It goes without saying that an auto accident is never good news, no matter what kind of vehicles are involved.
But the type of vehicle does sometimes make a meaningful difference. That is especially true when one or more of the vehicles involved is a semi-truck, tractor-trailer, or another large commercial vehicle.
Statistics show that most of the people injured in truck crashes are occupants of the other cars involved — not of the trucks themselves (which are very large and tend to give their occupants greater shelter).
Unfortunately, these accident victims sometimes assume that their injury claim will proceed just like any other auto accident claim would. But that isn’t necessarily the case.
Below, we look at seven important ways semi-truck accidents differ from typical car accidents. Each of these factors makes it especially imperative that you proceed with caution, making every decision from a standpoint of strategy and knowledge. An experienced Bakersfield truck accident lawyer at The Law Offices of Mickey Fine can help.
1. The Damages Tend to Be Greater.
When fully loaded, a semi-truck can weigh 80,000 pounds. When that much weight moves at speeds upwards of 60, 70, or 80 miles per hour — or even at much slower speeds, for that matter — the force of impact is almost unimaginable.
The injuries sustained in semi-truck accidents tend to be quite serious. It isn’t uncommon for victims to require extensive hospitalization, ongoing therapies, or even major surgery. Some may suffer life-altering injuries that make it impossible for them to return to their job or way of life.
These catastrophic injuries add up to much larger financial damages than you might find in the typical car accident. Moreover, semi-truck accidents tend to involve greater property damage too, as ordinary passenger cars are no match for a massive tractor-trailer.
2. They Tend to Involve Additional Parties
Most semi-truck accidents happen because of negligence. Sometimes it’s the truck driver’s negligence. Sometimes it’s the fault of the driver’s employee. Or perhaps a third party is involved. Indeed, it may even be a combination of all the above.
Depending on the facts and circumstances surrounding the crash, liability may extend to:
- The truck driver
- The carrier company
- The truck manufacturer
- The company that made the cargo inside the truck, if a defect in that cargo contributed to the accident (for example, when cargo explodes or catches fire)
- Other drivers
- Governmental entities (for example, when a dangerous road condition contributes to the crash)
- The insurance companies for each of these parties
In any legal dispute, the more parties that get involved, the more complicated the dispute becomes. In semi-truck accident claims, it isn’t uncommon for a victim to seek compensation from multiple defendants at the same time — and for those defendants to then deny their own liability and point the finger at one another, sometimes filing lawsuits against each other as well.
Most of these parties are large corporate or governmental entities, meaning they have extensive resources and entire legal teams on their side. If you’re the victim, it can be difficult to stand off against so many sophisticated and aggressive parties at the same time. An experienced Bakersfield truck accident lawyer can help protect your interests at every turn.
3. They Tend to Happen in Different Ways
Semi-trucks are complex pieces of machinery. Some of their mechanics are quite different from those you would find in typical cars. This makes them vulnerable to certain unique types of malfunction or collision.
One classic example is the jack-knife accident, which happens when a truck’s trailer (the part where cargo is stored) turns in on the tractor (the part with an engine, where the driver sits) at a roughly 90-degree angle. Jack-knifes happen quickly, and they’re extremely dangerous for everyone in the immediate vicinity. It may be impossible for the driver to retain control of the vehicle.
Another example is that of the runaway truck. Owing to their size, semi-trucks can be harder to stop than most other cars, especially when going down an incline or a steep hill (or if the truck is overloaded with cargo).
These are just two common types of semi-truck accidents; there are many others. All sorts of things can go wrong when a truck is in motion on the highway, which is why drivers must be very careful and specially trained — and why truck operators must ensure regular preventative maintenance.
4. They Tend to Involve Unique or Specific Legal Issues
The trucking industry is heavily regulated and subject to certain special rules. Federal Hours of Service rules, for example, regulate how much time a trucker can spend behind the wheel before taking time off for rest.
Drowsy driving is a major problem in the trucking industry, sometimes the result of truck companies over-scheduling their drivers. In those cases, the employer may be held liable for setting unreasonable or unlawful schedules.
Other issues that frequently arise in truck accident claims include:
- Drunk or drugged driving
- Driving under the influence of prescription or over-the-counter medications
- Distracted driving (e.g. texting, using CB radios, etc.)
- Improperly loaded / stored cargo
- Dangerous or unlawful cargo
- Lack of adequate license (commercial truck drivers require special licenses)
- Inadequate training
- Negligent hiring
- Improper truck maintenance / inspections
- Aggressive driving
- Reckless lane mergers or turns
5. They Tend to Require More Extensive Investigation & Research
Getting to the bottom of what caused a semi-truck accident can take some effort. The police report is only part of the story. Depending on the circumstances, your claim might require much more extensive investigation, from consulting with expert witnesses to securing important evidence (e.g. driving records, driver logs, employee schedules, truck routes, drug tests, video surveillance, etc.).
As Bakersfield truck accident lawyers, we work closely with accident reconstruction experts, expert witnesses, and other resources as needed. Every situation is different, and some accidents may demand a different investigatory path. But as a general matter, the higher the stakes, the more critical evidence becomes.
Moreover, many of the most common issues in semi-truck accident claims — drowsy driving, Hours of Service violations, improper cargo, etc. — may not be readily apparent to a police officer at the scene of the crash. It may be incumbent on your attorneys to go after the records or testimony you need to support your claim.
6. The Insurance Policies Tend to Be Bigger, So Insurance Companies Tend to Fight These Claims More Aggressively
With greater damages and bigger insurance policies comes a stronger reluctance on the part of the insurance company to pay victims what they’re owed.
If you have a claim against a truck driver or their employer, it’s important to understand that neither the carrier company nor their insurer will be on your side. They are interested in protecting themselves and reducing their liability wherever possible. These are large companies with big budgets and extensive resources. They typically have a great deal of legal experience and sophistication. Trying to face them on your own can be a real challenge.
7. Semi-Truck Accidents Are More Likely to Involve Wrongful Death
Tragically, semi-truck accidents are more likely to cause fatality than are typical car accidents. In California, certain close relatives may be entitled to recover for their losses associated with a wrongful death, in addition to any personal injury damages the defendant may owe the estate.
California wrongful death law is complex, but an experienced Bakersfield truck accident attorney can help you and your family navigate the claims process and claim the justice you deserve.
At The Law Offices of Mickey Fine, we are dedicated to giving families the strong, sensitive, and compassionate shoulder of support they need while they pursue meaningful justice in the midst of tragedy. If you are grieving a loss caused by negligence, we can help.
The Law Offices of Mickey Fine: Bakersfield Truck Accident Lawyers Who Will Fight to Maximize Your Compensation
At The Law Offices of Mickey Fine, we are dedicated to fighting for the rights of unfairly injured Californians.
Don’t make the mistake of trying to handle carrier companies or insurance corporations on your own. Don’t settle for less money than you deserve. Let us fight to maximize your compensation while holding negligent companies and careless drivers accountable for the harm they cause.
To learn more about your rights and options after a semi-truck accident in California, call our office and schedule a free, no-obligation case review.
We will never charge a fee for our services unless we get you money first. The initial consultation is absolutely free. Call 661-333-3333 or contact us online right away.