Millions of truckers across the country serve a vital role in moving freight, and Pennsylvania is no exception. If the shelves are stocked when you go to the store, it’s because those goods were brought on a cargo truck. Unfortunately, those same trucks also pose an extreme danger when drivers and trucking companies fail to uphold their basic duty of care to keep you safe.
Primary Differences Between Car and Commercial Truck Accidents
The distinctions between a big-rig wreck and a standard passenger vehicle collision involve more than just the dimensions of the vehicles. Truck injury cases are handled differently due to laws governing how trucking companies are required to operate. Both insurance claims and personal injury lawsuits involving large-scale trucks are more complex than accidents where two cars collide.
Size and Weight Disparity Causes More Serious Accidents
The extreme weight of any given cargo truck is the first reason accidents tend to be worse than a car crash. There are potentially thousands or tens of thousands of pounds colliding with your vehicle in a truck collision. Because trucks are significantly longer and wider than passenger vehicles, they have a different center of gravity than cars or vans. These two issues can combine and lead to wildly dangerous situations like a truck jack-knifing or entirely tipping over.
If you have the misfortune to be struck directly by a truck in a rear-end or head-on collision, your vehicle is likely to be totaled. Underride accidents are another major concern, and are often either fatal or result in a life-long disability for survivors. It is also extremely easy for a highway truck accident to quickly become a multi-vehicle crash leading to severe and life-threatening injuries for a large number of passengers or drivers.
Truck wrecks occur due to all the same reasons as a regular car crash, but those reasons are often amplified by the size of the vehicle and its larger blind spot. Common reasons for truck accidents include:
- Changing lanes without checking the blind spot or leaving enough room for other drivers on the road
- Distracted driving
- Engaging in drunk driving or driving under the influence of narcotics
- Failing to signal lane changes and turns
- Illegal U-turns
- Mechanical issues
- Tire blowouts
- Tired driving, which is often more dangerous than drunk driving, especially when dealing with large vehicles like commercial trucks
Recovering Damages for Common Injuries in Truck Crashes
Those same size and weight issues that lead to accidents also sadly tend to increase the severity of injuries for survivors. Victims in Philadelphia truck accidents can potentially suffer:
- Bone fractures
- Internal bleeding and organ damage
- Soft tissue damage that interferes with mobility
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Wrongful death
Because of the high possibility of catastrophic wounds, truck accident cases tend to involve larger amounts of compensation than car wrecks. Significantly higher medical bills, extended recovery periods, and the need for future rehabilitation, surgery, or medication are all likely. Drivers and passengers in the accident may require occupational or physical therapy to learn to live with long-term injuries.
Any settlement or court judgement from the liable party could also include a sizable chunk for lost income while recovering. There may be lost earning capacity included as well if your truck accident injury prevents you from going back to the same job or leaves you permanently disabled. Compensation for pain and emotional suffering could be significant as well in situations where the injury reduces your quality of life.
Truck Crash Cases May Involve Multiple Defendants
Where exactly does that potential compensation come from, though? After a normal passenger car crash, you would typically go through the other driver’s insurance or file a lawsuit against that driver. In some rare cases, you might go after an establishment that overserved alcohol to the driver.
The person responsible for your injury isn’t always as clear-cut from the beginning when dealing with cargo trucks, big-rigs, 18-wheelers, or even local delivery vehicles, however. Truck accident cases become more complex because of how truckers are employed. In many cases, the truck driver works for one employer, but another company entirely could own the cab, cargo, or trailer. Defendants and possible sources of compensation in a Pennsylvania truck accident case can include the:
- Actual driver of the truck
- Commercial truck owner (who may not be the driver)
- Freight broker who failed to perform due diligence in selecting a qualified and safe trucking company
- Loading crew who improperly stowed the truck’s cargo
- Manufacturer of a faulty truck part
- Mechanic who performed a shoddy repair
- Trucking company that failed to properly train the driver or committed other negligent acts
Different Evidence Is Needed in Truck Crash Cases
To make that determination, an attorney needs to gather evidence proving who is responsible for your injury, as well as outlining the damages you are actually owed. Some of the evidence needed remains the same in a truck crash as in any other type of car accident.
For instance, you may need to utilize accident reconstruction experts, dashcam footage, eyewitness testimony, medical documentation, and security camera video just like with any other accident. Additional details are necessary that are unique to truck injury claims, however, such as:
- Driver logbooks showing hours driven
- Disciplinary actions by the driver’s employer in the past
- Employment records like hiring paperwork
- Repair and maintenance logs
- Training data
Your attorney’s investigation into the crash may show that the driver reported a mechanical problem that needed to be fixed, but the trucking company never ordered the repair. In other cases, fault may clearly lie with the driver instead for violating logbook rules and continuing to drive while tired over the maximum allowed hours.
One of the biggest concerns in truck accident litigation is that crucial evidence may be destroyed by the trucking company before it can be used in court. That’s why contacting an attorney early is critical to your financial recovery. Your attorney may need to send a demand letter to preserve evidence, and can help you file a lawsuit within Pennsylvania's strict statute of limitations on personal injury truck crash cases.