Know Trucking Law and Your Rights After an Accident
Trucking law is not for the faint of heart. There are dozens of regulations and lots of “fine print” that pertains to truckers. To understand it thoroughly, should something happen to you, you’ll likely need an attorney with the right practice focus on your side.
New Jersey Traffic Laws
Since large commercial trucks can cause so much accident damage, they face many strict laws. These regulations are designed to keep our roads safe and provide peace of mind to passenger vehicles. According to New Jersey Law, many roads have weight restrictions. Some require vehicles to weigh less than 4 tons while others require them to weigh less than 13 tons. If the wrong kind of truck is on the wrong road and causes an accident, the victim might be entitled to more compensation.
The same holds true if a truck is where it’s not supposed to be, such as crossing “The Pulaski Skyway” or driving the Palisades Parkway. Because trucks are restricted to certain thoroughfares, any accident that occurs outside of their allowed zones will complicate the matter of fault.
New Jersey, however, is a choice no-fault state. That means this you can choose either true no-fault insurance, which is where your insurance company will pay for lost wages and actual damages and leave out punitive damages or pain and suffering or a standard tort liability policy. A tort liability policy allows you to sue an at-fault driver, but it does not protect you in case you are at fault in an accident.
There exists a threshold regarding New Jersey no-fault policies. It’s called the “verbal threshold.” This threshold concerns the injuries sustained in an accident. If the sustained injuries exceed a certain point, which is usually the loss of a body part or the capacity to use one or more senses, you are still allowed to sue even if you chose the no-fault version of your insurance.
New York and Connecticut Options
In the rest of the tri-state area, you have different options. New York is a pure no-fault state. There is no “choice.” Connecticut, on the other hand, is a pure tort liability state. Therefore, even if you’re from New Jersey or New York and wind up having a truck accident in Connecticut, you might either be able to file suit or have a suit filed against you.
Connecticut is also a “shared-fault” state. That means that if you do something you shouldn’t, but someone else in the accident does something worse, you may be “only a little bit” at fault. For example, a judge might think that someone failing to signal is only 20% at fault while someone who ran a red light is 80% at fault.
It’s a good idea to have an attorney on your side who knows the ins and outs of these differing laws. In some situations, someone from one state might have one set of rights at home and another set elsewhere. It gets complicated quickly, so having the help behind you would give you great peace of mind.
Commercial truck drivers have additional responsibilities not required for passenger vehicles. In the old days, for example, truck drivers would have to keep meticulous records on their travels in their log books. These were subject to subpoena in any case of an accident.
Nowadays, these logbooks are electronically connected to the engine. Truck drivers are restricted in the amount of time they can drive per 24-hour period. If a driver exceeds that limit, he or she might be more at fault in an accident than a driver within the limit in exactly the same circumstance.
Trucks are also subject to rigorous safety and weight standards. Faulty trucks or overloaded rigs that cause accidents could even exceed injury or monetary thresholds in no-fault or choice no-fault states.
Considering Modern Changes in Truck Accident Law
In the 21st century, there now looms the specter of self-driving trucks and other vehicles. On October 20, 2016, a truck departed Colorado Springs with a load of Coors beer. When it reached Fort Collins 132 miles later, that truck had made history. It made the trip without a lead vehicle, remote operation, or any other human influence. In other words, it drove itself.
Despite the legal battles between Uber, Waymo, Clearpath Robotics, and other parties, self-driving technology is here to stay. Advanced models of passenger cars already have certain aspects of this technology. From lane change assist to adaptive cruise control, the inexorable push toward full automation is upon us.
Currently, there are five levels of self-driving vehicles. Level 1 includes the aforementioned lane change assist and adaptive cruise control. Levels 2, 3, and 4 incorporate more and more autonomous technology up to Level 5 vehicles, which are fully autonomous. Examples of Level 5 autonomy include Volkswagen’s SEDRIC or the truck in the famous Colorado “beer run.”
These new vehicles will force legislators to enact new laws and regulations regarding both the insurance industry and the legal profession. Some potential legal questions include:
- Was it human error?
- Was it an error in the interface?
- Was it a failure of the Lidar?
- Was it a failure of the GPS?
- Was it a failure of the vehicle-to-vehicle communication system?
- Which company made the applicable parts or programmed the computer?
- Was it a combination of all of these factors in varying degrees?
The questions could go on forever. The whole situation is changing faster than legislative bodies can keep up. For this reason, someone who has been injured by a commercial truck may want to engage the services of a personal injury lawyer who follows changing laws and regulations.
How a Lawyer Can Help
Aside from just giving advice, there are several ways a lawyer can assist a client. First, the lawyer can act on behalf of an injured client with insurance companies, police departments, and opposing counsel. Furthermore, the lawyer can ensure that the mountains of paperwork that go into such cases are completed correctly.
Legal counsel can negotiate on behalf of the client and provide courtroom representation if necessary. In confusing and complex cases, the lawyer could retain professionals in various applicable fields who can also advise on the case or testify if it comes to that.
Many firms also have partnerships with medical doctors and mental-health professionals who can ease a client’s apprehension or physical distress associated with a case. A law firm should care about all aspects of a client’s well-being, which is why this is one of our firm’s primary foci.
When you come to the office, our staff will ensure that your visit will be as comfortable as possible. We understand the stress and pain of dealing with an injury as well as an aggressive defense legal team.
The Final Word
When you need to protect your rights after a truck accident, reach out to the firm of Rebenack Aronow & Mascolo. You can call our office in New Brunswick, NJ, at (732) 247-3600 or Somerville, NJ, at (908) 448-2560. No matter how complicated your case may be, we’ll look after your best interests and aim to get maximum compensation.