Why Tractor Trailer Accident Cases Are So Different

If you have been doing some research into tractor trailer accident injury cases and lawyers who handle these types of cases, you have no doubt seen over and over again the same comment by truck accident attorneys that tractor trailer accident cases are DIFFERENT. What you probably have not been able to figure out from others is why are these cases so different.  This article will tackle that explanation so that you have more information about these types of cases. 

Complexity Means Higher Chance You Need A Lawyer

The simple answer that will be broken down in more detail below is that tractor trailer cases can be much more complex than car accident cases.  This complexity means that you are much more likely to need a lawyer to handle your case if you are seriously injured.  

Why if seriously injured?  Because if you are seriously injured your truck accident case is going to be vigorously defended by the trucking and insurance companies because there is a lot of money at stake.  Therefore, you will need a lawyer that knows the rules and regulations in place that the trucking company likely violated in order to properly pursue a just recovery.

If you were not seriously injured in the truck accident, the complex nature of these cases will likely not come into play because your claim will be settled by the insurance company without much of a fight.

Having The Trucking Company As A Defendant Is Important To Your Case      

What most clients do not understand is that the value of an injury case is often times very different between a tractor trailer accident and a individual, car v. car accident.  In the typical car accident case, you are suing an individual driver only.  

As a result, jurors tend to value these cases lower than in truck accident cases.  It is called the “Individual Discount.”  This means that in car accident cases, jurors tend to value injuries lower because they do not want the plaintiff to take all of the defendant’s assets.  Thus, they award the plaintiff less because they are led to believe that the defendant will have to pay it if he does not have enough insurance.

This is a natural concern for every personal injury attorney and their clients.  Will the jury think there is not enough insurance available on the case and therefore keep their award low. 

In tractor trailer cases, if you can keep the trucking company in the case as a defendant then you can avoid the risk of the “Individual Discount.”  The jury is instead tasked with determining what is often a very large corporation must pay to you to fully compensate you for all of your injuries and losses.  

As you can imagine, jurors in Georgia are much more willing to award significant amounts to plaintiffs in injury cases when the defendant is a large corporation instead of an individual who is much like them.

How to keep the trucking company in the case is one of the main reasons why truck accident cases are much more difficult to pursue than ordinary car accident cases.  Lets briefly discuss some of the ways you can keep the trucking company in the case.

How Do You Keep The Trucking Company In The Case

There are several causes of action a plaintiff may have against a trucking company directly after a truck accident.  The easiest one is what is called respondeat superior.  

This cause of action arises when the truck driver injures someone while in the employ of the trucking company.  Naturally, if at the time of the truck accident, the driver is hauling a load on behalf of his employer, you will be able to keep the trucking company in the case under this theory. 

However, you may not be able to take the easy path to keep the company involved.  It gets more complicated and potentially less likely that you will be able to pursue the trucking company under the respondeat superior theory when the collision occurred while the driver was off duty or the driver independent.  In these scenarios, it becomes more important to find other causes of action available to you in your particular case to try to keep the trucking company in the case. 

The good news is there are several other legal causes of action potentially available to a plaintiff in a truck accident case.  These include: 

  1.  Violation of Federal or State Trucking Regulations:  There are numerous state and Federal trucking regulations that trucking companies must abide by in order to operate safely.  These include such things as making sure not to allow or encourage its drivers to go over the maximum operating hours; maintain proper maintenance of its fleet and drug testing of its drivers, amongst others.  If your cases involves any of these violations by the trucking company, you will be able to keep it in the case. 
  2. Negligent Hiring:  If the truck driver in your case had a poor driving history before being hired by his or her current company or had drug or alcohol problems that the company ignored at the time of hiring, you can keep the trucking company in your case under this theory.
  3. Negligent Retention:  If the truck driver in your case was involved in numerous other accidents or violated safety rules while in the employ of the trucking company at issue before your accident, you can keep the trucking company in the case under this theory.  The trucking company arguably should have dismissed such a driver from its employ before he or her hurt someone else in a company truck.  
  4. Catch All:  There are several other causes of action that could apply depending on the facts of your particular case that could keep the trucking company in the case.   For example, was improper loading of material into the trailer a cause of the accident?  If so, was the trucking company responsible for loading the material being hauled onto the trailer?  If so, you have a negligence cause of action against the trucking company for improper loading of the trailer.    

Violations Of State and Federal Regulations Against The Truck Driver Alone Brings More Value To Your Case

Having a great understanding of all of the state and Federal Regulations that apply to a truck driver’s duties and responsibilities while operating a tractor trailer is the another reason why truck accident cases are much more complex than ordinary car accident cases.  

Why Doing So Is Important To The Value of Your Case 

Much like keeping the trucking company in the case adds practical value to your truck accident case, being able to highlight violations of state and/or Federal trucking industry regulations by the truck driver can add significant value to your case.   The reason for this is because juries tend to award significantly more compensation to a plaintiff injured due to easily understood violations of trucking industry rules than when no violations are present. 

This is so because jurors often times are predisposed to believe that most motor vehicle accidents are just “accidents” and therefore no one is at fault.  Under the law however, no motor vehicle collision is not the fault of anyone.  If two vehicles collide, someone has violated the rules of the road.  

However, in motor vehicle injury cases, many jurors simply do not want to award the plaintiff much compensation for their injuries because they believe it was just an accident.  In a truck accident case unlike an ordinary car accident case, you have a slew of regulations that apply to the case that may have been violated by the truck driver.  

Being able to articulate to the jury that the law has created safety rules for truck drivers because of how dangerous tractor trailers are on the road and that the truck driver in your case violated one or more of these safety rules he or she was required by law to follow and injured you, you stand a much better chance of convincing jurors who think it is just an accident that it actually is not.  

For example, say the truck driver was found to be distracted at the time of the collision with your vehicle.  If your lawyer subsequently uncovers that the truck driver violated the operating hour maximums set by Federal law on the day of the collision and therefore was drowsy at the time, jurors are typically more willing to compensate a plaintiff injured by such a truck driver purposefully violating the law than just the rules of the road that are typical in ordinary car accident cases. 

Bottom Line

Yes, tractor trailer accident cases are very different from ordinary car accident cases.  This is because the trucking industry is highly regulated due to the dangerous nature of tractor trailers on our roads and highways.  

These regulations provide the means to significantly increase the value of your case if understood and used correctly to keep the trucking company in the case as a defendant and to show just how negligent the truck driver was in causing the collision.  

The necessity of using these regulations in your favor and the complex nature of all of the available regulations means that you are much more likely to need the help of truck accident lawyer in your case.