Accidents involving Semi-trucks Often Involve More Responsible Parties than Common Car Accidents
Out of fear or caution, motorists often maneuver away from large trucks on roads and highways. It’s a tense situation every driver eventually experiences. That panicky feeling isn’t unwarranted. Over 400,000 large truck accidents happen every year across the nation, and compared with accidents between standard-size vehicles, truck accident damage is often exponentially worse. And the complications don’t end there. When it comes to seeking compensation, additional factors need to be considered with truck accidents. One of the biggest differences, besides the increased danger and severity of injuries, is the number of parties that can potentially be held responsible.
What Makes a Truck Accident Case So Complex?
When you are the victim in a truck accident, it would seem that the obvious person responsible is the truck driver. This may not be the case. Truck accident cases are complex because of the numerous parties involved in the industry.
Determining the Liable Party
Depending on the cause of the truck accident, the liable party may be the truck driver, the driver’s employer, the manufacturer, or maintenance provider. Multiple entities may even share fault.
Sometimes the truck driver is the culprit. Many factors could contribute to a trucker’s negligence. One factor is fatigue. Some drivers choose not to get proper rest at their stops.
There are also truckers who may willfully exceed the federal hours of service regulations that limit their driving hours to 70 per week.
Other examples of negligence are use of illegal substances, high levels of alcohol consumption, and distracted driving.
The trucking company is responsible for following strict guidelines and regulations. If their failure to adhere to these rules leads to an accident, the company is at fault.
For instance, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires truck drivers to take periodic 30 minute breaks. A company that pressures its employees to skip these breaks could be forcing tired, dangerous drivers on the road.
The company that owns and leases the truck could also be responsible. If the company did not maintain the truck in a responsible way, overworked or faulty components could cause an accident.
Additionally, trucking companies could be held responsible if they knowingly hired and out an unexperienced driver behind the wheel.
The maker of the truck may be liable for any manufacturing and quality control defects in the truck that leads to an accident. The manufacturer of a truck’s individual parts may also be liable if a component malfunctions.
A loading company that doesn’t carefully distribute cargo risks uneven weight distribution. An imbalanced load makes the truck unnecessarily challenging for a trucker to maneuver.
Another misstep in loading that increases the likelihood of an accident is failure to properly secure cargo. Unsecured cargo can fall directly onto other vehicles or create perilous roadblocks. Modern tractor trailers can transport up to 12 vehicles. When unsecured, that cargo is bound to be fatal.
If cargo exceeds the truck’s capacity, the truck’s engine, tires, brakes, and transmission are more likely to fail because of the excessive wear and tear.
Liability Factors in Truck Accidents
Many factors are weighed when liability is being assigned after a trucking accident. These include pre-existing damage to the truck, the driver’s physical and mental state, vehicle speed, and weather conditions during the accident.
Dealing With Multiple Insurance Companies
In a trucking accident case, the stakes are high. The trucking company will generally have millions of dollars of assets and will have large insurance policies to cover potential losses. If you are hit by a tractor trailer, the driver’s cab and the trailer could very well be owned by two separate entities.
In addition, your own insurance company will be involved. If the accident involves more than two vehicles, that could further complicate matters.
Receiving a Proper Settlement
Trucking companies realize that even a minor truck accident can involve large claims. Many of these companies have rapid response teams that will arrive at the scene of the accident as soon as possible to start gathering evidence that is favorable to their case.
Their side will have access to the truck black box containing time logs and accident details. These details may be critical in securing a settlement. If you’re involved in a truck accident, it will be easier to gain access to this information with an experienced attorney on your side.
Most times insurance companies will offer a lump sum payment to settle the claim. They do this because they know that litigation is expensive. Also being experienced in this field, they know what kind of a judgement the court will award. Usually they offer a small fraction of what they think the court verdict will be.
An insurance company may urge you to settle for a meager sum before you get a chance to consult an attorney first. Additionally, accepting a settlement from one insurance company may bar you from receiving a settlement from another insurance company.
It is always worth remembering that insurance companies have lawyers who are looking after their interest and their interest alone, no matter how cooperative, friendly, and empathetic they may seem.
Contact an Experienced Truck Accident Lawyer
If you’ve been injured in a truck accident, you may be entitled to compensation even if that accident did not recently occur.
In Florida, there is a statute of limitations that allows a survivor of a truck accident to file a personal injury lawsuit within four years from the date of the accident. For wrongful death lawsuits, that period is two years. A person who was incapacitated prior to the accident has seven years to file a case.
In order to protect your interest and to receive the maximum compensation for your truck accident, contact us online or call the experienced attorneys of The Eberst Law Firm at 772-225-4900. Our attorneys will review the facts of your case and provide you with a thorough evaluation of your truck accident claim.
Photo by Nigel Tadyanehondo