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Do Different Kinds of Trucks Mean Different Compensation After Crashes?

May 3, 2021

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Virtually everything you buy, whether it’s at a brick-and-mortar store or from an online marketplace, is transported via a big truck. According to the American Trucking Association, there were nearly 37 million trucks registered and used for business purposes in the U.S. in 2018, and nearly 4 million Class 8 trucks, which includes semi-trucks and tractor-trailers weighing at or over 33,001 pounds.

Whether they are box trucks or semi-trucks, commercial trucks must be large to accommodate load sizes, but their size and weight make them dangerous to other drivers. Big trucks represent only 4% of all registered vehicles in the U.S., but they account for 10% of all vehicles involved in fatal crashes.

It’s clear that all big trucks pose big dangers to motorists and their passengers, but is there a legal difference between crashes involving box trucks and tractor-trailers? Keep reading to learn more about truck classifications and how they affect personal injury claims, including how much compensation victims can receive.

Trucks with USDOT Numbers Face More Scrutiny and Liability After Crashes

Certain trucks must be registered with the U.S. Department of Transportation to be legally used when hauling cargo via interstate commerce. They include trucks that:

  • Are used to transport hazardous materials
  • Have a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating of at least 10,001 pounds
  • Are designed or used to transport more than eight passengers for compensation
  • Are designed or used to transport more than 15 passengers not for compensation
  • Are involved in interstate commerce, which includes commerce:
    • Between two different states or between a state and another place outside the U.S.
    • Between two places in a single state that involves traveling through another state or place outside the U.S.
    • Between two places in a single state as part of business transactions that originate or end outside the state or the U.S.

Trucks that receive USDOT numbers must also comply with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) guidelines. These guidelines are extensive and include far more than just typical traffic laws, and they involve requirements such as weight and cargo limits, maximum operation hours for drivers, licensing requirements, operational requirements, and more.

This safety planner from the FMCSA includes all the information truck drivers, owners, and companies need to know to comply with FMCSA regulations. When parties associated with a big truck fail to abide by these regulations, they can be considered negligent after crashes, even if no traditional traffic laws were violated leading up to those crashes.

Box Trucks and Non-USDOT Number Trucks Can Still Cause Serious Crashes

Just because a truck doesn’t have to be registered with the USDOT doesn’t mean it can’t cause serious and even fatal injuries. For example, many food and beverage distributors use semi-trucks and box trucks for local deliveries, but they aren’t required to comply with FMCSA regulations because their deliveries encompass a small radius in the same state. People also frequently rent box trucks to move their possessions around town—another scenario that’s exempt from FMCSA regulations.

Despite not being governed by the USDOT, these trucks can and often do cause people in passenger vehicles devastating injuries. But unlike trucks with USDOT numbers, these crashes are viewed similarly to crashes between two passenger vehicles, with the liability falling on the driver who failed to obey traffic laws or acted negligently.

How Is Post-Accident Compensation Different Between the Different Types of Trucks?

The two biggest differences between the two types of trucks when it comes to calculating compensation are:

  • More parties can be liable for trucks with USDOT numbers—When trucks are subject to FMCSA regulations, there’s more liability to go around. For example, truck drivers, owners, and companies may all share blame for a crash. That means three parties can be named in a compensation claim or lawsuit, which can mean more money for victims.
  • Trucks with USDOT numbers may cause more serious injuries—Although all trucks can result in serious crashes, those with USDOT numbers may be more likely to seriously injure other drivers. That’s because they’re more likely to be semi-trucks, carrying hazardous materials, or driving at high speeds on interstates due to the nature of their business. More serious injuries often mean more compensation for victims.

After a Truck Accident, Get a Legal Team that Knows the Industry

Truck accident victims usually don’t know or care what type of truck was involved in their crash or whether it has a USDOT number. But that information can have a big effect on their chances of getting compensation and how much money they may be eligible to receive.

If you or someone you love was injured in a truck crash, contact the Ohio truck accident lawyers at Nurenberg, Paris, Heller & McCarthy today. We’ll investigate your accident, determine what type of truck injured you, and work hard to help you get maximum compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

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