If you were in a car accident in Oklahoma that involved commercial vehicles, continue reading to learn about your rights, and how to handle collecting payment for the damage and for your injuries.
What are Commercial Vehicle Accidents?
Commercial Vehicle Accidents are automobile collisions that involve a vehicle that is owned and/or operated by a commercial business. These types of accidents involve work trucks, delivery vehicles, 18-Wheeler Tractor Trailers, and other vehicles used for commercial purposes. They may also involve heavy equipment such as tractors, back-hoes, dump trucks, and even construction cranes.
A commercial vehicle accident could involve multiple vehicles owned/operated by different businesses. It could also simply be a commercial vehicle that collided with a personal vehicle or a pedestrian crossing the street.
How are Commercial Vehicle Accidents different from other car wrecks?
The obvious difference between commercial vehicle accidents and other types of car accidents are the parties involved. A commercial vehicle accident involves an individual person or family versus a commercial business.
The main legal difference is that with commercial vehicle accidents, the liability for the wreck extends beyond the person that was driving the vehicle that caused the wreck. Oklahoma Courts follow a legal doctrine called respondeat superior, which means that companies are liable for accidents caused by their employees that occur while on the job.
What this means is that if you were injured by a commercial vehicle, you have the right to sue the business, as well as the individual driver. This is an important right because it allows you to sue the entity that likely has more financial solvency, and insurance coverage, than an individual employee would have.
Are Commercial Vehicles insured in Oklahoma?
Yes, Oklahoma law requires that all vehicle owners carry liability insurance. These rules are called the Compulsory Insurance Laws. Oklahoma requires that individuals carry a minimum amount of liability insurance to cover the cost of injuries and property damage they may cause to other people.
Currently, those requirements are $25,000 for personal injuries, $50,000 per accident, and $25,000 for property damage. Semi Trucks have separate insurance requirements depending on the size of the truck, weight of the freight, and whether or not hazardous materials are being transported.
Generally, commercial vehicles carry higher amounts liability insurance than individuals do for their personal vehicles. This means that there is generally more money to be disbursed after an accident than there would be after a wreck involving only individual vehicles.
Hiring a Lawyer to handle your Commercial Vehicle Accident case
We recommend hiring a lawyer to handle your claims involving commercial vehicles and commercial insurance carriers. The reason is that businesses use different liability carriers than individuals. Because more money is at state, Commercial Carriers often take a more aggressive approach to defending the claim than do individual defendants or their regular insurance carriers.
The need for Discovery in Commercial Vehicle Accident cases
In addition, more extensive investigation, and usually litigation, is required in order to achieve the best result. This is because in order to get the business on the hook for an accident caused by an employee, certain prima facie elements must first be established, such as whether the employee was in fact on the job (covered), or finished with the job and heading home (sometimes not covered). Sorting out the facts in commercial vehicle accident cases can be complex.
Then there is the issue of what company is liable. If multiple companies or contractors are involved, there may be legal questions related to who is ultimately responsible. There may be a complex chain of liability where one company pays the victim, while seeking reimbursement from another company.
In addition, there may be multiple insurance policies involved, which are not always disclosed at the beginning of a case. There may be a limited amount of coverage on the vehicle, but the business may have an umbrella policy which may provide additional coverage for the vehicle accident.
It takes good lawyers and good litigation tactics to discover these things, all of which are necessary in order to get the best result for the client.
Litigating claims against Commercial Vehicle Insurance Carriers
Litigation in cases involving commercial trucks and businesses often takes longer than simple car wreck cases involving individuals. This also contributes to the amount of money that must be spent to finance the litigation against the truck companies and their insurance carriers. This is partially due to the extensive discovery required, as discussed in the previous section. But also because expert witnesses may be required to testify as to safety standards or technicalities with operation of the commercial truck or vehicles.
You should hire an attorney with experience litigating cases involving commercial vehicles, as well experience handling lawsuits involving serious personal injuries.
Contact Attorney for Commercial Vehicle Accidents in Oklahoma
Travis Charles Smith has been a trial lawyer since 2009, representing regular people who have been injured. Travis has handled a wide variety of cases involving serious injuries, including car and truck accidents with company vehicles and commercial insurance policies.
Travis offers free consultations and free case screenings. If you are interested in having us review your case, complete this form on our website. The first step involves getting your information and the police report regarding the accident. After that we will set up a call to discuss with you. From there, we will review documentation related to your injuries, treatment, and determine the proper strategy on how to proceed.
Our offices are based in Oklahoma City, but we handle serious injury cases involving commercial vehicles throughout the State of Oklahoma.
You may call us at (405) 724-8112 or you may send us an email.