Have you ever been driving next to a semi-truck and felt uneasy or afraid due to the sheer size of the truck? We’re so acquainted with seeing tractor trailers on the road that it can be easy to forget just how much bigger they are than our own vehicles.
Semi-trucks can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. The average passenger vehicle only weighs a few thousand pounds. Even most SUVs weigh only around 5,000 pounds. This is nothing compared to a commercial truck.
It’s no surprise, then, that accidents involving trucks usually cause much more damage than those involving passenger vehicles. This means that truck accidents tend to be more complex than car accidents in every way, including:
- The magnitude of injuries
- The instances of fatality
- The severity of damages
- The number of parties involved in the case
- The number of insurance companies representing these parties
- The federal and state regulations that may apply
For anyone who has been involved in a truck accident, the best advice we can offer is that you find an experienced truck accident attorney to represent you as soon as possible. These cases are simply too complex and too risky to manage it yourself.
Below we take a look at why truck accidents are so complex compared to car accident claims. But first, if you have been involved in a serious truck accident, please don’t hesitate to reach out to schedule a free case review with our truck accident attorneys at (614) 362-7000 today.
Magnitude of Injuries
There’s no doubt that passenger vehicles are safer than ever. Consider the following:
- In 1970, over 25 in every 100,000 people died in car accidents (National Safety Council).
- In 2018, that number is just 11 in every 100,000 (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety).
However, keep in mind that when passenger vehicles are designed and tested for safety, the idea is to keep them safe from one another. What’s not taken into account is how well passenger vehicles stand up against 18-wheelers. The reason is simple: if the safety of passenger vehicles was determined by how well they tested against commercial trucks, they would all fail.
Ultimately, this means that drivers and passengers in cars, SUVs, and pickup trucks are at a much greater risk of being seriously injured when in accidents with semi-trucks. Hence, all of the injuries we see in car accidents – broken bones, traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, and a host of other serious injuries – are often magnified in truck accident cases.
This directly impacts the complexity of a case because it determines how much money is involved. If your injuries aren’t very serious, the medical attention you need will likely be low; on the other hand, with serious injuries, medical treatment is expensive and often involves years of painful recovery.
Because of how serious these accidents tend to be, the stakes are very high. As a result, truck accident victims need to be vigilant to make sure they receive the compensation they need to get their lives back.
Higher Instances of Fatality
Since it’s clear that injuries are more serious in truck accidents, it follows that fatalities are more common as well. While truck accidents are much less common than car accidents, 11% of all motor vehicle fatalities (4,136) in 2018 occurred in truck accidents.
Unfortunately, the fatality in these cases is usually the driver or passenger of the other vehicle. Passenger vehicle occupants accounted for 67% of truck accident fatalities in 2018, whereas truck driver fatalities only occurred 16% of the time.
This is why there are so many laws and regulations governing the maintenance of trucks and how truckers manage their operational hours. More often than not, their negligence poses more of a danger to those around them than to the truck drivers themselves.
Significantly Higher Damages
While car accidents can be expensive cases in their own right, we usually see the highest damages with truck accidents (for example: an $18,250,000 settlement we reached for a client after their trucking collision). This is not only because of the economic costs associated with the accident – medical bills, property damage, ongoing therapy, etc. – but also because of the compensation associated with pain and suffering.
Pain and suffering damages may be awarded in cases where the accident victims suffered emotional trauma as a result of the accident. These are considered non-economic or “general” damages because they account for costs that are difficult to quantify as simple monetary values.
That said, there is usually a correlation between how much someone receives in economic compensation and how much he or she is awarded for pain and suffering and other non-economic damages.
How much you may be entitled to receive in pain and suffering damages is not a hard science. Instead, it requires an understanding of how insurance companies calculate these damages, how much other victims have received in similar cases in the past, and the unique elements of your case.
Multiple Parties At Fault
Whether they were drinking and driving, not paying attention to the road, or driving recklessly, accidents are usually caused by a driver who is negligent.
With truck accidents, on the other hand, we often see multiple other individuals, companies, and other parties held responsible for truck accidents.
There are a few common reasons:
The truck driver was overworked
In the United States, there are rules around how long truck drivers are allowed to be on the road in one stretch, how often they have to take breaks, and how long their rests need to be in between shifts. However, there have been several cases where trucking companies have forced truck drivers to break these rules, leading to greater drowsiness on the road and increasing the chance of accidents.
When this happens, the employer can be held liable for overworking the driver. By creating an unsafe condition through negligence, the trucking company may be ordered to pay compensation to the accident victim or victims.
The truck was not properly maintained
Responsibility for truck maintenance (and liability if something goes wrong) is complicated. Trucking companies may be liable, or an individual owner/operator, or third parties who may own the tractor, the trailer, or both.
Regardless of responsibility, maintaining the cab and the trailer is of crucial importance. After all, because trucks are such heavy, dangerous vehicles, if a truck isn’t properly checked for safety and maintained, the consequences could be serious.
When accidents do happen because of inadequate maintenance, even a particularly skilled truck driver may be unable to avoid an accident. In these events, our lawyers investigate both the driver’s records and maintenance logs on the truck to determine who could be held liable for failure to service the rig.
A defective part was not recalled or replaced
Truck parts manufacturers might also be held liable for a truck accident if they neglected their duties. If, for example, they knew there was a problem with a part on certain trucks but they didn’t want to pay for a recall, it could be shown that the manufacturer’s actions directly led to an accident and the subsequent injuries.
Clearly, untangling a truck accident can be extremely complicated. And we haven’t even talked about the other parties involved that pose a threat to your claim: insurance companies.
Multiple Insurance Companies Involved
Insurance companies are not your friend. They’re very good at seeming to be so, but they are motivated by one principal thing: profit. After all, insurance is big business, and every employee is expected to go to great lengths to prevent their employer from having to pay any more compensation than necessary after an accident.
As a result, insurance companies have teams of claims adjusters and corporate attorneys who have likely already opened an investigation into your case and are trying to poke holes in your claim. With truck accidents, this is especially difficult because there’s a chance you’ll be dealing with multiple insurance companies, including those of the driver, the trucking company, and possibly a manufacturer.
For someone unfamiliar with truck accident cases, this can be extremely overwhelming. It is very difficult not to make any mistakes that could jeopardize your claim.
Federal & State Regulations
As discussed above, there are a number of rules and regulations surrounding truck drivers and trucking companies. Some of these are implemented at the federal level, while others are enforced at the state level.
In order to achieve a favorable outcome in your claim, the attorney you choose must understand the myriad rules and laws surrounding truck accidents and how they are handled. Part of why this is so important is because your lawyer will have the experience to advise you when a settlement may be in your best interest and when going to court could be a better option.
If you don’t understand the law well, it will be much easier for insurance companies to make you believe you have to settle for an amount lower than you deserve. On the other hand, by hiring the right attorney, you will have somebody in your corner who knows if insurance companies are trying to take advantage of you and when to stand your ground.
Contact Our Attorneys for Help with Complex Trucking Claims
Standing your ground might sound like a good plan of action, but again, it all depends on the specifics of your situation. Ultimately, the only way to gain a clearer understanding of your rights – and to ensure those rights are protected – is to hire an attorney who can level the playing field and prioritize your interest.
At Colombo Law, we’re highly experienced Ohio truck accident attorneys with a strong track record of success. We would be honored to serve as your advocate in this challenging time.
To schedule a free case review in or around Columbus, Ohio, don’t hesitate to call us at (614) 362-7000 today. We never charge our clients unless and until we prevail in their claims.