Accidents involving commercial trucks are a special type of traffic accident that differ from normal car wrecks in both practical and legal matters. From a practical standpoint, accidents that include a commercial truck can be especially dangerous. Even though truck accidents only account for three percent of all accidents in Illinois, the Illinois Department of Transportation reports that they make up nine percent of all accidents involving a fatality. Furthermore, nationwide statistics reveal the 83 percent of people killed in truck collisions are either pedestrians or occupants of other vehicles. Given the abnormally severe consequences of truck accidents, it can be important to understand the general law surrounding them, as well as the specific concerns that arise in truck accidents as opposed to other types of crashes.
The Law of Truck Accidents
Truck collisions are governed by the same law that governs most traffic accidents. This means that the lawsuit will most likely proceed under a theory of negligence. In order for the victim to succeed in showing that the defendant acted negligently, they will need to prove four things:
- - That the defendant had the responsibility to use “reasonable care” to prevent harm from coming to the plaintiff (motorists almost always have this responsibility towards each other);
- - That the defendant acted carelessly;
- - That the defendant’s careless act caused the accident; and
- - That the plaintiff suffered harm in the accident.
While these four things, often called the elements of negligence, arise in most traffic accident lawsuits, the fact that a commercial truck was involved creates unique considerations, especially because the truck driver may be an employee of a company.
Distinct Considerations for Trucks
Commercial trucking accidents differ from normal automobile crashes in a variety of ways. One of the most common changes is the fact that commercial truck drivers are often employees of a company. This means that the person whom the truck driver injured may be able to hold the corporation responsible for the acts of its employee. This could happen through two different methods.
First, the plaintiff could try to show that the trucking company was in some way negligent. Examples of negligent behavior on the part of companies might include improper maintenance of the trucks, insufficient training of the employees, or a failure to properly supervise employees. This last issue of improper supervision can be important since there are particular regulations related to the trucking industry that govern things like the amount of time that a driver may spend on the road consecutively. Failing to abide by these regulations could increase the chance of a serious accident.
Even if a corporation is not negligent in its own actions, the court may still hold it responsible for its driver’s actions under a doctrine known as “vicarious liability.” This doctrine states that employers may be held liable for their employees’ actions in situations where an employee is acting on behalf of the employer.
If you have recently been the victim of a truck collision, reach out to a skilled Illinois personal injury attorney today. Our experienced team helps clients in towns all over the northwest suburban area, including in Palatine, Arlington Heights, and Des Plaines.
About the Author: Attorney Ken Apicella is a founding partner of DGAA focusing in the areas of personal injury, employment, insurance coverage disputes, and civil litigation. Ken earned his J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1999. He has been named a SuperLawyers Rising Star and a Forty Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch. Ken has written and lectured for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education and regularly serves as a moderator at Northwest Suburban Bar Association's Continuing Legal Education seminars.