Our economy continues to grow with more large and small businesses and global commerce at our fingertips. With the advent of technology, more commercial and delivery vehicles are on the road to meet consumer demand. So, what does that mean for you? Well, with more vehicles on the road, shorter deadlines, longer work hours, and overworked drivers, that may mean more accidents involving big rigs or other commercial vehicles on the road. So, if you do get into an accident with a truck or commercial vehicle, you’ll want to understand what steps to take and what laws are on your side. First, it’s important to know what commercial vehicles are because establishing the type of vehicle you’ve been in an accident with will determine insurance coverage and payout.
What is a Commercial Vehicle?
Commercial vehicles are not only trucks, but can include vehicles such as vans, buses, and smaller trucks. A commercial vehicle, according to the Louisiana Department of Public Safety Office of Motor Vehicles, is one that is used on public highways for business use, not including vehicles used for religious purposes. Along with a clear definition are specifications on weight limit, material transportation, and how many passengers can be present in a commercial vehicle.
Common Causes of Trucking and Commercial Accidents
When an 18-wheeler is loaded to capacity, it can weigh in the tens of thousands of pounds. Due to size and weight alone, an accident can be catastrophic, and therefore it is extremely vital to pay attention to what the common causes of trucking and commercial vehicle accidents are, which include:
- Negligent driving by the driver of the truck or commercial vehicle including; driver fatigue, error, and drug or alcohol intoxication
- Vehicle negligence including malfunction of the vehicle
- Inability to follow commercial trucking rules such as speeding
- Insecure connections or improperly loaded material
Other common accidents occur when driving conditions may be hazardous or difficult, which include:
- Jackknifing, which can occur when a big rig’s trailer spins out from behind the cab and forms a 90-degree angle. This can occur when a truck driver breaks too hard and can cause a lot of damage.
- Wide-turns are common when dealing with larger commercial vehicles, and collision can be a consequence of a wide-turn.
- Tire blowouts can cause severe damage to other cars, especially if rubber shoots out from under the truck and into cars traveling behind it.
- Hazardous road conditions such as ice or sleet can cause a truck driver to lose control of the trailer, especially if the speed limit is not obeyed.
- Blind spots are one of the most common causes for trucking and commercial vehicle accidents. When a truck is changing lanes or backing out of a spot, the chances of collision are higher.
Four Things to Do When in an Accident with a Commercial Vehicle
If you are in the unfortunate situation of being injured in a trucking or commercial vehicle accident, it’s important to lawyer up. Lawyers are prepared to act as quickly and as thoroughly as possible to ensure their client receives what is due to them in terms of payout. But first, you’ll want to go through a checklist of things to ensure you can provide all the necessary information you may need to a lawyer for help.
- If you’ve been in an accident with a big rig or commercial vehicle, there will probably be a significant amount of damage to your vehicle and/or property. Or worse, you may have sustained injuries. Calling the police and filing a report is the first step in documenting the incident. In fact, according to law in Louisiana, damages in excess of $100 require a police report.
- Next, assessing the extent of the damage as well as establishing how the accident occurred can help in seeking out fault. If the accident does not appear to be driver error, it could still be from negligence of the vehicle which is the company’s responsibility.
- Begin to gather all evidence of not only the accident, but of the aftermath, especially if serious injury has occurred. What that means is gathering medical bills, property or vehicle damage reports, police reports, establishing whether or not there are eye witnesses to the accident, and any photographic or video evidence to start a claim with your insurance company.
- Get a lawyer because lawyers for trucking and commercial transportation companies and insurance adjusters will be working hard to reduce liability. A personal injury lawyer can help check the black box on the truck, determine fault by checking mobile phone records, see if the driver has any past history of negligence, or if the vehicle inspections are up to date.
Insurance Coverage for Commercial Vehicles
When a commercial vehicle is involved in an accident, the company that employs the driver will have lawyers and adjusters investigate the incident from their end. That is why it’s important for someone who finds themselves involved in an accident with a commercial truck to talk to a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. The truth is, trucking and commercial vehicle accidents are not like regular car accidents simply because the size of the vehicle will most probably cause more significant damage, and that means the coverage of a trucking or commercial vehicle will be more than that of a regular-sized
In order to avoid liability, insurance adjusters will find ways to avoid paying out large sums of money to the injured, especially because the payouts are in the millions of dollars. If for any reason the adjuster can decrease the blame of the driver and instead turn the blame on the other party, there is a chance the claim can be denied or reduced. By the same token, they may offer a significant amount of money if there is no way to deny driver fault and that in itself will deny someone of their rightful claim for injury.
A personal injury lawyer can help you deal with insurance adjusters, can help find out if the driver of the truck was not following federal motor carrier safety regulations, can help get you the compensation you may need from serious injuries or property damage, and get your medical bills sorted out.