Truck accidents, like motor vehicle accidents, cause numerous personal injuries and deaths each year in the United States. While not as common as car accidents, truck accidents bring greater damages due to their size and weight. Trucks defined as commercial freight trucks, commonly known as 18-wheelers. Federal laws govern the trucking industry as they are part-and-parcel of interstate commerce. The federal government establishes the manufacturing standards of commercial and heavy trucks and regulates the use and operation of these trucks. States also have their own laws and regulations relating to trucks and truck accidents.
Truck accident law ensures that personal injuries sustained by occupants of a passenger vehicle as a result of a collision with an 18-wheeler is adequately compensated. Like all personal injury cases, the foremost consideration when determining liability in truck accidents is negligence. The most common party who is negligent would be the truck driver, and because truck drivers are professional drivers, multiple sources of law will apply. The truck driver, however, may not be the only party who acted negligently. Proving negligence on the part of other possible responsible parties may not be as easy as proving negligence on the part of the truck driver.
Truck accidents differ from motor vehicle accidents because the determination of who is at fault is more complicated. Because of the commercial nature of trucks, there are many parties that could be possibly liable for the damage or the death. Responsible parties could also include the truck's owner, lessee, or manufacturer. The truck's shipper or loader, when the cargo is not properly loaded, could also be responsible, while the truck's mechanics could also be responsible when it failed to check the condition of the truck prior to travel. The party responsible for the damages could be one party or all of the parties mentioned above. In addition to these responsible parties, insurance companies can also be liable for the damages as most businesses are required to get insurance coverage for these types of risks. The bulk of litigation arising from truck accidents would be the determination of who is liable, as these parties would naturally try to avoid paying damages and blame another party for the cause of the accident. When a plaintiff files a personal injury lawsuit arising from a truck accident, the plaintiff must identify all possible responsible parties because there is a statute of limitations for all personal injury claims. It is better to name all possible responsible parties at the filing of the lawsuit than add the parties after as the statute of limitations may have already ran out.
A typical truck accident litigation in the past would have the trucking company arguing against liability by pointing out that it does not own the truck and it does not employ the driver. Current federal laws, however, now state that any trucking company is responsible for all accidents involving a truck that has its name displayed on the vehicle. This means that the trucking company is liable even if the truck is leased from another company and the driver is an independent contractor.
Aside from proving liability, the plaintiff must show the extent of his damages by engaging expert witnesses such as a physician to assess the physical damage and an economist to assess damages arising from loss of income and earning capacity. On top of these experts, the plaintiff must also engage the expertise of a truck accident law attorney to skillfully navigate the complicated litigation against those who might also be responsible.