Commercial vehicles come in all shapes and sizes. We’ve all seen the pizza delivery cars with their rooftop logo signs, landscaping company trucks, and utility company vans – all the way up to the 18 wheelers that we all encounter on a daily basis. But regardless of the size, there are certain rules that can give the victim in a crash with one of these commercial vehicles a more stable leg to stand on when seeking damages that result from an accident. Although most of our discussion applies to all sizes of commercial vehicles, we will be focusing on truck accidents in this article because they are the most common type of commercial accident.
First, let’s briefly look at some basics of car accident cases in general.
When you are in an accident, the issue of fault is important. Actually, it is everything. This is because it is what will determine who owes money to whom. Who was at fault? Who was negligent in their driving? Who has to pay?
This discussion assumes the point of view of the victim. When you are the victim of some other driver’s negligence, then you are able to pursue a personal injury claim against that driver. You must be able to prove that a duty of care was owed, that the other driver breached that duty, and that this breach directly resulted in your injuries. If you can prove that, then you have a valid claim against the other party and you can either negotiate a settlement or take the case to a jury trial. If the jury finds the other driver was negligent, then they can award damages in an attempt to make you whole.
The exact same things are true in trucking accidents. However, there are some additional considerations involved in these types of commercial accidents.
Liability Is Key
Finding negligence on the part of the other driver is key in any crash case, but there are more complex factors to weigh when discussing liability in commercial vehicle cases. In other words, when you are hit by another driver and neither of you is on duty or working, then you have only the other driver to collect from for your damages. But in a commercial case, the plot thickens as questions of liability get more complex.
So who can be held liable for your injuries with a commercial vehicle and/or semi-truck?
Other Driver – Just as with car on car crashes, the driver of the commercial vehicle can be held liable for any negligence on their part.
Trucking Company – Every trucking company is responsible for making sure that:
- Their trucks are in good working order and are safe to drive on the nation’s highways.
- Their drivers are fully licensed for the particular load they will be carrying and fully qualified for their duties.
- Their drivers are only scheduled in accordance with federal guidelines and do not drive for too many hours before getting rest.
Once upon a time, trucking companies tried to sidestep liability by leasing their trucks from other companies. But the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) put a stop to that. Now, trucking companies are responsible for both the safety of their trucks and drivers, and can be held accountable if harm to the public results from either.
Cargo Loaders – Lost load accidents can be catastrophic, resulting in multiple car pile ups and loss of life. Therefore, there are strict federal guidelines that specify exactly how loads are to be secured before a truck ever gets onto the road. Sometimes, trucking companies take care of this task themselves, and other times, cargo loading companies are used. Regardless of who loads the truck, if they loaded it negligently or carelessly, then they can be held responsible for any resulting damages.
Truck or Car Part Manufacturer – The manufacturer of a truck or vehicle that is involved in a crash can be held liable if it is determined that a bad part or parts, or some design flaw, contributed to the crash. In this situation, the vehicle would have left the manufacturer in a deficient state, and that deficient state would have had to play a role in the resultant damages. This would be an action based on product liability.
So the simple fact that there is a company involved in the equation when a commercial vehicle causes an accident means that you are not necessarily limited to suing the other driver. Employers are held liable for the actions of their employees during work hours. So if the other driver was in a commercial vehicle and on the job, you may have more than one way to seek recovery.
Right to Be Compensated
As the victim of an accident with a commercial vehicle, you have the legal right to be compensated for:
- Medical costs
- Future medical costs
- Property damage
- Lost wages, income, or profit
- Lost future wages
- Lost earning capacity
- Out-of-pocket expenses (like building a ramp in your home, etc.)
- Pain and Suffering
- Emotional Trauma
- Loss of Consortium
This list is not exhaustive, but should give you a good idea of the types of damages that you can recover. As you can see, some of these damages are not easily calculated – such as pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and lost future wages or earning capacity. These types of damages are called “intangible” because there are no receipts that can be tallied to arrive at a number. Instead, it takes an attorney who is experienced in these types of cases to thoroughly examine the facts and circumstances surrounding your accident and arrive at numbers that will see you through and make you as whole as possible.
Speak with an Experienced Attorney at Batson Nolan PLC
After such a traumatic event, life can seem to swirl out of control. Speaking with one of our experienced and compassionate attorneys can help give you peace of mind, and set you on the road to financial recovery. Call us or contact us online to schedule your free consultation today.