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Truck Law vs Car Law

How Do Truck Accidents Differ From Car Accidents?

Just by looking at the sizes of a semi-truck and a car, it’s easy to quantify the wreckage that would result from being involved in accidents with said vehicles. Commercial vehicles are significantly larger and heavier than passenger vehicles, therefore, truck accidents tend to cause more severe injuries and property damage. However, large trucks are responsible for less accidents on highways compared to those caused by personal vehicles, increasing the possibilities for, though less severe in comparison, serious injuries and property damage in their own right.

Large trucks and semis are a leading cause of many traffic-related deaths in the United States. California, in particular, has seen some of the worst truck accidents in the country. A tractor-trailer or 18-wheeler can weigh 20 to 30 times more than a passenger vehicle. Due to their size and weight, commercial trucks are dangerous and virtually guaranteed to crush smaller vehicles in an accident.

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) collected data showing that 236 people were killed in accidents in 2019 alone, which exceeded the 240 reported deaths in 2018. According to a report by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, car crashes are the fourth leading cause of premature death in the county, ahead of homicides, strokes, and lung cancer.

A report compiled by the Analysis Division of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in 2017 showed that driver error contributed to 32 percent of fatal accidents involving large trucks. “Speeding of Any Kind” was the most common issue for these types of accidents. “Distraction/Inattention” came in second.

Those who survive either truck or car accidents are often left to deal with various forms of injury, including permanent disabilities, such as brain damage and spinal cord injuries. However, the legal processes concerning truck and car accidents couldn’t be more different.

When it comes to how a personal injury claim is handled, truck accidents are starkly different from car accidents. For example, there are different rules and accident investigation procedures that are unique to truck accidents that differ to those of car accidents.

If you have any questions in regards to a truck or car accident or would like to schedule a free consultation, our qualified personal injury attorneys are available 24/7 to offer legal assistance. You may reach us by calling 213-927-3700 or filling out our quick contact form.

Truck Accidents vs Car Accidents 

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), in 2019, the United States had 33,244 fatal motor vehicle crashes. About 36,096 deaths were reported.

The IIHS also stated that in 2019,  22,416 passenger vehicle occupants died. 16,783 passenger vehicle drivers also passed away in the same year. About 55 percent of passenger vehicle drivers involved in fatal accidents were car drivers, 21 percent were pickup drivers, and 23 percent were SUV drivers. A majority of these collisions, 39 percent, were single-vehicle crashes, while the remaining others, 61 percent, were multiple-vehicle crashes. 23 percent of passenger vehicle occupants who were involved in these fatal crashes were younger than 25 years old.

The IIHS also reported that most deaths in large truck crashes are passenger vehicle occupants. In 2019, 4,119 people were involved in a fatal truck accident. 16 percent of deaths were from truck occupants, 67 percent were from car occupants and other passenger vehicles, and 15 percent were from motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians.

Moreover, in 2019, 11 percent of fatal motor vehicle accidents involved large truck collisions. Motor vehicle accidents, for their part, are the leading cause of death for children ages 5 to 14 years in Los Angeles County.

Compared to cars, large trucks are responsible for less accidents on highways. However, the possibilities of catastrophic harm and property damage are way higher. Here are some examples of unique factors that occur in truck accidents that you won’t find with car accidents:

  • Special Regulations for Drivers
    Trucking companies must abide by federal regulations, such as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation Act. This act requires background checks on all drivers, regular evaluation of employees, regulation of hours driven in a day, and drug and alcohol testing.
  • Special Regulations for Trucks
    There are a variety of California laws that exist to limit truck size, weight, and route designations. Unfortunately, many commercial trucking companies will intentionally violate these safety regulations. They may also falsify their documentation process in order to hide evidence of their deliberate negligence.
  • Causes of Accidents
    Truck accidents can be caused by many circumstances, including driver negligence, truck malfunction, negligent maintenance of the truck, or a combination of these issues. There are even no-fault trucking accidents, as well. Depending on the specific circumstances, either the truck driver, the trucking company, and even the truck manufacturer can all be held liable for the accident. Multi-vehicle semi-truck accidents, in particular, are very difficult to assess.
  • Liability
    Regardless of whether a truck driver was accountable for an accident, the commercial trucking company can be held responsible for negligent acts committed by employees.
  • Insurance Coverage
    Semi-trucks typically carry greater amounts of insurance coverage which could be a reason why insurance companies may become more aggressive when it comes to defending their claims.
  • Investigation Process
    Investigations and gathering evidence for truck accident cases is significantly more extensive than in car accident cases. It is important to retain the services of a savvy truck accident lawyer who knows the protocol for gathering evidence and who will do so in a timely manner to preserve any crucial evidence.


Determining liability in both cases of truck and vehicle accidents can be a nightmare. In car accidents, if multiple parties were involved, more than one person can share responsibility. A multi-vehicle truck accident can also happen, and multiple parties can all be held liable. Navigating the legal process is an endeavor you shouldn’t take on your own, especially if you’ve sustained grave and costly injuries.

California is a comparative negligence state, which means that more than one party may be found liable for causing a car accident. It also means that an at-fault driver may be entitled to file a personal injury lawsuit for damages, even if they were partially at-fault for causing a truck or car accident.

It is most important to understand that personal injury victims, including truck and car accident victims, will typically have 2 years to file a claim for damages. After the 2-year deadline, the court will almost certainly throw out the case.

Find Out How West Coast Trial Lawyers Can Help You

If you have sustained injuries as a result of a truck accident, our expert truck accident attorneys at West Coast Trial Lawyers will help you recover compensation for the losses you have suffered, including medical bills, property damage, lost wages, and pain and suffering. 

Contact us today by calling 213-927-3700 or filling out our contact form to schedule a free consultation with our experienced, caring, and compassionate legal team.

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