How Commercial Truck Accidents Differ From Car Accidents

Commercial trucks deliver myriad goods, materials, mail, and other packages. Their drivers also share the road with passenger cars, trucks, and SUVs. When the commercial trucks involve themselves in crashes, the results often prove devastating. Accident cases with commercial trucks present circumstances that you might not see with crashes involving only passenger vehicles.

The Size and Cargo Differential

As a rule of thumb, the weights of passenger vehicles range from 3,000 pounds for compact vehicles to 12,000 pounds for SUVs and full-size pickup trucks. Contrast that with the minimum gross vehicle weight for commercial trucks that require their operators to hold commercial driver's licenses, which is 26,000 pounds. The heaviest carriers register at 80,000 pounds.

Unlike your sedan, SUV or pickup, 18-wheelers and other large trucks haul trailers are full of boxed merchandise such as sheets of aluminum, cinder blocks, wood, and even passenger cars, to name a few items. You also share highways and roads with trucks carrying gasoline, other flammable liquids, and hazardous materials.

The Rules of the Road

At their essence, car and large truck accidents involve the failure of the driver to use reasonable care. Whatever the size of the vehicle, car accidents can arise from running red lights or stop signs, failing to yield the right-of-way, not giving proper turn signals, driving while impaired, failing to keep a proper lookout, or not reducing speed to avoid an accident.

Even with the basic kinds of driving transgressions, truck accidents carry significant distinctions from passenger vehicles. With the larger weights and sizes of commercial trucks come greater stopping times. For example, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration advises that a truck running at 65 miles per hour needs nearly the length of two football fields to stop. That translates to 220 yards, or about 660 feet. The average passenger car needs about 316 feet, or roughly one football field.

Failing to Adequately Secure Loads or Equipment

Trucking or loading companies may commit the following violations that can contribute to accidents:

● Not inspecting the vehicle, such as the condition of brakes or tires, prior to the trip

● Neglecting to place flares, fusees, or lighted triangles next to trucks when stopped

● Disobeying the “hours of service” rules, such as taking less than 10 hours off before a driving shift or duty, driving more than 14 straight hours, and driving more than 70 hours in eight consecutive days (if the carrier runs the trucks each day of the week)

Proving these violations often requires extensive discovery and investigation during the lawsuit. Truck accident attorneys must pull trip logs, inspection reports, crash reports, and data from the truck’s “black box.” While some passenger car accidents require accident reconstructionists, these experts become more prominent and common in truck accidents.

The Type and Extent of Injuries

Certainly, accidents with only passenger vehicles can seriously injure or kill those involved. Due to the size of commercial trucks and the loads they carry, the odds of significant injuries or death rise in truck incidents. The roster of potential serious injuries includes, but is not limited to, paralysis, high-degree burns, loss of limbs, brain trauma and damage to internal organs.

A commercial truck accident can easily generate mountainous medical expenses (past and future), strip you of your earning capacity, cause lost wages, and exact long-lasting or permanent pain and suffering. Your damages may consist of deprivation of recreational opportunities and the activities of daily life. Your spouse may have claims for loss of marital services and affection (loss of consortium).

Responsible Parties

In personal injury cases, you may hold more than the careless actors responsible.

Under a doctrine called vicarious liability, an employer may have to answer for the negligence of the employee or servant. In truck cases, we often look to the motor carrier company that hired the driver.

Additionally, trucking companies face liability for their own negligence in hiring unqualified truckers. Evidence of negligent hiring or entrustment can come from the driver’s record of moving violations or impaired driving or using a driver without a commercial driver’s license when one is required.

Morelli Law Firm represented Tracy Morgan when he was involved in a devastating accident that was caused by a Walmart truck. Regarding truck accident lawsuit liability, these attorneys explained that the drivers of commercial trucks are often put in dangerous situations by the trucking companies that employ them, and that is why these companies must be held financially responsible for wrecks.

In truck accident cases, a lawyer will seek to establish the driver’s fault based on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act. The liable parties may include the truck’s driver, the trucking company, the loading company, or even the truck’s manufacturer.