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Basics of Truck Accident Liability in Virginia

Semi-Trucks on Highway

Our Hampton Roads and Tidewater regions in southeastern Virginia bustle with commercial activity. With all that activity come numerous trucks on our Interstates, roads, and streets. Unfortunately, lots of truck traffic means that truck accidents happen. Determining who is responsible for compensating injured victims in those accidents is always complicated. Truck accident liability is much more complex than car accident liability in Virginia.

Why Truck Accident Liability Is Different From Car Accident Liability

Truck accidents cause more severe injuries than car accidents. The bigger size and heavier weight are contributing factors, but there are other reasons as well. In a previous blog post, we explored many of the reasons why truck accidents are so dangerous.

Accidents involving trucks are also very different in terms of legal and factual complexity. A truck accident can be caused by numerous factors — or even by a combination of factors — relating to the truck driver, truck or other equipment, and even the cargo. Sorting through those details is part of the complex investigation that must be conducted after a truck accident to determine who is responsible for paying injured victims.

State and Federal Regulations Apply to Trucking

Complex state and federal regulations apply to trucking activities, including operation of trucks on the road. Many of the regulations are based on safety considerations. Violations of those regulations can constitute negligence and create liability for a truck accident.

For example, truckers are required to maintain a log book documenting their own driving activities, as well as repair and information about the trucking equipment and cargo. In a truck accident, the driver’s log book becomes an essential piece of evidence, which can uncover causes of the accident.

Many large trucks include a “black box” that is similar to the black box on an airplane. A black box can reveal the exact speed and location of the truck at the time of the accident, as well as other information. After an accident, recovering the black box from the truck and analyzing the available information is critical. That requires experts who know how to recover and decipher the information.

Reconstructing a truck accident, gathering evidence from multiple sources, and determining compliance or lack of compliance with the myriad of state and federal safety regulations is just one complex aspect of investigating a truck accident.

Insurance Coverage Issues in Truck Accidents

In Virginia, liability for an accident is based on negligence. In a car accident, the insurance coverage issues are usually straightforward: The at-fault driver’s insurance company is responsible for compensating injured victims. Insurance coverage issues become much more complicated in a truck accident. There often will be more than one insurance company involved.

Potential sources for insurance coverage include the driver (if he or she operates independently), the company that employs the driver, the company that owns the truck and trailer, and the company that is responsible for making repairs and doing maintenance, as well as the company that owns the cargo and hired the truck to transport cargo, in some cases. Available sources for compensation in a truck accident can include some or all of these entities or people.

Identifying the potentially responsible parties and insurance companies is often a challenge in a truck accident. Once they are identified, ascertaining their legal business location and insurance carrier can also be difficult. Following through on all those details is absolutely essential in making sure that an injured victim receives the maximum possible recovery.

Truck Accident Causes

Driver negligence generally causes a car accident, but it is only one of a number of possible causes in a truck accident. Unlike a car accident, there are multiple potential causes and sources of liability for negligence in a truck accident. While truck driver inattention or other failure causes many truck accidents, an accident can also be caused by:

  • Violations of trucking regulations, such as improperly secured cargo or an overweight truck
  • Driver violation of regulations, such as hours-of-service requirements
  • Negligent hiring and training, if the company employing the driver did not ensure that the driver met all legal requirements
  • Maintenance or repair issues relating to the truck itself

The existence of so many different potential causes for a truck accident presents complexity that simply does not exist in a car accident. Getting to the root cause (or even causes) is one of the most challenging parts of analyzing the circumstances of a trucking accident.

What To Do If You Are Injured in a Truck Accident

If you are seriously injured in a truck accident, or if you’ve lost a loved one in a truck accident, consulting with a knowledgeable, experienced personal injury attorney is absolutely essential. Only a lawyer who understands the complexity of the legal and factual issues that a truck accident presents can thoroughly investigate and analyze the circumstances of your accident and ensure that you recover the maximum compensation you deserve.

Truck accident investigation requires not only knowing the requirements of federal regulations, but also knowing how to uncover the relevant evidence in the driver’s log, black box, and elsewhere. Experts are often necessary to comb through accident details and analyze information to document the basis of liability.

Even ascertaining potentially liable companies and individuals requires investigation in a truck accident. After those determinations are made, additional work often must be done to ensure that a legal action is filed in the proper jurisdiction.

If you suffer serious injuries in a truck accident, the most important priority is getting the medical treatment you need. It also is important to contact an attorney as soon as you are able to do so, so your attorney can begin to collect information and investigate the accident.

Above all, do not talk with any insurance companies or adjusters who contact you on behalf of the truck driver or any company that may be liable for your injuries. The insurance company’s only goal will be to settle your claim for the smallest possible amount.

If you discuss the accident with an insurance adjuster, you could harm your claim or end up receiving much less compensation than you deserve. Your attorney should handle all the discussions with the insurance companies, while you concentrate on recovering from your injuries.

Talk With an Experienced Truck Accident Lawyer in Virginia Beach

With many years serving clients as a truck accident lawyer in Virginia Beach, attorney Jeff Brooke has the knowledge and experience that really makes a difference in successfully pursuing a truck crash case. If you or a loved one suffered serious injuries — or if you lost a loved one — in a truck accident in Virginia, we are here to help. Contact us by phone at (757) 552-6055 or by using our online contact form.

Jeff Brooke is a personal injury attorney devoted to helping individuals who have suffered serious and catastrophic injuries or lost a loved one as a result of someone else’s negligent and careless actions. The Jeff Brooke Team serves all of southeastern Virginia. The firm helps clients in the Greater Tidewater and Greater Hampton Roads areas, including in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, and Chesterfield. The Jeff Brooke Team also handles cases in northeastern North Carolina, including the Outer Banks.

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