Drunk Driving Truck Accidents

A fully loaded commercial truck weighs up to 18,000 pounds. In a collision with an average 4,000-pound passenger car, the motorists in the smaller vehicle are extremely vulnerable to serious or even catastrophic injuries or fatalities. When a truck driver gets behind the wheel of a massive, unwieldy metal truck, the results to other motorists become devastating in an instant. According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data, 72% of those killed in truck accidents are the occupants of other vehicles rather than the truck driver. When a truck driver operates a vehicle while impaired the massive commercial truck effectively becomes a weapon in an egregious criminal act of wrongdoing on the part of the truck driver.

Truck driving with drunk driver.

New Jersey’s Strict Truck Driver Drunk Driving Law

Like most states, New Jersey has tough laws against anyone driving under the influence of alcohol and other substances, but the laws hold truck drivers to stricter standards due to their extensive hours on the road and the dangers posed by large trucks to smaller vehicles. According to New Jersey law, the driver of a standard passenger vehicle, who holds no commercial license, is legally impaired with a blood alcohol level of .08% or higher. However, law enforcement may charge a commercial truck driver with a DUI in New Jersey if they have a blood alcohol level of .04% or higher. Other substances that cause altered states of consciousness also result in charges of DUI with levels of .04% or more.

Truck drivers owe a duty of care to others on the road to take all reasonable measures to avoid causing injury. Driving while impaired by alcohol or other substances is an egregious breach of a driver’s duty of care. A drunk driving conviction results in criminal charges, the loss of a commercial driver’s license, and liability for damages to accident victims.

How is Liability of Fault Determined? 

After an accident involving any commercial truck, the trucking company and their insurance provider conduct an investigation, but because protecting their profits is their primary motive, it benefits an accident victim to hire an experienced truck accident attorney to investigate the accident and protect the victim’s best interests. The investigation centers around determining liability for damages in the accident. In this type of claim, the word “damages” refers to all consequences of the accident to the victim including property damage, medical expenses, lost income, lowered earning capacity due to disability, and compensation for pain and suffering. If a truck accident victim dies from their injuries, their close family members may claim wrongful death damages.

Determining liability requires documenting evidence of the following legal points of fault:

  • The at-fault party owed a duty of care to others on the road to take reasonable measures to prevent injuries
  • They breached this duty of care through an act of negligence, recklessness, or wrongdoing
  • Their breach of duty directly caused the accident and injuries
  • The injury victim suffered serious economic and non-economic damages from the accident

Determining the correct liable party can be challenging in truck accident cases and could include multiple parties. For example, the truck driver is liable for damages if they were intoxicated, but the trucking company itself may also be liable for their employee’s actions if the accident occurred while the driver was acting within the scope of his work duties while intoxicated. Trucking companies may be negligent if they lack proper employee training and monitoring policies and this inadequacy contributed to the accident.

The Role of Insurance 

After a truck accident, the injury victim makes a claim for damages against the insurance policy of the at-fault driver if they experienced catastrophic injuries or if the terms of their own car insurance PIP coverage includes an allowance for lawsuits against at-fault drivers. 

The attorney for the victim presents a demand package with evidence of the drunk driver’s liability and a list of carefully calculated damages to the trucking company and their insurer. Typically, negotiations take place, sometimes including mediation sessions between the injury victim or their family and the insurance company along with their attorneys. If after back-and-forth negotiations take place, the insurance company fails to offer an acceptable settlement amount or wrongfully denies the claim for compensation, the victim and their attorney may pursue the matter in court through a lawsuit. 

What Happens In a Drunk Driving Truck Accident Lawsuit in New Jersey?

A lawsuit allows victims to recover more than just economic damages. In New Jersey, a lawsuit against a drunk driver could result in compensation for the victim’s pain and suffering and an award for punitive damages against the drunk driver or the trucking company they work for. Punitive damages serve as a punishment to the drunk driver and a deterrent for a repeat of the behavior.

A lawsuit against a driver or trucking company after a drunk-driving truck accident is a civil matter that proceeds separately from any criminal action against the driver through the criminal justice system. In order to file a lawsuit, the case must go to court within New Jersey’s two-year statute of limitations on personal injury claims.

How a Cherry Hill Attorney Can Help

Trucking companies often have powerful insurance companies with insurance adjusters and attorneys whose sole purpose is to find ways to minimize the amount they have to pay out on damages. They often do this by assigning a portion of fault for the accident to the victim. A skilled accident attorney in Cherry Hill has experience in protecting clients from these common tactics by documenting a compelling case against the drunk driver and safeguarding the injury victim’s best interests throughout the process.

No one should take on an accident claim or lawsuit against a drunk truck driver alone, especially while they are recovering from serious or catastrophic injuries. A truck accident lawyer in Cherry Hill helps New Jersey accident victims recover compensation while they work on recovering from their serious injuries.

If a loved one suffered fatal injuries due to a drunk driving truck accident, the deceased loved one’s close family members can recover compensation for their economic losses and mental anguish through a wrongful death claim in addition to the criminal drunk driving charges against the driver. 

A Cherry Hill truck accident lawyer is the best ally for injury victims and family members after a serious accident involving a commercial truck.