The Definitive Guide to Commercial Truck Accidents

Commercial truck accidents injured 151,000 people and killed another 4,951 in 2018, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In these fatal crashes, only 18 percent of the fatalities were the truck drivers themselves. That means over 4,000 other drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists were killed in commercial trucking accidents, and many more were injured. Commercial trucks can be dangerous, and when accidents occur, it’s usually the drivers in passenger vehicles who get hurt.

In this definitive guide, we’ve answered a handful of questions that people frequently ask us about commercial truck accidents and how to get  the compensation you deserve for your injuries.

What Is a Commercial Truck Accident?

In the United States, a motor vehicle is designated as a commercial vehicle when it is titled or registered to a company.  Commercial truck classifications are determined according to weight, using what is called the “gross vehicle weight rating”, or GVWR. There are eight different classes of commercial trucks, ranging from Class 1 (0 to 6,000 pounds) to Class 8 (above 33,000 pounds).

Some common examples of commercial trucks include:

  • Tractor Trailers (also called Big Rigs or Eighteen Wheelers)
  • Heavy Haulers
  • Flatbed Trucks
  • Refrigerator Trucks
  • Dump Trucks
  • Cement Mixers
  • Garbage Truck
  • Tankers

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) conducted a large truck crash causation study to uncover the primary causes of accidents involving commercial trucks and other large trucks. The study concluded that 87% of the truck accident cases reviewed were caused by driver error, either by the truck driver or another driver involved in the accident. 

FMSCA found the following driving errors to be common causes of commercial truck accidents:

  • Traveling too fast for the present road conditions.
  • Failing to respond properly to traffic flow interruptions.
  • Failing to respond properly to roadway problems.
  • Not stopping when necessary.
  • Panicking, overcompensating, or exercising poor directional control.
  • Inadequate surveillance.

Who Pays My Hospital Bills After a Commercial Truck Accident?

To improve highway safety and protect the public from potential dishonesty in the trucking industry, the US federal government has created strict financial responsibility requirements for commercial motor vehicles. The primary requirement is that trucking companies and others who use large commercial trucks must maintain liability insurance at a level of $1,000,000 per occurrence.

However, if you are involved in a commercial truck accident, you will generally be responsible for paying your own medical bills as you incur them. Even if the truck driver who injured you is clearly at fault, there is no legal requirement that they pay your medical bills on an ongoing basis.

Ideally, insurance providers for large commercial vehicles that cause accidents would immediately reimburse you and your insurance for your medical expenses, or just cover them in the first place. Unfortunately, that is not the way the system works.

The insurance company will usually make a lowball settlement offer right after the accident, but it will generally be far too low to cover all of your medical bills, let alone lost wages and other damages you are entitled to. To be fully reimbursed for your expenses, you will almost always need to retain a commercial truck accident attorney to handle your case. Eventually, you will be able to receive compensation through a personal injury lawsuit or an attorney-negotiated legal settlement.

Can My Insurance Company Refuse To Pay My Hospital Bills or Insurance Claims?

People who are injured in semi truck accidents or other commercial truck accidents should use their own medical insurance to cover the expenses upfront. Since health insurance is not a liability insurance program like auto insurance, most health insurance plans should cover the cost of your medical care regardless of the cause of your injuries or who is at fault.

Additionally, if you have no fault car insurance, which is sometimes called “personal injury protection” insurance (PIP), your auto insurance company should cover at least some of your and your passengers’ medical expenses, regardless of who is at fault. However, some states do not have no-fault insurance policies, so if you get into a commercial truck accident in one of these states, your insurance will not pay your medical bills.

When Should I Contact a Commercial Truck Accident Lawyer?

The first thing you should do after an accident involving a large truck is to get the medical care you need. The second thing you should do is contact a commercial truck accident lawyer.

Medical bills in these types of accidents can add up quickly, and many accident victims feel pressured to accept an insurance company’s extremely low settlement offer in order to pay these bills. It’s always important to remember that insurance adjusters are not your friends! Insurance companies are for-profit businesses that are trying to pay you the least amount of money that they can get away with. They are far more concerned with protecting their bottom line than protecting your interests.

After an accident, you should never talk to any insurance company, even your own, without a lawyer present. Insurance adjusters are trained on strategies that will minimize your injuries to justify lower claims. They are also taught to ask you leading questions that will manipulate you into saying the things they want you to say. In order to make sure you are properly compensated for your injuries, seek an experienced personal injury attorney to represent you and handle the insurance companies for you.

How Long Does It Take To Get a Settlement?

One of the questions we hear from our clients most often is how long they will have to wait for their settlement. We understand why they are anxious to receive their money and we know how stressful that stack of medical bills can be. However, in these types of cases, a quick settlement is generally a low settlement. In order to receive the full amount of compensation you deserve, it’s going to take some time.

The insurance companies want you to settle quickly so that your damages will be as low as possible. In personal injury cases, you are entitled to receive compensation for the cost of as much medical treatment as is necessary for you to reach the maximum medical improvement possible. If you settle before you have fully finished treatment, or before the full extent of your injuries is realized, you may receive a settlement that is less than the amount you need.

Additionally, commercial truck accident claims often take longer to resolve than accidents involving other types of vehicles. Because semi trucks, tractor trailers, and other types of large commercial vehicles are generally owned by companies instead of individuals, settling these types of cases can be more complex than your everyday car crash.

Do I Need a Commercial Truck Accident Lawyer Near Me?

Only a commercial truck accident lawyer will have the experience and knowledge to properly investigate, review, and present the necessary evidence for your truck accident injury claim. If you’ve been injured in a commercial truck accident, finding an aggressive personal injury attorney to represent you is crucial to your recovery of compensation. Since commercial truck accident cases are more complicated than other car crash cases, you will need an attorney with knowledge of state trucking laws and regulations and experience working with these types of cases to negotiate the most favorable settlement possible.

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About Attorney911 
Legal Emergency Lawyers™ legal services

Attorney911 Legal Emergency Lawyers™ legal services is a Texas-based personal injury and criminal defense law firm with offices in Houston and Austin, though we are proud to serve Texans from all over the state and represent clients in federal court. We handle a wide variety of legal issues — from car accidents to worker’s compensation to DUI/DWI offenses. Our staff is bilingual, friendly, and genuinely passionate about helping our clients, whether it’s a million-dollar case or a thousand-dollar case. We also understand that cost can be a prohibitive factor in hiring a lawyer, and are willing to work with you on structuring payment in a way that is fair and feasible. We do accept credit cards for our hourly fees, and take some cases on contingency, which means you don’t pay us unless and until you get paid yourself. We know that you have a choice in your legal representation, and we believe that what makes us stand out from the competition is our real emotional investment in our clients. We see you as a person — not a paycheck. And we will fight hard for you, because we truly care.