Whether you or a loved one are in a car accident where a commercial truck is involved, there is a certainty of huge medical bills and costs for replacing your vehicle. Who should you call to file a claim? Will the truck driver alone be paying for your surgery and lost wages? The fact is that big rig-involved accidents are one of the more complicated car collisions, and it takes an expert to sort out who is liable.
There are more than just two drivers involved in a big rig accident
While it is possible that you could get into a simple fender bender with a commercial truck, the chances are that if your SUV ended up as a crumpled wreck, you will be speaking to more than a pair of insurance companies. The driver may own their own cargo company and the truck. In this case, determining fault may be pretty straightforward. But if the rig and cargo belong to third parties, things can get confusing in a short time.
Who could be liable for a commercial truck accident?
- Truck driver
- Trucking company
- Cargo vendor
- Owners of a distribution point
- Truck manufacturer
- Truck maintenance service
- Local municipalities
- Other car drivers that caused a hazard
Crowded highways and booming business increase the chances of a truck collision
Over the past decade, there has been a steady increase in truck accidents on American highways. Houston has doubled in population over the past 50 years. New infrastructure for transportation constantly struggles to keep up with the ongoing surge of business. Tractor-trailer rigs vie with passenger vehicles for room on one of the busiest interstates in the nation. It all translates into more serious collisions resulting in major damage to vehicles, injuries, and death.
A big rig can cause major damage and serious injuries
According to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS), accidents that involved a big rig accounted for 11% of traffic fatalities in 2019. However, 97% of those fatalities were the passengers in the car, not the truck driver. Even if you do make it out of the wreck with your life, you may be looking at surgery, months or years of recovery, and the loss of your car or truck.
Why is there such a gap between who gets injured in these accidents? A mid-size SUV weighs on average about two tons. A tractor-trailer riding empty weighs in at about 17 tons. If it is fully loaded, you can double or triple the weight. The SUV is not designed to withstand any kind of impact with the larger vehicle.
Corporate trucking companies are eager to settle your claim
Even small companies will jump on the opportunity to settle any claims arising out of a traffic accident as soon as possible. The trucking company insurance will likely not take care of all the costs associated with a major accident. The company officials will do their best to minimize the impact on their bank accounts by offering a fast settlement that will look generous on its face. However, it will fail to take care of lingering medical and cost of living charges.
Truck manufacturers and cargo vendors like to stay out of sight
A thorough investigation of the accident may uncover other contributing factors to the disaster. There may have been a mechanical failure on the truck that could be attributed to the manufacturer. The cargo may not have been secured properly, but it may not be the driver that was responsible for loading the trailer. Every business even remotely related to the incident will do all they can to keep their name out of the accident report.
The same can be said for the local municipality or government responsible for the maintenance of the road. Was there a malfunction of traffic lights? Were signs properly displayed after the completion of a major road improvement project? Did the truck hit a pothole or bad expansion joint on a bridge? All of these contributing factors may indicate that more than one party should be held liable for the accident.
Overworked government investigators may not uncover the truth
If the accident occurs on a state highway or interstate, then the Texas Department of Public Safety will conduct an accident reconstruction investigation. The troopers may shut down the road while they calculate speed, angle of impact, and document contributing factors. However, if your accident happens on a small country road, it may be the local police department filling out the report. They may not have the same resources available to complete an investigation. They may also be pressed for time, resulting in a fast conclusion that may not help the innocent car driver with their insurance claims.
What should a truck accident investigation include?
- Statements from drivers and witnesses
- Maintenance records for the truck
- The black box from the truck
- Accident reconstruction report
- Interview with owner of the cargo and loading docks
- Maintenance records for the road
- Review of recalls from the truck manufacturer
- Additional statements from interested parties
An experienced truck accident attorney provides support and insight to your case
After the smoke clears, and it is time to start sorting out who will pay the medical bills and fix your car, it is time to call for help. When you are caught up in an accident where a commercial truck is involved, make sure that you have experienced professionals fighting in your corner.
A truck accident attorney such as Terry Bryant will put their army of investigators to work and help to uncover just who should be held liable in your incident. They will ask for the contents of the truck’s black box to be made public. They will review the maintenance records for the rig. The investigation will include looking at the loading dock where the cargo was taken on, the time the driver spent on the road that day, and the accident records for the trucking company.
Your attorney will know exactly what questions to ask so that all responsible parties will be held liable, and the injured party will receive full and proper compensation. In the end, it will be the responsibility of the injured party to work with a qualified truck accident attorney to reach a fair settlement.