Any road accident can be terrifying and distressing, regardless of the types of vehicles involved. But car accidents with commercial vehicles can be even more complicated, as there may be parties other than the driver who are at fault—not to mention the potentially severe injuries you may have sustained during the crash. In fact, accidents between a commercial truck and a passenger vehicle are among the most devastating types of crashes that can cause some of the worst injuries for drivers and passengers of the smaller vehicle.
Protocol after a car accident with a commercial vehicle can be convoluted and complex, which is why it’s crucial that you understand the distinctions that separate these types of crashes from those with regular passenger vehicles. Here’s everything you need to know.
What’s Considered a Commercial Vehicle in California?
A commercial vehicle, according to the California Vehicle Code, is defined by the following terms:
“A ‘commercial vehicle’ is a motor vehicle of a type required to be registered under this code used or maintained for the transportation of persons for hire, compensation, or profit or designed, used, or maintained primarily for the transportation of property.”
A commercial vehicle, in this case, is anything that’s used mainly for business purposes. This could include a semi-truck, 18-wheeler, big rig, tractor trailer, bus, cargo van, delivery truck, construction vehicle, tow truck, or garbage truck. Though uncommon, a commercial vehicle could also be a standard pickup truck or passenger vehicle, as long as it’s being used to conduct business. Most commercial motor vehicles require commercial driver’s licenses that can be obtained after certain tests and training.
How Are Accidents with Commercial Vehicles Different from Others?
So, after an accident, why does it matter what kind of vehicle is involved?
Besides the potential for severe injury and damage, you may have a tricky situation when it comes to liability after an accident with a commercial vehicle. As opposed to a crash with a regular passenger vehicle where the liability often sits with either you or the other driver, accidents with commercial vehicles can involve a multitude of at-fault parties. Depending on the unique circumstances involved, any of the following may be held liable for a commercial vehicle accident:
- The commercial vehicle driver
- The driver’s employer
- The company that owns or leases the vehicle
- The person or company responsible for the vehicle’s maintenance
- The vehicle’s manufacturer or the manufacturer of a certain vehicle part
Though establishing fault can be difficult, there are a number of general rules that likely apply. For example, if the commercial driver’s actions directly caused the crash—such as breaking a traffic law, voluntarily exceeding the hours-of-service regulations, or driving while distracted or intoxicated—they’ll likely be held liable. The employer will be held responsible, on the other hand, if the driver was acting within the scope of their duties or if it’s determined that the accident occurred because of failed safety regulations.
The vehicle’s cargo loaders could even be held liable if the truck or van wasn’t loaded properly, causing the vehicle to be unstable. Likewise, the vehicle’s manufacturer could be at fault if a defect in the commercial vehicle causes the accident, such as a tire blowout, brake failure, or mechanical failure.
Because there are so many moving parts involved in an accident of this nature, it may be difficult to determine fault, which is why it’s vital that you reach out to a trusted commercial vehicle attorney who can help you recover the compensation you deserve.
What to Do If You’re Involved in an Accident With a Company Vehicle
Just like in a passenger car accident, it’s important to take the necessary steps to protect your rights after an accident involving a commercial vehicle. This includes the following:
- Stay at the scene
- Check on other drivers and passengers
- Contact the police
- Exchange information, including whether or not the person that hit you was on the job—if so, also record their employer and the owner of the vehicle
- Inform your insurance company
- Seek medical attention
- Take pictures of the scene
Most importantly, you should consider contacting an expert Santa Barbara commercial vehicle accident attorney for help receiving the compensation you deserve. Accidents involving commercial vehicles can be extremely tricky to maneuver in California. Don’t tackle this alone.
Contact a California Commercial Vehicle Accident Attorney
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident with a commercial vehicle, the experienced car accident attorneys at Adamson Ahdoot LLP can help protect your rights and pursue a case for recovery. With over 100 years of combined legal experience, our expert team is dedicated to keeping you informed every step of the way and helping you overcome this challenging time in your life. After meeting with you one-on-one, we’ll launch an investigation into the facts of your case and the circumstances that led up to the crash in order to get you the compensation you deserve for any lost wages, medical bills, property damage, and psychological trauma.
Adamson Ahdoot LLP has a proven track record in California of providing clients with top-of-the-line legal representation. Our team of knowledgeable lawyers is here to help fight for your rights. For a free consultation, give us a call at (877) 871-3265 or complete our contact form today.