Yes, there are a few important differences between those two situations. We outline some of the highlights below:
- Severity. Because of the enormous difference in mass between a conventional passenger sedan and a big rig truck, a collision involving a truck is much more likely to involve serious, even life-threatening injuries. Fatal truck accidents on North Carolina highways are all too common.
- Federal regulation. Under the U.S. Constitution, only the federal government has the right to regulate interstate commerce, including the trucking industry. Truck drivers are required to abide by many more federal rules than passenger vehicle drivers. Truck drivers are still licensed to drive by state governments, although federal rules have set the minimum standards needed for a Commercial Drivers License.
- Insurance coverage. In most cases, a truck will carry a greater amount of insurance coverage because of the greater potential liability from an accident. Owner-operator trucking companies can be expected to carry simply the minimum required amount of insurance, while larger commercial transport companies may have millions of dollars of coverage. This level of insurance protection is needed because a company may be found liable for damages if its employee is at fault in an accident while driving on the job.
- Limits on hours worked. In order to minimize the risks that driver fatigue will cause a serious truck accident, regulations limit the number of hours a trucker may drive in one shift and during a workweek. However, there have been accusations that some companies skirt those requirements by asking drivers to falsify time logs. Other companies may pay drivers bonuses to drive longer and faster than the law allows. Needless to say, these are not concerns with passenger vehicles.
- Driver safety certification. Likewise, trucking companies are supposed to exert close scrutiny over their employees. This can include periodic safety and performance evaluations; background checks on the drivers, including research into their license and criminal histories; and regular testing for drug use. A company which fails to perform these required checks—or doesn’t perform them often enough—not only can face severe fines, but it also may be liable if a driver causes a serious truck accident.
Protecting Your Legal Rights
As you can see, truckers (and their employers) are held to stricter standards of safety than automobile drivers. When a truck is involved in a North Carolina traffic accident, a key question to ask is, “Why did this truck driver not apply his extensive safety expertise to avoid this crash?” A skilled attorney’s investigation often will find that the trucker and his company share legal fault for the incident.
The specifics of every North Carolina traffic accident are different. We cannot give a full evaluation of your individual case without a comprehensive review of the facts. To set up a FREE, no-obligation consultation with one of our Wilmington truck crash lawyers, call Speaks Law Firm at 910-341-7570 (local) or 877-593-4233 (statewide toll-free). We will listen to your story and be better prepared to estimate the amount of compensation you may be able to collect.