Choose the Right Representation for Car Accidents involving Commercial Trucks

A “regular” car accident and a commercial truck accident involve a different set of challenges and a different group of players. A big rig accident is many motorists’ worst nightmare, and semi truck accidents often result in more serious injuries and property damage than a passenger car accident.

Commercial trucks make up a major part of the U.S. economy. Nearly 70 percent of all freight tonnage in the U.S. rides on trucks, and the trucking industry moves more than 9 billion tons of freight every year. The trucking industry alone employed more than 1.7 million Americans in 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and that number is projected to increase by 11 percent by 2022.

For more information about trucking accidents or to get started filing a truck accident claim, contact Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi today. Our skilled personal injury lawyers have spent more than 80 combined years fighting for the injured in New Jersey and New York, collecting more than $300 million in compensation along the way. Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi have the experience and commitment to see your claim through to the very end and hold the guilty party accountable for their negligence. Call (201) 585-9111 or contact us online to speak with one of our experienced personal injury attorneys today.

Differences in Evidence

Car accident attorneys are accustomed to collecting evidence after a crash, including witness statements, photographs of the vehicles involved, security camera footage, police reports, and more. However, when a commercial truck is involved, there is a different set of evidence that must be collected.

Evidence in a commercial truck accident can be divided into three distinct categories:

  • Driver evidence, which includes the driver’s qualifications file, the driver’s training file, the hours of service documentation, the driver inspection records, and post-collision drug and alcohol screening results
  • Vehicle evidence, including downloads of the on board systems, maintenance history documentation, inspection history, and data GPS tracking systems
  • Cargo evidence, including weight tickets, trip envelopes, dispatch instructions, delivery documents, and bills of lading

Another important difference in truck accident cases is the timeline involved. Evidence must be preserved more quickly in a semi accident case because the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations only require documents be kept for a certain amount of time (for example, logbooks must only be kept for six months). If you wait too long to consult an attorney, it could be too late to preserve certain documents and use them in your personal injury lawsuit.

Differences in Liability

In a typical car accident case, the only players involved are the driver of the vehicle and potentially the employer or owner of the vehicle (if the owner and the driver are two separate parties). However, in a commercial truck accident, there are more parties involved and their relationships can make things complicated.

The players in a semi truck accident depend on who the driver works for, who owns the truck itself, and the relationship between the driver and the trucking company. It also depends on whether the driver is driving under dispatch with a loaded trailer, driving with an empty trailer, or driving without a trailer at all. It is also worth noting that, under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, the tractor the the trailer are separate commercial vehicles; sometimes the owner of just the trailer will be liable, and other times just the owner of the tractor itself will be liable.

In addition to the trucking company and the driver, those who deal with the truck’s cargo could also be found liable. Shippers, loaders, brokers, freight forwarders, and consignees could be responsible if the accident is caused by the cargo (e.g. an improperly secured load or a load that is too heavy to transport safely).

Third-party maintenance and repair companies could also be found liable if the accident was caused by a failure to properly maintain the commercial truck.

Differences in Science/Operation

The U.S. Department of Transportation defines a commercial truck as a motor vehicle that meets at least one of the following requirements:

  • It has a gross combination weight of 26,001 or more pounds (including a towed unit with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,001 pounds)
  • It has a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 or more pounds
  • It is designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver
  • It is used to transport hazardous materials (regardless of the size of the vehicle)

However, the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Code has a more simple definition: “Includes every type of motorized vehicle used for commercial purposes, such as transportation of goods, wares, and merchandise.”

Under this definition, a wide range of vehicles fall under the “commercial vehicle umbrella,” including semi trucks, tractor-trailers, cargo vans, dump trucks, garbage trucks, landscaping trucks, moving vans, water trucks, food trucks, crane trucks, and other specialized equipment.

The complexity of driving these heavy machines is a major consideration in semi truck accident cases. Generally speaking, commercial trucks take longer to stop, accelerate more slowly, need more space to maneuver, and require special handling when turning and backing up. In addition, the physics of a truck/car collision are much different than those of a car/car collision. As such, a personal injury attorney working on a truck accident case must look at the accident from the perspective of a truck driver—not the perspective of a passenger vehicle driver.

Difference in Rules and Regulations

The evidence, as discussed above, will play a crucial role in your personal injury case. Industry-specific rules and regulations require truck drivers to record certain information; this information can help to demonstrate whether or not the driver and the trucking company were in compliance with safety regulations in the minutes and hours leading up to a crash.

In a typical car accident, attorneys or insurance adjusters will try to piece together the moments leading up to the crash and determine the proximate cause of the accident; once the cause is determined, they will compare the driver’s conduct to the New Jersey Rules of the Road to see if he or she acted negligently. However, in the case of a truck accident, the rules and regulations go beyond the Rules of the Road.

Commercial truck operators are typically held to higher legal standards and must follow more stringent driving rules. Truck drivers must follow hours of service regulations (i.e. not drive more than x number of hours in a row without rest), as well as specific rules for certain driving situations.

Contact Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi

Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi are proud to represent the injured throughout New Jersey and New York. Since opening our doors in 1974, we have been committed to the highest standards of excellence in personal injury litigation. Our million-dollar and multi-million-dollar settlements have earned us inclusion in the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, of which fewer than 1 percent of U.S. lawyers are members. Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi was named to U.S. News and World Report’s Best Law Firms list of 2019, and Michael Maggiano and Christopher DiGirolamo have received the highest possible ratings as car accident attorneys by the AVVO Lawyer Ratings service.

With more than 80 years’ worth of combined trial experience, we are prepared to investigate your claim and fight to hold the negligent party accountable for their actions. If you or a loved one has been injured in a commercial truck accident, contact us to discuss your legal options. Call (201) 585-9111 or contact us online to schedule your free and confidential consultation today.