Commercial semi-truck drivers carry a great deal of responsibility on the road, which means there are greater consequences at stake when a truck accident occurs.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a semi-truck crash, it is important to understand the differences between commercial vehicle accident cases and car accident cases. Many truck accident victims, and unfortunately many personal injury attorneys, believe that a truck accident is the same as any other automobile crash. However, truck accident cases are far more complicated, with their own unique set of laws and challenges. Truck crash victims benefit from the guidance of a truck accident lawyer that specializes in these cases.
Here, we explain the additional layers of complexity of large truck accidents and break down the process of how a truck accident injury claim works.
Commercial Truck Accident Injuries vs. Car Accident Injuries: Which Are More Severe?
Vehicles that are involved in a collision with a large semi-truck as opposed to a passenger car are more likely to see a devastating outcome. Commercial trucks, like 18-wheelers, can weigh anywhere between 20-30 times as much as passenger cars and can create catastrophic personal injuries and damage to other vehicles and property in collisions.
A few common injuries that are suffered from truck accidents include:
- Traumatic brain injury: This can be any injury that disrupts regular brain function. This can be a mild case, such as concussion, or a severe case, like loss of memory, brain swelling, or torn brain tissue. Brain injuries often have immediate and long-lasting effects on victims and their families.
- Head, back, and neck injuries: This type of injury can range from minor neck pain to dislocated or herniated discs, and can impact a victim’s ability to perform typical daily tasks.
- Broken bones and lacerations: Due to the force of commercial semi-trucks and 18-wheelers, broken bones and lacerations are more common in a truck accident in comparison to car accidents.
- Spinal cord injuries: Spinal cord injuries usually have long-lasting effects on victims and their families. It is a serious medical condition that can result in loss of some or all motor and sensory function.
- Wrongful death: Trucking accidents are more likely to result in fatalities compared to car accidents. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, in 2017 there were 4,761 fatalities in the United States as a result of a crash involving a large truck.
Commercial Truck Drivers Are Held to Specific Rules and Regulations
Semi-truck drivers are required to carry a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to operate a commercial vehicle. There are three classes of CDLs in Florida, and to obtain a CDL of any class, applicants must have an Operator’s License, pass vision requirements, pass knowledge test and pass skills tests.
In addition to obtaining a CDL, commercial truck drivers are held to higher legal and safety standards governed by the transportation industry and the state and the federal government.
In the Florida Commercial Driver License Manual provided by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, commercial truck drivers are expected to follow detailed safety rules, such as:
- Continuously review and inspect their vehicle and submit inspection reports.
- Eliminate all forms of internal distractions before driving — this includes turning off communication devices, pre-programming radio stations and music selections, and more.
- Be vigilant, aware, and cautious around potentially distracted drivers on the road.
- Maintain driver wellness, including proper sleep and nutrition, so the driver’s alertness is not impaired while operating their commercial vehicle.1
Whether or not the commercial truck driver was in compliance with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations and other legal requirements as stated in the Florida Motor Vehicles Statues can help determine liability in your accident case.
How to Determine Liability in Truck Accident Cases?
Determining liability in commercial truck accident cases is a challenge. In a normal car accident, it is typically only the drivers involved who are liable, or at times, the employer or owner of the vehicles involved. However, there are additional parties that may be liable in a semi-truck accident.
Parties that could be liable in a truck accident will depend on whom the driver works for, who owns the truck involved in the collision, the relationship between the driver and the trucking company and whether the trucker was driving with a loaded trailer, empty trailer or no trailer at all.
If the commercial truck was transporting cargo during the time of the accident, then more parties become involved in the case. These parties include cargo shippers, loaders, freight forwarders or consignees that could be liable if the collision was caused by the cargo in any way.
If the accident was a result of an improperly maintained truck, then any maintenance or repair companies involved could also share liability for the accident.
Why Insurance and Trucking Companies Defend Claims Aggressively
Trucking companies carry larger amounts of insurance coverage than typical drivers. Sometimes, this could be hundreds of thousands of dollars or even millions of dollars more. With the catastrophic injuries involved and the amount of money at stake, truck insurance companies will aggressively defend claims, sparing no expense in the process.
The company that owns the commercial truck involved in an accident will also be defensive. Since trucking companies can be large with access to financial and legal resources, it can be easy for them to get the upper hand in a truck accident injury settlement or court case.
Both the insurance company and the trucking company have a lot to lose, so it is important for victims of trucking accidents to remember to never accept the first offer. The goal of the trucking company and its insurance carrier is to settle the case by paying out the smallest amount possible. By accepting the first offer, you may be forgoing your right to full compensation.
How Do I Make a Truck Accident Injury Claim?
Victims involved in a truck accident should hire an experienced trucking attorney, who will obtain the following pieces of evidence after calling the police and medical assistance:
- Driver Evidence: In addition to the name of the driver and their insurance information, obtaining information like the driver’s qualifications file, training file, hours of service documentation, inspection records, list of driving violations and post-collision drug and alcohol screening results is vital in pursuing a truck crash case. A qualified truck collision lawyer will be able to assess your situation and request other forms of driver evidence that may aid in your case.
- Vehicle Evidence: As well as photos of the collision, scene, and of all the vehicles involved in the accident, it is recommended to try obtaining truck maintenance history, truck inspection history and any pertinent data from the truck’s GPS tracking systems.
- Truck Cargo Evidence: This includes information like weight tickets, dispatch instructions and delivery documents.
- Injury Evidence: Photos of your injuries and documentation of healthcare provider instructions for your injuries.
- Witness Evidence: The names and contact information of any witnesses. You should also take note of any DOT or surveillance cameras that may have supporting footage.
Matthews Injury Law Specializes in Florida Truck Accident Cases
Truck accidents can often be catastrophic, resulting in serious injury or wrongful death. Matthews Injury Law has a team of experienced truck accident lawyers who are ready to help you through this difficult time. Our lawyers have taken truck crash cases to trial for injured plaintiffs, and for defendant trucking companies and drivers. You should know if your attorney is experienced in handling truck crash cases through trial – because the trucking company certainly will.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a truck collision in Tampa, Sarasota or another area in Florida, Matthews Injury Law can help you get the settlement you deserve. To request a free consultation, reach out to us today.
*The information on this page was either written or reviewed for accuracy by attorney Marc Matthews. Marc is a managing partner at Matthews Injury Law and has won seven- and eight-figure verdicts and settlements for truck accident victims in Florida. He has handled trucking cases throughout the State and the Nation.