Vehicles operated for commercial purposes—such as semi-trucks, big-rigs, buses, delivery vans, tow trucks, hotel shuttles and taxi cabs—are tasked with safely sharing the road with other vehicles and motorists. Unfortunately, that expectation isn't always a reality. Accidents between commercial and private vehicles can and do happen—and the results can be catastrophic.
After suffering injuries in an accident caused by a negligent commercial driver, you may be entitled to compensation for medical expenses and other damages. Here's what you need to know before taking legal action.
Common Causes of Commercial Vehicle Accidents
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), there were more than 415,000 police-reported accidents involving commercial vehicles in 2015, resulting in more than 83,000 injuries and 3,598 deaths. Commercial vehicle accidents can have any number of causes, the most common of which include:
- Inadequate training for commercial drivers
- Improperly loaded cargo
- Unrealistic company schedules and expectations
- Supervisors who encourage drivers to violate hours-of-service regulations in order to complete routes more quickly
- Negligent hiring and supervision practices
- Poorly maintained vehicles
- Drowsy or distracted truck drivers
- Motorist error, such as driving in a truck's blind spots
Injuries Associated With Commercial Crashes
The injuries sustained in a commercial vehicle accident can be quite serious—especially if the commercial vehicle in question is an up-to-80,000 pound large truck or bus. Injuries commonly associated with commercial vehicle crashes include:
- Lacerations and contusions
- Broken or crushed bones
- Back and neck injuries
- Head injuries, including concussions and traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
- Internal bleeding and organ damage
- Spinal cord injuries, including partial or total temporary or permanent paralysis
- Whiplash and other soft-tissue injuries
- Wrongful death
Potentially Liable Parties
After being in a commercial vehicle crash, accident victims often wonder who they can hold responsible for their injuries and other losses. The answer to that question depends largely on the circumstances of the collision, but potentially liable parties may include:
- The at-fault commercial driver. The driver of the commercial vehicle that caused the accident is the most logical person to name in a personal injury lawsuit. However, they may not be the only one with legal liability for what occurred.
- The company that employs the commercial driver. In most cases where there is an employer involved with the driver, accident victims may be able to hold the commercial driver's company responsible as well. Companies may be liable for accidents and injuries caused by their driver due to their position as an employer of the driver. Additional direct liability can arise from negligent hiring, training, and supervisory practices, imposing unrealistic schedules, or encouraging drivers to violate federal safety regulations.
- Manufacturers of defective commercial vehicle components. Some commercial accidents may not be caused by a driver or company's unsafe actions, but by a defectively manufactured vehicle component. In such a case, the truck or part manufacturer may share liability.
- The government agency tasked with maintaining the road where the accident occurred. In more rare instances, commercial vehicle accidents can be caused by defects in a poorly maintained road. In such cases, the government agency responsible for the road's upkeep and maintenance may share in liability.
Victims injured in commercial vehicle accidents can seek compensation from two main categories of damages: economic and non-economic. Economic damages are quantifiable losses, such as accident-related medical expenses, property damages, lost wages, and loss of earning capacity. Non-economic losses, on the other hand, are harder to quantify and include things like physical pain and suffering, mental and emotional anguish, scarring or disfigurement, and loss of enjoyment of life.
Consult an Experienced Truck Accident Attorney
If you were injured in an accident with a commercial vehicle, it's important to understand your legal rights and options. The knowledgeable attorneys with the Inland Empire Law Group can review the facts of your case and help you explore your options for compensation. Contact the Inland Empire Law Group today at (888) 694-3529 to schedule an appointment for a free initial case consultation.