How Truck Accidents Are Different From Car Accidents
Truck accidents and car accidents are very different. If you’ve been hurt in a collision with a tractor trailer or other commercial motor vehicle in South Carolina, it’s important to understand these distinctions before taking legal action.
Talk to an experienced truck accident attorney at Stewart Law Offices. Our team of compassionate lawyers have successfully represented injured people throughout South Carolina for years. We push for maximum compensation for accident victims just like you.
Call or contact us today to learn more about how we can help you.
Truck Accident Injuries vs. Car Accident Injuries
Truck accident injuries tend to be more severe than those sustained in car accidents. It’s basic physics. A commercial truck can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. The average car comes in at about 3,000 pounds. With such a huge size difference, the car is almost always going to sustain more damage in an accident.
Other factors that contribute to the greater severity of truck accident injuries include:
- A truck requires more room than cars to navigate a turn. This makes it more likely to tip over, especially if its cargo is improperly secured. An 18-wheeler that rolls over could crush the occupants of a nearby passenger vehicle.
- Trucks need more distance to stop. If a truck rear-ends a smaller vehicle, the vehicle will likely sustain severe damage.
- Trucks can cause multi-vehicle accidents. Jackknife or rollover accidents on a busy road or highway can cause pile-ups.
- Trucks ride higher off the ground than other vehicles. Colliding with a truck could result in a dangerous or deadly underride crash, where the car becomes wedged beneath the truck’s trailer.
- Truck drivers have bigger blind spots than cars. Beware of the No Zones, the areas around the sides, front, and rear of trucks that make motorists nearly invisible to truck drivers.
Common truck accident injuries include:
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Spinal cord injuries and paralysis
- Neck injuries
- Broken bones
- Cuts, bruises, and lacerations
- Internal injuries
- Amputated limbs
Dealing with Multiple Causes
Another difference between a truck crash and a car accident are the factors that tend to cause the collision. While some factors, like human error, can play a role in both types of crashes, others are seen more frequently with truck wrecks.
Lack of training is a violation that can lead to deadly collisions. Truck drivers require special licensure to operate a commercial motor vehicle. A mistake made by a truck driver could indicate improper training.
Negligent hiring practices means that fault for a truck accident may fall with the truck company. If a company fails to do a background check that reveals a job applicant has a history of drunk driving, they could be held liable if the driver was under the influence when an accident occurs.
Defective or failing equipment is a common cause of truck accidents. Truck companies have a duty to maintain their fleets. Malfunctions can occur if routine maintenance isn’t carried out.
Fatigue is a noted occupational hazard for truck drivers. Many drivers work long shifts that interfere with the body’s natural sleep patterns. Truckers sometimes face pressure to make a delivery deadline and drive past the hours of service permitted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
Faulty parts are sometimes responsible for truck crashes. An equipment failure caused by a design flaw could lead to a defective products case against the manufacturer of the parts or automaker.
Improperly secured cargo could throw a truck off balance, causing collisions that even an experienced driver may not anticipate. Because other companies are often responsible for loading commercial trucks, an accident victim could have a valid claim against them.
Because there are so many possible causes of an accident, fault could lie with more with one party. Determining liability will be essential in order to collect compensation from everyone who is to blame. A knowledgeable truck accident attorney can investigate the facts and unravel the truth.
Liability in Truck Accidents vs. Car Accidents
In the majority of car accident cases, the main parties involved are the drivers and potentially the employer or owner of the vehicle. In a truck accident, identifying who is liable gets much more complex.
The parties involved in truck accidents can depend on who the truck driver is employed by, who owns the truck, and the relationship between the trucking company and the driver.
Another consideration is whether the truck driver was operating with a loaded trailer, an empty trailer, or no trailer. Under FMCSA regulations, the tractor and the trailer are considered separate commercial vehicles. In some truck accidents, only the trailer owner will be liable, and in other cases, the tractor owner may be the only party liable.
Examples of potentially liable parties in a truck accident claim include:
- Truck driver
- Trucking company
- Truck owner
- Truck retailer
- Truck loaders
- Cargo loading facility
- Truck maintenance crew
- Mechanic or body shop
- Other drivers (in multi-vehicle accidents)
In truck accident cases where several parties are involved, victims will usually face multiple insurance companies when trying to negotiate a settlement. The negotiations process is intense and blame will likely be thrown from one party onto another. It can be incredibly stressful and confusing for someone not well-versed in the laws governing the trucking industry to go through alone. That’s why an attorney is such a crucial ally in a truck accident claim. Once a lawyer is involved, he or she can manage all negotiations for the client.
Fatality Statistics for Truck Accidents
The statistics on truck accident fatalities, both nationwide and in South Carolina, are disturbing.
- There were 4,682 fatal truck crashes nationwide across America in 2018, the most current year for which data is available from FMCSA.
- A total of 4,136 people died in U.S. truck accidents the same year, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Of these deaths, 16 percent of were truck occupants, 67 percent were occupants of passenger vehicles, and 15 percent were motorcyclists, bicyclists, or pedestrians.
- In South Carolina, there were 84 fatal crashes involving tractor trailers in 2018, up 33 percent from the previous year. Another 25 fatal collisions involved “other trucks.” Pickup trucks were excluded in these truck accidents statistics. (S.C. Department of Public Safety)
- Of the fatal truck crashes in S.C., 122 people died. (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)
Compensation Differences in Truck and Car Accidents
Truck accident victims may be awarded far greater damages than those in car accidents. That’s because the extent of injuries that victims suffer is typically worse and there is the possibility of multiple liable parties.
The amount of compensation that victims can recover will also depend on insurance policy limits. Because the risk of serious injury from a truck accident is much higher, truck companies are required to carry insurance with higher liability limits. This means there is more compensation potentially available for truck accident victims compared to people hurt in car crashes.
Types of compensation include money for:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Lost earning potential
- Cost of home renovations for disabled accessibility
- Cost of assistive devices, such as wheelchairs, lifts, and medical equipment
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium
- Punitive damages
A lawyer can evaluate the facts of your case to determine an appropriate value for your claim.
Why It Is Important to Hire a Lawyer for Both Types of Cases
The key to having a successful truck accident lawsuit is proving negligence. The same is true for a car accident case. An attorney will be a vital asset in collecting evidence for proving either type of claim.
Examples of evidence that might be important to both truck and car accident claims include:
- Medical records
- Police accident reports
- Insurance information from the drivers involved
- Photos, videos, and dashcam footage from the accident scene
- Witness statements
- Cell phone records
- Physical evidence, such as open containers of liquor or bloody clothing from the scene
- Electronic information obtained from vehicle computers or “black boxes”
In some claims, crucial evidence must be subpoenaed for review and letters drafted to prevent evidence from being destroyed. These actions are easy work for a lawyer, but not for someone unfamiliar with the personal injury law and other relevant regulations.
If you’ve been hurt in an accident, allow the highly skilled injury lawyers at Stewart Law Offices to handle your investigation from start to finish. A thorough investigation will tell us why your accident happened and which laws or regulations have been broken by the negligent driver. All of this information will go into building a strong claim for compensation for you.
How Stewart Law Offices Can Help Me
At Stewart Law Offices, our truck accident attorneys fully understand that crashes involving commercial motor vehicles require a different approach than car accidents. Our legal team has deep knowledge of the federal and state laws that govern the truck industry. We’ll fight aggressively for compensation from every liable party.