Being involved in a collision with an 18-wheeler is a very scary event for anyone riding in a standard passenger vehicle. The mere size differential is enough to strike terror among those in a typical automobile because serious injury and fatalities are regular results. Big trucks that lose control can do much more damage than just striking one vehicle, as they commonly also collide with multiple vehicles and litter the roadway. This can be especially dangerous when placarded tankers are involved because they are carrying designated harmful chemicals. The chaos associated with a big-rig calamity can include multiple problems that can impact many people, often causing personal injuries to innocent bystanders in addition to vehicle passengers. While this scenario is consistent with many tragic truck scenarios, it is not the only difference between a truck accident and conventional auto accident cases.
DOT Rules and Regulations
One of the primary differences in automobile safety and truck safety is that trucks must be inspected and maintained by the drivers and shipping companies according to DOT and NHTSA rules and regulations, which many times are skirted by company policy or the driver. Past histories of non-compliance and information regarding what immediate failures were material facts in a case are very important, and a prior record can help enhance the potential value of the injury or wrongful death claim when an experienced truck accident attorney can investigate the collision thoroughly for all pertinent case information.
Multiple Negligent Actors
Another common legal action following a truck mishap will include filing a claim against the trucking company as well as the truck driver, and potentially even a contracting shipper. Many accidents occur due to shifted loads or failure to secure cargo at the point of loading, often times with the work being performed by employees of the originating company. All parties are typically sued in a personal injury truck case in order to maximize claim values for victims, many of which will be wrongful death cases based on resulting fatalities. Product liability claims could also be available when the crash is due to mechanical failure in any of the vehicles involved in the crash, including personal passenger vehicles.
Claim damages from 18-wheeler accidents can easily include both compensatory and punitive damages when a personal injury attorney can demonstrate to a jury that the case involved gross negligence on the part of the truck driver, the trucking company, or the product manufacturer in some instances. Federal regulations require truck operators to carry a minimum of $1 million liability, not to mention general business insurance protection maintained by any of the involved companies. Compensatory damages are for special damages that can be itemized and totaled in value, such as medical bills and physical property damage, but compensatory damages can also include general non-economic pain-and-suffering settlements. Punitive damages are only awarded by a jury after a complete trial, intended to serve as punishment to the negligent defendant for egregious behavior.
Wrongful Death Claims
Truck wrecks commonly result in fatalities, many times multiple, and wrongful death claims could easily be in order when the driver or company has failed to meet certain highway standards or has proactively required drivers to violate safety rules, such as driving excessive hours on the road. There are both daily and monthly limits for truck drivers, but companies still allow the drivers to alter logs when a delivery time must be met. All truck collision cases do not result in wrongful death, but still can result in additional loss of consortium claims from dependent children and spouses.
If you think you have a 18-wheeler personal injury claim, schedule a free consultation with The Nech Law Firm by calling us at 713-936-9496