Commercial Vehicle Accidents | Truck Accident Lawyers
San Antonio Personal Injury Lawyers » Commercial Vehicle Accidents
An Accident With a Commercial Truck Must be Handled MUCH Differently Than a Passenger Vehicle Accident
The term commercial vehicle refers to a wide variety of vehicles –any non-passenger car vehicle either specialized, quasi-specialized or non-specialized that is used by a company in the normal scope of conducting its business. While this definition obviously includes all varieties of 18-wheelers, it also includes other vehicles from dump trucks, to delivery trucks, to bucket trucks, to pickups with lawn equipment in the back.
What makes these vehicles unique is that their drivers are held to higher standards than the motorists who operate other motor vehicles and must hold commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs) demonstrating that they have been instructed in the operation of the commercial vehicle and proven their ability on a road test. Furthermore, since the vehicles are used in he service of the company that generates profits from their use, the company bears liability for accidents in which others are injured by the commercial vehicle.
Since the company bears the liability and commercial trucks can do a great deal of damage in accidents, these trucks are usually insured for large amounts of money. With a great deal of money on the line, the company will aggressively defend itself against accident claims. Thus, anyone who has been injured or lost a loved one in an accident with a commercial vehicle needs the assistance of an experienced commercial truck accident attorney to fight the stalwart defense put up by the company that owns the commercial vehicle.
At our Law Offices, we’ve been litigating truck accident cases for more than 20 years, and we want you to be better informed about commercial truck accidents. To that end, we’ve compiled the following informational article.
Specialized Commercial Vehicle Accidents
Driving any type of specialized commercial vehicle – an 18-wheeler, a dump truck, a tanker truck, a flatbed trailer, or a bus – requires special skills and special licensing to demonstrate the driver has been trained in those skills. These trucks usually have more than 10 gears and are difficult to maneuver, start, and stop. When they get into accidents, they tend to cause a great deal of damage due to their immense size.
Due to the specialized nature of these commercial vehicles and the fact they tend to be owned by different companies with vastly different objectives and purposes, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has set up rules governing their safe operation. Thus, when one of these commercial trucks gets into an accident due to the driver’s negligence, the driver has not just violated a local traffic ordinance but the federally-mandated FMCSA regulation regarding the safe operation of the vehicle.
As stated above, insurance policies for specialized commercial trucks tend to be enormous in value. With a great deal of money on the line, the trucking and insurance companies will put forth a great effort to protect against insurance claims.
Bucket trucks, ice-cream trucks, UPS delivery trucks, box trucks, tow trucks, and garbage trucks are all specialized vehicles in that they are not conventional heavy-duty trucks. From a common-sense perspective, all of these trucks require specialized training to be able to drive them safely, but the drivers of these trucks are not usually required to have any additional certification other than a CDL. Driving a bucket truck, for instance, must be done according to separate safety guidelines from the FMCSA like not driving with the bucket raised and a worker in it, or not parking the bucket truck within 10-feet directly below power lines. However, no additional certification is needed to drive the bucket truck. Thus, companies will often put a driver behind the wheel of one of these quasi-specialized trucks who is not specifically trained in the operation of that particular truck. Conversely, when it comes to 18-wheeler accidents, our attorneys only run into one case in a thousand where the driver didn’t have a commercial license.
While quasi-specialized vehicles require different skills to drive them, they do just as much damage – sometimes more so – than specialized commercial vehicles like 18-wheelers. Since the harm that is done by these massive vehicles is so great, the only insurance policies willing to insure them are commercial insurance polices that are gigantic in size. Just like with 18-wheeler insurance policies, the sheer amount of money involved leads to a great effort to defend the policy.
Many companies use light pickup trucks for a variety of reasons – hauling employees and equipment from construction or oilfield worksite to another, pulling a trailer carrying lawn and garden equipment, or hauling around an enormous tank used for carpet-cleaning. These trucks are usually slightly heavier-duty versions of regular trucks. The driver of this type of truck doesn’t require a commercial driver’s license, and may just be somebody that was literally brought in off the street and has no idea how the added weight of the equipment being hauled could affect the handling of the pickup. In some cases, these vehicles are operated by oil or construction workers who have put in hard day’s work in the field before getting behind the steering wheel. Thus, many accidents involving non-specialized vehicles also involve workers who fall asleep in the driver’s seat. While no special licensing is needed to drive these trucks, they usually still must be insured with sizable commercial insurance policies. Loaded down with heavy machinery, no standard insurance policy will cover these vehicles. Just as is the case with specialized vehicles and quasi-specialized vehicles, the size of the insurance policy usually means that you’re going to have to fight for your insurance benefits after being injured in an accident with non-specialized vehicles.
Examples of Commercial Truck Accidents
In the decades our Law Offices has been litigating truck accident cases, our attorneys have seen hundreds of examples, but here are a few noteworthy anecdotes from our clients’ experience for you to consider:
In one case we litigated, an 18-wheeler turned into our client while driving at night. The driver of the truck claimed that our client didn’t have his lights on at the time of the accident, so the trucking company’s insurance provider tried to claim our client was negligent for the wreck. Our attorneys were able to search the accident scene and locate a security camera on a nearby store that happened to capture the accident in the background. Since the headlights on our client’s car were visible, he was able to recover full compensation.
Another of our client’s loved ones was killed while riding along in the cab of an 18-wheeler when the driver fell asleep at the wheel and drifted off the highway smashing into a pole. The force of the wreck brought the cargo in the trailer smashing into the cab, killing our client’s wife instantly. The trucking company tried to claim it wasn’t responsible for her being in the cab, and we were able to convince the court that they were.
In terms of quasi-specialized vehicles, one of our clients suffered a serious back injury when he was struck by a moving van, which was insured with a multi-million dollar policy. In order to protect the policy, the insurer hired one of the biggest defense firms in Sann Antonio. After months of litigation, we were finally able to convince the defendants to settle equitably. If this client had tried to handle the case himself, he would have been bullied by the aggressive defense lawyers and likely ended up with nothing.
We were also hired by the parents of a woman who was killed by a construction truck. The woman was making a left-hand turn on a perpendicular road when the construction truck pulled up behind her. Even though she signaled clearly, the driver of the pickup ignored the signal, tried to pass on her left, t-boned her car with the truck and killed her. While this was only a small pickup truck, it carried a high-dollar insurance policy due to the dangerous nature of construction work, and we were able to help the woman’s parents secure the compensation they deserved for the loss of their daughter. It goes without saying that no amount of money can ever adequately replace the loss of a loved one, but it’s also often the only way to punish the negligent party or parties that caused his or her death.
Regardless what kind of commercial vehicle was involved in the accident that injured you or killed someone close to you, you deserve to be compensated fairly by the party who caused the accident and the insurance coverage is usually there to do so. However, just because the insurance is available doesn’t mean you will be able to obtain it easily. With more money to be lost, the trucking and insurance companies will fight harder to keep it.
At our Law Offices, we want to help you fight for the compensation you deserve, so call us now for a free consultation to find out how we can help you fight for your rights after a commercial vehicle accident.