Commercial vehicles, especially commercial trucks, are subject to federal trucking safety laws as well as Colorado-specific regulations. Any vehicle used in commerce with a gross weight over 16,000 pounds falls under these regulations, which define the type of driver’s license (CDL), the weight, dimension and equipment (such as mud flaps or chains) of trucks, the logs kept, maintenance standards, hours of service, etc.

Commercial vehicles may be semi-trucks, 18-wheelers, big rigs, tank trucks, flatbed trucks, dump trucks, and more. Accidents involving these kinds of vehicles are, unfortunately, frequent. In fact, statistics show that semi-truck accidents have increased by 52% in the last decade [1], possibly due to the lockdowns leading to an increase in commercial goods being transported from one area to another. These accidents now account for more than 4.000 deaths yearly and over 100.000 severe injuries, including broken bones, internal organ damage, neck and spinal cord injuries, burns, and more [2].

Disturbingly, the vast majority of the fatalities in an accident between a car and a commercial truck are the occupants of the car—which is hardly surprising, as it is difficult to imagine a 2-3 tones passenger car surviving intact a crash with a 40-ton massive vehicle.

Although the car driver may be liable for the accident, the most usual causes for truck accidents are linked to the truck, including factors such as unsuitable maintenance, poor load packing, excessive load, distracted driving, and failure to follow traffic laws.

What to Do If You Are Involved in a Commercial Truck Accident

If you are involved in a commercial truck accident, it is probable that you have suffered extensive injuries, traumatic shock, and the destruction of your car. Your damages may involve important medical bills, loss of income, and repair costs. If a long recovery time is necessary, long-term medical expenses may accumulate as well.

The best thing to do under such circumstances is to hire a truck accident lawyer who will prepare a robust claim and estimate the compensation you should receive based on the details of your accident and damages. This will let you focus on recovering from injuries and stress while your attorney takes care of the rest. Ross Ziev and the legal team at Help in Colorado have experience with these kinds of accidents. Crucially, you will not have to pay us anything out of your pocket until we have won your case.

Most of all, an experienced truck accident attorney will assist you in the complex regulatory framework of commercial trucks and with the crucial task of determining the liable party. There are multiple actors involved on the side of the truck driver, including the truck driver, truck company, carrier company, those responsible for truck maintenance, and even the manufacturer of truck parts. Investigating the exact circumstances of the accident and attributing liability requires a skilled lawyer who knows where to look for the real source of your injuries and how to ensure you receive the maximum compensation you deserve.

As a plaintiff, you may demand compensation for a large amount, since trucks usually have large insurance coverage that can reach 1 million dollars. However, any insurance company will use its best legal resources to avoid paying you such a large sum. Getting robust legal assistance yourself is, therefore, critical to receiving the compensation you deserve.

Determining Liability in Commercial Truck Vs Car Collision

Because of the many parties that are potentially involved in a truck accident, determining liability can be challenging and may require a thorough investigation.

The Truck Driver

Some of the most usual causes of truck accidents involve the driver. While driving under the influence is common in car accidents, it is rather rare with professional drivers. More often, truck driver liability includes distracted driving, driver fatigue, aggressive speeding, and poor health conditions.

Driver fatigue is the main cause of semi-truck accidents. Drivers sometimes fail to abide by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) rules that regulate driving, break, and rest hours. Distracted driving can happen after long hours on the road or when drivers consider the driving conditions easy and let their guard down.

The Trucking Company

Trucking companies are often considered partly liable for truck accidents because, according to the law, they are responsible for selecting qualified drivers, monitoring drivers’ performance and health, caring for truck maintenance, and properly loading trucks.

As a result, the company may be liable if the driver is not certified or has no proper truck driving license for the vehicle they drive, if they have a substance abuse problem, or if they have not had regular physical and driving tests.

Furthermore, if the driver is pushed to disobey the hours-of-service limits or if a maintenance failure—such as defective brakes, tires in bad condition, steering wheel issues, etc.—causes an accident, the company may be found liable.

Finally, if the trucking company is also the cargo loader, it can be held liable if poor loading caused the truck to tip or impaired its ability to stop in time.

The Cargo Loader

Commercial cargo law requires loading to follow specific standards regarding weight limits, load balance, etc.  The loading company is liable if these standards are not respected and an accident occurs due to cargo-loading issues such as uneven loading, poor load attaches, or overloading.

The cargo loader can be the truck company, the shipper, or an independent cargo loading company.

Those Responsible for Truck Maintenance

The mechanic, the maintenance company, and even the manufacturer or the vehicle parts maker can be held liable if a mechanical malfunction caused an accident that could have been avoided with proper maintenance or if the truck’s parts were not defective.

When a vehicle or parts have been recalled by the manufacturer, the plaintiff may also have a case against the distributor or retailer of the vehicle or vehicle parts if they failed to observe the recall.

Building a Robust Compensation Claim in Case You Are Involved in a Truck Accident

Investigating a truck vs. car accident often requires gathering evidence that may be difficult to collect, as it must be obtained from a number of parties possibly involved in the case. Such evidence includes witnesses, evidence regarding the details of the accident such as photos of the position of the truck and the car, and the police report. While these are common with any traffic accident, truck accident evidence may also include:

  • The log from the truck’s black box, which provides information about the truck’s speed at the time of the accident among other data.
  • The logbooks and records from the driver and the truck company, which can help verify service hours and a possible overworking of the driver beyond regulatory standards.
  • The truck’s maintenance records and maintenance invoices.
  • Results of DUI tests performed on the truck driver.
  • The driver’s records from the trucking company’s HR department, which can help verify the driver’s qualifications.
  • Cargo load information, which can help understand how the truck was loaded.

Obtaining access to the above may require extensive communication with all the possibly liable parties, which can be a complicated task for you, especially if you are also recovering from physical injury. This is a time when you should be focusing on getting better; not stressing over gathering paperwork and meeting deadlines.

Logs and records may only be kept for specific amounts of time, after which they will be discarded. A truck accident attorney knows how to track the relevant evidence and obtain it from multiple sources in time before it can be destroyed. Your attorney also has the experience to identify possible violations in this mass of evidence.

If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident with a commercial truck, the best course of action is to contact a personal injury lawyer like Help in Colorado. Initial consultations are free and conducted with absolute confidence. We will listen to you and help you understand the law without you having to pay any out-of-pocket fees and you won’t have to pay us anything until we have won your case. Contact Help in Colorado online, call us at (303) 351-2567, or visit our offices at 6795 E. Tennessee Ave. #210, Denver, CO, 80224 to discuss your case.

References

[1] https://policyadvice.net/insurance/insights/truck-accident-statistics/

[2] ibid.