Commercial truck accidents are substantially different from regular car accidents, and as such, they require an attorney who is familiar with trucking laws and truck accident claims.
A big rig accident is many motorists’ worst nightmare, and for good reason. According to theNational Highway Transportation Safety Administration, in accidents involving a semi truck and another vehicle, the driver of the smaller vehicle is more than four times more likely to be killed than the truck driver. The size and weight of a commercial truck puts other drivers at an increased risk for serious injury and death.
After a car or truck accident, it is customary for attorneys to collect a wide range of evidence, including witness statements, photographs of the vehicles involved, police reports, security camera footage, medical testimony, and more. But when the accident involves a commercial truck, additional evidence is needed to mount a solid case. This may include:
- Evidence regarding the driver, including the driver’s qualifications file, driver inspection records, house of service documentation, the driver’s training file, and post-collision drug and alcohol screening results
- Cargo evidence, such as weight tickets, dispatch instructions, trip envelopes, and bills of lading
- Vehicle evidence, such as downloads of the onboard systems, GPS tracking system data, maintenance history, and inspection history
Depending on the circumstances of the accident, collecting this evidence may bring the true cause of the crash to light. For example, the post-collision drug screen may show the driver was using illicit drugs to stay awake, and the hours of service documentation may show that the driver was breaking the law by driving too many consecutive hours in a row in order to make it to his or her destination on time. This evidence of negligent behavior can be extremely valuable when it comes time to negotiate your personal injury claim.
Commercial truck drivers are held to higher legal standard and must follow more rigorous driving rules than other drivers. Big rig drivers must comply with hours of service regulations (i.e. not drive more than x number of hours in a row without taking substantial time off to rest) and other rules specific to certain driving situations.
Big rig accidents also differ from normal car accidents in the science and physics involved. With literally tons of weight to maneuver, semi trucks drive in a substantially different way than other vehicles. Commercial truck drivers must take longer to stop, must accelerate more slowly, must have more space to maneuver, and require special handling to back up or turn around. The physics of a semi-involved collision are much different than those of a regular car accident, and it is important for an attorney to view the case from the perspective of a truck driver—not a passenger vehicle driver.
Commercial truck accidents also involve a larger cast of players, including the trucking company, shippers, loaders, brokers, freight forwarders, and maintenance crews. Depending on the circumstances of the accident (e.g. mechanical failure s. driver negligence), a third party could be liable for the accident.