Differences Between Trucking Accidents And Car Accidents
While all motor vehicle accidents can be traumatic, trucking accidents with large commercial semi-trucks have the potential to be much more severe. An experienced personal injury lawyer can specifically work with clients to help them understand the differences between trucking accidents and car accidents, and ensure their legal rights remain protected. If you or your family member suffered an injury in a trucking or car accident, consider speaking with a Georgia motor vehicle accident attorney at The Mark Castro Law Firm at 706-940-4002 today for a free consultation.
Size and Weight Differences
One of the most obvious differences between car accidents and trucking accidents is that large commercial trucks are much larger and heavier. While a passenger vehicle usually weighs one or two tons, the Department of Transportation characterizes commercial trucks as vehicles with a gross combination weight or gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more, or if it is designed to transport at least 16 people or used to carry hazardous material.
As a result, commercial semi-trucks tend to be heavier, harder to control, and slower to stop. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, loaded tractor-trailers take 20 to 40% longer to stop than a standard passenger vehicle, especially on wet or slick roads. In 2019, 11% of motor vehicle crash fatalities involved large-truck crashes. However, when the crash involved two vehicles, one passenger vehicle and one large truck, 97% of the fatalities were occupants of the passenger vehicle, making it much more dangerous to be located in the passenger vehicle than the truck.
Another significant difference between trucking accidents and car accidents is that truck drivers are subject to a wide range of regulations that non-commercial drivers are not. While every driver must follow the rules of the road and adhere to other relevant regulations, such as wearing seat belts and refraining from texting while driving, truck drivers that cross state lines are subject to federal regulations.
Most of the federal regulations truck drivers must obey are controlled by the Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Some of these regulations include the following:
Hours of Service
Because truck drivers drive for a living, they often spend long hours behind the wheel. To prevent driver fatigue and highway hypnosis, the FMCSA regulations require property-carrying drivers to be off-duty for ten consecutive hours before driving. These strict regulations also limit truck drivers to driving 11 hours in a 14-hour period after coming off duty. For every eight hours of driving, truck drivers must take a 30-minute break. Failure to adhere to these regulations can result in drowsy driving and catastrophic accidents.
To enforce these hours of service requirements, truck drivers must log their hours, designating when they are driving, off-duty, on-duty but not driving, or using the sleeper berth. Some motor carriers use electronic logging devices, but all drivers must submit supporting documents to verify the record of their hours. An experienced personal injury attorney can ensure that these records are obtained in order to help strengthen your case.
Required Inspection and Maintenance
Motor carriers must regularly and systematically inspect, maintain, and repair their vehicles under Section 396.3 of the FMCSA regulations. All parts and accessories must be in safe operating condition at all times. This also means hefty recordkeeping requirements for the motor carriers. They must identify the vehicle, describe the scope of the inspection, make a note of any inspections, maintenance, or repairs, and describe the tests performed on pushout windows and emergency doors.
These are only a few of many regulations required of drivers of large commercial trucks. These rules are one reason why seeking a personal injury settlement from a truck driver or trucking company can be more complex than from the driver of a standard vehicle. Our experienced Georgia attorneys at The Mark Casto Law Firm understand all the nuances of negotiating with large trucking companies. If the driver or the carrier violated any of these many regulations, we can issue a spoliation letter to preserve evidence and ensure that victims receive justice.
Who Is Liable To Compensate Victims?
Another difference between car accidents and truck accidents is that the determination of liability in trucking accidents is often more complex than the determination of liability in car accidents.
In a personal injury case, a party is “liable” for the injuries of another party if:
- They owed the victim a duty of care
- They breached that duty
- The victim suffered injuries
- The breach directly caused the victim's injuries
In a typical car accident, there are usually only two or three vehicles involved, and liability is often clear-cut. For example, in a rear-end accident, the car in the rear is typically liable for the injuries if they were distracted or speeding, which caused them to crash into the rear of the vehicle in front of them. In this case, the driver is generally the liable party, and the negotiation is relatively straightforward.
Truck Driver Negligence
In a trucking accident, there are often more parties at play. Very often, truck accidents often occur as a result of truck driver negligence. If a truck driver failed to follow the rules of the road or operated a truck under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the victim can seek recourse from the truck driver.
Trucking accidents are also caused as a result of mechanical failures. A truck accident caused by a mechanical failure means that the victim needs to identify whose responsibility it was to identify and resolve the mechanical issue. For example, did the driver on duty neglect to fix it? Was it the motor carrier's responsibility? Was the part defective when it came from the manufacturer? All of these parties could be potentially liable for the victim's damages. An experienced attorney may help you sort out the various parties and make sure you properly name the correct defendants. If you name the incorrect party, you risk losing the ability to recover any damages at all.
When an employee, like a truck driver, is working within the scope of their employment, their employer may be vicariously liable for any injuries the employee causes on the job through a legal construct known as respondeat superior. An attorney may investigate and determine the truck driver's employment status at the time of the accident and identify any additional parties to help maximize your ability to recover compensation for your injuries.
Contact an Experienced Georgia Personal Injury Lawyer
At The Mark Casto Law Firm, we have experience representing accident victims across Georgia. We understand that after suffering serious injuries in a trucking accident, the last thing victims and their families want to do is go to court. We fight on behalf of our clients so they can recover the compensation they are owed under the law after these traumatic and costly accidents. Call our office at 706-940-4002 to speak with an experienced Georgia accident attorney for free, and ensure your legal rights remain protected.