When two cars collide on the highway, serious injuries almost always occur. When a semitrailer truck is involved, however, the results can be catastrophic. The mere size of the big rig makes it a formidable hazard. Risks increase exponentially if you add the weight of a load and highway speeds. On a busy thoroughfare, that can translate into serious injury or death.
Several other factors contribute to making collisions involving commercial trucks different from the typical vehicle accident, especially where recovery is concerned under a personal injury claim. Commercial carriers are obligated to carry more insurance and drivers must prove they’ve complied with federal and state regulations to obtain appropriate licensure. Beyond that, however, ongoing regulatory oversight might be hit or miss.
According to the US Department of Transportation, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, for the year ending 3/31/2017, there were 165,536 crashes and 4660 fatalities involving Large Trucks and Buses.
Besides the special licensing requirements drivers face, the trucking industry faces a greater burden for safe operation than most drivers by law. Operators who fail to meet mandated maintenance standards may see their vehicles banned from the road, presuming they’re caught. Drivers are supposed to maintain hours of service logs, but doctoring of the books occurs. Cellphones are a main means of communication for drivers, so distraction is possible.
The reach of potential liability in a crash involving a commercial truck can also be expansive. Not only might the driver be liable, but so might his employer. Additionally, by virtue of the theory of vicarious liability, the shipper who booked the truck might be subject to liability. There might be others.
With every entity that might be included in a truck accident claim comes the possibility of a greater number of players. Each party has an insurance company and all have their own legal representatives.
All these elements taken together support the common advice that if you have been involved in a crash involving a commercial truck you should be working with your own attorney to be sure your rights are represented.