Collisions with commercial vehicles can be especially devastating because of their size, weight, and speed (for example, if they are traveling long distances on the interstate). There are a few provisions which attempt to regulate commercial activities on the road and protect other driver's from trucks, vans, and buses that might be more concerned with profit than with safety. Unfortunately, accidents still occur, and it is important to know how to protect yourself medically and financially in this case.
Commercial Driver's Licenses
In order to drive certain large or high capacity passenger vehicles, some commercial drivers are required to obtain a commercial driver's license or CDL. A CDL is mandatory if it falls into one of the following categories:
- A single vehicle with a gross combined weight of 26,001 pounds or more
- A combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight of 26,001 pounds or more (one vehicle is towing another)
- A vehicle which is designed to carry 16 or more individuals, including the driver
- A vehicle which is federally required to display hazardous materials placards while in motion
These parameters and the required use of CDLs were put into effect by the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986 (CMVSA). This act was pushed through Congress because of the danger that non-licensed or non-professional drivers of large vehicles were posing to other motorists on the road. In fact, some commercial vehicle drivers before 1986 would hold multiple licenses for the different states through which they would drive. That way, if they were cited for traffic violations or speeding, these citations could be spread out over different licenses and they would not be restricted from driving. This led to reckless driving and lack of accountability
In addition to preventing the use of multiple licenses, CDL requirements standardize the knowledge one must gain in order to operate large commercial and passenger vehicles which keep other drivers safe. It also assures that commercial drivers who break the law are punished fairly and objectively. In order to be issued these licenses, drivers must have a comprehensive review of their driving record from the past ten years and drive with a commercial driver's permit (CDP) for a minimum of 14 days and a maximum of 180.
What Qualifies as a Commercial Vehicle?
There is a wide variety of commercial vehicles with which you might find yourself in a collision, including garbage trucks, hearses, ice cream trucks, agricultural trucks, cargo vans, and passenger buses among many other kinds of vehicles. In reality, any vehicles which are used for business purposes such as a sedan delivering newspapers or limousine car service are commercial vehicles in some sense, although their drivers will not need a CDL to operate them.
Commercial Auto Insurance
Commercial vehicles, vehicles used for business purposes, or vehicles registered or titled to a business must all usually carry commercial auto insurance. Also, according to the DMV, if a vehicle is equipped with certain items, commercial auto insurance may be required. These items include
- Snowplowing equipment
- Cooking or catering equipment
- Altered suspensions
- Hydraulic lifts
- Racing equipment
Commercial auto insurance requirements differ for many different kinds of vehicles, although all exceed the minimum liability insurance for passenger vehicles. This means that insurance for commercial vehicles is more expensive and comprehensive than normal motorist insurance, often providing bodily injury, property damage, and collision coverage for multiple drivers over and above basic liability insurance. The law requires commercial drivers to purchase this pricier insurance because they assume that a business which involves driving inherently carries more risk of an accident. In addition, commercial vehicles are often operated by multiple drivers or employees which adds another level of uncertainty.
If someone is driving a car for business or commercial purposes and they get into an accident, often their personal driver's insurance will refuse to pay for damages they cause. In order to avoid this and to keep a record of commercial insurance, providers of commercial insurance are required to submit insurance filings to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA). The FMSCA then evaluates the insurance coverage to ensure that the commercial drivers and other drivers on the road are sufficiently protected in the event of an accident.
Filing Claims or Lawsuits against Commercial Vehicles
Because of the high volume of commercial vehicles on the road, collisions and even deaths caused by these drivers are not uncommon. Regrettably, if you get into an accident involving a commercial vehicle, collecting on an insurance claim or filing a personal injury lawsuit may be more complicated due to multiple factors such as the size of the organizations involved and an employer's incentive for profit.
When someone is the victim of an accident caused by a commercial vehicle, they have multiple courses of action that they may choose for compensation. For example, in addition to filing a suit against the driver of the vehicle, the driver's employer may also be liable for your injuries due to a legal concept called “vicarious liability.” The activity that the driver was engaged in while the accident occurred, however, must be directly connected to the scope of his work as an employee, not personal business. Alternatively, it may be shown that an employer failed to properly train, supervise, or perform background checks on their employee, which would make the employer responsible.
If you have been in an accident involving a commercial vehicle, and you are planning on filing an insurance claim, consider speaking with an attorney about your options. Legal professionals can help guide you through the complex world of commercial auto insurance to help you get the most out of your claim. In addition, they can advise you as to when to file a claim, and when to submit a personal injury lawsuit, depending on the details of the accident. For a free case evaluation, call the Law Office of Jeremy Rosenthal today at (303) 825-2223 or contact us online.