A commercial vehicle is defined as any motor vehicle used to transport goods or paying passengers — everything from semi trucks and trailers, to pickup trucks and vans, to taxis and buses. Essentially, if a vehicle is owned by a company and used mainly for business transport, it’s classified as a commercial vehicle. Collisions involving commercial vehicles are frequently more serious than accidents between two smaller vehicles, owing to the weight and size of commercial vehicles and the conditions that professional drivers work under. And while every driver has the responsibility to uphold the rules of the road and operate his or her vehicle safely, there are some special considerations that may add complexity to a commercial vehicle accident case.
Here are a few things to consider as you begin thinking about how to best handle your accident case.
- Multiple insurance policies. Commercial drivers and the companies that employ them often maintain separate insurance policies. This can complicate commercial vehicle accident cases, since you will need to establish which party is responsible. Drivers may be independent contractors, or they may be direct employees of a single commercial vehicle motor carrier or business. The employee status of the driver will affect who is responsible for paying for damages.
Resolving a commercial vehicle accident case also requires the claimant to communicate with multiple parties in order to obtain documentation detailing these relationships and the insurance policies of each party. An experienced commercial vehicle accident lawyer will take the reins throughout this process, managing communication and demanding the cooperation of insurance providers, drivers, and the businesses that hire them.
- Loading and transporting freight. Commercial drivers have the responsibility to load and secure freight properly. This means complying with regulations governed by the Texas DMV and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, including weight and size restrictions, safe loading and unloading practices, and proper securing of freight. When commercial vehicle operators fail to abide by these rules, they can be held responsible for negligence. A lawyer familiar with motor carrier regulations will be able to help you determine whether improper loading and unloading was a factor in your case.
- Large vehicles and high damages. Many commercial vehicles are very large and extremely heavy (for context, the gross weight limit in Texas for trucks is 80,000 pounds). The impact of a collision with one of these vehicles can be extreme, often causing severe injuries and devastating losses as a result. Additionally, large, bulky trucks and trailers can be difficult to operate safely, which can also be a factor in accidents.
Many large commercial vehicle collisions result in serious, life-threatening injuries or even fatalities, so it can require significant work and resources to properly prove the full extent of the harms and losses caused by the collision. This can complicate your case, since it will take more diligence on the part of your lawyer to prove these losses and a greater willingness to fight to secure an exceptional outcome.
- Driver fatigue. The professional driving industry is very demanding. Drivers are frequently encouraged to work long hours without adequate rest. Drowsy driving is a known cause of accidents; in fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that fatigued driving is responsible for an estimated 100,000 accidents a year. Commercial drivers, who are often on the road for many hours at a time without rest, and frequently at night, are at a much higher risk for drowsy driving accidents. To combat this, the departments that regulate commercial driving mandate documented rest periods for drivers.
However, in some cases, negligent commercial vehicle carrier training and management practices can actually contribute to driver fatigue — and the accidents that occur as a result. When there is documented evidence that these companies encourage or even force drivers to operate vehicles without rest, the organizations may be held responsible for your damages. Investigating and documenting these practices takes considerable effort and expertise, so it is worth contacting a commercial vehicle lawyer if you think drowsy driving was a factor in your case.
- Drug and alcohol use. Similarly, the demands of commercial carrying lead many drivers to alcohol and drug use, which can impair their ability to operate a vehicle safely. Studies have found that drivers frequently abuse substances such as marijuana, alcohol, methamphetamines, and cocaine. All of these drugs seriously impair a driver’s ability to operate a vehicle safely — and, of course, driving while under the influence is illegal.
When substance abuse is a factor in your case, the police will typically initiate a criminal investigation. This can delay the process of suing for damages, since some evidence may not be available to you during the criminal process. Contacting a lawyer will help you navigate the aspects of a criminal and civil trial and/or settlement as quickly as possible.
- Vehicle malfunction. Drivers and the commercial vehicle carriers that hire them both play a role in maintaining vehicles. Drivers are responsible for reporting vehicle issues, while motor carriers must attend to these problems and complete regular maintenance on their fleet of vehicles. When either party fails to fulfill these obligations, it may be held responsible for the damage they cause.
Not every accident case requires the expertise of an attorney, but when commercial vehicles are involved, it’s wise to at least contact a commercial vehicle lawyer before you decide how to proceed.
Here’s what a competent attorney will bring to your commercial vehicle accident case.
- Experience. As you can see from the factors above, investigating and determining liability in a commercial vehicle accident case can be quite a complex process. Lawyers familiar with these types of cases understand the regulations and laws that govern the commercial driving industry, and they know how to obtain documentation and testimony that help prove whether drivers or motor carriers have failed to meet their obligations. They also understand the various parties involved in such an accident case and know how to communicate with them in a way that will not jeopardize your case.
- Education. Not only are attorneys familiar with the legal aspects of your case, a client-focused lawyer will also serve as an educational resource throughout the process. A good commercial vehicle accident attorney will help you understand your options for obtaining and paying for medical treatment, as well as the types of damages and losses for which you may be eligible to receive compensation. A great law firm, like FVF, can even guide you through the process of creating an estate and navigating the probate process in the event of a fatality.
- Support. Dealing with the aftermath of an accident is a draining experience, emotionally, mentally, physically, and financially. Having an experienced attorney in your corner helps you focus on your recovery by delegating the legal work of your case to a professional. Attorneys can also offer financial support, helping you negotiate payments with hospitals and medical providers, identifying funds to help you afford bills, and deferring payment for their legal services until after (or if) you receive a settlement.
While a lawyer can serve as a valuable resource to you throughout your personal injury case, it’s important to choose the right commercial vehicle accident lawyer. San Antonio and Austin residents can benefit from the experience and integrity of our firm. We work hard to handle each case with the highest level of transparency, expertise, and compassion. Here’s what our team brings to the table.
- Education-first approach. In a commercial vehicle accident case, information is often your most powerful asset. Our approach at FVF is to educate clients so they can make the best decisions for their health, financial situation, and legal case. We focus on getting you the information you need to make well-informed choices, regardless of how you decide to proceed.
- Years of experience. With over 70 years of combined legal experience on staff, you can rest assured that your case is in capable hands with FVF. We’ve handled hundreds of personal injury suits, earning a sterling case record in the process.
- Reputation for excellence. At FVF, we put clients first. Our commitment to accident victims has helped us achieve stellar case results, earning our firm both a reputation as a leader among Austin commercial vehicle accident lawyers and excellent reviews on Yelp, Google, and AVVO.
- Ethical mission. One of our chief goals at FVF is to improve the reputation of personal injury law, one case at a time. We strive to handle each case with the utmost transparency, honesty, and integrity, offering accident victims straightforward and sincere advice.
- Pressure-free consultation. When you contact our team for a free case evaluation, we’ll give you a rundown of your options, not a hard sell. We simply want accident victims to make the best choices for their case, rather than feel pressured to engage our services.
- Compassionate counsel. Behind every accident case is a human being, living through what is perhaps one of the most difficult experiences of their lives. Our firm treats you with dignity and compassion, working with you to help you through this difficult time.
Accident victims deserve to have a clear understanding of their rights and options after an accident. Even if you decide not to pursue legal representation, you can still benefit from our expertise by contacting us today for a free case evaluation. Together, we’ll review the facts of your case and help you decide whether hiring a lawyer makes sense for you as you work to recover from your commercial vehicle accident.