Parker Waichman LLP

While car accident cases can include serious injuries and lengthy court battles for fair compensation with the negligent driver’s insurance company, trucking accidents are frequently deadly. When comparing truck and car accidents, truck accident injuries may be more severe, and multiple parties may share liability compared to a car accident. What are some of the other major differences between truck and car accidents?

Truck Accident Statistics

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a nonprofit organization that tracks statistics and highway crash information, 4,714 people died in large truck crashes in 2021. Of those, 16% were truck occupants, and 15% were motorcyclists, bicyclists, or pedestrians. The largest number of deaths occurred among passenger car occupants, making up 68% of all truck accident fatalities in 2021.

Truck accident fatalities in 2021 were the highest they had been since 2006, when 4,886 people died in truck accidents. Of the 321 truck occupants who died in 2021, 203 or close to two-thirds of deaths occurred in accidents with at least one other large truck.

Why are truck accident fatalities so prevalent? Trucks typically weigh 20 to 30 times more than passenger vehicles. The additional weight gives trucks more force at impact, even when braking or attempting to avoid a collision. In 2021, large trucks accounted for 10% of vehicle miles traveled while only accounting for 5% of all registered vehicles.

Truck accident fatalities accounted for approximately 11% of all crash fatalities in 2021, with 42,939 total accident fatalities that year.

Truck Accident Causes

Several conditions may lead to a truck accident. Common causes of truck accidents include:

  • Poor road conditions causing a truck’s wheels to lose their grip on the road
  • Distracted driving or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol by the truck driver
  • The trucking company pressuring the driver to go beyond hours of service regulations
  • Improper loading causing the trailer’s weight to shift, leading to a jackknife accident
  • High winds knocking a truck and trailer onto its side
  • Striking a vehicle while merging because of large truck blind spots
  • Failing to stop in time, in light of the additional stopping distance a truck requires

Proving the cause of a truck accident can be difficult, particularly if you attempt to prove the truck driver or the trucking company failed to adhere to hours of service regulations established by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Additionally, these regulations apply only to truck drivers who perform interstate trips.

Truckers who only drive within their state must adhere to separate intrastate regulations, which are often less stringent than federal regulations enforced by the FMCSA. If you are injured in a truck accident, your truck accident lawyer will need to determine whether the driver was authorized to travel across state lines for their job. But what regulations does the FMCSA require for interstate truck drivers?

FMCSA Truck Driving Regulations for Hours of Service

The FMCSA maintains regulations for hours of service for interstate travel. These are the hours truck drivers are allowed to drive and the hours drivers must utilize for taking a break or sleeping. What are the hours of service regulated by the FMCSA?

  • 11-hour driving limit after ten consecutive off-duty hours
  • 14-hour limit for being on duty
  • 30-minute break of not driving after eight cumulative hours of driving without interruption
  • Drivers may not drive more than 60 hours in seven consecutive days OR 70 hours in eight consecutive days
  • Drivers must take 34 consecutive off-duty hours between 7/8-day consecutive driving periods
  • Drivers may split their ten-hour off-duty periods into at least two off-duty hours (under any conditions) and a required seven-hour off-duty period spent in the sleeper berth, as long as each split adds up to ten off-duty hours
  • Drivers may extend their 11-hour and 14-hour driving limits by up to two hours in instances of adverse driving conditions
  • Drivers may make exceptions for short-haul shifts within 150 air miles of their normal work reporting location if returning before the 14-hour maximum duty period

Your attorney can look into the details to determine whether the truck driver in your case should have followed FMCSA regulations or was subject to local or state truck driving requirements.

How Truck Accident Cases Are Different From Car Accident Cases

So, what are the common differences between truck accidents and car accidents in personal injury cases? Truck accidents often leave victims with much more severe injuries, even at lower collision speeds. Additionally, where car accident cases tend to only involve the other vehicle driver and/or owner, accidents involving a commercial truck could include the driver, the trucking company, the truck manufacturer, or other negligent parties.

Injuries Are Often More Severe in Truck Accidents

Because trucks can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, the forces involved in a truck accident are much more impactful than in collisions between passenger vehicles. Consequently, injuries tend to be more severe, and a larger percentage of truck accidents result in fatalities than passenger vehicle accidents.

Common truck accident injuries include:

  • Severe lacerations
  • Bone fractures
  • Internal organ damage
  • Crushing injuries
  • Burns
  • Whiplash
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
  • Limb amputation
  • Paralysis
  • Death

These injuries, medical bills, lost wages, and loss of earning capacity can be much higher in truck accidents than in typical car accidents. Additionally, non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, diminished quality of life, and emotional distress, can be substantial in a truck accident.

Multiple Parties May Be Liable in Truck Accidents

While car accident cases often only have one defendant (the negligent driver who caused the accident), truck accident cases may have multiple liable parties in a case. In truck accident cases, these may include the driver, trucking company, truck parts manufacturer, loading company, or other parties contributing to the accident and your injuries.

In cases with multiple defendants, the accident attorneys representing the defending parties may often attempt to shift blame to the other defendants and reduce their client’s liability. Truck accident cases that go to court can take much longer in cases with multiple defendants than in cases with only one party’s negligence to prove.

Proving Negligence in a Truck Accident Case

Personal injury cases rely on “a preponderance of the evidence” to prove negligence by one or more parties who contributed to the accident. Proving negligence includes:

  • Demonstrating the defendant owed you a duty of care (safe driving by the driver, hiring a licensed driver by the employer, producing working parts by the manufacturer, etc.)
  • Proving the defendant breached or failed to uphold their duty
  • Demonstrating that you suffered injuries or losses
  • Proving cause between the defendant’s breach of duty and the injuries you sustained in the accident

These are the four elements of negligence in any personal injury case. As the plaintiff, you and your attorney have the burden of proof, meaning you must supply the evidence to prove negligence by the defendant. Having an experienced truck accident lawyer on your side can aid in your pursuit of fair compensation for truck accident injuries.

Seeking Compensation in Truck Accident Cases

Like car accidents, most truck accident cases allow victims to seek economic, non-economic, and, sometimes, even punitive damages. Damages are monetary compensation meant to make a victim whole again after suffering a loss due to someone else’s negligence.

Economic damages include quantifiable losses for things like medical bills, physical therapy and rehab, lost wages from time off work, and loss of earning capacity for future earnings.

Non-economic damages include intangible losses for pain and suffering, diminished quality of life, and, in cases of wrongful death, loss of consortium and companionship. If a defendant’s actions were particularly reckless, wanton, or intentional, the court may also award punitive damages to punish the defendant’s actions.

Finding a Skilled Truck Accident Lawyer

How does finding an experienced law firm help your truck accident case? Your accident attorney can:

  • Submit spoliation letters to liable parties’ legal representatives to preserve evidence, including truck logs and black box data
  • Obtain police records of the accident
  • Find the truck driver’s and trucking company’s licensing and certification information
  • Seek expert witnesses to give testimony on your injuries and the accident

Contact National Truck Accidents Law Firm Today

For more information about the differences between truck accidents and car accidents and options for your case, contact the attorneys at Truck Accidents Law Firm. Call us now at 1-800-LAW-INFO (1-800-529-4636) or contact us online for a free case evaluation.