney if you have sustained an injury or suffered property damage in a truck accident. An experienced truck accident attorney can help you maneuver the complexities involved in truck accident cases to increase your chances of obtaining a favorable outcome on your injury claim.
This article will answer most of your questions on the differences between truck accident personal injury cases and car accident cases.
Major Differences Between Truck Accident Personal Injury Cases and Car Accident Cases
Once the dust settles after a truck accident or any vehicle accident, all the involved parties will begin to point fingers because no one wants to take the accident's liability. Hence, knowing how truck accidents differ from car accidents is critical, even if you do not have a compensation claim, because vehicle accidents can happen to anyone.
It is easy to assume all vehicle accidents are the same, but that is an untrue and misleading assumption many people have. Below are some of the main reasons that make truck accident personal injury cases different from car accident cases:
The Trucking Industry is Strictly Regulated
The FMSCA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) has put several regulations and rules in place to ensure adequate safety in the trucking industry. For instance, hours of service rules are one of the key safety measures by the FMSCA to prevent drowsy driving, which is a leading cause of most truck accidents.
Under these regulations, truck or commercial drivers should drive for a maximum of eleven (11) hours after being off duty for ten (10) consecutive hours. When a truck driver violates these regulations, causing an accident, his/her employer, the trucking company, should be liable for the injuries and losses resulting from this accident.
Other strict regulations the trucking company industry must adhere to cover the following topics:
- The trucking company hiring criteria
- The need for all truck drivers to adhere to all the posted speed limits and street signs
- Rest requirement for all truck drivers
All these regulations can come into play in your truck accident personal injury case, making it more complicated and confusing. That is why you need an attorney who understands these regulations during the claim process to protect your best interests for a favorable settlement or verdict.
Truck Accident Will Often Result in More Severe Injuries
Due to the inherent size and weight difference between trucks and cars, the outcome of an accident involving these two vehicles is often devasting. Generally speaking, semi-trucks and 18-wheelers can be twenty (20) times heavier than a typical passenger car, meaning they carry more momentum when involved in a collision or accident.
As a result, occupants in passenger vehicle experience a blunt force in truck accident cases, frequently leading to life-changing injuries. Some of the injuries you are likely to sustain in a truck accident as a driver or passenger in a standard passenger car include:
- Internal bleeding
- Organ damage
- Scratches and amputation injuries
- Loss of a sensory organ
- Lacerations and cuts
- Loss of a limb
- Severe burns
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord injury (paralysis)
- Bone fractures
Apart from being difficult to treat, the cost of treating some of these injuries can financially strain you and your family, especially now that you cannot work as you once did. In a worst-case scenario, a truck accident can also be fatal. Fortunately, you could be eligible for compensation in a wrongful death claim when you lose someone you love or a friend in a truck accident.
While money cannot replace your loved one, the compensation you could receive in a wrongful death claim can keep your family finances afloat during these challenging times. In a successful wrongful death claim, you could receive damages for the following type of losses:
- Burial and funeral expenses
- The financial support the deceased could have provided to your family in his/her lifetime
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of affection and companionship
Truck Accident or Collision Investigations are More Complex
Due to several potential causes and liability areas in a truck accident, truck accident investigation can be more complex and time-consuming than a typical passenger car accident. Typically, evidence that will come into play in a car accident claim includes photos of the accident scene, witness testimonies, surveillance footage, medical records, and vehicle damage reports.
While this evidence is also viable and applicable in a truck accident claim, some truck accidents cases could require other types of information or evidence, including:
- Weight tickets
- Maintenance and inspection records
- Dispatch instructions
- Drug test records
- Hours of service record
- Bills of lading
- Cargo loading records
- Truck driver's record
- The trucking company's compliance record or history
While your attorney can gather this crucial evidence on your behalf, you should play your part after a truck accident to increase your chances of obtaining deserved compensation from the at-fault party. You can do this by:
- Capturing pictures of the accident scene, including your injuries, vehicle damage, weather condition, and street signs, if any
- Taking eyewitnesses' names and their contacts
- Requesting truck driver's contact and insurance information
- Obtaining a copy of the officer's accident report
The sooner you consult with an attorney, the better to give him/her ample time to investigate your case and preserve crucial evidence that can help you obtain a desirable outcome on your truck accident claim.
Potential Causes of a Truck Accident are Several
While some of the most common causes of both car and truck accidents include speeding, distracted driving, aggressive driving, and drunk driving, a truck accident can occur due to several different factors, including:
- Overweight cargo
- Driver fatigue
- Lack of truck maintenance
- Insufficient driver training
- Driver fatigue
For your attorney to identify the liable party in the truck accident that led to your injuries, he/she must investigate the case thoroughly and interview eyewitnesses to determine the cause of the collision.
A Truck Accident Personal Injury Case Involves Multiple Potential Liability Areas
Another reason truck accidents are more complex than car accidents is that they involve multiple potential defendants or at-fault parties. Unlike in a car accident case where the other motorist is often the party you will sue for damages, in a truck accident case, several potential defendants could be liable for your losses and injuries, including:
- The Truck Driver
Undoubtedly, in any auto accident, the driver is often the first party you will investigate when determining liability or the party to hold accountable for your losses resulting from the accident. If the truck driver was fatigued, distracted, or driving under the influence of alcohol or other unlawful drugs, he/she could be liable for your losses.
- The Trucking Company
Trucking companies are legally responsible for ensuring their truck drivers are well-trained before they hire them. When a trucking company negligently hires an unqualified driver, it should be liable for any accident the driver causes while on his/her duty.
According to the respondeat superior legal doctrine, an employer could be vicariously liable for his/her employee's negligence. That means if the truck driver was drowsy while driving, speeding, or otherwise negligent, his/her employer, the trucking company, could be liable for your losses under this legal theory.
- The Truck Manufacturer or Maker of its Parts
Trucks rely on several intricate parts to arrive at their destination safely. Therefore, a mechanical or electrical failure of any critical component of the truck, like the steering or braking system, could cause a severe accident. If a component of the truck was the cause of the accident, the truck manufacturer or manufacturer of its parts could be liable under the product liability legal theory.
According to this legal theory, any person who manufactures, designs, or sells a defective product will be liable for injuries or losses the product causes. That is true even if he/she was not negligent in causing the accident.
Since these cases involve complex legal issues, you will rely on your attorney at every stage of the claim process to help you obtain satisfactory compensatory damages for your losses.
- The Truck Owner
Multiple parties could own different parts or components of the 18-wheeler that led to your injuries and losses. An experienced personal injury attorney will investigate all these parties to determine whether inadequate repairs and maintenance were the cause of the accident.
If one of these parties fails to ensure that the part they own in the truck is well-maintained and free from mechanical errors, he/she will be liable for your losses.
- Cargo Loaders
The company responsible for loading the cargo could also be liable for your damages in a truck accident claim. Generally speaking, several types of truck accidents can occur when the cargo in a trailer is improperly loaded, including dangerous roller-over and jackknife accidents. Also, when cargo is improperly and incorrectly loaded, items can fall into the road, causing fatal accidents.
If an improperly loaded cargo was the cause of the accident that led to your injuries, the company responsible for loading the cargo or its employees could be liable for your damages.
- Truck Repair and Maintenance Providers
Auto repair shops and mechanics owe a duty of care to their customers. That means mechanics must be careful when servicing or repairing any vehicle to avoid causing more damage. If the cause of the truck accident was due to a repair issue, the truck repair and maintenance providers could be liable for your losses.
Your truck accident attorney can argue that the mechanic responsible for ensuring the truck is well maintained failed to uphold his/her legal duty of care to obtain a favorable outcome on your claim.
Truck Accident Cases Involve Multiple Insurance Companies
Unlike most auto accidents, which focus on one defendant and his/her insurer, a truck accident case can involve multiple insurance providers because more than one party could be liable for your losses. All these potential defendants will have different insurance providers who will try their best to minimize the potential payout on your claim by shifting the blame on you.
Fortunately, your attorney can handle settlement negotiations with the involved insurance providers to attain the maximum compensation for your losses resulting from the truck accident. If the at-fault party's insurance provider settlement offer is too low or unsatisfactory, your attorney can file a lawsuit against them to obtain maximum damages for your losses.
Potential Compensatory Damages in a Truck Accident Can be Higher
Because a truck accident often results in severe injuries and costly property damage, lawmakers recognize the need for more significant financial compensation in these cases. However, like in a passenger vehicle accident case, the monetary amount of compensatory damages you can receive in a truck accident claim will depend on the facts and circumstances of your unique case.
In a successful truck accident claim, you could obtain economic and non-economic damages for all your losses resulting from the accident. Below is what you need to know about economic and non-economic damages, respectively:
- Economic Damages
As the name suggests, economic damages are measurable monetary losses that you can readily attach or assign a monetary value to. In your truck claim, the court could award you economic damages to cover the following types of losses:
- Current and Possible Future Medical Costs
Due to the severe injuries associated with truck accidents, the medical treatment costs are likely to be high. Fortunately, the economic damages the court will award you will cover all your medical expenses since the date of the accident, including:
- Medical supply costs
- Prescription medication costs
- Medical tests, like bloodwork and X-rays
- Cost of buying mobility equipment like a wheelchair
- Other related medical expenses resulting from the accident
The available economic damages in a truck accident lawsuit will also cover possible future medical expenses you are likely to incur due to the chronic injuries sustained in the truck accident. Your attorney and your doctors can work together to determine the possible cost of future expenses, taking into consideration the following factors:
- Cost of medical inflation
- Nature and severity of your injury
- Current medical needs
- Other possible anticipated medical expenses
- Lost Wages
If you had to take unpaid days off from your job or any other activity that earns you income, the court would award you economic damages for the lost wages when you win your claim. When calculating the amount you deserve for your lost wages, your attorney will sum up the income you could have earned to date if you had not sustained the injury.
- Lost Earning Capacity
If you cannot return to your job due to the injuries sustained in the truck accident, the court could award you economic damages for the lost earning capacity. For instance, it could be impossible to return to work when a truck accident leaves you paralyzed. The court will consider the following factors when determining fair compensation for your loss of earning capacity:
- Your job type and the industry that you work
- Your age
- Limiting effects caused by your injuries
- Promotion possibilities that you had at your workplace
- Vehicle Repair Costs
Your car repair costs are also compensable in a truck accident claim. Ensure you keep all your car repair receipts safe and intact to help your attorney calculate the total economic damages resulting from the truck accident.
- Non-Economic Damages
In a personal injury lawsuit, non-economic damages are also available for the losses the court cannot assign a monetary value to due to their subjective nature, which involves emotional or physical harm. Your attorney can help you determine the monetary value of your non-economic damages, which covers the following types of losses:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment in life
- Mental anguish
- Disfigurement or permanent scaring
While it is rare, if the judge finds the at-fault party's behavior or actions were particularly due to gross negligence, he/she could award you punitive damages. Also known as exemplary damages, punitive damages are available in a truck accident lawsuit for the following reasons:
- To punish the at-fault party for outrageous misconduct that led to your injuries
- To serve as an example to deter both the defendant and other people with similar dangerous behavior or conduct
Find a Skilled Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
Orange County Personal Injury Attorney understands the legal complexities involved in truck accident claims and how severe the accidents can be. If you have sustained an injury in a truck accident, our dedicated attorneys will relentlessly work on your case to ensure you receive the maximum compensatory damages you deserve.
Call us at 714-876-1959 as soon as possible after a truck accident for an obligation-free case evaluation by our profound personal injury attorneys.