Personal Injury Case After Commercial Truck Accident

Car accidents involving commercial trucks or "big rigs" often present unique legal issues that could affect your settlement.

Here's what to know if you're making a vehicle accident injury claim after an accident with a commercial truck or big rig:

  • Commercial truck drivers usually must follow federal and state regulations when operating their vehicles, and violations of these rules can make it easier to prove fault for the accident.
  • Shipping companies and other commercial truck owners are typically well-insured, compared with passenger vehicle owners.
  • More than one party might share financial responsibility for an injured person's losses after a commercial truck accident.

Let's take a closer look at these points and more.

Trucking Regulations, Operation, and Insurance

Truck operators, owners and manufacturers must follow a wide variety of state and federal regulations, including rules related to:

  • how much weight a truck can haul
  • driver testing for use of controlled substances
  • how long a driver can go without rest between driving shifts
  • licensing and operator safety
  • load/freight safety, including as to hazardous materials, and
  • use, maintenance, and inspection of vehicles and equipment.

In any given traffic accident where a passenger vehicle driver is not at fault, one of the defendants on the truck owner/operator's side might have violated a statute, ordinance, or regulation aimed at safety.

This is important for traffic accident injury settlement purposes, because proof of violation of a statute or other regulation greatly increases an injured person's odds of winning in court. And the higher the odds of winning in court, the more willing a defendant is to settle before trial.

Another important aspect of state and federal regulation is the higher insurance requirements imposed on owners and operators of semi-trucks. For all practical purposes, a defendant in any kind of case will only be able to settle for an amount he or she can actually afford—or the maximum amount allowed by his or her insurance company (i.e. the policy limit).

The higher minimum policy limits of semi-truck insurance set by law mean that even if the driver or employer only carried the minimum amount, the plaintiff will not be stuck with a small settlement. This is often not the case with the minimum required insurance in "standard" car accident cases.

Multiple Defendants Means Better Chance of Settlement

When multiple defendants are involved in a lawsuit, and depending on the facts, they may all be equally responsible for paying the plaintiff's damages, or they may only be responsible for the damages they caused.

For example, a fatigued driver may share partial responsibility for an accident with the manufacturer of faulty tires. The plaintiff will be able to sue the driver or the driver's employer as well as the manufacturer. If it is unclear just how much each defendant is at fault, the manufacturer could be required to pay more than its half of the damages if the driver doesn't have enough insurance and assets to pay his or her half.

A drawback of suing multiple defendants with unclear proportions of fault is that a settlement may be more difficult to obtain, and a trial more likely. It may be clear that the plaintiff was not at fault for the accident, but the defendants may prefer a trial to settlement because they cannot agree on their proportions of fault, and who owes what. It is also possible for a plaintiff to settle with one defendant and then sue the other defendants for the balance of the damages determined at trial.

See Driver vs. Company Liability in Commercial Truck Accidents for more on the multiple defendants issue.

Examples of Semi-Truck Settlements

Note: The following are examples of settlements where the defendant was at fault and the plaintiff suffered significant damages. Simply because an accident involves a semi-truck does not mean the driver or other party is automatically at fault and willing to offer a high settlement.

  • A plaintiff was driving her car when struck head-on by a semi-truck. She suffered two broken legs and multiple fractures, required several months in the hospital, several surgeries and lengthy rehabilitation to walk again. She received a $1,850,000 settlement from the defendant's insurance company.
  • A plaintiff was rear-ended by a semi-truck and required fusion of neck vertebrae. He received a settlement of $350,000.
  • A plaintiff was in a collision with a tractor trailer and required surgery for a shoulder injury. He received a settlement of $275,000.
  • A semi-truck struck a plaintiff due to a defective part. The plaintiff was severely injured and had a leg amputated. He received a settlement of $3,750,000.

Next Steps After a Commercial Truck Accident

Having the right lawyer on your side can make a big difference if you decide to make an injury claim after an accident with a commercial truck or big rig. Financial recovery in these kinds of cases often includes:

An experienced lawyer will put your best case together and work toward the best outcome. Learn more about when to hire a car accident lawyer.

Talk to a Lawyer

Start here to find personal injury lawyers near you.

How it Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you
Make the most of your claim

Get the compensation you deserve

We've helped 225 clients find attorneys today.

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you