Why Truck Accidents are a Big Deal
Yesterday I-80 West near Emeryville shut down during morning rush hour yesterday because a big rig truck overturned. At least two cars were involved, but no word yet on injuries.
Anytime a commercial truck collides with another vehicle (or anything at all, really) the damage is serious. Big rigs weigh at least 25 times more than the average car. Truck accidents often caue serious, even fatal, injuries. And when collisions lead to personal injury lawsuits, the parties involved and legal issues get complicated.
Truck accidents happen for many reasons. Road hazards, mechanical failures, improper cargo-loading and serious driver fatigue are common causes. Similarly, responsible parties also vary.
Typical defendants include:
- The truck driver
- The truck or trailer owner
- The trucking company that contracted with the truck owner
- The manufacturer or any defective tires or parts that contributed to the accident
- The company and employees responsible for loading cargo
- Insurance companies that cover all of the above
- The city or county that failed to maintain roads or highways
Where do I start?
If you believe the driver was somehow at fault, you’ll have to determine whether the driver was an employee of the trucking company or an independent contractor. Many truck drivers operate as independent contractors: they operate their own trucks and contract with the trucking company per route. Others may be typical employees. They operate a route as part of their shift, which is decided by the trucking company.
If multiple defendants are involved
If multiple parties are involved (e.g., the driver, trucking company and a truck manufacturer), fault gets divided among them. For example, the driver and his employer could both share responsibility in the plaintiff’s injuries, while the manufacturer plays a partial role in property damage. The more defendants involved, the more complicated the case gets and the more difficult it is to obtain a settlement. If the parties can’t settle, the case goes to a jury trial.
Note about state and federal regulations
Big rig drivers, owners and manufacturers have to follow a long list of rules. Those rules include how much a truck can weigh, rules around maintenance and repairs and rules around how long someone can drive without a rest break. To learn more about those regulations, research Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and Caltrans.
When pursuing a case against a truck driver and/or trucking company, we’ll investigate whether any state or federal laws or regulations were violated. If so, our odds of winning a settlement increase.
Insurance is different
As you can imagine, commercial trucking companies and operators have to carry much more insurance than regular drivers. That means the maximum settlement amount allowed by their insurance company is usually higher than the average motorist.
Any accident that involves a big rig is a big deal. If you need help, call our office for a free consultation.