According to the most recent data available from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, fatal accidents involving large trucks increased by 13% from 2020 to 2021. While the statistics for 2021 have not yet been finalized, this increase comes as a shock after seeing a decline from 2019 to 2020. There were 4,965 fatalities involving large trucks in 2020, while there were 5,601 fatalities involving large trucks in 2021. When you consider that more than 70% of the people killed in those accidents were the occupants of other vehicles, you start to understand why an increase in truck accident fatalities is troubling.
Truck accidents are often far more complex than your typical passenger vehicle accident. If you have been injured in a truck accident, the sooner you contact an experienced truck accident lawyer, the sooner you can get the compensation you deserve.
Why Truck Accidents Are Unique
While truck accidents share many common characteristics with passenger vehicle accidents, truck accidents are different in many fundamental ways. For example:
- Trucks are much larger and heavier than passenger vehicles. This means that they are harder to handle and require a much greater stopping distance. In the event of an accident, the size and weight of the truck can exert tremendous force on the occupants of other vehicles.
- Operating a large truck requires extensive training and a specific skill set. The driver’s training and experience often play a much larger role in causing the accident than in other types of motor vehicle accidents.
- Because they spend so many hours on the road, large trucks have much greater maintenance requirements. Failure to perform maintenance can also result in catastrophic accidents.
- There may be multiple potential parties that could be at fault in causing the accident, including the driver, the trucking company, the mechanic, or the company that loaded the truck. Truck accidents can also involve multiple vehicles. Untangling who should be held liable can be extremely difficult.
- Trucking companies and drivers are subject to multiple state and federal regulations that are intended to promote safe operations and protect other drivers on the road. Failure to abide by these regulations can help determine the cause of the accident.
- Because drivers spend so long behind the wheel, driver fatigue is often a factor in accidents much more frequently than in passenger vehicle accidents.
If you have been injured in a truck accident, do not assume that any personal injury attorney is capable of handling your case. Instead, you need to contact a lawyer who has experience in handling truck accident claims so that you can get the compensation you deserve.
Who Is at Fault? The Driver or the Trucking Company?
Generally speaking, trucking companies can be held liable for the negligence of their drivers through the doctrine of respondeat superior. Often referred to as vicarious liability, the doctrine is based on the belief that employers should be responsible for the actions of their employees when they are acting within the scope of their employment because the employee is acting for the employer's benefit.
Of course, the trucking company may avoid liability if the driver was driving for personal purposes or was engaged in illegal activities. But these exceptions are rare.
Vicarious liability may seem like good news for those who have been injured in a truck accident as you don’t have to worry about whether the driver has sufficient insurance coverage or other assets to cover your claim.
Unfortunately, trucking companies often attempt to avoid liability by hiring drivers as independent contractors. This can raise significant complications with your claim, but you should also be aware that drivers may be misclassified as independent contractors.
Pursuing a trucking company can be difficult by itself. It can be difficult to identify the correct corporate entity, and you can anticipate that the company will aggressively defend itself against claims. Navigating this process can be far more complicated than in passenger vehicle accidents, which is why you should consider working with a lawyer who handles truck accident cases.
Other Parties That May Be Liable
The potential parties at fault in a truck accident aren’t limited to the driver or the trucking company. However, here are some other parties that should be considered:
- The party who loaded the truck. When drivers pick up cargo at another location, they have to rely on them to properly load the truck. An unbalanced or unsecured load can make the truck handle unpredictably, which can quickly result in an accident.
- The mechanic. Some trucking companies will hire an outside company to perform maintenance and repairs on their trucks. Unqualified or unscrupulous mechanics can make faulty repairs or fail to identify potential issues.
- Parts manufacturers. Some truck accidents are caused by defective parts such as tires or brake components. In these situations, you may need to pursue a claim against the manufacturer.
- Another driver. The truck accident may have resulted when the truck driver was struck by another vehicle or collided with your vehicle when they were trying to avoid an accident.
There may be more than one party liable for your claim. An experienced truck accident attorney can review your case and determine which party or parties should be held accountable for your losses.
You Will Need to Prove Your Claim
Just like any other type of accident, you will need to submit evidence that the accident was caused by the driver or the trucking company, as well as evidence proving your injuries and other losses. This can be more complicated in the context of a truck accident for a few reasons:
- It can be difficult to prove the cause of the accident
- It can be difficult to identify the appropriate party who was negligent
- You may need to subpoena records and witnesses from the trucking company
If you are in pain and trying to recover, gathering the evidence you need to support your case can be overwhelming. A truck accident lawyer can help you build your case so that you can focus on your health and your future.
Talk to a Truck Accident Lawyer at Powell, Powell, & Powell Today
If you have been injured in a truck accident, we can help you get the compensation you need to put it behind you. Contact us today at 850-682-2757 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case and how we can help.