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Commercial Truck Accidents: Who’s at Fault?

According to the American Trucking Association, there are over 3.6 million professional truck drivers living and working in the United States and over 3.9 million trucks in operation. While the work they do is integral to our economy and helps keep our lives moving at a steady pace, there is an inherent risk taken when driving such large vehicles. Since they are on the highway so frequently, commercial trucks are involved in a significant number of accidents each year. Anyone who has been involved in an accident with a commercial truck may be wondering what their rights are. Thankfully, there has been a precedent set as to what compensation you may be entitled to depending on your specific situation.

Commercial Truck Accident Statistics

Many of us see large trucks riding alongside us on the highway and think nothing of it. However, it might be surprising to know just how frequently these vehicles are involved in accidents on the road. In 2019, commercial trucks were involved in 10% of all fatal car accidents nationally. Over 118,000 commercial trucks were associated with accidents resulting in injuries that same year.

These statistics have only been rising in recent years, and this is due to many factors like overworked drivers, companies failing to properly maintain their vehicles, trucks overloaded with cargo, etc. If you have been involved in an accident with a commercial truck, it is important to learn all the information you can about the truck, driver, and company involved, as this information could help prove their liability in a court of law.

Proving Liability in a Commercial Truck Accident

Because commercial trucks are much larger than the average passenger vehicle, they require certain certifications to drive them as well as a higher level of maintenance. If the company allows a truck to be taken on the road without meeting these requirements, they will be held liable for any accident that occurs because of their negligence. Here are some examples of requirements that must be met for a commercial truck to be road safe:

  • Proper certifications: Anyone looking to become a truck driver must receive a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License), of which there are three classes; A, B, and C. Class A CDLs are required to operate any combination of vehicles weighing more than 26,000 pounds, such as tractor-trailers or livestock carries. Class B CDLs are required to drive vehicles that are not hitched to a trailer but still weigh over 26,000 pounds, such as school buses. Finally, Class C CDLs are required for any vehicle intended to transport over 16 passengers (including the driver) or transport hazardous materials, such as oil.
  • Maintenance and Supervision: It is the responsibility of the company that owns the commercial truck to ensure that it is always in safe working order. It is also the responsibility of the company to ensure that it has properly trained its drivers, which can often be indicated via company records.
  • Identification: Commercial vehicles must be marked in a manner that makes it easy to identify which company is operating the vehicle. Specific requirements include the legal name of the company as well as the motor carrier identification number, which is issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. These markings must be in a highly visible place and contrast the color of the truck so they are easily seen.

While these responsibilities fall on the company who owns the truck to take care of, there are other aspects of commercial truck driving that fall on other parties, and the liability may fall on them in the case of an accident that results in death or an injury. For example, some accidents involving commercial trucks take place due to faulty parts on behalf of the truck manufacturer, such as brakes failing, tires blowing out, or steering issues. While these issues could be due to a lack of maintenance, if it can be proven that the part was faulty from the beginning, a product liability claim could hold the manufacturer liable for the accident. If an accident involving a commercial truck happens because of issues with the road, such as broken pavement or large potholes causing rollovers, the government could be held liable.

What to Do in the Event of a Commercial Truck Accident

Being involved in a car accident is a scary and jarring experience when the accident involves average-sized cars, but when the accident involves a large commercial truck, it can be terrifying enough to make you miss important information you may need later. Here are some tips on what to do in the immediate aftermath of an accident involving a commercial vehicle:

  • Call the police and file a police report
  • Provide the basic details of the accident (what happened and how)
  • Do not admit fault at the scene of the accident
  • Seek medical care right away
  • Document as much information about the truck as you are able to (motor carrier identification number, license plate, company listed on the truck, etc.)
  • File an insurance claim as soon as you are able
  • Do not provide any formal statements (whether written or recorded) before consulting a lawyer

You might feel frazzled in the aftermath of an accident involving a large truck, and reasonably so, but if you are well enough to document as much as possible in your police report and your own notes, it could make a big difference in the outcome of your case.

Contact an Attorney Today

Successfully litigating a commercial truck accident case requires expertise and compassion. At the Belushin Law Firm, P.C., we pride ourselves on providing top-notch legal advisement to clients involved in these sorts of situations. With over a decade of experience working on personal injury lawsuits, we would be honored to have the opportunity to hear your case. Contact us today at (888) 918-9890 or via our contact page.