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How Truck Accident Cases Are Different from Car Accident Cases

by Kevin T. Hadden

posted on

Overturn truck on highway accident.

People in Virginia who get involved in an accident involving a tractor-trailer may recognize that truck accidents and car accidents are quite different. Truck accidents often cause much worse injuries than car accidents. They are different in many other significant ways as well.

The Richmond truck accident lawyers at Marks & Harrison understand that truck accident personal injury claims require a different approach. For instance, they require prompt investigation of multiple parties, any of which may bear some responsibility for the accident. They also require knowledge of federal and state trucking regulations and trucking industry trends, which may shed light on why and how the crash occurred.

These factors can make it more difficult to recover compensation that you are due after being injured in a truck accident. That is why you need experienced attorneys on your side who have successfully fought commercial trucking companies for decades in Virginia.

Truck Accidents Happen Differently from Car Accidents

It is primarily the size and weight of tractor-trailers and other large commercial trucks that makes the difference when these vehicles get involved in crashes. A transfer truck can weigh up to 80,000 pounds and often weighs more – thanks to easily obtained permits for overweight trucks. The weight makes it likely a truck will severely damage a 2,000-pound car or 4,000-pound SUV in a collision. The impact increases exponentially as highway speed increases.

The height of a commercial truck also contributes to injury and damage. For instance, it can play a role in accidents such as:

  • Rollovers – Because large trucks have a high center of gravity, they have a greater risk of rolling over, particularly in curves or on highway entrance and exit ramps. Even high winds make it harder to control a large truck. In extreme weather, the wind can cause a truck to tip and roll over. The sudden movement of a cargo shift in a tractor-trailer can also cause a rollover. If a truck rolls over in traffic, it can hit other vehicles, or it can cause vehicles to crash and/or pile up.
  • Underrides – The height of commercial trucks allows passenger vehicles to slide under their trailers in collisions. At high speed, an underride may sheer off the passenger area of a car, leaving occupants exposed to potentially deadly injuries. The potential for underride is high in rear-end collisions, sideswipes and T-bone/side-impact collisions. For years, federal regulations have required rear underride guards, which are metal bumpers that hang from the backs of trailers to prevent underride in a rear-end accident.

Another common type of truck accident is a jackknife accident. A tractor-trailer “jackknifes” when the cab and trailer slide toward each other like a folding pocket knife. Truck drivers can jackknife their vehicles when tires lose traction. A jackknife accident may be caused by braking suddenly, by driving too fast in a sharp turn or by rain or snow. A cargo shift that throws the entire rig off balance can also cause this type of accident.

Each of these accidents can lead to severe injuries. The latest federal statistics show that 4,213 large trucks were involved in fatal crashes in 2016, marking a 3 percent increase from 4,074 in 2015. An estimated 119,000 truck accidents in 2016 caused some type of personal injury.

More People and Companies Are Involved in Truck Accidents

Most car accidents involve two drivers. But a truck accident involves the two drivers and often a trucking company, which owns the truck and employs the driver, and potentially several other parties which may be responsible for the truck’s cargo or maintenance.

Trucking companies are responsible for their employees and for the trucks on the road which they own. They can be held accountable when their truck drivers or the condition of their trucks contribute to a crash.

Motor carriers often hire third-party service vendors to maintain their fleets, to load and secure cargo and to dispatch and route trucks. These third-party vendors can be held liable for an accident along with the motor carrier if their negligence contributed to the crash.

Because of the multiple parties involved in a truck accident, it is easy for one to blame the other and claim no responsibility. For example, motor carriers often claim their truckers are independent contractors and not employees in an attempt to shirk responsibility for a driver who was fatigued, texting while driving or otherwise negligent.

This is why a thorough independent investigation of a truck accident is necessary. At Marks & Harrison, we want to determine how and why the accident happened and who is responsible. Then, we can seek compensation from one or more parties who should be held accountable for the injuries you have suffered.

Trucking industry regulations require documentation of trucker activity, truck movement, truck maintenance, cargo and truck weight and more, and this information may provide evidence that identifies responsibility for a crash. For example, we would want to obtain access to the crashed truck’s “black box” event data recorder, which is required in all commercial trucks, and/or the in-cab recorder some trucks have.

Contact Our Richmond Truck Accident Attorneys Today

If you have suffered serious injuries or lost a loved one in a collision with a large commercial truck, it is important to start an independent investigation of the accident as soon as possible. Please contact Marks & Harrison without delay so we can begin to help you.

We can meet for a free initial consultation at our Richmond office, one of our nine other offices located throughout Virginia or at another location that is convenient for you.

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