In the immediate aftermath of an automobile accident, your first thoughts aren’t of liability or insurance claims or protecting your legal rights. After being involved in a crash, your initial concerns will involve the health and well-being of you, your family and friends. When you assess the damage to your personal property or auto after the fact is when a certain level of confusion will begin to set it.
Do you need to make an insurance claim? Do I need to hire an attorney? How will the authorities or insurance agency determine who was at fault? Who’s going to pay to repair my car? How am I going to get to work or my kids’ soccer games? Whether the other party in your crash was driving a car or truck/commercial vehicle can have a host of implications. Here we lay out some of the biggest differences and what they mean when it comes to your ability to be made whole in the event of an accident.
State and Federal Regulations
One of the most important details to pay attention to in the event of any accident is the rules, laws and licensing requirements in your city or state. For automobiles, fairly simple prohibitions against texting or talking while driving, distracted driving or maintaining basic licensure and minimum insurance standards could factor into your ability to recover damages after an accident. For big rigs, semi-trucks or commercial vehicles, things can get a bit more complicated.
Rules regarding who can operate trucks of various sizes, including when, where and any special certifications you must have, could all play into a truck driver’s liability in the event of a crash. At the federal level, various laws require operators of commercial vehicles to maintain strict logs regarding maintenance and for drivers to adhere to rest schedules that ensure they’re physically capable of operating a large vehicle. A violation of one of these may equal big shifts in liability, regardless of the specifics of your accident. These rules are set out in the “Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations” and apply across state borders.
Who Pays the Bills
The person behind the checkbook will also create major differences in an auto or truck accident. In the case of regular motor vehicles, there may be minimum insurance standards within your state that, in some cases, don’t meet the actual damaged suffered because of the accident. While truck drivers often must carry larger policy limits, bigger vehicles can also equal greater damages. Also, it can be difficult to determine who exactly to go after. While the driver may have a personal policy, if they are operating the vehicle on behalf of a company or carrying cargo for another entity, you may be left scratching your head over just who is responsible for paying to make you whole. Generally, drivers of trucks are employees of a company and under “respondeat superior” the company is responsible. Generally, drivers of trucks who travel interstate carry at least $750,000 in insurance coverage.
One of the final differences between truck and auto accidents is the inevitability that you’ll be taking on a larger team if you are hit by a commercial vehicle. In an auto accident, drivers will often exchange insurance information and each side gets a lawyer—you hire a personal injury lawyer Brookhaven GA trusts and the at-fault driver’s insurance hires a defense lawyer.
Trucks, on the other hand, often have larger companies to support their claims and larger insurance companies with bigger resource pools. It isn’t unheard of for truck insurers to refer nearly every claim to an independent legal team for review. Truck companies often send out teams to the crash scene to start building a defense from day one. This means a vehicle driver is often left on their own to make their case against both a large company and its legal counsel.
You Have Options
It’s important to remember that despite the differences in auto versus trucks accidents, you are always entitled to seek legal counsel for your case or claim. Whether your hire legal counsel in the event of an accident or not, remember that bigger doesn’t equal better or entitle the other side to take advantage of your “inferior” position.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Butler Tobin for their insight into truck and auto accident cases.