A commercial truck accident can be much more catastrophic than an accident between two personal-use vehicles. A typical, fully loaded commercial truck (such as a big rig or dump truck) can weigh at least 25 times as much as a typical car. Due to this stark weight disparity and the basic laws of physics, most big rig truck accidents with other vehicles result in serious, even fatal, injuries.
If you or a loved one is involved in an accident with a commercial truck, you may be entitled to recover compensation for your injuries by bringing a legal claim against the responsible parties. This article will provide a general overview of such claims, but you should meet with a specialized truck accident lawyer for more information or legal representation.
The Unique Dangers of Commercial Truck Accidents
While statistics show that truck drivers generally are much more careful on the road than automobile drivers, large truck crashes still accounted for 4,995 fatalities and 106,000 injuries in 2006 (according to the U.S. Department of Transportation). These accidents often are not the fault of the truck driver and may be the result of unforeseen road hazards or the negligence of other drivers.
In addition, truck accidents can be made worse by the freight the truck is carrying. For example, if hazardous or flammable materials (such as gasoline or industrial waste) are on board a big rig involved in an accident, secondary injuries from that dangerous cargo can result.
Proving Your Case
As is true in most personal injury cases involving vehicle accidents, the main legal theory of liability in commercial truck accident cases is "negligence." Therefore, a person injured in a commercial truck accident must show that:
In order to collect for injuries suffered in a truck accident, it is important to identify as many potential defendants as possible, which may not be limited to the driver. In many cases, trucking companies, contractors, employers, and insurance companies may be obligated to compensate you for your injuries.
If an employment relationship is established between the truck driver and a trucking or shipping company, then that company may be held legally liable for the driver's negligence. Your attorney would need to show that the company exercised some degree of control over the driver, and that the accident occurred while the driver was acting in the course of the employment relationship.
This can become problematic when a truck driver is an independent contractor of a larger company. In this case, the key issue becomes the amount of supervising done by the company. The potential liability of trucking companies, employers, and contractors is a key factor in assessing recovery through insurance coverage, as all these entities likely will carry separate policies.
Occasionally, the manufacturer or shipper of hazardous materials carried by the truck also may be held liable for injuries caused or made worse by the truck's cargo. This typically relates to the manufacturer or shipper's duty to inform the trucker or trucking company of the materials' potential dangers.
If you are involved in a truck accident where the truck driver was at fault, you may be entitled to damages -- financial compensation for physical, emotional, and/or financial losses resulting from the accident.
Special Considerations In Truck Accident Cases
The operation of large commercial trucks (especially big rigs) on highways and roads presents certain unique dangers that are not a consideration where ordinary passenger vehicles are concerned:
Talk to an Attorney About Your Truck Accident Claim
Accidents involving large commercial trucks often result in serious physical injury and property damage. If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of a truck accident, you should consider seeking professional legal help. Reach out to an experienced truck accident attorney near you today.
Contact a qualified auto accident attorney to make sure your rights are protected.