How Are Truck Accidents Different From Other Types of Accidents?

A white big rig truck and its trailer stopped on a highway.

An accident with a tractor-trailer can have a more severe effect on the victim because of the substantially different size and weight of these commercial vehicles.

Recovering from a truck accident will look different than a traditional motor vehicle crash, in most cases, because of the additional factors to consider in this type of accident. The thorough investigative process that’s often required and the additional parties involved can make litigation time-consuming and straining to manage alone, but an attorney can take the pressure of handling the claim off your shoulders.

Not only that, but they make it more likely for your case to result in the full amount of compensation you need to cover all losses, past and future.

Singh Ahluwalia Attorneys at Law is a local firm experienced in handling truck accident proceedings. Our associates are standing by to help you find experienced and knowledgeable truck accident representatives in California.

A free consultation with an attorney is a call away. To schedule your free case review with our California truck accident attorneys, call 559-878-4958 or contact us online.

Comparing Car Accidents vs. Truck Accidents

A collision with a tractor-trailer will result in a financial recovery process that looks somewhat different than a traditional car accident claim. It may also result in different types of injuries and a different investigative process.

Many times, the differences in these cases come down to the fact that owning and operating a truck is more complicated, often because they:

  • Can be more challenging to operate: Commercial vehicles are larger, wider, taller, and have a different center of gravity than a traditional car. This makes operating the vehicle a completely different experience and requires special training. The larger blind spots on a tractor-trailer also make operating these vehicles more challenging because the driver must yield to motorists they cannot fully see.
  • Require more routine maintenance: A truck will spend more time on the road than a car, and because of this, will need more strict maintenance. The company that provides these commercial vehicles is responsible for ensuring that the truck is safe by adhering to a routine maintenance schedule. Failing to upkeep these vehicles will result in the trucking company facing the expense of liability in the event of an accident.
  • Result in more serious damage in the event of an accident: The size of a tractor-trailer alone can make the vehicle look more intimidating, but the trucks do pose an increased danger because of how the crushing size and weight can affect another smaller vehicle. The large structure of a trailer can help offset some of the ramifications on the driver, but the smaller vehicle involved may feel the full effects of the force.
  • Have different safety standards: Trucks will have different safety standards than traditional vehicles, boasting large mirrors and detection systems to account for blindspots and limited visibility. Ensuring that mirrors are adjusted properly and checking any other additional safety systems are the driver’s responsibilities before getting behind the wheel.
  • Can lead to accidents with possibly more than one at-fault party: Because trucks are large and often crash on busy roads, truck collisions typically involve more than two vehicles. The possibility of more than one at-fault party means that in order to recover a comprehensive settlement award, the victim of the crash may need to juggle multiple paths of litigation. Further, more people are involved in a truck’s safety and stability compared to traditional vehicles, which means falling short in any of their unique responsibilities can lead to a crash.
  • Involve different evidence during accident investigation: While most of the traditional avenues for evidence will still apply — dash cams, policy assessment, street recordings — additional evidence like maintenance logs, driver’s hauling history, and their logged break periods can all be requested by your attorney for evaluation during the accident investigation.

Who May Be at Fault in a Truck Accident?

Recovering from a truck accident is less straightforward than a traditional car crash because in order to secure any reimbursement for damages, the victim of the collision may need to work with multiple parties.

One or more of the following may be partially responsible for damages in an accident:

  • Trucking company that hired the negligent driver
  • Independently contracted driver
  • Other involved motorists
  • Cargo loading company
  • Part manufacturer
  • Truck maintenance company

Laws That Exclusively Apply to Trucks

The trucking industry is heavily regulated, with many rules that are intended to ensure safe vehicles and safe drivers. Because these rules don’t apply to regular motorists, civilians may not know about the regulations that only affect the commercial trucking industry.

Understanding these unique laws can be crucial in determining negligence after an accident.

Some important laws and regulations to be aware of include:

  • Legal blood alcohol concentration limit (BAC) for commercial drivers: The standard BAC for a non-commercial driver is 0.08%, but for truck drivers, the limit is significantly lower. A commercial truck driver cannot exceed a BAC of 0.04% while behind the wheel. Moreover, a police officer can place a motorist under arrest even if they have a lower BAC than the legal limit if they exhibit dangerous driving behaviors.
  • Regulations on service hours: Commercial drivers are not allowed to drive for more than 11 hours per day, cannot remain on duty for more than 14 consecutive hours, and are prohibited from driving without at least 10 hours of rest time in between. These strict federal regulations are designed to prevent drowsy driving or the need to abuse substances like caffeine or amphetamines to push through long hauls.
  • Record logging rules: Truck drivers and trucking companies are expected to keep thorough records of important information regarding their drivers, including drug and alcohol screening results, qualifications, driving history, hours-of-service compliance, and maintenance.

Insurers Put More Resources Into Fighting Truck Accident Claims

Another significant factor in trucking accident claims is that insurance companies will often assign their most experienced adjusters to handle the accident. This is because truck accidents often have higher minimum liability coverage requirements (often at least $1 million), and they also tend to involve higher claim values because of the increased risk of serious injury.

To limit their exposure to liability, both insurers and trucking companies will try to “nip” claims” in the bud,” working to limit payouts or even deny fault through any means possible. As an example, insurers may invest more time and energy into researching your own medical history and car accident history.

They will dig for signs of a pre-existing condition and then deny coverage for treatments related to that condition. They may also look for evidence that you could have violated a traffic law, such as by failing to wear eyeglasses, or that you have even committed a criminal act, such as driving under the influence.

Further, trucking companies are often tight-lipped on information. A commercial driver may even refuse to provide their CDL number and policy number.

Their employer may deny access to the vehicle’s telemetry (“black box”) data, refuse to cooperate in an investigation, or decline to provide the name or employment details of the driver. The expectation of these companies is that the typical claimant will get intimidated, embarrassed, or frustrated and simply give up on their pursuit of a claim.

Because of this risk, it’s often beneficial to get an experienced attorney involved in the case as soon as possible. Your lawyer will help you anticipate common defenses and push for progress on retrieving evidence and getting responses, promoting your claim’s ability to continue and succeed.

Common Types of Truck Accidents

The size and weight of a tractor-trailer make accidents with these vehicles extremely dangerous for traditional vehicles. Some of the most common truck collision types include:

  • Rear-end accidents: A truck hitting the back of another vehicle head-on is generally caused by drowsy or distracted driving and can lead to uncomfortable and painful injuries, especially to the neck and spine.
  • Jackknife collisions: This type of crash refers to when the trailer of the truck swings out to the side, creating a sharp angle that is reminiscent of a partially open jackknife. Driver errors like oversteering or hard breaking can lead to this type of crash, but defective car parts and improper cargo loading can also be the cause.
  • Underride crashes: The back of a truck has a wide opening, large enough for a small car to squeeze under before a crash. An underride accident is a crash where a vehicle rams into the back of a truck and is generally caused by poor visibility or an abrupt stop.
  • Tire blowouts: Sudden failure of one or more tires will result in the weight of the tractor-trailer redistributing unevenly, causing the vehicle to react uncontrollably. These accidents are generally caused by an uneven cargo load, neglected maintenance, or debris in the road.
  • Rollover accidents: Speeding, harsh turns, or uneven cargo weight can cause a truck to flip onto its side in an accident. This type of crash has a large impact area and can lead to overwhelming collateral damage.
  • Runaway truck collision: On a steep incline, a tractor-trailer with poor brakes may endure a system failure and cause the driver to lose control of the truck as it speeds down a hill.
  • Cargo spill incident: When cargo is loaded or unloaded improperly, a spill can result in expensive losses for the company but may also lead to collateral and residual damages. Moreover, trucks transport the largest percentage of hazardous materials of any vehicle in the U.S. — nearly twice as much as trains.

Schedule a Free Case Review With a California Truck Accident Attorney

If you have suffered physical or property damage due to the negligent actions of a commercial driver or another entity involved in the haul, a California truck accident attorney may be able to help you recover the costs of your medical bills and other damages through an injury claim.

Schedule an initial consultation with an associate from Singh Ahluwalia Attorneys At Law. For our clients’ convenience, we speak multiple languages: English, Punjabi, Hindi, and Spanish.

To schedule a free case review with a California trucking accident lawyer near you, call 559-878-4958 or contact us online today.