Our law firm works with a number of truck accident victims and their families. Often, when they first walk into our office, they are under the impression that a truck accident claim proceeds much like any other auto accident claim. But that isn’t necessarily true.
While truck accident claims are governed by the same general principles as conventional car accident claims, there are some practical considerations that can have a significant bearing on the way these claims unfold.
As we will see, there are also state and federal laws that might apply in a truck accident case but not in ordinary car accident claims.
In fact, there are a great many differences between car and truck accidents. This article considers six of the most important differences. Keep these differences in mind as you choose a truck accident lawyer and decide which steps to take next.
1. Truck Accidents Tend to Involve Greater Damages
Smaller vehicles are no match for the force and size of a tractor-trailer. When fully loaded, an 18-wheeler can weigh up to 80,000 pounds (or more if the truck is overloaded unlawfully).
The injuries in truck accidents tend to be extremely serious. It is not uncommon for victims to require extensive, long-term, or ongoing medical care. Some truck accidents are fatal.
The monetary value of the victim’s damages is often substantial. Accordingly, the stakes in a truck accident claim can be especially high. That means the insurance companies on the other side (and any other corporate defendants) are going to be extremely eager to defend themselves against the claim.
Insurance companies make profits by holding onto their money and investing it. Even in conventional car accident claims, insurers will often fight very hard to reduce or deny an injury claim. As you can imagine, they tend to be especially aggressive in the face of staggering damage claims.
Trucking companies and their insurance carriers have a great deal of resources. With whole legal teams and virtually endless financial pools at their disposal, they can easily mount a legal defense that will be very hard for a lone individual to overcome.
So while it is almost always a good idea for any auto accident victim to talk to a lawyer, if your accident involved a large truck or commercial vehicle, it is especially critical that you consult with an experienced attorney before talking to the insurance companies or considering their settlement offer.
2. Truck Accidents Tend to Involve Multiple Parties
One of the most important differences between car and truck accidents is the number of parties that might be involved.
In a conventional car accident case, the injured party pursues a claim against the at-fault driver, and that claim will usually involve the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
But truck accidents can quickly become more complicated than that. Your claim may be against not only the truck driver but also his or her employer. If the company that owns and operates the truck is different than the driver’s employer, you may have a claim against that company as well.
Other parties may include:
- The truck’s manufacturer
- The drivers of other vehicles involved in the accident
- Governmental entities
- Any third parties whose negligence might have contributed to the accident
Each of these parties is likely to carry liability insurance, which means each of those insurance companies will get involved as well.
It is not uncommon for one person to have claims against multiple parties arising out of the same truck accident.
Making matters more complicated, each of those other parties may then assert counterclaims or crossclaims against one another.
An experienced Manhattan & White Plains personal injury lawyer can help you navigate these complex situations.
3. Certain State & Federal Laws Apply Specifically to the Trucking Industry
In addition to the general rules and principles of New York personal injury law, truck accident claims in our state may also involve various statutes, regulations, and court precedents that pertain specifically to large commercial vehicles.
One notable example is found in the federal Hours of Service regulations, which require truck drivers to take regular breaks in order to get enough rest and sleep. The federal government enacted these rules after a growing body of evidence showed that employers were pressuring truckers to comply with nearly impossible deliveries and deadlines, resulting in deadly crashes. Drowsy driving can be just as dangerous as drunk driving, and when a sleepy driver is behind the wheel of an 80,000-pound truck, the consequences can be catastrophic.
Many other rules and regulations (at both the state and federal level) apply to the operation of commercial trucks in New York. These rules may extend to everything from the loading and storage of cargo on a truck to the way the vehicle is manufactured and maintained.
Truck carriers also have certain duties they must meet when hiring and training drivers, among various other rules and requirements.
It’s important that your Manhattan & White Plains personal injury lawyer understands these laws and how they might apply in your case.
4. Large Trucks Are Vulnerable to Unique Types of Collision
When we talk about auto accidents involving ordinary passenger cars and trucks, SUVs, or sedans, we are usually talking about one of several types of accidents: head-on collisions, rear-end collisions, sideswipe or T-bone collisions, parking lot accidents, vehicle rollovers, blind spot accidents, tire blowouts, and so on.
While those types of accidents can all happen with semi-trailers too, large commercial trucks are also at risk for various other types of accidents — accidents that usually only happen when large trucks are involved.
- Runaway truck accidents
- Jack-knife accidents
- Overloaded cargo accidents
- Lost load accidents
- Toxic, dangerous, or illegal cargo accidents
- Underride accidents
- Override accidents
- Swinging turn crashes
The right Manhattan & White Plains personal injury lawyer will understand how these unique trucking accidents happen and how the responsible parties could have prevented them.
5. Truck Accident Claims May Involve Different Types of Evidence
Another of the major differences between car and truck accidents is the nature of the legal issues that might be involved, as well as the evidence that might be required in light of those issues.
Gathering evidence and investigating the accident are important parts of a personal injury lawyer’s job.
Some types of evidence are common across virtually all types of auto accidents: police reports, photographs, medical records, testimony from witnesses from the scene of the accident, video surveillance, and so on.
Truck accidents may be more likely to involve unique or more complex forms of evidence, which may include:
- Expert medical witnesses
- Expert accident reconstruction evidence
- “Black box” data from within the truck (similar to the “black box” in an airplane — available on some trucks)
- Driver logs
- Employment records
- Toxicology results
While every accident is different, it is often important to present a strong evidentiary case in support of your claim. An experienced Manhattan & White Plains personal injury lawyer can help.
6. The Importance of Legal Experience
When considering your options for legal representation, it is important to ask about your prospective lawyer’s experience in handling truck accident claims specifically.
As we have seen, there are many important differences between car and truck accidents. It may be in your best interest to hire a law firm with direct, extensive, and specific experience in handling New York truck accident claims.
Schedule a Free and Confidential Consultation with our Manhattan & White Plains Truck Accident Lawyers
Lever & Ecker, PLLC is a New York personal injury firm with years of experience in helping truck accident victims and their families claim the financial justice they deserve.
We will not charge a fee for our services unless and until we get you money. Your initial consultation is free and confidential, with no obligations whatsoever.
Time limits do apply to New York truck accident claims, so please don’t delay. To get started, call 914-288-9191 (in White Plains) or 212-766-5204 (in Manhattan) or simply contact us online.