If you have ever seen a serious truck accident on a Memphis highway, you may have an idea that commercial truck accidents and passenger vehicle car accidents are very different. A truck accident is typically more severe, potentially causing catastrophic injuries. But truck accidents also differ in many other significant ways for crash victims.
The truck accident injury lawyers at the Law Office of David E. Gordon in Memphis understand that a truck accident is likely to be costlier to you as the victim of the crash. Other factors can make recovering compensation for your losses more difficult. That is why we have developed in-depth knowledge of federal and state regulations that apply to commercial trucking.
Here, we discuss four key differences between truck accidents and car accidents:
It is not unusual for a truck accident to cause catastrophic injuries that require extensive medical treatment or disabilities that result in lifelong care needs. The injuries we most often see in truck accidents are broken bones, head and traumatic brain injuries, back and spinal cord injuries, internal organ damage, burns, crushed and amputated limbs and fatalities.
The injuries are more frequent and more severe in truck accidents due to the force of impact of a large truck, trailer and/or its spilled cargo. Large tractor-trailers can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds – or even more with oversize permits. In collisions, they can easily crush 2,000-pound cars or 4,000-pound SUVs and their occupants – especially in crashes that occur at highway speed.
Tractor-trailers that jackknife or tanker trucks that roll over can become uncontrollable. They may hit multiple vehicles. Because trucks have greater ground clearance than cars, passenger vehicles can slide beneath trailers, resulting in deadly consequences as their tops are sheared off. Rear underride guards are supposed to stop this from happening, but the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says that underride guards which meet federal safety standards can fail even in relatively low-speed crashes.
According to the latest federal statistics, more than 4,200 large trucks were involved in fatal crashes in 2016, a 3 percent increase from the year before. An estimated 119,000 truck crashes resulted in some type of personal injury in 2016.
After a car crash, you may have to deal with the other driver, the driver’s insurance company and your own. But many commercial trucks are put on the road by large corporations. After a truck accident, you may need to deal with the truck driver and their employer and the truck owner – each of whom may be different and have a big investment at stake.
The trucker may be an employee of the trucking company, or “motor carrier.” Then, an injured party’s claim would be against the truck driver and the trucking company. The plus side of this is that the motor carrier should be insured (the minimum liability coverage is much more than for a passenger vehicle). The negative is that a trucking company and its insurers will be quick to put their legal teams to work to contain the value of a claim – regardless of its merit.
In other cases, the trucker is independent, or the trucking company may falsely claim that the driver is a contractor. The goal is to wash its hands of responsibility for the crash. Maybe the independent driver is properly insured, but it is just as likely he or she is not. The driver is also likely to lease the truck.
In some crashes, we find that the cause lies in how the cargo was loaded or what the cargo contained. Sometimes, the truck or one of its components breaks down and causes the crash. This can lead to additional parties who may be partly or totally liable for a crash such as cargo owners, contracted shippers or loaders or vehicle or parts manufacturers.
No one is going to step up and say, “It’s my fault.” You will need an experienced law firm working for you to determine who is responsible and to hold them accountable.
Interstate trucking is highly regulated by state and federal agencies. Rules of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Federal Highway Administration carry the weight of law and cover every aspect of large trucks, cargo, truckers and trucking companies that are engaged in interstate commerce. In Tennessee, the Department of Transportation (TDOT) and Department of Safety and Homeland Security similarly regulate trucking within the state, or intrastate trucking.
Many truck accidents, when properly investigated, are traced back to a willful violation of a state or federal regulation. For example, the FMCSA’s hours of service (HOS) regulations say how often and for how long a driver must rest between driving shifts. They also require a trucker to log all activities. Yet, the FMCSA says that fatigued driving is a common cause of truck accidents, for which the driver and the trucking company that employs him or her may be held accountable.
The factors above make investigating a truck accident different. On the one hand, because of regulations that require documentation of trucker activity, truck movement, truck maintenance, cargo and truck weights, there is plentiful evidence to examine after a crash. On the other hand, it is more difficult to obtain the various pieces of evidence — any of which might be crucial to a claim — from multiple parties who don’t necessarily want it revealed.
This makes it important to move quickly after a serious truck accident and to begin an investigation right away. A lawyer hired by an accident victim can obtain court orders to ensure that the evidence is maintained and turned over in a timely manner. This would include obtaining access to the crashed truck’s “black box” event data recorder and/or in-cab recorder, which can yield reams of important information, before it and/or other evidence is destroyed or lost.
Trucking companies, their insurers and their lawyers are known to swiftly close ranks after serious truck accidents. They have a lot to protect. You need someone to protect you and your rights, too.
If you have suffered an injury requiring hospitalization in a truck accident in the Memphis, TN, area, contact the Law Office of David E. Gordon as soon as possible. We will promptly investigate your accident and secure evidence necessary for you to file a claim. We will also help you to pursue the compensation that you deserve for injuries and other losses you have suffered.