In the year 2011, the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles summary of large truck accidents revealed that a total of 11,648 accidents took place on New York roads involving large semi-trucks. 96 people were killed in an accident involving a semi-truck and another 5,505 suffered non-fatal injuries. The sheer size and weight of semi-trucks makes them a dangerous rival in collisions, often times leaving the passengers of the smaller car with much worse injuries than the driver of the truck. Semi-truck accident claims are more complex than car accident claims because there could be a number of culpable parties involved. The differences are not necessarily because of the size of the vehicles involved or because of the severity of most injuries. Truck accident claims are governed by a different set of legal theories and often require extensive investigation. One claim investigation after a truck accident will typically investigate several parties that could possibly have contributed to the accident.
The first part of the claim focuses on the driver. This step investigates the negligence of the driver as in a normal car accident. Truck drivers can succumb to the same distractions and mistakes as conventional drivers but those mistakes can lead to much more serious consequences. Therefore, in some circumstances, truck drivers may be held to a higher standard of care because of the power and size of the vehicle they drive. Furthermore, truck drivers carry commercial driver’s licenses that legally hold them to a different, more stringent set of rules and regulations. Violations of these regulations or simple negligence in driving can be a cause for finding fault and claiming compensation from the driver themselves.
Beyond the part of the individual truck driver, the employer of the driver is also liable for any damage caused by their trucks or their employees. If their driver is negligent or violates the rules and regulations of truck driving, the employer is responsible for his or her actions as a representative of their company. However, some drivers work privately or as contractors. In these cases, there would be no employer liability since there is no employer to begin with.
Truck accidents are sometimes caused outside of the driver’s control but this does not necessarily mean that no one is at fault. Many truck accidents occur because of improperly loaded materials or overloading the truck altogether. Because the weight of the load has a large role in the maneuverability of the truck, it is essential that the loading be properly done. Furthermore, regulations for loaded material are in place in order to avoid falling objects and debris. When a violation of those regulations leads to an injury accident, the drivers and material manufacturers will be held responsible for their failures in doing their job properly.
Lastly, trucks find their beginning in manufacturing like any other vehicle. If there was a defect in the build or operation of the truck that lead to the accident, the maker of the truck can be held responsible for their part in the accident. The investigation into this step would resemble a claim of product liability where the manufacturer of the product is expected to exercise care to eliminate unreasonable risk of danger in their products. Trucks are automobiles in the sense that they are designed and manufactured with the same process as other vehicles. Therefore, the manufacturer can be subject to an auto product liability claim if their product, the truck, falls below the standard of a reasonably safe product and causes injury from an accident. Defective truck products include runaway tires, fallen parts and dropped trailers.
Because accident claims involving large trucks are so multifaceted, an early investigation in key. Insurance companies will begin investigations into how they can lower the payout amount immediately, which means that the victim must act quickly as well. There are several factors and parties that could have contributed to your accident. The earlier you act, the more time your legal team has to investigate your situation and determine the culprits. If there is indeed more than one person at fault for the accident, you may end up with a larger settlement than before. This alone should be incentive enough to act quickly in seeking legal counsel.