According to an estimate by the National Highway Safety Administration, in 2014 there were 411,000 reported semi truck accidents . The average semi weighs between 30,000 - 40,000 lbs (compared to an average car 5,000 lbs), needless to say, they can cause some very serious damage.
Truck accident settlement claims are similar to car accident claims with a few key differences. Due to their higher stakes and more complicated nature, we'll discuss these differences in detail so you can protect your rights.
What Are the Most Common Causes of Truck Accidents?
Understanding Duty of Care and Driver Negligence
Understanding Trucking Regulations
How to Show Fault in Semi Truck Accidents
What Should You Do After a Truck Accident?
Determine Who is Liable and Your Best Course of Action
Let's get started….
A good place to start trying to make sense of your truck accident claim is to understand some of the most common causes for them.
If you've been involved in a truck accident caused by one of the factors above (or others) your interest will be demonstrating that the trucker violated the law. This is a key point to moving your claim or lawsuit forward.
Drivers of passenger vehicles are required by law to practice a reasonable “duty of care” to look out for one another on the road, follow traffic laws and try to avoid collisions. Because trucks are much more capable of causing catastrophic accidents truckers are held to a higher standard.
When it comes time for an insurance company or jury to determine fault in a trucking accident they will expect truckers to follow their duty of care, and in addition, they will generally look in two areas:
Due to this higher standard truckers need to adhere to, courts will often view any violation of regulation as negligent action.
The trucking industry in the US is regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a department of the Department of Transportation (DOT).
Their regulations are lengthy and mandate how a trucker should behave in essentially all aspects of operating a commercial truck.
These regulations are recognized for their safety benefits on the roadways. But among truckers are often criticized due to the difficulty in following all of them.
Two of the most common regulations that get violated are:
Commercial Drivers License (CDL) Requirements - Anyone operating a semi truck, tractor trailer or 18 wheeler must have completed their CDL training. These standards vary slightly state to state, but they all must meet a baseline federal DOT requirement.
CDL training teaches truckers:
Typically included in CDL licensure is a physical fitness examination and a drug screening process. It's not uncommon for truckers to drive without a CDL or with one that has not been renewed.
Logbook rules - Another legal requirement placed on truckers is that they maintain a logbook. This book records information such as:
It's not uncommon for truckers to cut corners in their logbooks to make more money or get a job done faster.
While these are the most common they are hardly the only regulations violated. A few others include:
A few other useful questions to keep in mind when considering fault in a semi truck accident are:
In terms of a trucking accident claim, showing that a trucker violated their duty of care, a trucking regulation , and/or traffic laws are the key to success.
So, now you understand some key dynamics and rules, how do you actually approach the claim?
Truck accidents are typically more complicated than car accidents so if you're in one be sure to follow a few best practices. These include:
When it comes time to figure out who is responsible for your damages in a trucking accident, the number of possibilities is far greater than a normal car accident. If you were hit by a semi these include:
In many cases, all these parties will point fingers at each other and try to deny their own liability. Trucking companies try to put distance between themselves and their driver or equipment to reduce the chances they will have to pay.
The good news is regulations have cracked down on this a bit, and generally place liability at the feet of the trucking company or driver (if fault is clear).
If your claim is relatively black and white and the damages are not too high it's fine to simply let your insurance company handle things. On the other hand, trucking companies know accidents are going to happen so in many cases they are prepared to fight.
If injuries are more serious or you feel you're not getting a fair shake, consulting with an attorney probably makes sense.
Trucking accidents are complicated, unfortunately frequent, and often result in serious injuries/fatalities. If you've been involved in a trucking accident in some capacity keep the following in mind:
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