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Truck Accident FAQs

While all motor vehicle accidents can be devastating and complex, truck accidents carry higher risks and cause even greater confusion for accident victims. The Lanier Law Firm handles truck accident cases from its offices in Houston, New York City, and Los Angeles. Below are answers to the most frequently asked questions about truck accidents.

How are truck accidents different from car accidents?

Commercial vehicles are many times larger and heavier than passenger vehicles. The gross vehicle weight range of cars is 3,200 to 6,000 pounds. Trucks weigh 10 to almost 30 times as much, in their typical weight range of 33,001 to 80,000 pounds. Passenger vehicles, like pickups and minivans, fail to come close to this weight, with weights ranging between 8,501 to 10,000 pounds.

This factor alone creates a heightened risk of serious injury and death for occupants of passenger vehicles in crashes involving trucks. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), truck drivers were involved in 5,005 fatal crashes in 2019, but only 892 of those fatalities, less than 20%, were truck occupants.

Size differences also create hazards unique to commercial trucks, which increase the risk of an accident occurring. Commercial trucks have larger blind spots, require more room on the roads, and roll over more easily than passenger vehicles. They can also knock vehicles off the road or pull smaller vehicles underneath their own. They may slow down drastically when driving uphill and accelerate quickly when driving down steep slopes.

What are common truck accident injuries?

The following injuries from truck accidents are common:

  • Neck injuries, including whiplash
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Broken bones
  • Damage to the internal organs

How do truck investigations work?

In the event of a truck accident, your local law enforcement agency will provide an initial investigation and prepare a report. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requires all commercial drivers involved in accidents to undergo drug and alcohol screening within eight hours of the accident. The employer is responsible for carrying this out and reporting the results. 

The purpose of law enforcement’s investigation is to determine who is at fault and whether a crime has been committed.

How is fault determined after a truck accident?

Determining fault is not always a straightforward process. In some cases, multiple parties share fault. In other cases, someone who was not present during the accident may be at fault.

The local law enforcement agency will make a determination about who is at fault based on their observations. They evaluate evidence such as tread marks, statements by witnesses or the involved parties, road conditions, vehicle damage, and other details at the scene. This evidence will help them determine how fast the vehicles were traveling, how the accident occurred, and other details.

The following factors help law enforcement establish fault:

  • Speeding
  • Other moving violations, such as running a red light or stop sign
  • Distractions inside the vehicle
  • Driver impairment, such as intoxication or drowsiness
  • Mechanical vehicle issues

After law enforcement completes a report, they may issue a citation to the party they believe is at fault.

Law enforcement’s assignment of fault is often used as justification to file a claim with that driver’s insurance company. The insurance company will view the police report and stipulate that it is correct or conduct its own investigation and refute the police report.

At The Lanier Law Firm, we conduct our own forensic investigations on behalf of our clients. We have a large network of experts and consultants who specialize in forensic truck accident analysis.

Our investigations are much more in-depth than law enforcement’s investigations, and we look for all contributing factors in the accident. This provides us with a thorough understanding of what occurred and why it occurred. Our findings are always based on expert analysis and evidence that could refute the initial police report and stand up in court, if necessary.

Should you sue the trucking company or the driver?

Liability in truck crashes varies based on the circumstances of the accident. In most cases, the trucker is employed by a trucking company, which makes the trucking company liable in the case of an accident. It is possible for the driver to share liability with the trucking company, especially if gross negligence can be proven. However, as an employer, the trucking company will usually not be able to escape all liability.

New York is a no-fault state, which means every driver is required to carry Personal Injury Protection, or PIP, coverage. If your injuries meet New York’s definition of serious, you may be able to sue the other driver. Otherwise, you will collect damages from your own insurance company first, regardless of who is at fault. If your coverage limits are lower than your damages, you can pursue damages from the liable party.

Driver Errors

The most common causes of trucking accidents involve driver error, including the following:

  • Fell asleep
  • Driver distraction or inattention
  • Driving too fast for the conditions
  • Following too closely
  • Illegal maneuvers
  • Mishandling of emergencies, such as panic or overcompensation
  • Unfamiliarity with the roadway
  • Over-the-counter or prescription drug use
  • Driver fatigue
  • Driver feeling pressure from carrier or employer
  • Driver illness
  • Use of alcohol or illegal drugs by the driver
  • Inadequate training

In some of the above circumstances, the driver may not be solely to blame. In the case of prescription drug use, a doctor or pharmacist may have negligently cleared the use of the drug while driving.

Driver fatigue is a widespread issue among truckers. The FMCSA guidelines allow truckers to work for up to 70 hours per week. Trucking companies are allowed to require drivers to work 14-hour days with 11 hours of driving time. Truck driver fatigue increases risks for truck drivers and all drivers who share roadways with them.

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety oppose these rules because they do not afford truckers adequate opportunities to rest. Some trucking companies pressure truckers to violate these guidelines and work longer hours.

Third-Party Liability

Third parties may bear some or all liability in truck accidents, such as in the following circumstances:

  • Defective truck component
  • Shipping company loaded the cargo improperly
  • Third party at the scene
  • Road conditions that were neglected by a city or county governing body

Do I need a lawyer in a truck accident case?

Truck accident cases are more challenging because trucking companies use commercial insurance companies, have enough resources to retain expensive legal teams, and can be intimidating to individuals who lack legal representation.

Their attorneys and insurance adjusters may pressure you to accept a low settlement amount, induce you to make statements that harm your case, or persuade you to sign documents that bar you from receiving compensation. Even if they seem friendly, they are paid to represent the trucking company’s interests, not yours.

Retaining your own experienced personal injury attorney will protect your interests. The truck accident attorneys at The Lanier Law Firm can offer you a caliber of representation equal to the trucking company’s.

Our personal injury lawyers have extensive experience representing everyday people against large companies. We have won billions on behalf of our clients because we are creative, skilled, and dedicated.

Our attorneys are consistently recognized with prestigious honors, including Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers in America, and Rising Stars. We are well-known in the legal field for our negotiation and litigation skills. We offer free consultations and charge fees only after we have won your compensation.

What's the time limit for filing a truck accident claim?

The statute of limitations for personal injury claims varies by state, as follows:

  • Texas – two years from the date of the accident
  • California – two years from the date of the accident
  • New York – three years from the date of the accident

In cases of wrongful death, the statute of limitations is two years for all three states.

It is important that you contact an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible after your injury to ensure that your attorney has adequate time to build your case. It also allows your attorney to access the evidence while it is still fresh. Witnesses forget details over time, and other evidence can degrade or disappear.

What compensation can I recover in a truck accident claim?

You may be eligible for the following types of compensation after a truck accident:

1. Special damages. These are economic damages to reimburse you for your monetary losses, including the following:

a. Medical expenses, including hospital bills, doctor bills, medical equipment, rehabilitation, in-home care, physical therapy, prescription medication, transportation to the doctor, or any other medical need
b. Property damages
c. Lost earnings
d. Projected future or lifetime earnings in cases of disabling

2. General damages. These are non-economic damages for personal, subjective losses without a measurable monetary value. They include the following:

a. Pain and suffering
b. Disfigurement
c. Loss of capacity to enjoy life
d. Loss of society
e. Loss of consortium
f. Mental anguish
g. Emotional distress

3. Exemplary damages. These are punitive damages awarded only in special cases where the negligence included malice, fraud, oppression, or blatant recklessness.

If your family member was killed in a truck crash, you may be eligible to receive compensation by filing a wrongful death action. In wrongful death cases, you can receive the following damages:

  • Economic damages, including funeral expenses and medical expenses, plus the monetary value of the decedent’s life
  • Non-economic damages, including loss of society, companionship, and parental guidance. You may also be able to claim the pain and suffering of the deceased.
  • Punitive damages in extraordinary cases of reckless, fraudulent, or malicious conduct.

How long does it take to settle a truck accident claim?

Settling a case is usually much faster than litigating in court, but the process can still take several months. Your truck accident attorney will need adequate time to obtain a thorough forensic analysis of the accident, interview witnesses, obtain medical records, and determine future medical costs. 

It is also possible that the full extent of your injuries cannot be immediately diagnosed. In these cases, it will be necessary to wait to move forward until the lifetime cost of your injuries can be accurately estimated. 

The negotiation process can take time, especially if the opposing party is unwilling to offer a fair settlement. The truck accident attorneys at The Lanier Law Firm are skillful negotiators, but we are also skilled litigators who are always prepared to take your case to court in the event that a fair settlement cannot be reached. We will not settle for any amount less than you deserve.


Jud Waltman

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