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Why are truck accidents different than car accidents?

Truck accidents are different from car accidents for multiple reasons. Trucks are cars on a much bigger scale, which means all of the issues that come along with a truck accident are usually bigger as well. These issues include:

Why are trucks accidents so different than car accidents.

Truck Accidents are Often More Severe

While car accidents are much more common than truck accidents, truck accidents are more often catastrophic or deadly. According to 2012 statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for each occupant of a large truck who died in a crash, six other people outside of the truck were killed.

Truck accidents often result in:

  • Traumatic brain injuries/skull fractures
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Crushing injuries
  • Broken bones
  • Amputations
  • Death
     

With more severe injuries comes higher medical bills and weeks or months of lost wages. In some cases, victims are never able to return to work and require long-term care.

Truck Accidents Can Have Several Different Liable Parties

When you are in a car accident, you or the other driver are typically the only potentially liable parties. However, in an accident involving a large truck, there might be two or three different liable parties.

First, the trucking company is likely to be the liable party, even if the truck driver is 100 percent responsible for the collision. This is because, under the doctrine of vicarious liability, employers are responsible for their employees’ actions, so long as the employee acted within the scope of his employment. This is true in almost every case, unless the driver was an independent contractor or was acting outside of his employment (e.g., took his truck to the bar after work and caused an accident coming home).

The trucking company can also be directly liable for negligent maintenance or negligent hiring. In some cases, a truck part manufacturer or the truck’s maintenance team might also be responsible.

The Investigation Process is Different

After a truck accident, there will be multiple investigations. In addition to the usual accident report filed by law enforcement, there might also be an investigation by the trucking company and by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

This can become confusing if all three investigations come to separate conclusions. We can also work with an accident investigator to establish exactly how the accident occurred.

The Trucking Company Has the Evidence You Need

Truck accidents are often more difficult because the trucking company has much of the evidence you need to prove fault, including:

  • Hours of service logs
  • Data from the truck’s electronic data recorder
  • Drug and alcohol test results
  • The driver’s personnel file
  • The truck’s maintenance records
  • The truck itself
     

And it only gets more difficult from here. Federal laws allow trucking companies to destroy evidence after a certain period of time. This means that unless you discuss your case with a truck accident lawyer immediately, the trucking company could destroy evidence critical to your case.

Trucks Have Different Regulations than Cars

Trucks have different licensing and registration requirements than passenger cars. A different class of driver’s license and specific training is required to drive a large commercial vehicle. Trucking companies and their drivers are subject to multiple federal regulations as well as state laws. Some of these regulations include:

  • Only being able to drive for a certain number of hours
  • How often trucking companies and drivers need to inspect their vehicles and cargo loads
  • A much lower blood alcohol content limit (0.04 vs. 0.08)/drug and alcohol testing after certain accidents
  • Handheld cell phone ban
     

A violation of almost any of these regulations can increase the likelihood of an accident. If we find that a rule violation caused or contributed to your accident, we can use it as proof of negligence.

Higher Potential Payouts

Per 49 CFR § 387.303, the insurance requirements for commercial trucks are:

  • Public liability insurance for such claims as bodily injury, property damage and environmental restoration: $750,000 to $5,000,000 based on the weight of the truck and whether the cargo is hazardous;
  • Commercial vehicles transporting passengers: $1,500,000 to $5,000,000
     

This is much higher than Washington’s minimum requirement of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident.

In addition to the higher policy limits, there may be multiple parties and companies who can also be liable for your injuries, and they may each have their own insurance coverage.

While the many potential liable parties and higher policy limits in a truck accident mean you can recover a higher insurance payout, it also means you will be facing an uphill battle. The commercial insurance company and the trucking company will have lawyers on standby at all times, ready to jump in to defend against accident claims. This can be intimidating to a person who was injured in an accident involving a large truck.

Get help from a Seattle truck accident attorney.

The investigations and claims processes are different in truck accidents. This is a complex, sophisticated area of law, and the cards are stacked against you if you try to handle your truck accident injury claim on your own without a lawyer. The other side will have teams of lawyers ready to jump in and vigorously defend against your claim. At Max Meyers Law, PLLC, we will handle the investigators, the insurance companies, and the defense lawyers for you.

Call us today at 425-242-5595 for your free, no-obligation consultation with our truck accident lawyer.

Max Meyers
Max is a Kirkland personal injury attorney handling cases in Seattle, King County & surrounding in WA State.