Hit by a Tractor-Trailer? Overview of How You Can Be Compensated for Your Harms and Losses | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

If you or a loved one was hit by a tractor-trailer, 18-wheeler, or big rig and suffered serious injuries, you can pursue financial restitution for your harms and losses through a truck accident personal injury claim. These claims are unique and can become extremely complex, depending on the facts of your particular accident. One of the unique aspects of an accident involving a commercial big rig is the potential to bring in multiple defendants and access multiple liability insurance policies to ensure you receive maximum compensation.

Higher Liability Coverage Required Under State and Federal Regulations

Commercial trucking companies are required to carry liability insurance with higher limits than your standard automobile liability insurance policy. For example, the minimum amount of primary liability insurance is set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for big rigs weighing in excess of 10,000 pounds is as follows:

  • $750,000 minimum –  Most commercial trucks hauling most commodities are required to have a minimum of $750,000 of liability coverage. Though, the vast majority of load brokers actually require a minimum of $1,000,000 in liability coverage.
  • $1,000,000 minimum – Auto haulers are required to carry a minimum of $1,000,000 in liability coverage.
  • $5,000,000 minimum –  If the big rig was hauling certain hazardous materials.

In contrast, the minimum liability coverage for a driver in Virginia is $25,000 per person and $50,000 per incident, according to Va. Code § 46.2-472. In North Carolina, the minimum coverage requirements for all drivers is $30,000 per person and $60,000 per incident, according to NC General Statute § 20-279.21.

In addition, you could potentially be able to file claims under multiple liability insurance policies. For example, there may be liability insurance on the tractor itself, insurance on the trailer itself. There may also be an applicable insurance policy for a shipper or freight forwarder, if they knew a commercial trucking company was not appropriately licensed and used them anyway.

This is why it can be somewhat easier for an injured driver to reach a fair and reasonable injury settlement that properly compensates you for your harms and losses than if you were involved in a more common automobile accident involving two sedans or SUVs.

Taking Action Against Multiple Defendants Increases Complexity of the Case

If multiple individuals and corporate entities are brought into your truck accident injury claim, the amount of available liability coverage increases, but so does the complexity. Multiple defendants may mean multiple insurance adjusters and multiple defense lawyers all working to try and mitigate their exposure to your claim. This is why it is so critical to have an experienced and skilled Virginia truck accident attorney on your side.

Holding a Truck Company Accountable for the Negligence of Their Drivers

Some people ask, “if the truck operator caused the accident, how could there be a viable claim against the trucking company itself?” Well, there is a legal doctrine known as respondeat superior. This doctrine holds that a trucking company can be held liable for am accident caused by an employee operating a truck owned by that company. Under this theory, an employer is liable for the wrongful acts committed by its employees or agents, provided the acts were unintentional and were committed within the scope of employment. Essentially, respondeat superior imputes the employee’s liability to the employer, making the employer liable as if it had committed the wrongful act itself.



Learn More About Your Legal Options by Speaking to an Experienced Virginia Car-Truck Accident Lawyer

Hiring an experienced truck accident attorney in Virginia, North Carolina, or anywhere else can mean the difference between obtaining a fair and reasonable settlement or having your claim ignored and utterly discarded by a big trucking company and their insurer. Level the playing field. Contact our law firm today to schedule a free, confidential case review.