When people think of commercial vehicles, they often envision an 80,000-pound semi-truck with an attached trailer full of cargo. But any vehicle that is used by a business is considered a commercial vehicle, including pickup trucks, delivery vans, taxis, shuttles, and company cars or SUVs.
If you were injured in a crash with a commercial vehicle, you might have serious injuries. Even if the professional driver is at fault, the insurance company and attorneys for his employer are likely to pay out as little possible after an accident. However, if you have an experienced lawyer on your side, you have a better chance of recovering the damages you need to put your life back together.
The Difference Between Commercial Vehicle Accidents and Regular Car Crashes
When you are involved in a crash with a privately owned vehicle, you will likely file a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance company. But when the accident involves a commercial vehicle, you will have to take on the vehicle driver’s employer and their team of lawyers.
There can be other differences as well. If the at-fault driver was in a semi-truck, taxi, bus, or another vehicle for which drivers need a commercial driver’s license, there might be a unique set of rules for that driver. Semi-truck drivers, for example, can only drive a certain number of hours within a 24-hour period according to federal regulations. If they exceed that number of hours and cause a crash, the case could be made that the driver was negligent because of fatigue. Because there are so many more regulations involved with a commercial vehicle crash, it is difficult for the average person to understand their options and rights. An experienced commercial vehicle accident attorney will know which questions to ask and which regulations the driver and the driver's company may have violated.
In addition, there may be others who share in liability with the driver, including:
- The vehicle manufacturer if there was a defect, such as defective tires, faulty brakes, inadequate hitches, or broken headlights that contributed to the accident.
- The business that owns the vehicle if it is determined that they had negligent hiring or training practices. With semi-trucks, in particular, companies may pressure drivers to reach their destinations more quickly than is reasonable, causing drivers to exceed their hours of service behind the wheel and drive while drowsy.
In order to reduce their share of responsibility, the insurer for the commercial driver may claim that you also share liability in the accident. Alaska follows a “pure comparative fault” rule, which means that if you are partially responsible for the crash, your damages could be reduced by your percentage of fault. Your lawyer can defend you from this claim.
Damages You Might Be Able to Recover After a Commercial Vehicle Crash
Your lawyer can advise you on the specific damages to which you may be entitled, including:
- Property damage, including your vehicle and any personal property inside such as handbags, cell phones, or other electronics
- Medical expenses, including hospital bills, ambulance charges, treatment expenses, and rehabilitation costs
- Lost wages for the time you were off work because of your injuries
- Loss of future earning capacity, depending on the nature of your injuries
- Compensation for permanent disability or permanent disfigurement
- Pain and suffering that resulted because of your injuries
- Loss of enjoyment in life such as being unable to participate in favorite hobbies or other pursuits
- Loss of society and companionship such as being unable to provide affection and companionship to a partner
- Punitive damages, which provide compensation if the court deems that the driver or the driver’s company acted particularly egregiously
Contact an Experienced Commercial Vehicle Accident Attorney
Don’t attempt to navigate a difficult commercial vehicle accident lawsuit on your own. In Alaska, attorney Ben Crittenden has helped many commercial vehicle accident victims and their families recover damages to help get their lives back on track. Call his Anchorage office to set up a free, no-obligation review of your case.