Commercial Vehicle Accidents
Commercial vehicle registrations in the U.S. currently top ten million single-unit trucks, three million tractor-trailers, and about a million buses. Operating on roads and highways 24 hours a day, seven days a week, large trucks cover around 300 billion miles annually. Although most of these miles are traveled safely, large trucks and buses are involved in tens of thousands of fatal crashes every year and over half a million nonfatal ones.
Not all commercial vehicles are tractor-trailers or triple-trailer road trains dominating the interstates. Some are single-unit box trucks delivering packages around town. In almost any collision with a commercial vehicle, however, whether on the highway, downtown or a rural road, the occupants of the non-commercial vehicle run the risk of catastrophic personal injury or wrongful death. The size and weight of commercial vehicles deliver too much force and overpower the safety features of even the most “crashworthy” sedans, pickup trucks or SUVs.
If you’ve been injured in a commercial vehicle accident in or around Baton Rouge, Ward Law can help you get the compensation you need to deal with the medical bills and lost work time a truck wreck can cause, as well as the pain, suffering, and emotional toll such a collision can bring.
Commercial vehicle crashes are nearly always complex events requiring the knowledge and skill of an experienced truck accident attorney. Additionally, the damages caused can be extensive and long-term, making them very expensive cases for the company insuring the commercial vehicle. Those carriers may fight hard to avoid liability by drawing out the claims process or challenging the facts of the accident and the victim’s injuries. You need an attorney with the resources and determination to take on the tough cases and put in the time and effort it takes to get results. That’s what we do at Ward Law.
What Is a Commercial Vehicle?
Any vehicle that is registered to or titled in the name of a corporation or company is considered a commercial vehicle in the United States. Additionally, the following types of vehicles are also designated as commercial:
- A vehicle that is used for business
- A leased vehicle titled in the name of the financial institution claiming ownership
- A vehicle that is designed with a carrying-capacity greater than 15 passengers
- A vehicle that exceeds a certain class or weight, regardless of whether it is commercially owned or used commercially. Typically, any vehicle with a weight rating of over 26,000 pounds will be considered commercial.
- A vehicle that is used to haul hazardous material
Commercial vehicles, therefore, can range from company cars to tour buses, armored trucks, FedEx trucks, fleet vehicles, box trucks, delivery vans, and any other vehicle that is used for business purposes.
Even when it is clear that the commercial driver caused the wreck, it can still be a complex matter to determine who is liable to the injury victim, including whether the responsible party is the driver, the driver’s employer, the vehicle manufacturer, or the manufacturer or shipper of hazardous cargo that created an additional injury. At Ward Law, we’ll work to identify all liable parties and hold them accountable accordingly.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates the big rigs and the truckers behind the wheel, but many of the most important safety regulations are routinely ignored and wind up causing accidents. For instance, FMCSA hours of service rules require truck drivers to take ten hours off after working a 14-hour shift, which can include 11 hours of driving time. After working 60 hours over seven days or 70 hours over eight days, the driver must stay off duty for 34 hours before restarting a new week. Despite these limitations, truckers routinely push past these already punishing hours and drive longer than is safe, whether on their own initiative or due to pressure from the carriers.
When the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance conducts its annual Roadcheck roadside inspections, it finds thousands of drivers who must be pulled off the road for violating the FMCSA hours of service or for problems with their commercial driver’s license. These inspections also turn up thousands of trucks that must be immediately pulled from service for serious safety issues like bad brakes, bad tires and malfunctioning signal lights. Drivers are required to document their trips and maintenance records, but it’s not uncommon to find out after the fact that drivers falsified these records to make them appear to be in compliance when they violated the rules.
What Causes Truck Accidents?
The groundbreaking Large Truck Crash Causation Study conducted by the FMCSA in 2006 found fatigue to be a leading cause of truck crashes, but it was not number one. More accidents were caused by speeding, drug use (prescription or over-the-counter), and inadequate surveillance. Other major factors included illegal maneuvers, inattention, and aggressive driving behavior. Among vehicle factors associated with a crash, brake deficiencies were far and away the leading cause of accidents.
Commercial vehicle accident cases are not the same as auto accidents, just involving a larger vehicle. There are many issues unique to commercial vehicle accidents, including specific state and federal safety laws and regulations that must be thoroughly understood and applied to hold truckers and trucking companies liable for the harm they cause in a crash. At Ward Law, we conduct a complete and thorough investigation to make sure we understand the cause of the crash and how to hold liable parties responsible to the injury victims.