What is Truck Accident Law?
Every year in America, between 3,000 and 4,000 people die in collisions with large trucks (such as big rigs or construction vehicles). Hundreds of thousands more are injured and/or suffer property damage in truck accidents.
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:
- The 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. Let's focus on the personal injury side. 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:
- Defendant owed the plaintiff the duty to exercise a reasonable degree of care to avoid injury, under the circumstances;
- Defendant failed to exercise such reasonable care; and
- Defendant's failure to exercise reasonable care was the cause of the plaintiff's injury.
If you are involved in a truck accident where the truck driver was at fault, you may be entitled to damages -- financial compensation for physical, emotional, and/or 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 as many potential defendants as possible. Depending on the circumstances, trucking companies, contractors, employers, and/or insurance companies may be found liable for your injuries.
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.