All vehicle accidents can result in serious injury or extensive property damage. However, when these accidents involve 80,000 pound semi-trucks, the injuries and damage are often much worse. Due to the mere nature of semi-trucks and the damage they can inflict, there are many differences between auto accidents involving big-rigs and those involving your everyday commuter.
This article discusses five of the most significant differences between semi-truck and passenger vehicle accidents. From more stringent federal regulations to larger insurance payouts, one important thing to note about semi-truck accidents is that usually require unique legal experience. If you or a loved one has been injured in a semi-truck accident, contact a qualified and experienced attorney to help you navigate this nuanced area of law.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, a commercial truck is defined as a motor vehicle that meets at least one of the following operational requirements:
- Has a gross combination weight of 26,001 or more pounds (including a towed unit with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,001 pounds)
- Has a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 or more pounds
- Is designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver
- Is used to transport hazardous materials (regardless of the size of the vehicle)
As anyone who has seen these trucks on the road, it’s clear that they tower over every passenger vehicle out there. These operational requirements set forth by the federal government ensure that semi-trucks are in a class of their own. Indeed, these trucks take longer to come to a stop, accelerate more slowly, need additional space to maneuver around, and require special handling when backing up. These all can lead to increased risks of an accident.
Of the nearly 500,000 semi-truck accidents in the United States each year, nearly 90% of them are caused by human error and 30% are caused by driver fatigue. When you consider these numbers, it’s obvious to see why there are separate regulating bodies to set different rules and regulations for truck drivers.
All commercial trucks in the country are required to register with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation. The FMCSA sets numerous regulations that commercial trucks must comply with, including more stringent maintenance schedules, special driver’s licenses and qualifications, logbooks, and annual inspections.
Semi-trucks are naturally much larger than passenger cars and most of them travel across interstate boundaries. This means not only that semis can inflict extensive damage when they are involved in an accident, but that insurance companies must charge more to cover their claims. These increased insurance policies can potentially be worth millions of dollars. And with increased policies, comes more aggressive adjusters.
Insurance adjusters investigating semi-truck accidents are notoriously known for being some of the most experienced in the auto industry, and are aggressive in trying to settle claims with victims. They will also go to extensive lengths to ensure any claim is denied. Victims of a semi-truck accident should ensure an experienced attorney in this field property investigates the accident and can handle seasoned insurance adjusters.
The typical passenger car crash investigation involves similar aspects of evidence gathering: written witness statements, photographs of the vehicles involved, police reports, recorded video, etc. While these are important in semi-truck accidents as well, there is much more that is required for a complete and accurate investigation.
As noted above, semi-truck drivers require special licenses. This means that evidence related to the truckers qualifications, training file, hours of operation, driver inspection records, and post-collision drug and alcohol screening results. Moreover, cargo evidence such as weight tickets, dispatch instructions, and delivery documents can all either benefit or hurt a victim’s case.
Require Unique Attorney Experience
Semi-trucks differ from passenger vehicles in a number of ways. From the different operational and regulation requirements, to increased insurance policies and evidence gathering, the mere nature of a semi-truck accident requires specialized knowledge. This is especially true when attempting to determine liability. Because semi-truck accidents require unique attorney experience that cannot be found in traditional auto accident lawyers, it’s important that you find a qualified semi-truck attorney that can help accurately investigate your case and ensure you or your loved ones are fully compensated.