25th March 2020
Accidents involving semi-trucks are extremely scaring and confusing. Unlike a more common car accident, truck versus car accidents often result in severe injuries and lots of questions. The significant difference in size and weight between semi-trucks and other vehicles already makes a collision between the two different and more dangerous, but it also raises other concerns.
Each year in the US, there are nearly 500,000 accidents involving semi-trucks, resulting in 116,000 injuries and 5,000 deaths. This is no surprise when you consider that over two million commercial transportation trucks are operating on US roads at any given time, accounting for more than 200 billion miles per year collectively.
So, besides the size difference between a car and semi-truck, what are the differences between a crash involving an 18-wheeler and a motor vehicle when it comes to a personal injury claim?
1. Regulations on Commercial Driving
Semi-trucks are subject to different regulations than other motor vehicles because they are intended to travel between states, and because they pose a greater risk to the general public. Such regulations are set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and navigate almost every aspect of the commercial driving industry. Some of these regulations include:
In order to prevent commercial drivers from becoming too tired, fatigued, or drowsy, the government has determined the number of hours that they are allowed to drive in a certain timeframe. Drivers are permitted to drive for no more than 11 hours after they have been off-duty for at least 10 hours.
Drivers are required to inspect their trucks before each trip. Failure to do so can result in serious accidents since semi-truck collisions are often due to equipment malfunctions. The main components that need to be inspected include tires, lights, brakes, wheels, reflectors, the horn, wipers, and the AC unit.
Truck drivers are supposed to enter their activities over the course of 24 hours in a logbook. They must record their location and how much time they spent driving or off-duty. Failure to enter information or falsifying information can result in the driver being held liable for a potential accident.
Conspicuity requirements refer to the need of the driver to make the truck trailer more visible by placing reflective material or lights on it. Accidents occur when other vehicles are unable to spot the trailer due to poorly lit highways, bad weather conditions, or not indicating the cargo.
2. Insurance Coverage Amounts
Insurance policies for semi-trucks follow entirely different guidelines and rules than those for other motor vehicles. Such policies are regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Accidents involving semi-trucks often result in more severe injuries and property damages to those involved. Therefore, the FMCSA requires larger minimum policies to cover any losses to the victim.
That being said, insurance companies have to pay a lot more money to compensate semi-truck accident sufferers than what they would typically pay for a car accident settlement. Therefore, they will attempt every trick in the books in order to settle for a lower amount, including offering the victim a low sum of money shortly after the accident or trying to find even the smallest reason to deny the claim outright.
That is why semi-truck accident sufferers should consult an attorney right away, and not accept any offers that come from insurance adjusters until they have done so.
Circumstances, such as recovery length, unexpected complications, medical bills, and psychological trauma, can’t always be anticipated or may change drastically in the months following a semi-truck vs motor vehicle collision. Accepting a financial payout right away might be tempting but waiting and evaluating the situation with an attorney will most likely pay off in the long run.
3. Injury Severity
Sharing the road with larger vehicles is more complicated than it sounds and requires drivers to stay focused, keep their distance, and anticipate potential dangers.
An 18-wheeler can weigh up to 80,000 pounds in the US, which is much heavier than a car that weighs just about 5,000 pounds. When a collision occurs between a semi-truck and an automobile, the outcome is often devastating, involving significant injuries, property damages, and sometimes death.
The severity of the injuries in the event of an accident also depends on the road conditions, speed, the force of the impact, and whether all rules regarding safety were followed.
The most common traumas after a truck accident include whiplash, back and neck injuries, broken bones, and head and brain injuries.
4. Third-party Claims
Proving liability in a semi-truck accident can be challenging since there is often more than one party that can be held responsible. These are known as third-party claims.
The Truck Driver
Most often, the driver of the truck holds the greatest liability. Many reasons can contribute to an accident, including the use of drugs and alcohol, distracted driving, drowsy driving, not complying with the procedures, not entering information in the logbook, etc.
The Trucking Company
The trucking company can also be accountable for a potential accident. Sometimes companies fail to inspect the equipment thoroughly or ignore technical issues. In an attempt to meet deadlines, they might also allow the driver to drive for more than the recommended time limit of 11 hours.
The Manufacturer of the Truck
If there is a defect in some part of the truck, such as the brakes, for example, that causes an accident, the manufacturer of the part might be held responsible for any damages.
The Cargo Loader
If the cargo was not placed or secured properly, causing it to fall, the loader of the truck might be held accountable for any accidents, injuries, or property damages.
Contact a North Dakota Semi-Truck Accident Attorney
If you have been injured in a semi-truck accident, it is extremely important that you seek immediate medical help since such collisions pose a greater risk of injuries and delayed trauma. An accurate and timely medical evaluation of your injuries will also be essential for the outcome of your lawsuit.
If you or someone you love was involved in a semi-truck accident in North Dakota, don’t hesitate to contact our team of attorneys. We are experienced in proving fault, dealing with insurance companies, and getting the highest possible compensation for our clients.