What is Truck Accident Law?
Every year in America, thousands of people die in collisions with large trucks or tractor-trailers. In 2019, 4,119 people died in large truck crashes. Most of the victims were occupants of cars or other passenger vehicles. More than 100,000 others are injured in large truck accidents each year.
A fully loaded commercial truck can weigh more than 30 times more than a typical car. With such a large weight disparity, most truck accidents result in damage much worse than between two passenger vehicles.
Terms to Know: Federal Laws and Regulations
States tend to have their own transportation authorities to regulate transportation, but federal agencies play a large role in overseeing this area of commerce. When trying to understand this area of law, it's valuable to know the rules of the road that affect trucks in the event of an accident. Here are a few of the federal regulatory bodies involved with highway safety:
- U.S. Department of Transportation regulates driver fatigue and other issues via the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
- Highway transportation is regulated by the Federal Highway Administration
- Significant highway accidents are investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board
Litigating a Truck Accident Case
Multiple legal issues can arise after a truck accident, triggering practice areas like workers' compensation, criminal law, personal injury, or employment law. For truck injury accidents, just like in passenger vehicle accident cases, negligence is the main legal theory of liability. That means someone injured in a commercial truck accident must show that:
- The defendant owed the plaintiff the duty to exercise a reasonable degree of care to avoid injury, under the circumstances;
- The defendant failed to exercise such reasonable care;
- The defendant's breach of the duty of care caused the plaintiff's injury; and
- The plaintiff suffered harm as a result.
If you are involved in a truck accident where the truck driver was at fault, you may be entitled to damages. Damages include financial compensation for physical, emotional, and financial losses resulting from the accident. Your recovery in a truck accident case can include payment for income lost through missed work, plus compensation for any loss of earning capacity resulting from the accident.
Potential Truck Accident Defendants
To collect for injuries suffered in a truck accident, an attorney will try to identify all possible defendants. Depending on the circumstances, a truck accident lawsuit may include a claim against trucking companies, contractors, employers, vehicle manufacturers, and insurance companies.
If the truck driver is an employee of a trucking or shipping company, that company may be held legally liable for the driver's negligence. If a truck driver is an independent contractor of a larger company, things tend to get murky. The issue often comes down to the amount of supervising done by the company. The potential liability of trucking companies, employers, and contractors is an important assessment for an attorney to make.
If you or a loved one is involved in a truck accident, you will need an attorney to protect your rights. Of course, your first priority should be to receive proper medical care for any injuries. Your next step should be to consult an experienced truck accident lawyer.
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