Common Truck Accident Questions
Q: What is a commercial truck?
Many vehicles fall under the definition of a commercial truck, including 18-wheelers, tanker trucks, moving trucks, and freight trucks. Generally a commercial truck will operate in the transport of commercial goods. Often times when one thinks of a commercial truck they are thinking of one with a weight rating of 26,000 pounds or more, and requires a commercial driver’s license to operate.
Q: How can a trucking accident differ from a regular accident?
The law and the facts are quite different from normal motor vehicle accidents. For example:
- Truck drivers have thorough federally-mandated safety protocols they must follow in the aftermath of any vehicular accident.
- Trucks are usually owned/operated by a business that carries substantial insurance policies.
- There may be multiple causes for trucking accidents – was the cargo loaded correctly? Did the driver drive too many hours without rest? Was proper maintenance performed on the truck? All of these topics have strict rules set by the federal government.
- Because there are many parties involved in commercial trucking – driver, carrier, loading company, maintenance company – there are many parties that could be found at fault in the case of an accident.
Q: Whose insurance will compensate me for my injuries and damages?
A: Should the accident be the fault of the truck driver, there are many potential parties to look to, all with their own insurance policies. These include the truck driver, the truck owner, the entity shipping the cargo, and even the entity that performed maintenance on the truck, should that issue arise.
Q: What type of liability insurance must a commercial truck carry?
A: Federal law mandates that commercial trucks operating in multiple states carry $750,000.00 in insurance for bodily injury and property damage. Most of the large national trucking companies carry much larger policies.
Q: What are causes of truck accidents?
A: Causes of truck accident may include:
- Driver inattention or distraction
- Driver fatigue
- Aggressive Driving
- Lack of safety equipment
- Poor or improper maintenance
- Overloaded trucks
- Improper training
- Operation under the influence of drugs or alcohol
Q: How can truck driver fatigue be avoided?
A: Drivers have many measures they can take, including stopping at rest stops. Many trucks have a sleeper cabin where they can get rest if needed. Federal law also restricts the number of hours that drivers can continuously work, and mandates that a continuous amount of rest be taken prior to each drive. There are also devices that can monitor driver fatigue and report whether that driver is too tired to work.
Q: How can commercial trucks be more visible to others at night?
A: Adding reflective sheeting or reflectors to commercial trucks increases the ability of other drivers to see commercial trucks at night. This will help others gauge the commercial truck’s speed and distance and avoid accidents.
Q: What types of defective equipment can cause truck accidents?
A: Common examples of faulty equipment are defective brakes and steering mechanisms.
Q: Why is a law firm investigation important to a truck accident?
A: Trucking accidents are typically investigated more heavily than regular car wrecks due to the often-catastrophic nature of the wrecks. There is often a mountain of evidence that needs to be reviewed, and experts to consult. Experts must be hired so that the crash logistics can be accurately recreated to determine causation. The existence of strict federal guidelines governing companies as to truck operation, maintenance, and training, means that extensive research must be conducted as to whether the truck owner and operators properly met all guidelines. For example, subpoenas may be sent out to gather records for the cell phone of the truck driver. Inspections may be performed on the scene of the accident and the wreckage of the vehicles. Also, it is important to understand that the truck company’s own lawyers are typically on the scene immediately an accident. Your lawyer should be there as well.
Q: Why is an expert witness needed in a truck driver case?
A: Expert witnesses are typically hired when determining causation. They will investigate the logistics of the trucking accident, examining skid marks, the exact final placement of debris, and points of impact for vehicles, among other things. Many trucks also contain “black box” devices that record digital information that is useful to analyze. The analysis of this must often be done by a third-party expert witness with a high degree of expertise in the field. Experts can also be used to show how a driver or company failed to follow appropriate federal or industry standards.
Q: Is it normal for a truck driver, truck company, or its insurance company to deny responsibility for the accident?
A: Absolutely – especially when one is dealing with an insurance company, it is important to understand that the insurance company will do everything in its power to avoid paying out any money. The trucking company and truck driver may also try to deny liability, as it is in the driver’s interest to keep a clean record, and in the owner’s interest to keep his insurance costs low. Attorneys are well-versed in negotiating with insurance companies and one should always consider consulting one in a wreck with a commercial truck.
Q: If a truck company insurance company wants me to sign some papers so I can get medical care, should I sign the papers?
A: You should always consult an attorney before signing anything from an insurance company.
Q: What should I do if I am contacted by an insurance company for a truck driver?
A: Don’t be pressured by an insurance company into giving them any information – including medical records, medical releases, or a recorded statement. Always remember that claims adjusters are not your friend, no matter how friendly they act. They are paid by the insurance company and are only acting in the interest of the insurance company. Also remember that they negotiate and investigate claims for a professional living, unlike you (probably). Their biggest interest is to reduce the liability assigned to their insured driver or company. Keep this in mind, and don’t hesitate to look into hiring an attorney. A lawyer’s chief obligation is to you, and they will be well-versed in negotiation, especially with insurance companies.