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What to Ask a Lawyer About Truck Accidents

I’m Katelyn Holub, an attorney focusing on personal injury law in northwest Indiana.

Welcome to Personal Injury Primer, where we break down the law into simple terms, provide legal tips, and discuss topics related to personal injury law.

Today’s question comes from a caller who wants to know what legal issues are involved in litigating truck accident cases compared to cases involving only colliding cars.

Is this question another way of asking, aren’t truck and car accidents really just the same?

At the most superficial level, car and truck accidents are the same. Many of the same traffic rules apply to the operation of both vehicles. The similarity doesn’t go far beyond that, however.

The bumpers on semi-tractors do not have the shock-absorbing capability that you find on automobiles.

If you have two automobiles crash either front to rear or front to front, the shock-absorbing bumpers take much of the collision force and disperse it away from the body of the occupant inside the vehicle.

All of that is missing when a truck hits the rear of a car. You only get one shock-absorbing bumper in that kind of a situation– the shock-absorbing bumper on the back of the car. The truck bumper, which has no shock-absorbing properties, will transmit all of the impact force into the car.

There are, of course, more physical differences between trucks and cars than bumper design. The semi-trailer truck weighs vastly more than a car. Accordingly, the brunt of the force of the collision flows to the vehicle that weighs the least.

But there are a whole host of other issues that are involved with collisions involving trucks, especially large semi-tractor trailers.

There are rules describing truck weight limitations. If those limitations are exceeded, the vehicle may be in violation of what are called federal motor carrier safety rules.

These safety rules encompass a lot of different things, including rules regarding the number of hours that the truck can be operated by a driver without a break for sleep or meals.

Being familiar with these regulations is essential.

Also, when you’re dealing with trucks, there is always the legal issue of agency or employment regarding the vehicle’s driver. In other words, not only is the driver responsible for the operation of the truck, but the company that puts the driver on the road can be held legally accountable.

There are also different minimum insurance requirements for semi-tractor-trailer trucks.

There are different requirements for different types of trucks, such as farm vehicles that look like semi’s and haul grain to market versus over-the-road long haul trucks.

The rules vary between truck types and use.

There are rules regarding general safety inspection, vehicle lighting, and inspection and checking of brakes before each load. There are requirements concerning flares and reflectors if a vehicle is disabled on the roadway at night.

So, an attorney who has never handled a truck case before will not have the same experience with the law as someone who has handled many truck cases before.  It is similar to going to a medical doctor who concentrates on dealing with injuries to the human hand, being called upon to perform brain surgery. There’s some overlap in the experience, but not that much.

Typically you’ll do better with an attorney who has experience with truck accident cases if you’ve been involved in a crash which includes a truck as one of the crash vehicles.

I hope you found this information helpful. If you have questions about your legal rights if you get hurt due to the carelessness of another person, or as a result of substandard medical care, or due to a product defect, construction injury, or any other type of personal injury, please give us a call at (219) 736-9700. You can also learn more about us by visiting our website at DavidHolubLaw.com – while there make sure you request a copy of our book “Fighting for Truth”.