Understanding Truck Accident Laws

If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident involving a commercial truck, Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi can help. Our personal injury lawyers have more than 80 years’ worth of experience in personal injury litigation, and we have the resources and skills to fight for you. We have collected more than $300 million for the injured in New York and New Jersey, including several large verdicts and settlements in truck accident cases:

  • $6.2 million for a commercial truck driver who was struck by another truck driver while pulled off on the side of the road, resulting in a disabling brain injury
  • $5 million for a husband, wife, and four children after they were struck by a semi truck making an improper turn
  • $2.8 million for a driver who crashed into the side of a truck that pulled into his path, resulting in multiple knee surgeries
  • $1.067 million to a truck driver who suffered fibromyalgia after a multi-vehicle accident

Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi are committed to pursuing justice. We will conduct a thorough investigation of the accident, using our resources to interview witnesses, collect police reports, and obtain medical evidence. Our years of experience have given us the tools and resources to stand up to large corporations, manufacturers, and opposing attorneys alike. If you or a loved one has suffered serious injury as a result of a commercial truck accident, contact us today for a free consultation. Call (201) 585-9111 or contact us online to speak with one of our experienced car accident lawyers.

What is a Commercial Truck?

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.

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.

How Are Trucking Laws Different From Regular Driving Laws?

Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations covers the transportation industry. On the federal level, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulate truck driving.

The New Jersey Department of Transportation and New York Department of Transportation govern trucking on the state level. Commercial truck drivers operating any vehicle over 26,000 lbs. are required to carry a Commercial Driver’s License by passing skill and knowledge tests. States also require trucks to display certain information—like corporate identification numbers, gross vehicle weight rating, and primary place of business—and complete other requirements, such as a Department of Transportation physical and complete entry-level training requirements.

If you are involved in a car accident with a commercial truck, the process of filing a lawsuit may be slightly more complex. After a “regular” car accident, it’s typically clear who the defendant will be: the other driver. However, when a commercial truck is involved, there is a different set of stakeholders to consider.

The driver/operator of the commercial truck is, in many cases, not the owner of the vehicle. The vehicle itself could be owned by the trucking company, a separate company that leases it to the trucking company, or a completely separate contractor hired to deliver goods for another company. However, commercial trucker operators can also be independent contractors; in this case, the driver works for him or herself and does not have to answer to a specific trucking company.

Depending on the business relationship between the truck operator and the vehicle itself, there are different options available for a personal injury lawsuit. You could sue the driver him or herself, the trucking company, the lessor, or another responsible party. An experienced personal injury lawyer will be able to investigate the accident, review the contract signed by the operator, and use it to determine who is legally responsible for the accident.

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:

  1. 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
  2. Vehicle evidence, including downloads of the onboard systems, maintenance history documentation, inspection history, and data GPS tracking systems
  3. 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.

Contact a New Jersey Truck Accident Lawyer

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 2013, 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 trucking accident, contact us to discuss your legal options. Call (201) 585-9111 or contact us online to schedule your free and confidential consultation today.