When the Trucker Is a Victim
In 2019, large trucks accounted for only one in 20 registered vehicles in the United States. However, large trucks were involved in almost one in four-passenger vehicle occupant deaths resulting from multiple-vehicle crashes.
It is well understood that commercial trucks are involved in a substantial portion of motor vehicle-related deaths. Less well-known is that truck occupants frequently sustain catastrophic injuries due to motor vehicle crashes. In 2019 alone, nearly 700 large truck occupants died during motor vehicle crashes.
Drivers and passengers in commercial motor vehicles may be able to bring personal injury lawsuits in Maine, depending on the circumstances. Passengers in commercial motor vehicles may have claims against both the driver of the commercial vehicle and the driver of the other vehicle. Truck drivers, of course, cannot bring claims against themselves—they are limited to claims against the opposing driver. If the truck driver is more at fault than the opposing driver, he is precluded by Maine’s modified comparative negligence rule from recovering.
The problem is that, unlike trucks and other commercial vehicles—which tend to be well-insured—many personal vehicles in Maine are woefully underinsured. In fact, Maine law only requires that non-commercial drivers ensure their vehicles at “$50,000/$100,000” – under this minimum policy, each victim is only entitled to up to $50,000, and all victims combined are entitled to up to $100,000. This may not cover the trip to the hospital, let alone all of the damages a victim may suffer from a catastrophic crash. The most popular insurance policy in Maine is “$100,000/$300,000”—$100,000 per victim and $300,000 for all victims. Again, this is only a fraction of what a victim may be entitled to after sustaining life-changing injuries.
Aside from the opposing driver’s policy, there are several potential avenues for compensation for truck drivers injured by another driver’s negligence. Depending on the circumstances of the crash, it may be worth investigating the “crashworthiness” of the truck—that is, whether the truck was designed and manufactured in such a way so as to keep the driver safe.
In addition, in some cases, the owner of the truck will have an uninsured/underinsured motorist policy, which will allow the injured driver to seek additional compensation for the conduct of the at-fault driver.
If you are a truck driver who has been injured during the course of your work, you likely also have a workers’ compensation claim. Keep in mind that your workers’ compensation insurer may have a right to be reimbursed for some of its payments out of any personal injury claim you pursue. Make sure to retain a truck accident lawyer who understands the interplay between workers’ compensation and personal injury claims, and who can take steps to effectively maximize your recovery.