Why Truck Accidents — and Truck Accident Lawsuits — Are Different

How the Law, the People, and the Issues Make Truck Accident Lawsuits Different

Most adult Americans have at least some general idea what the process is for resolving car accidents and the insurance claims they produce, either from being on the receiving end of a collision, perhaps from having caused one, or at least observing a family member trying to deal with one. It starts with the accident, the police, a tow truck, body shop repairs, opening — and hopefully successfully closing — property damage claims. It may involve an injury, doctor visits and time lost from work, and a personal injury claim that the insurance companies will — again, hopefully — resolve promptly and fairly. (Isn’t that why we pay for the insurance?) If not, an attorney may need to be retained in order to get a fair settlement. Truck accidents and truck accident lawsuits, however, are different in almost every way from the car accident process that most people have at least some familiarity with.

Is There Any Aspect of Truck Accident Lawsuits That Isn’t Different?

This may be the simpler question to ask, and the simpler answer is, “No, not really.” A short list of the categories in which truck accidents and truck accident lawsuits are different from the typical motor vehicle accident and insurance claim would have to at least include:

  • How the vehicle operates.
  • The physics of a truck accident pre-impact, at impact, and post-impact.
  • The likelihood of major damage and of major injuries or fatalities.
  • Law enforcement response to the accident.
  • The people involved — or “parties” — in a truck accident.
  • The differences in the law for truck drivers and trucking companies.
  • The differences in evidence for truck accident cases.
  • How truck accident insurance coverage and claims handling is different.

Let’s sort those differences into a couple different groupings to consider them in more detail.

How Truck Accidents Happen Differently from Other Collisions

Put simply, trucks are bigger and more complex to operate than passenger cars. A fully loaded tractor-trailer may weigh twenty times as much as the typical passenger car. It’s several times longer and taller than a passenger car and may be nearly twice its width. It may have one or more articulated towing joints that make turning — and especially backing — much more difficult. A large truck takes much longer to get up to speed and much longer in both time and distance to slow or stop. Trucks also often have much more complicated operating systems, from multiple manual driving gears and air brakes, to mirrors and cameras for observing other traffic, and specialized lights and reflectors for increasing visibility to other people on the road. Some trucks that are purpose-built for specific functions — cement trucks, garbage trucks, car haulers — will have additional characteristics and operating features that are even more unique. There’s a good reason why federal and state regulations require nearly all drivers of large trucks to have a special commercial driver’s license — there is a great deal they must learn in order to safely operate these vehicles. And all the ways in which a large truck (and operating one) is different from ordinary motor vehicles also describe unique ways in which truck accidents and truck accident lawsuits may be very different.

How The People Involved in Truck Accidents Are Different

A collision between passenger cars and any personal injury claims that result from it often will only involve two people — just the drivers who were involved in the accident if they happen to also be the owners of the vehicles. Or perhaps a few other people may be involved if the owners are someone else or if there were passengers in the cars. Truck accidents, however, will automatically involve multiple parties — sometimes with complicated business, legal, and insurance relationships with one another.

We just described how and why truck drivers are different in the skills needed to operate a large truck, but the people involved in a truck accident include many other folks, as well. Behind that truck driver is the trucking company for whom they work, and which likely owns and maintains the truck or the separate tractor and trailer that were being driven. Or more than one company if the trailer was owned by a different trucking carrier.

If the accident resulted in some degree from a mechanical defect in the truck, then it’s important to realize that many trucks — especially ones with specialized functions — may have multiple companies involved in manufacturing the truck and therefore legally liable for design or manufacturing defects.

In addition to the driver, owner, and manufacturers who may have been responsible for the truck itself, the typical trucking load will also involve the individuals and companies responsible for arranging the shipment, loading, consignment, and brokerage details for the job. All these different parties will have varying legal obligations to one another and varying potential involvement in the legal and liability aspects that must be sorted out for any personal injury claim and truck accident litigation.

How Truck Accident Claims and Truck Accident Litigation Are Handled Differently

Each of the people and companies involved in this tangle — driver, trucking carrier, truck manufacturers, shippers, brokers, cargo owners — may have different insurance companies and, eventually, different legal counsel representing them. An early and thorough investigation of the accident to determine exactly how and why it happened will usually narrow this focus down considerably. That makes the investigation process (sometimes also involving accident reconstruction) a key early step in truck accident cases. This also will identify the insurance coverages that are available and their potential adequacy versus the seriousness of the injuries (or fatalities) that the truck accident may have caused.

Due to the fact that major injuries that are more likely to be caused by massive trucks than smaller vehicles, in combination with the large insurance policies that trucking companies are required to carry, truck accident injury claims are much more likely to turn into truck accident lawsuits and litigation than are claims from passenger car collisions. Experienced personal injury attorneys will understand this fact, and will be prepared with the skills and resources needed to successfully litigate truck accident injury lawsuits.

View this news report video showing how the added vulnerability that trucks have to adverse weather conditions — in this case icy roadway surfaces — can result in accidents with devastating consequences:

Truck Accident Attorneys in California

Hello, my name is Ed Smith, and I’m a California truck accident attorney.  Personal injury law firms who have experience with truck accident litigation and injury claims are familiar with the many, many ways in which truck accidents are different from typical car accidents.  Having the knowledge, skills, and resources to sort through these differences and complexities is the most important service a truck accident attorney can provide for clients.  If you or a family member has suffered a serious injury due to negligence of a truck driver, please contact us today at (916) 921-6400 or toll-free at (800) 404-5400 for free, friendly advice. You can also reach us through our online contact form.

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