In the aftermath of a serious accident, it’s common to feel anxious and emotionally drained. If your accident involved a commercial vehicle, it can be an especially stressful and confusing time. Even if it’s clear that the driver was at fault, it’s not always clear who is financially responsible for your injuries and damages. That’s because there are some particular circumstances that can make a commercial vehicle accident case pretty complex.
Here’s what you need to know in order to build a strong case and achieve the fair outcome that you deserve from your commercial vehicle accident case.
Commercial Vehicle Accidents Are Different from Other Accidents
A commercial vehicle is defined as any motorized road vehicle used to transport goods or paying passengers — everything from semi trucks and trailers, to pickup trucks and vans, to buses and taxi cabs. If a vehicle is company owned and primarily used for business transport, it’s classified as a commercial vehicle.
Commercial trucks can weigh 80,000 pounds or more, as compared to the average passenger vehicle, which weighs between 3,000 and 4,000 pounds. As a result, individuals in passenger vehicles run a much higher risk of injury — and even fatality — when they’re involved in a collision with a commercial vehicle.
Furthermore, accidents involving commercial vehicles are legally different from passenger vehicle accidents — especially when it comes to determining who is responsible for compensating you for injuries and/or damages caused by the collision. When an accident involves two passenger vehicles, the victim pursues a claim against the at-fault driver. But when a commercial driver is involved, the case can include multiple lines of insurance coverage, which makes things more tricky.
For example, depending on whether or not the driver was currently “on the clock” while driving, you’ll need to pursue a claim against either (1) the driver, (2) the driver’s employer, or (3) the company that owns the vehicle, if that entity is different than the driver’s employer.
Common Factors That May Complicate Commercial Vehicle Cases
Determining what caused the collision — as well as who should be held responsible for the compensation of your injuries or associated damages — can often involve a complex investigation. Because a commercial vehicle accident often involves a driver who is legally insured and regulated by one or more companies, certain contributing factors may further complicate your case, including:
Driver fatigue. The trucking industry is known for its grueling work demands and long hours with very little rest. Whether due to lack of sleep, driving too many hours without rest, or pressure to deliver loads on time, driver fatigue is all too common. It’s also been shown to contribute heavily to accidents. To combat this dangerous practice, federal regulations mandate rest breaks for drivers, who are required to maintain log books of their driving hours. However, some companies still encourage — or even require — their drivers to operate vehicles without rest, in which case the company may be held responsible for your injuries.
Drug and alcohol use. The long hours and pressure to hit delivery deadlines causes some drivers to engage in substance abuse, thus increasing the risk of an accident. If there’s enough evidence that a driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs in your collision, the police will most likely launch a criminal investigation. Unfortunately, this can create a delay in your case, since some evidence may be withheld throughout the investigation. However, an accident lawyer can help manage the complex process of a criminal and civil trial or settlement quickly and efficiently.
Multiple insurance policies. Accidents involving commercial trucks are inherently more complex because they involve multiple insurance policies. Often, the driver will have individual insurance, but may also be covered by their employer. Or the truck and trailer may be owned by two separate corporations, which means they’re insured by separate insurance companies.
When an accident involving a commercial vehicle creates a complicated case, you deserve to clearly understand your rights and receive the fair compensation you are owed. Even if you decide not to pursue legal representation, we can help you evaluate your case at no charge. Contact us today for a free consultation, and we’ll help you decide the best next steps in your case as you work toward your recovery.