Wrecks involving commercial vehicles are far more complex than wrecks involving passenger vehicles. There are hundreds of federal and state regulations that affect drivers and owners of commercial vehicles. To pursue a claim against a commercial vehicle operator or owner, you must understand the regulations that apply in order to show that one or more of them were violated.
In commercial vehicle claims, there are numerous avenues for obtaining information that are not available in passenger vehicle claims. For example, commercial vehicles contain black boxes, which contain electronic information about the braking in the vehicle, the speed the vehicle was traveling, and the maneuvers that were taken just prior to the collision. There are numerous driver requirements that dictate the legal number of hours a driver can spend driving without a break, and a way to determine how long they had been driving prior to the wreck. We can also obtain information about how much sleep they had, whether they have any medical history that would have precluded them from driving, whether there were any past incidents involving the driver, and whether the owners knew or should have known that the driver had a bad driving history or a history of not taking required breaks.
Different sets of regulations apply to different types of commercial vehicles. For instance, a host of federal regulations apply to vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds. Many of these regulations pertain to cargo limits, maintenance requirements, inspection requirements, and rules of operation.
It is important to have an attorney who understands all of the regulations that apply to commercial vehicles. If one violation is overlooked, it could mean the difference between winning and losing your case. Expert witnesses may be called by both sides to testify as to whether or not they believe a particular regulation was violated. In the trial, it often ends up being a battle of the experts to determine whether the company or the driver was at fault. Cases involving commercial vehicles are much more expensive to pursue than cases involving passenger vehicles. In part, this expense is due to the necessity of hiring experts early on in a case. A significant investment of money and time will have to be made before you even know whether the defendant is truly liable.
Commercial vehicle accidents can happen just like any other auto accident; the difference very often lies in the extent of the damage. A two-vehicle collision between sedans may just be a fender bender, but if one of those vehicles were to be a commercial vehicle weighing several hundred (remove hundred so it says several times) times more than the other vehicle, then the damage to the smaller vehicle could be catastrophic.
Commercial vehicles are much more difficult to drive than sedans or SUVs. They obviously weigh a lot more, which makes them very difficult to stop and requires a much greater stopping distance. Drivers must undergo technical training and obtain special licenses prior to operating these vehicles, so a greater level of skill is required compared to the average driver. Very often, drivers of these commercial vehicles are making long calls that require them to be on the roadway for several hours at a time. As a result, sleep deprivation and loss of concentration can come into play.
In today’s day and age, there is also the problem of distraction by electronics in the cockpit. In the driver’s cabin, there may be a host of electronic devices that the driver is required to monitor, such as a GPS device or a phone to which their employer or other drivers send text messages. This creates an obvious problem of distracted driving. Over the past 10 to 15 years as electronic devices have become more commonly used inside the cabins of commercial vehicles, there has been a drastic increase in distracted driving.
It’s also much more difficult to turn these vehicles, and when they stall in the middle of the roadway, they are very difficult to avoid. A stalled commercial truck could block up to three lanes of traffic, and oncoming traffic might be traveling 50 or 60 miles an hour. Collisions with these vehicles cause much more damage than collisions with passenger vehicles. Rollovers are also a big problem with commercial vehicles, especially with 18-wheeler or semi-trucks. The drivers have to be very skilled in how they load and maneuver these vehicles so that they don’t create imbalances that cause them to tip.
For more information on Commercial Vehicles Vs. Passenger Vehicle Wrecks, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (706) 770-6669 today.