When is a vehicle accident not a vehicle accident? When you’ve been hit by a tractor-trailer. Being hit by a car is bad enough but being hit by an 80,000-pound semi traveling at 65 miles per hour on the highway sounds deadly. If that has happened to you, don’t wait to seek legal assistance.
Surprisingly, the biggest differences between cars and trucks in an accident begin after the debris is cleared off the roadway. Although the damage is probably about the same, the legal and insurance issues are completely different than what you might have encountered in a car versus car case.
- Insurance tangles. In an auto accident, the only other insurer is that of the other driver. In a big-rig accident, there will be insurance on the driver, but also on the truck itself, possibly separate insurance for the cargo, and maybe even insurance held by the company. All of these insurers will have their own attorneys, and you’ll need one too.
- Federal regulations. Because they travel on the interstates, big rigs must obey federal regulations regarding maintenance, driver hours, loading and weight on the truck, and more. These rules can impact how a personal injury case is prosecuted.
- Additional evidence. Besides photos of the damage, the police report, witness statements, and medical records, semi accidents will need to look at the driver’s records and history, the maintenance history of the truck itself, the history of the trailer if it isn’t owned by the company, and even the type and loading of the cargo. Your attorney needs to get this information quickly because things like logbooks can be destroyed in as few as six months after an accident.
- Different physics. Because of the size and weight of a fully-loaded semi, driving and maneuvering one is much more difficult than driving an SUV. They have huge blind spots and take much farther to stop.
- Liability and ownership. Who is responsible for an accident is determined by a judge or jury, but they also must determine if that responsibility is shared by more than one person. If a driver was doing what he was legally required to, but the owner failed to repair the brakes after the driver had warned him, then the driver would be less responsible than he might be if he knew the brakes were bad but never told anyone. This type of complicated interaction is why you will need a lawyer to help you out.
- Compensation. You will probably need higher compensation after a big-rig accident, but because there is a company behind the driver, the available insurance can probably cover it. This is where an attorney’s skills in negotiation are put to the test.
Vicarious Liability and Respondeat Superior
When you’re hit by a private vehicle, the only person responsible is the driver or car’s owner (or sometimes the driver’s parents). When you’re hit by a commercial vehicle, the company they drive for may be responsible as well, a concept called “vicarious liability.”
Vicarious liability means that the employer is responsible for the actions of their employees or agents. Part of the reason that personal injury cases can take so long to resolve is that the trucking company will try to confuse the issue of who is responsible by alleging that the driver does not work for them or is an independent owner or contractor.
This is where the attorneys of Chris Hudson Law Group can quickly cut through any confusion by obtaining records such as the truck driver’s logbook and maintenance records, showing that the driver was either employed by the company or acting as their authorized agent.
“Respondeat superior” is a fancy way of saying that the employer is responsible for the wrongful acts of the employees. The employer cannot wash their hands of an accident or an illegal action by saying it is the employee’s fault. The employer is responsible by virtue of having hired the employee and supervising them.
If this sounds confusing, it should. Insurance companies like to keep this complex, so the average person won’t know what’s going on. The truck accident attorneys at Chris Hudson Law Group are able to help you out.
We offer free consultations so that our legal team can quickly assess your case and decide the most effective way to help you and direct your case. We’ve done this before and our clients will tell you that we know what we’re doing in these situations. We’ve won millions of dollars in settlements to help truck accident victims recover from their injuries and move on with their lives.
Call Chris Hudson Law Group at (706) 863-6600 and speak with one of our attorneys right away.