Motor Vehicle Accidents Law

Truck Accidents: FAQ

Tractor trailer accidents can be very confusing for the victims involved. If you've been in an accident with a commercial truck, the following frequently asked questions could help you understand what to do and what your rights are.

What qualifies as a commercial truck?

A commercial truck is a large vehicle used to transport commercial goods during the course of business. Typically, commercial trucks:

  • Require a commercial driver's license to operate
  • Have a specific purpose
  • Are larger than normal vehicles

Examples of commercial trucks include delivery trucks, tanker trucks`` and 18-wheelers.

What are some common factors that cause truck accidents?

Driver error is the most common cause of crashes between commercial trucks and passenger vehicles. Truck drivers are limited by federal laws in how many hours they can work consecutively and failure to follow these laws can result in fatigue, which can lead to crashes. Additionally, drivers are required to take DOT drug tests in order to hold commercial drivers' licenses. Driving under the influence can lead to crashes for which the driver is held responsible.

Other contributing factors include:

  • Distracted driving
  • Speeding
  • Improperly secured cargo
  • Defective vehicles or equipment

Passenger vehicle motorists can also cause truck accidents by driving in the truck driver's no-zones, aggressively trying to drive around trucks or driving recklessly. Truck drivers have a more difficult time responding to these situations as braking is slower and maneuvering is more involved. Truck accidents can also be caused by defective or malfunctioning parts and even improper loading techniques.

What is a truck's "no-zone"?

A truck's "no-zone" refers to the areas where a truck driver has limited or zero visibility. Typically, this exists along the side of the trailer and behind the truck. Drivers are less likely to see another vehicle directly behind the truck when there is a short distance between the two vehicles. Other areas of limited or zero visibility include the left and right rear quarters.

Are truck accidents more likely to cause personal injuries than passenger cars?

A commercial truck can weigh over 80,000 pounds when it is fully loaded. In comparison, a passenger vehicle typically only weighs around 3,000 pounds. Because of the size difference, commercial trucks have the potential to cause a lot of damage to smaller vehicles and can cause more serious injuries, or even death, to passenger vehicle occupants.

Can I receive compensation for missed days at work after a truck accident?

Often, yes. A successful personal injury lawsuit may include compensation for the income you lost from work. In order to win the compensation, you'd need to prove that the driver, the truck driver's employer, the manufacturer or another party was negligent and that such negligence resulted in your injuries. If your injuries from the accident are severe enough to keep you from working in the future, the payment may even cover the loss of earning capacity.

Can I sue the trucking company for my injuries?

Your ability to sue the trucking company for your injuries may depend on whether or not the driver has an employment relationship with the company. If this type of working relationship exists, then yes, the trucking company can generally be held legally responsible for the truck driver's negligence. This is possible under the "respondeat superior" legal theory, which translates to "let the master answer."

Where this becomes problematic is when the truck driver is an independent contractor. The key issue to look at in this instance is the level of supervision the trucking company has over the driver's work.

Can the shipper be held responsible when a truck was carrying a hazardous liquid?

There are certain instances in which it is possible to hold the shipper of hazardous materials legally responsible for injuries. The potential for an accident that causes very serious injuries increases simply because of the type of freight. The shipper must inform the driver or the trucking company that the cargo being transported is of a dangerous nature. Failure to do so can lead to the shipper being held liable for injuries.

What happens if I was partially at fault for the truck accident?

The degree to which you were at fault for the accident can sometimes affect the award you receive in a personal injury lawsuit. This varies depending on where the accident took place.

Four states as well as the District of Columbia follow a pure contributory negligence model. This means that if any of the fault for the accident falls on the injured party, the victim is barred from collecting any amount of compensation.

Other states use the comparative negligence rule. This means that, even if injured parties are partly responsible for the accident, they can often still file claims for damages. The percentage of fault they hold must be under a set limit, which varies by state. Their award is also generally reduced by their percentage of fault. For example, if the plaintiff is 5 percent at fault for an accident, the compensation award may be reduced by 5 percent.

Should I meet with a truck accident lawyer?

Anyone who was injured after being involved in a truck accident may want to consider seeking legal counsel as soon as possible. Receiving compensation for your losses without a lawyer is possible. However, assistance from a lawyer could make a significant difference in your chances at a successful lawsuit as well as the amount you actually recover.