Due to size disparities and the basic laws of physics, any collision between a commercial truck and a passenger car is likely to result in serious injuries and significant property damage.
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Frequently Asked Questions About Truck Accidents
Q: What is a "commercial truck"?
A: A commercial truck is a vehicle used in the course of business and/or for the transport of commercial goods. Examples are 18-wheelers, tractor trailers, tanker trucks, dump trucks, delivery vehicles, box trucks, semi trucks and other large freight trucks.
Q: How are traffic accidents involving trucks different from accidents involving passenger cars?
A: Accidents involving trucks are typically result in more severe injuries than accidents involving cars due to the sheer size of a truck. A fully loaded large commercial truck can weigh 80,000 pounds or more; compare this to the size of the average passenger automobile, which weighs approximately 4,000 pounds. Due to this size disparity, and the basic laws of physics, any collision between a commercial truck and a smaller vehicle is likely to result in serious, even fatal, injuries.
Q: What are the most common causes of accidents involving commercial trucks and automobiles?
A: Some common causes of truck accidents include inadequate/improper training as to driving technique, safety issues and defensive driving; driver fatigue; a truck's characteristics and capabilities (such as limits associated with acceleration, braking and visibility); distracted driving; failure to account for weather or road conditions; drug or alcohol use by the driver; speeding; mechanical failure; defective parts; and improper loading or overloading the truck.
Q: I was injured in a crash where a truck driver was at fault. What kind of damages can I recover?
A: Your recovery in a personal injury action can include compensation for your medical expenses, hospital bills, income lost because of missed work, future medical or physical therapy expenses and compensation for any loss of earning capacity resulting from the accident. You may also be able to recover for your pain and suffering.
Q: Are commercial truck drivers required to have a special driver's license?
A: Yes. Drivers must have a commercial driver's license (CDL) if they drive a vehicle that weighs more than 26,000 pounds, transport themselves and 16 or more passengers, or transport hazardous materials. To obtain a CDL, an individual must pass both knowledge and driving skills (taken in a vehicle that is similar to the type of truck that he or she will be driving) tests.
Q: Are there limits on the amount of time that a commercial truck driver can spend on the road?
A: Yes. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, contained in the Code of Federal Regulations, applies to all vehicles engaged in interstate traffic, has specific provisions governing hours of service for drivers (see 49 C.F.R. § 395 for more information).
Q: If I am injured in a truck accident, who can I sue?
A: Generally, you will likely be able to bring a claim against the driver of the truck, the trucking company and perhaps the truck's manufacturer. Whether you can sue the trucking company depends on whether an employment relationship is established between the truck driver and the trucking company at the time of the accident. If you can show that the accident resulted because of a manufacturing or design defect in the truck itself, you may also have a legal claim against the manufacturer.
Q: What is an "underride" accident?
A: An underride accident happens when a passenger car collides with a truck or the trailer of a truck or semi-trailer and then runs underneath the truck. This type of collision can result in the roof of the passenger car being sheared off. If the impact occurs near one of the truck axles, it is likely that the vehicle will be prevented from going completely under the truck, but the damage — and the injuries — can still be serious. There are two types of underride collisions: side underride and rear underride.
Q: What are some unique features of trucks that contribute to the severe nature of many truck accidents?
A: Trucks often have large tank bodies that can affect the truck's maneuverability. Further, a tanker truck that is carrying liquid may be swayed by the sloshing of the liquid it carries, particularly around curves or on hilly roadways. Trucks also have a longer stopping distance than passenger cars, and the brake systems of trucks and cars are completely different. Most tractor trailers have air brakes in which pressure is used to increase the braking force. Proper use of air brakes can help prevent a truck from sliding and jack-knifing, but if the brake system is unbalanced or improperly maintained, it can affect the steering, control and stopping distance.
Q: If I am partially at fault for the accident, can I still recover compensation?
A: It depends on the degree of your fault and the jurisdiction in which the accident occurred. Under the legal doctrine known as "comparative negligence," (also known as "comparative fault") the amount of another party's liability for the accident is determined by comparing his or her carelessness with your own. That party's portion of liability determines the percentage of the resulting damages he or she must pay. In most states, you cannot recover anything if your own carelessness was 50 percent or more responsible for the accident. In some jurisdictions, however, you will not be able to bring a suit if you were even partially at fault; you should contact an attorney after an accident to learn more about your state's comparative negligence rules.
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