Imagine getting a call from an unknown number. The voice on the other end tells you a loved one has been in an accident with an 18-wheeler. For most people, this is a nightmare come true. Large commercial vehicles pose a heightened risk on the road, which is why there are different roads governing accidents that involve commercial drivers. As a private citizen operating your own personal vehicle, it’s important to know these laws and how they can affect you.
How to Avoid a Collision
The best way to avoid a lawsuit over an 18-wheeler collision is to avoid the crash. There are a few simple steps private drivers can take to help avoid collisions with commercial vehicles. Most importantly, stay clear of zero visibility areas, such as close at the rear of the trailer or close alongside the truck. Also don’t change lanes abruptly in front of a truck or swerve in front of a truck, when the driver is attempting to make a right turn. Unsafe passing directly in front of a commercial truck, including failure to signal, can also result in serious accidents.
Overall, practicing safe and sensible driving can significantly reduce your risk of being involved in a car crash with a commercial driver. It’s safer to always assume the driver cannot see you and cannot stop abruptly. By doing so, you reduce your risk of experiencing a serious injury on the road.
Who is liable…The Driver or the Company?
Once a crash has happened, though, if you want to be compensated for your ordeal, you will enter into a lawsuit. As the plaintiff in a lawsuit seeking damages with the help of a tractor-trailer crash lawyer, the ideal situation is to be able to bring the action against the driver’s employer. Unfortunately for personal injury plaintiffs, that’s not always possible.
The law only allows for the employer of a professional driver to be held liable when the conditions of “Respondeat superior” are present. That is a Latin term meaning “let the superior make answer,” and it requires that the incident was caused by an unintentional act committed by the driver “within the scope of employment,” meaning as a normal part of his/her job. If these conditions are met, the owner of the company is liable for the accident as well as the driver himself.
The first step in determining the culpability of the employer is determining if the driver really is an employee of the trucking company. If he’s an independent owner-operator, the driver may be held solely responsible for his acts, even within the scope of employment. If the driver owns his own truck, pays for expenses such as gas and maintenance out of his own pocket, and works his own hours, it’s accepted that he is an independent contractor.
Suppose the driver is not an independent contractor and is a direct employee of a trucking firm. In that case, it must be determined if the accident occurred, while the driver was working within the scope of his employment terms. In determining this factor, the driver’s actions before and during the accident must be considered. Additionally, courts will look at the intent of the employee and the acts expected of the employee in the execution of his duties. For instance, did the accident occur, while the driver was taking a break from his assigned duties or had he deviated from an assigned route? If that is the case, the commercial trucking company might not be expected to accept liability for the driver’s acts. It depends on the laws in your specific state.
The #1 Reason for Truck Collisions
Recent studies have uncovered that in many cases, it’s the car driver at fault in an accident. If this happened, hiring a truck collision lawyer for the purpose of filing a personal injury lawsuit may just be a waste of your resources. This isn’t surprising though when the intensive training programs that drivers go through before being released on their own to drive for the company.
The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute routinely conducts truck-related crash research. In one of their recent studies, they examined 8,309 truck accidents with other vehicles in which at least one fatality resulted. Of the 8,309 cases, the other driver was at fault 81% of the time. Professional truck drivers were found to be at fault just 27% of the time.
The major problem responsible for most car/tractor-trailer accidents is the car driver’s wrongful assumptions about the truck’s maneuvering capabilities (like the truck’s accelerating and decelerating capabilities, as well as the commercial driver’s visibility).
How to Win Your Case
Finally, after all the pain of a crash and a lawsuit, your goal and the light at the end of the tunnel is winning your case. To do this, you need an experienced lawyer on your side. This is where Tate Law Group comes in. They are dedicated to doing everything legally and ethically possible to obtain the best results for their injured clients, and they do it often. With one phone call to (912) 333-3915, the experts at Tate Law can give you a confidential consultation on your case today.