No matter the situation, getting into a car accident is a harrowing and upsetting experience. This is made even worse when the vehicle you’re driving is your working vehicle. Whether you are a trucker driving your own rig or one provided to you by a company, you likely have some questions about what to expect when you’re involved in an accident with your semi-truck.
How is an accident involving a commercial vehicle different?
Unlike an accident in a personal vehicle being driven for personal reasons, an accident in your semi-truck is going to be dealt with differently. The investigation of the crash and any lawsuit that may be filed will be done in the same way as an accident with a personal vehicle. Where things change is in responsibility for the crash. In a commercial setting, a claim may be pursued against your company, or the owner of the semi-truck (if that isn’t you). This will mean that you will be under intense scrutiny from your employer, their insurance company, and the insurance company of the other involved party.
Who is responsible, me or my company?
Deciding who is responsible relies on a variety of factors. As a truck driver, you are held to certain standards when operating a semi-truck. Things like the number of hours you’re allowed to be out on the road, maintenance, and allotted breaks, etc. If you are found to have exceeded the number of hours you were permitted to be on the road, the responsibility may fall on you, since this will signal negligence on your part. It’s important to speak with a semi-truck accident lawyer or a lawyer familiar with accidents involving commercial vehicles so that you’ll have a better understanding of your legal rights.
My company isn’t from this state, what does that mean for the case?
If your company is not located in the state the accident occurred, the case may get pushed up to the federal level. This is not uncommon.
Should I hire a lawyer?
We 100% recommend that you hire a skilled lawyer who has experience in these kinds of accidents to make sure that you are aware of your rights and won’t become a pawn of your company or the insurance company. There are many cases where the other driver is actually at fault, with some people even cutting off semi-trucks on purpose to collect insurance money. Having a skilled lawyer will help you navigate the confusing intricacies of cases like this.
I own my own rig but was driving as an independent contractor, whose insurance will it go on?
As an independent contractor, your company is most often still responsible for liabilities that result from a crash. This is because of a law change that took place in 1956, that decided that a trucking company that was leasing a truck must have: “exclusive possession, control, and use of the [trucking] equipment for the duration of the lease . . . and assume complete responsibility for the operation of the equipment” (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, 49 C.F.R. § 376.12(c)(1)).
Will I keep my job?
If you have a long record of safe driving and following the rules, there’s no reason you should lose your job. That being said, if you are found to be at fault in the accident or if you are under the influence or flee the scene, your company may terminate you, or you may lose your CDL.