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Commercial Vehicle Accidents in Chicago

According to the IIHS, 4,119 Americans died in commercial vehicle accidents in 2019. 67% of those deaths were other drivers while 16% of those deaths were truck passengers. If you or a loved one suffered injuries or wrongful death in a crash, commercial vehicle lawyers at Curcio Law want to make sure you receive justice. Since 1957, our skilled attorneys have made us a highly sought after personal injury firm in downtown Chicago. Call us today at 312-321-1111 for a free consultation.

What is a Commercial Vehicle?

A commercial vehicle is one that transports goods, property, or passengers. If a vehicle’s design allows it to carry 15 or more people, it’s automatically a commercial vehicle. Commercial vehicles are generally large trucks that operate strictly for business-related purposes.

Common Types of Commercial Vehicles and How They’re Dangerous

Because commercial vehicles are often large trucks, they pose more danger on the roads compared to other vehicles. Listed below are the most common types of commercial vehicles and how they’re dangerous to other drivers.

Garbage Trucks

Garbage trucks are commercial vehicles that are generally seen in neighborhoods on trash day. Because they’re so full of debris, they can potentially tip over, cause large blind spots, or strike other cars with falling debris.

18 Wheelers

Big trucks like 18 wheelers can be incredibly dangerous to other drivers. Because they’re so heavy with a high center of gravity, they can easily roll over in an accident. Additionally, 18 wheelers generally have large blind spots.

Tanker Trucks

This kind of commercial vehicle is generally carrying hazardous liquids or gases. If a tanker truck ever got into a serious accident, the hazardous materials could easily explode.

Flatbed Trucks

Flatbed trucks are different from 18 wheelers because their contents aren’t in an enclosed space. Instead, cargo on flatbed trucks is usually held down by straps. If the cargo isn’t strapped down properly, it could fall off the truck and hit other drivers.

Tow Trucks

Being a tow truck driver is an incredibly dangerous job. In fact, the NIOSH claims that being a tow truck driver is 15 times more deadly than any other U.S. job. This is because they must drive in poor weather conditions and perform lots of manual labor. Tow trucks are also dangerous to other drivers because they generally pull more than 10,000 pounds of cars or other cargo on the roads. Getting into an accident with a tow truck can be fatal.

Who Creates Commercial Vehicle Rules?

The U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) set safety standards and regulations for commercial vehicles and their drivers. These standards are strict and govern every commercial vehicle and commercial driver. Individual states also set their own safety regulations regarding commercial vehicles and drivers.

Illinois Commercial Vehicle Standards

Illinois requires commercial vehicles to meet specific standards while operating on Illinois interstates and highways. The Illinois Department of Transportation issues commercial vehicle registrations, driver’s licenses, and certain permits to ensure the safety of all individuals on the roadways. This also protects our highway infrastructure and contributes to the effectiveness of Illinois’ interstate commerce. Illinois’ standards for commercial vehicles involve regulations on the following:
  • Registration
  • Legal weights and dimensions
  • Oversize and overweight permits
  • Safety
  • Transportation of people
  • Hazardous materials transportation
These rules and regulations are extremely important because of the size, weight, and overall danger of commercial vehicles. Every single driver owes a responsibility of safety and accountability to others on the road, especially commercial drivers.

Causes of Commercial Vehicle Accidents

Commercial vehicles are crucial to the economy of Illinois and the U.S. for a number of reasons. Illinois is heavily dependent on interstate commerce. Also, the demand for product delivery has risen dramatically because of COVID-19. The increasing demand for commercial vehicle drivers means that the demand for proper training increases as well. With higher demand comes more large trucks on U.S. roadways as well as more accidents. Common causes of commercial vehicle accidents can boil down to the driver, the company, or even the weather.

Driver Fault

According to data from the FMCSA, a truck driver’s negligence causes 87% of commercial vehicle accidents.
  • Negligent driving: Negligent driving refers to any activity that causes reckless or unsafe driving, including:
    • Speeding
    • Distractions due to texting, talking on the phone, messing with a GPS, looking at something on the road, eating while driving, etc.
    • Fatigue, which is a major cause of truck accidents because of drivers’ long hours. The FMCSA estimates that driver fatigue causes 13% of commercial vehicle crashes.
    • Road rage
    • Changing lanes without checking for blind spots
    • Not using turn signals
    • Tailgating
    • Swerving
  • Inadequate training: Driving large commercial vehicles is a very dangerous job. If these drivers aren’t properly trained to operate the vehicle safely, they can put their lives and others at risk.
  • Unfamiliarity with roads: Because commercial vehicle drivers have to drive cross country, they are bound to run into unfamiliar roads. Narrow, curvy, and bumpy roads can be incredibly dangerous if these drivers aren’t careful.

Vehicle Malfunction or Company Fault

Commercial vehicle accidents differ from regular car accidents in that they potentially involve parties beyond who was physically involved in the accident. Potentially liable parties include mechanics, manufacturers, and even the company itself. Commercial vehicle lawyers will consider all of the following factors while evaluating a case:
  • Mechanics: Companies are responsible for hiring qualified mechanics to work on their vehicles. Mechanics themselves are equally responsible for performing adequate work on the vehicles. If any work performed on the vehicle by the mechanics causes an accident, they could be held liable for your injuries.
  • Manufacturers: If the manufacturers of the vehicle don’t provide the company with a safely-constructed vehicle, they could be held liable. Flaws in commercial vehicle design or construction are very serious and could lead to major accidents.
  • Companies: The company is responsible for hiring qualified, experienced drivers. These new hires must meet the requirements, and withstand the high demands of the job. If a company hires an inexperienced driver just to save money, they are liable if that driver makes a mistake. Additionally, the company is responsible for enforcement and adherence to state and federal laws regarding vehicle safety. Failure to meet the above requirements will result in the company’s liability.

Other Causes of Commercial Vehicle Accidents

  • Severe weather: One of the main reasons why being a commercial vehicle driver is so dangerous is partly due to weather conditions. These vehicles have to drive cross country year round to make sure cargo gets to its destination on time. Driving through snow, ice, rain, and fog is naturally part of the job. Severe weather can cause drivers to lose control and cause multi vehicle pileups.
  • Poor road conditions: Some states have better roads than others due to how much money is set aside in the budget for regular road work. So commercial vehicle drivers often have to drive on pothole-ridden roads with narrow lanes and no shoulders. All of this can cause major accidents.
  • Road construction: Not only is road construction dangerous for regular cars, it’s dangerous for large commercial vehicles too. Driving on interstate shoulders or medians due to road construction can easily cause accidents.

Who is Liable in a Commercial Vehicle Accident?

Determining liability in a commercial vehicle accident depends on who caused the accident. Commercial vehicle lawyers at Curcio Law can argue that any of the parties below are liable for an accident.

The Commercial Vehicle Driver

If the commercial vehicle driver obviously caused the accident by driving while tired, under the influence, or while distracted, they will certainly be held liable.

The Commercial Vehicle Company

If commercial vehicle lawyers can prove that the company didn’t complete inspections, didn’t follow safety standards, or required the driver to work longer than the hours-of-service legislation, the driver’s company will share liability with the driver.

The Vehicle’s Cargo Loaders

If a commercial vehicle’s cargo causes an accident because it wasn’t loaded or secured properly, then the cargo loaders are at fault.

The Vehicle’s Manufacturer

If the commercial vehicle itself causes the accident, the manufacturer is at fault. For example, a tire blowout, a brake failure, or a faulty truck part that causes an accident can hint towards vehicle manufacturer liability.

How to Prove That a Commercial Vehicle Driver is Negligent

As stated previously, a truck driver’s negligence causes 87% of commercial vehicle accidents. For a victim to receive compensation, commercial vehicle lawyers must prove the driver’s negligence caused the accident. Lawyers prove this through the four elements of negligence.
  • Duty of care: Every driver on the road has a responsibility to drive safely and carefully. This includes commercial vehicle drivers.
  • Breach of duty: The commercial vehicle driver violated their duty of care by driving irresponsibly.
  • Causation: The victim’s injuries were a direct result of the commercial vehicle driver’s unsafe driving.
  • Damages: The victim’s injuries resulted in damages such as medical bills that compensation can cover.

Damages for Commercial Vehicle Accidents

Commercial vehicle accidents are extremely dangerous and often devastating. If you or someone you know suffered injuries in one of these accidents, you have the right to seek damages for your losses. Our commercial vehicle lawyers at Curcio Law Offices will fight to recover damages for the following losses:
  • Lost wages (includes future lost wages)
  • Medical expenses (includes future expenses)
  • Pain and suffering
  • Property damage
  • Other losses resulting from the accident

What Happens When a Personal Vehicle is Being Used for Commercial Use and It Crashes?

Anytime an employee is on the job when a serious accident occurs, the employer will likely be liable for the injuries and damages. Even if the employee used their personal vehicle, as long as they were acting in the scope of the employee’s employment during the accident, the employer assumes liability.
 
Vehicles not owned by the company (non-owned autos) that employees use for business purposes are commonly used. If the employee driving the vehicle gets hurt in an accident, they can file for workers’ compensation. In short, it’s in the company’s best interest to adhere strictly to safety requirements and to closely monitor employee performance.

What Should I Do When I Get in an Accident With a Commercial Vehicle?

Your actions in the hours following your accident are critical to filing a successful claim.
  1. Seek medical attention right away. Your health comes first, so getting treatment for your injuries is imperative.
  2. Document the scene. Take photos of every detail, including all vehicles, damages, positions, and even your visible injuries.
  3. Avoid speaking with anyone other than your Chicago commercial vehicle accident lawyer. Any companies involved in the crash will send claims adjusters who act in their own interests, not yours. Claims adjusters can use anything you say against you later. Save statements for either the police or your own attorney.
  4. Call commercial vehicle lawyers. Don’t let the responsible company discourage you from hiring representation. Curcio Law Offices has extensive experience in dealing with commercial vehicle companies, so we know how to get the necessary compensation to cover your expenses.

Call Commercial Vehicle Lawyers at Curcio Law Today

If a commercial vehicle hits you and you’re unsure about how to proceed, call Curcio Law Offices today. We have the necessary experience to put you in the best position for a favorable outcome. Our commercial vehicle accident lawyers dedicate their careers to personal injury cases, so we can take some of the stress of legal issues off your shoulders. Contact us today at 312-321-1111 for a free consultation, or fill out the form below.