By: South Sound Law Group

How is an Accident with a Commercial Vehicle Different from a Car Accident with a Private Individual?


Accidents happen every hour of every day. What makes them overwhelming are the circumstances surrounding them. You may have been there yourself at one point or another. You get into a minor fender bender, and it causes you to be late for work or other destinations and results in minor injuries.

What if you were involved in a more serious accident that led to injuries and significant damage to your vehicle? Your situation likely went from a minor annoyance to worries of financial distress, considerable time spent away from work and family to treat your injuries, and more.

This can be the difference between an accident with a personal vehicle and one with a commercial vehicle. Read below to learn more.

What Do I Need to Know About an Accident With a Commercial Vehicle?

One of the main differences in personal vehicle accidents vs. those with commercial vehicles is how insurance is handled. Suppose you are in an accident with another private vehicle. In that case, there are likely two personal insurance agencies that will handle the accident and possibly an attorney that you hire to help you with your case.

When a commercial vehicle is involved, you are likely dealing with the driver’s insurance, the company they are working for, and their insurance. This may make negotiations and the entire process much more time-consuming and frustrating.

Generally speaking, commercial vehicle accidents tend to result in much more significant damages, both injuries and damage to vehicles. The sheer size of some commercial vehicles is the cause for this. Rather than another personal vehicle on the road, if a commercial vehicle is involved, it can mean the vehicle was a larger truck, a van, or a semi-truck. The result of an impact from a larger vehicle can quickly cause much more damage than a personal-sized vehicle. Leaving much more money at stake to fix the damages to the cars and the injuries sustained.

How is Fault Determined in Commercial Vehicle Accidents?

Another unique aspect of commercial vehicle accidents is determining fault. In “regular” accidents, the vehicle’s driver is likely at fault, at least partially, for the accident. If a commercial vehicle is at fault, it can either be the driver’s fault, the fault of the company that employs them, or a combination of both.

Why is this important? As discussed above, the damages are likely significant, and obtaining compensation for these damages can be difficult when more than one party is involved. If fault can be established through the driver’s employer, they likely have a larger policy in force that can allow for greater compensation to be obtained.

Some examples of when the company may be at fault are;

Failing to keep vehicles adequately maintained can lead to malfunctions of brakes or tires that can lead to an accident.

Negligent hiring or training of employees can lead to inadequately skilled drivers that cause accidents.

Overloading or unevenly distributing the weight of a load on a semi-truck or other commercial vehicles can lead to causing an accident as the weight shifts while moving.

How is Fault Determined in an Accident with a Private Individual?

Each individual is responsible for their vehicle and ability to operate it safely. Fault can be more easily established in most cases, as personal vehicles don’t typically require heavy loads or other guidelines that commercial vehicles impose.

Distracted driving, intoxicated driving, inexperienced driving, speeding, or reckless driving are all the leading causes of fault in an accident with a personal vehicle. Proving fault in these situations can become challenging, but they are typically more straightforward than establishing fault during a commercial vehicle accident.

How Can I Protect Myself After an Accident?

One topic similar in both personal and commercial vehicle accidents is reporting it and how you handle the following steps immediately following an accident.

You must record every fact that you can to protect yourself in the future. Fault will need to be determined, and having your account or any witness account of the cause of the accident is crucial. Pictures, video, eyewitness statements, road and weather conditions during the accident, and more, can all provide protection moving forward should you seek compensation.

You should also report the accident to the appropriate parties. This can be either the police department, your insurance company, or both, depending on the accident’s severity. It is best to let all parties be aware of the accident immediately after it occurred to save any confusion moving forward.

How Can an Attorney Help?

In the case of any accident, the following steps can be confusing and overwhelming, depending on the circumstances of the accident. It can be invaluable to entrust an experienced and compassionate attorney that can help guide you through the process.

Timely and costly mistakes can be inadvertently made if you aren’t familiar with accident laws or how insurance works. Negotiations also aren’t something most of us are skilled in, whereas experienced attorneys have a vast knowledge of how to handle negotiations to protect their clients’ best interests. It is important to remember that the other parties rely on their insurance companies (personal or commercial) to have their best interest at heart. Make sure that you have a strong advocate in your corner, too.

Call our office at (253) 383-3328 to learn how we can best assist you.