Accidents involving commercial trucks are different from those involving privately-owned passenger vehicles in many ways. For instance, commercial vehicles weigh 20 to 30 times more than passenger vehicles, which means that they can cause devastating damage when they get into accidents and the injuries that result are often catastrophic.
Truck accident cases can be particularly complex in many ways and one issue that can complicate matters is the number of players that may be involved. In a traditional car accident case, the only people involved may be you, a driver of another vehicle, and the driver’s insurance company. In the case of a trucking accident, there are typically more individuals and entities involved.
Truck Driver — One of the most obvious players in a truck accident case is the driver of the commercial vehicle that caused the accident. At the heart of most truck accident claims is whether or not the driver acted in a negligent manner to cause the accident. While an injured victim will be trying to prove that the driver was negligent, the driver will often refute claims that he or she acted in a careless manner. Testimony of the truck driver will play an important role in the case, as will a close examination of their actions leading up to the crash.
Trucking Company — Unlike most drivers on the road, truck drivers are often on the clock when they are behind the wheel, which means they are working for a trucking company or have their services leased by a trucking company. When a person causes an accident while they are at work, additional legal issues come into play. Specifically, the legal doctrine called “respondeat superior” allows an injured individual to hold a company responsible for the negligent actions of its employees while they are working. This is important because companies almost always have deeper pockets and larger insurance policies than individuals. It is important to note that respondeat superior only applies if the trucker was in the course and scope of his employment at the time of the collision.
In addition to holding a trucking company responsible for the actions of its employees, trucking companies can also be held responsible for a collision if the company was negligent in hiring, training, supervising or retaining a careless driver. By way of example, a company has a legal responsibility to conduct a background on the drivers it hires. If a company fails to conduct such investigation or is careless in its investigation, it could be held responsible for the negligent hiring of a driver. Similarly, a company has a responsibility to monitor how its vehicles are being operated. If a driver continuously operates in a careless manner, a company could be held responsible for negligent supervision. These are only some of the many ways a trucking company can be held responsible for a truck accident. No matter what the reason, a case can get more complex when a trucking company is involved because companies often have greater resources than other drivers, including their own legal teams and insurance companies that will fight liability at all costs.
Federal Agencies — When you are trying to determine who exactly was at fault in the truck accidents, federal agencies may play an important role. For example, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) may come in to investigate a particularly serious truck accident and the findings of its investigators can have a huge impact on your case. In addition, many truck accidents involve violations of the regulations set out by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and any citations or penalties issued by that agency can serve as important evidence in your case.
Insurance Companies — Like almost any other type of motor vehicle accident case, insurance companies are significant players in truck accident cases. You may even be able to seek compensation from more than one insurance company, such as the driver’s, the company’s, and that of any other third party drivers involved in the collision.
Insurance companies are businesses, however, and they are looking to limit liability whenever they can. The same is true for the insured parties as they do not want their premiums to go up. For this reason, insurance settlement offers after truck accidents can often be grossly inadequate. Trucking companies can have large policies that can provide significant compensation for your injuries if the insurance company agrees to pay. An experienced truck accident attorney can help to negotiate with insurance companies to get you a fair settlement for your truck accident injuries.