What Are The Truck Driver's Obligations Towards Other Motorists?
18-wheeler drivers have to follow the same rules as regular drivers, but they also have many additional rules to follow. Many of those additional rules take into account the fact that the load that they are carrying is way heavier than a normal car. For instance, the following distance a semi-truck must maintain is more than a regular vehicle. A car traveling 60 miles an hour can't stop on a dime. When an 18 wheeler is going 60 miles an hour, it takes much longer than a car for it to stop. The following distance for an 18-wheeler should be a lot more than a standard car. If it's raining outside, trucks need to slow down more than the normal driver does. Trucks need to slow down when it's foggy, or when there is bad visibility more so than a normal driver needs to.
Most states have a commercial driver's handbook, with many important rules that truck drivers must follow. Some 18-wheelers are pulling hazardous, flammable, poisonous, toxic, or explosive materials, and when they get to a railroad crossing, they are required to stop before going across. Many 18- wheeler drivers are driving low hanging trailers, so when they go over a humped railroad crossing, they don't go over the humped railroad crossing like you would in a car. They are not supposed to go over it until they are sure that they can get all the way across. Sometimes, when you see 18-wheelers pulling huge heavy items pulling they are even required to contact railroads before they go across railroad tracks.
What Happens if Drugs or Alcohol Are Involved in a Trucking Accident Case?
There are regulations in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations that prohibit alcohol or drugs in the system of a truck driver. In some states, you can pursue punitive damages against trucking companies and truck drivers if you can prove gross negligence on the part of the trucking company or the truck driver. You can get more damages than just your medical bills, your wages, and your pain and suffering. To get these sorts of damages from the company itself, you would have to prove generally some prior knowledge on the part of the trucking company. For example, if they hired their brother or cousin and they knew he's a drunk, and then he goes out and gets drunk and has a big wreck, it'll be pretty easy to argue that the truck company itself was grossly negligent for hiring this type of person.
Do Insurance Adjusters Handle a Trucking Accident Case Differently Than a Car Accident Case?
Generally the insurance adjusters are more sophisticated and more aggressive, when dealing with a trucking accident case, because the wrecks are usually worse, and because there is more money involved. By law, there's a $750,000 minimum policy for trucking companies. Many times, adjusters will push people to take cheap settlements, or they'll take more lengthy, more detailed statements from people involved in semi-truck wrecks. Because of this, one thing that we tell people is if you are involved in a wreck and there is a serious injury involved, and the insurance company for the truck driver calls you up and wants a statement, don't give it to them. They are there to try to prove that it was your fault, and they are not your friends. They are there to save their company a lot of money, and you are way better off in that situation to get an attorney, so you will have somebody who is on your side who deals with these things every day the way the trucking company and their insurance agents do.
Are the Attorneys Who Represent Trucking Companies Different from those that Handle Automobile Accidents?
Yes, the attorneys who represent trucking companies are different than those that handle automobile accidents. Many times in an automobile case, the attorneys will be in a captive law firm. In other words, all they do is represent All-State on $25,000 or less policies. These guys are less sophisticated. They have got a whole bunch of cases, and they don't spend very much time on any one case. They are the Wal-Mart of lawyers and make their profit from handling a lot of cases quickly. They are not going to be as aggressive.
If there is a huge truck wreck, the law firm that the trucking company's insurance company is going to hire is going to be paid more on an hourly basis. They are going to be more aggressive, they are going to be more sophisticated, and generally pay much more attention to their cases. They will try to build up their billable hours by working the file hard. The only way this pays off is if their efforts eventually minimize the pay out to anyone injured in their truck accident.
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