For legal purposes, there are two main reasons accidents involving commercial trucks are different from other motor vehicle accidents on New York’s roads. First and most importantly, since commercial trucks are generally larger and heavier than passenger cars, truck accidents can cause more damage than collisions between smaller vehicles. A fully loaded 18-wheel semitrailer can weigh 80,000 pounds or more, compared to a passenger car, which typically weighs less than 3,000 pounds. Large trucks also sit much higher off the road than passenger cars.
If vehicles of these two types collide, the result can easily be severe injury or death for the occupants of the car, even in an accident from which the truck driver walks away unharmed. Large trucks account for a tiny percentage of vehicles on the road, and a small percentage of traffic accidents, but about 1 in 10 fatal motor vehicle accidents in the United States involve large trucks.
The second main reason these accidents are different is that commercial vehicle accidents raise different issues of liability.
In a typical personal injury case involving two privately owned cars, if one driver caused the accident through negligence, the injured party can hold the negligent driver liable for their damages. This principle applies to commercial truck accidents, but in these cases the injured party may be able to hold other parties liable as well.
Under a very old legal theory known as respondeat superior, employers may be held liable for damages caused by the negligent acts of their employees in the course of their employment. So, when a negligent truck driver causes an accident, the injured party may file suit against the truck driver and/or the trucking company that employed the truck driver.
This is an important principle in truck accident cases because the amount of damages is likely to be very high. Expanding the pool of potentially liable parties makes it more likely that the injured party will be able to recover compensation for their medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and all the other damages they have suffered as the result of the accident.