When a large commercial truck collides with a car, SUV, pickup, or motorcycle, the results are often deadly. We call tractor-trailers big rigs precisely because their length and weight so far exceed those of smaller vehicles.
Because semis are so large and dangerous, state and federal laws place high duties on commercial truck drivers and trucking companies to operate safely. Negligence or recklessness that leads to a crash on a Virginia road or highway gives the injured victims or the families of the people killed rights to seek monetary compensation and damages from the responsible parties. In cases involving at-fault commercial truck drivers, the responsible parties can be the driver, the driver’s employer, and the companies that provided and performed maintenance on the equipment used by the truck drivers.
Here are three things everyone must know about tractor-trailer crashes.
FACT: Commercial truck crashes have many causes.
The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles cited four leading causes of crashes caused by semi operators during 2017:
- Improper lane change
- Following too closely
- Speed too fast
- Failure to yield
Each of those actions could result from falling asleep at the wheel, getting distracted by a smartphone or GPS device, or driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Sometimes, truck drivers just fail to adequately check their vehicles’ huge blind spots before changing lanes. Other times, a mechanical failure such as tire blowout or a faulty linkage between the cab and the trailer is to blame.
Since a crash involving a big can have so many causes, an accident victim and his or her Virginia personal injury lawyer must work quickly to ensure that all electronic and video evidence related to the incident is preserved and made available for review. Tractor-trailers that cross state lines are required to carry what amounts to black boxes that record vehicle speed, braking and hours in service. Many semi cabs are also outfitted with internal and external cameras. All this information can help substantiate insurance claims.
- Speed: A Majo Cause of Big Rig Accidents
- Driver’s Health History Is More Relevant in Cases Involving Tractor-Trailers
FACT: Many insurance policies apply.
Regulations and business realities dictate that a large commercial truck hits the highway with most or all of the following forms of insurance coverage:
- Driver’s insurance
- Company insurance on the driver
- Vehicle insurance on the cab
- Trailer insurance
- Cargo insurance
- Equipment insurance (e.g., tires, wheels, axles)
A Virginia personal insurance attorney who has handled multiple truck crash cases will know how to determine which policies apply and how to deal with the representatives of each insurance company.
FACT: Since semis cross state lines, crash victims should not hire just any lawyer to handle their case
Simply filing insurance claims never guarantees that the at-fault truck driver or trucking company will pay a victim’s medical bills or provide compensation for a wrongful death. The claimant -- the personal who files a claim -- must prove that the semi operator, his or her employer, or an equipment manufacturer failed to meet some legal or civil duty to protect other people.
One of the best ways to show such a failure is to present evidence that the at-fault driver or company violated a state or federal trucking law. Virginia enforces all the same rules and regulations as the U.S. government. Hiring an attorney who know the legal code inside and out will increase a victim’s chances for receiving the settlement or court award they deserve.