I was involved in an accident with a truck—what do I need to know?

Tractor-trailers, semi-trucks, 18 wheelers, Mack Trucks, whatever you may call them, they are an ever present feature on our highways. There are over 2 million tractor-trailers operating in the U.S. and they log over 100 Billion miles per year. All that time on the road is bound to lead to accidents but you may be surprised to learn that commercial trucks are involved in less than 2.4% of all motor vehicle accidents. Unfortunately, even that small percentage accounts for over 500,000 truck accident per year. Here are some things you should know if you are involved in an accident with a tractor trailer:

1. Who to sue?

When you are involved in a tractor-trailer accident the question of who to sue can sometimes be complicated. Big commercial trucks, including 18 wheelers, are usually owned by a business, so you would want to sue the owner of the truck. On occasion, the trailer may be owned by a different company than the truck, and they may even be insured by different insurance companies, which case you might have to sue the trailer owner too. Sometimes the truck drivers are employees, but sometimes they are independent contractors, in which case you might also want to sue the driver. What if the accident was caused due to a mechanical problem—then you might want to sue the repair company that services the truck, or even the manufacturer of the truck itself. You want to make sure you understand all of the potential parties before bringing a lawsuit in these types of cases.

2. Who covers my medical and lost wage benefits?

In New York, your No-Fault insurer usually covers your medical and lost wage benefits when you are injured in a car accident. However, if you are involved in an accident with a vehicle weighing more than 6,500 pounds, and that vehicle is at fault for the accident, then your insurance company can go after the at-fault vehicle’s insurance company to get that money back.

3. How much insurance does a tractor-trailer usually have?

By law, drivers in New York state are required to carry $25,000 of bodily injury coverage on their vehicles. But the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requires trucks to carry much more insurance, depending on what they are carrying. A tractor-trailer hauling paper cups or bicycles only needs to carry $750,000 in insurance; but a truck carrying a hazardous substance like oil or chemicals has to carry anywhere between $1-$5 million dollars of insurance, depending on what it is hauling.

4. What if I was the driver of a tractor-trailer and I didn’t cause the accident?

Tractor-Trailer drivers should be covered under their employers workers’ compensation insurance unless they are independent contractors, in which case they might carry their own workers’ compensation insurance. In these cases the driver might have two cases—a workers’ compensation case which pays for medical and lost wage benefits and a separate personal injury action against the other driver for pain and suffering as well as any excess economic losses.

Needless to say, dealing with cases involving tractor-trailers can be complicated. At Segar & Sciortino we have decades of experience handling all kinds of motor vehicle accident cases. Call us for a free consultation.