If you’ve ever been in a car accident, you know even the most seemingly cut-and-dry cases can get complicated, fast. Determining which driver is at fault is a process that multiple parties—including drivers, police officers, insurance agents, and sometimes judges—must go through. On top of that, navigating car repairs, insurance claims, and medical treatment can be a major headache.
Still, car accidents pale in comparison to the legal and logistical complexity of truck accidents. But why is this the case?
Why Truck Accidents Are So Complicated
These are just a few of the reasons why truck accidents can get so complicated, so quickly:
• Damage and injuries. Trucks are bigger, which means they have much more potential for damage. Accidents involving trucks are also more likely to result in injury or death. The extra weight makes them harder to stop, and causes them to collide with other cars or objects with extra force. On top of that, they take up more space, so if they’re disabled on the highway, they have a bigger chance of indirectly leading to more accidents. The more damage and the more injuries there are, the more complex the case becomes.
• Ownership and liability. Truck ownership and liability can also be confusing. Many truckers are owner-operators, meaning they fully own their trucks, but others may drive a truck that’s technically owned by another company. Things get even more complicated when hauling a load that belongs to someone else. In any case, clear lines of ownership are sometimes difficult to define, and if the truck driver is at fault in the accident, it may be hard to determine who’s truly liable.
• Company efforts. Companies responsible for paying for damages tend to fight hard to avoid paying, or pay as little as possible—especially when there’s a lot on the line. After an accident, the trucker, the trucking company, and the insurance company covering the trucking company may all be involved in the process, resulting in more issues for everyone else involved in the accident.
• Laws and regulations. Truckers are subject to more rules, regulations, and laws than the average driver. For example, many truckers are only permitted to drive for a specified maximum number of hours per day, to limit the possibility of fatigue. If a trucker exceeds those, that violation may increase the likelihood of them being found at fault for the accident. Because there are so many rules and regulations, this can be hard to determine.
• Truck data. Some trucks carry a black box that records various data points, including traveling speeds at various points of time. These data can be used to reconstruct the events leading up to the accident. This can introduce new complexities if the black box data conflicts with other pieces of evidence.
What to Do If You’re Involved in a Truck Accident
If you’ve been involved in a truck-related accident, there are a few important steps you’ll need to take to ensure your own safety, shield yourself from liability, and maximize your potential return.
• Stay calm and prioritize health and safety. Like with any motor vehicle accident, it’s important to stay calm and prioritize the health and safety of as many people as possible. If your vehicle is drivable, get it to the side of the road and check to see if your passengers (and any other drivers and passengers) are okay, if safe to do so. Contact emergency services and provide first aid if you’re equipped with the knowledge to do so.
• Record as much information as you can. Then, try to record and preserve as much information about the accident as possible. If you have a dash cam, observe and save the recording. Take lots of photos of your vehicle and the surroundings, and see if there are any eyewitnesses willing to stick around and give a statement.
• Get a police report. No matter what the circumstances are, it’s advisable to file a police report on the accident. That way, you’ll have something official, in writing, stating the facts of the accident. These facts will be hard to debate in the future.
• Contact a lawyer. Truck accident cases can get ridiculously complicated, so consider reaching out to a lawyer. A lawyer will provide you with advice on what to do next, and will help shield you from the efforts of legal teams from trucking and insurance companies. Most initial consultations are free, so it’s worth making the effort.
Truck accidents may be complicated, but they’re not impossible to deal with. Work with a lawyer as early as possible in the process to make sure you’re taking the right steps; otherwise, you might be at the mercy of trucking and insurance companies.