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Truck Accident vs. Car Accident Claims in Illinois

Offered by Clifford Law Offices

While different, both may require the help of an experienced attorney

Collisions involving cars and collisions involving tractor-trailers can have significant distinctions, making it crucial to understand the unique aspects that set them apart. These differences can be vital when seeking financial compensation for your injuries following a motor vehicle accident in Illinois.

Having accurate answers to these essential legal questions can help crash victims avoid wasting valuable time when filing a claim or lawsuit. On the flip side, failing to apply these distinctions could hinder your chances of securing the full compensation you deserve for your accident-related injuries and expenses. In either case, if you or someone you love was injured in a car or truck accident in Illinois, an attorney can protect your rights and guide you through the legal process. Here's what you should know.

Illinois accident statistics

Overall, nearly 300,000 motor vehicle crashes occur each year in Illinois. According to the latest statistics compiled by the Illinois Department of Transportation, there were 295,604 motor vehicle crashes in 2021. 

Of those collisions, 12,040 crashes involved tractor-trailers. There were 9,261 crashes involving single-unit trucks (such as delivery trucks). There were also 2,474 bus accidents, excluding those involving school buses, which accounted for an additional 714 collisions. 

Although commercial vehicle accidents make up a relatively small percentage of all motor vehicle accidents, a crash with a commercial vehicle is disproportionately likely to cause severe or fatal injuries to someone in a smaller vehicle compared to a crash between two cars.

How do truck accidents differ from car accidents?

The most obvious difference between car and truck collisions is the disparity in vehicle size and weight. While cars typically weigh around 3,000 to 4,000 pounds, fully loaded tractor-trailers can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds. Even smaller commercial vehicles like box trucks are still much larger than cars, SUVs, and pickup trucks.

However, weight alone is not the only discerning factor. There are also several other physical characteristics that distinguish commercial vehicles from private vehicles. Commercial vehicles are taller and higher off the road, creating the risk that a smaller vehicle will slide underneath the trailer. They also have larger blind spots, make wider turns, and have a higher center of gravity, which can affect the way a crash unfolds. Additionally, some trucks carry hazardous materials such as petroleum products or fertilizer that can catch fire in a collision.

Commercial vehicle collisions also bring several legal complications, including:

  • Different driver's licenses – Commercial truck drivers must have a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to operate a truck legally. That means they are subject to different rules and regulations than drivers of passenger vehicles.
  • Different laws – Along with state and federal laws that apply to all drivers, additional laws apply to commercial truck drivers, especially at the federal level, where regulations are set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
  • Different accident investigators – In addition to local police and state troopers from the Illinois State Police, investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigate serious commercial truck crashes. Trucking companies also have their own investigative teams on the ground, often within 24 hours. Someone may approach you or other witnesses for a statement. 
  • Multiple at-fault parties – While this is also sometimes true in car crashes, it is more common to have multi-party involvement in commercial truck crashes – which means there are more lawyers and more insurance companies involved.
  • Control of evidence – Many critical pieces of evidence in truck collisions are the property of trucking companies, such as maintenance records, repair records, and Hours of Service (HOS) logs. Attorneys for the injured person need to intervene quickly to preserve and secure this evidence.

Finally, the financial impact of a commercial truck crash is often much more significant than that of a car collision, due to the extent of damage and severity of injuries a large tractor-trailer can cause compared to a smaller passenger vehicle.

What is the most common reason for car crashes?

Collisions involving two cars often occur because one driver was behaving recklessly or negligently, including:

  • Speeding, which is the cause of more than 31 percent of all motor vehicle accidents in Illinois.
  • Drunk driving plays a role in 1 out of every 5 fatal car accidents in Illinois.
  • Distracted driving, including texting while driving.
  • Aggressive driving, including tailgating and following other vehicles too closely.
  • Reckless driving, including running a red light, not stopping at a stop sign, or turning left into oncoming traffic at an intersection.

What are the most common causes of truck accidents?

Commercial truck crashes share some common causes with car crashes, such as distracted driving and driving under the influence, but they also introduce numerous additional factors, including:

  • Inexperienced truck drivers who fail to recognize or appropriately react to hazards.
  • Poor truck maintenance, which can result in a tire blowout or a collision due to defective brakes.
  • Improperly loaded cargo, which can cause the cargo to shift and make the truck roll or jackknife, especially at highway speeds.
  • Falling asleep at the wheel – this can happen in car accidents as well, but the risk of fatigue is higher for long-haul truckers who put in long hours behind the wheel.

Car accident compensation in Illinois

Illinois operates under an at-fault car insurance system, also known as a "tort" system. Under this system, the party deemed at fault for the accident (and their insurance company) is responsible for covering the victim's accident-related expenses. However, it is essential to note that despite this legal obligation, insurance companies may employ tactics to delay, dispute, or even deny claims to protect their own financial interests.

Given insurance companies' reputation for such practices, it becomes crucial for victims of car accidents to seek the guidance and support of an experienced attorney who can level the playing field and demand fair compensation for the victim's losses.

Who can be liable in a truck accident?

Similar to car accidents, if a commercial truck driver is responsible for causing a collision in Illinois, the at-fault party is responsible for covering accident-related expenses. However, in a commercial truck accident, it is common for more than one party to be at fault. Some potential at-fault parties in commercial truck accidents can include:

  • The trucking company.
  • The companies that own the truck's cab and trailer.
  • The business that loaded the truck's cargo.
  • The company responsible for the truck's maintenance and repairs.
  • The truck manufacturer or the company that manufactured specific truck parts, such as the truck's tires or brakes.
  • The driver of another vehicle involved in the accident.

How much time do I have to take legal action after an accident?

If the at-fault party refuses to cover your accident-related expenses or makes you a lowball settlement offer, pursuing a lawsuit to seek fair financial compensation becomes a potential option. 

Illinois' statute of limitations imposes a deadline for filing a lawsuit in response to injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident. After a car or truck accident, you generally have a two-year window from the date of your injury to initiate a lawsuit, as stated in the Illinois Compiled Statute (ILCS) 735.5 Section 13. Other facts specific to a crash may impose a shorter statute of limitations. Nevertheless, it is important to promptly seek competent legal guidance well before the expiration of any statutory deadline. This is because crucial evidence necessary to build a strong case can disappear long before that time, particularly in truck accident cases. Some examples include:

  • Hours of Service (HOS) logs, which trucking companies can often destroy after six months.
  • Truck inspection, maintenance, and repair records, which can often be destroyed after one year.

Furthermore, many trucks are equipped with devices such as a black box data recorder, event data recorder (EDR), or electronic control module (ECM). These devices can provide vital information such as the truck's speed at the time of the crash, whether the driver applied the brakes, and any attempts to slow down before the accident. However, depending on the type of EDR or ECM, the data may be erased or overwritten soon after the crash.

Regardless of whether you were involved in a car or truck accident, there might be video footage of the collision captured by a dash cam, traffic camera, or security camera. However, video footage is often erased or overwritten soon after the crash, sometimes within 24 hours. Therefore, it is in your best interest to have an attorney start investigating immediately.

How much is my accident claim worth?

Crash victims have the right to seek compensation for their losses, including but not limited to:

  • All reasonable and necessary medical costs, including future medical treatments.
  • Repairing or replacing the victim's vehicle.
  • Replacement income if the victim cannot work while recovering from injuries.
  • Lost future income if the victim cannot return to work due to a permanent disability.
  • Pain and suffering, as well as other non-economic damages, a legal term for costs that are more subjectively determined.

Car and Truck Accident Case Results

$38.3 million total recovery Illinois

$38.3 million verdict for a mother and two children who were hit by a truck on I-90 in Illinois. Clifford Law Offices obtained the $38.3 million verdict, which was the largest verdict for a motor vehicle accident in Illinois that year.

$22.7 million verdict Illinois

$22.7 million verdict for surviving family members of a 31-year-old man who died in an accident caused by a truck driver who was speeding. Clifford Law Offices obtained the $22.7 million verdict. This was the largest wrongful death verdict in Cook County, Illinois, in over a decade.

$20 million settlement Illinois

$20 million settlement for a man who was T-boned, leaving him with multiple fractures, internal injuries, and a permanent disability. Clifford Law Offices obtained this settlement for the victim.

What should I do after a motor vehicle accident in Illinois?

Whether you are involved in a car crash or a truck accident in Illinois, here are some things you can do to protect your health and your rights:

  • Call the police and tell them you have been involved in a crash. This is required by law in Illinois if your accident causes more than $1,500 in property damage, if anyone was seriously injured, or if a fatality occurred, according to Illinois Statute 625 ILCS 5/11-408.
  • If you or anyone else is injured, ask the 911 dispatcher to send an ambulance.
  • If you can safely do so, take photos of the crash scene from different angles and viewpoints. Be sure to capture pictures of the damage and any visible injuries.
  • If someone witnessed your collision, collect their name and contact information.
  • Exchange information with the other driver. This includes your name, driver's license number, insurance details, and contact information. If the other driver is a commercial trucker, ask them for the name and contact information of their trucking company.
  • Don't discuss fault with the other driver or anyone at your crash site. Anything you say could later be used as evidence against you and potentially harm your claim.
  • Record the police officer's name and contact information. This will help you later on when you obtain a copy of your official Illinois accident report, which is officially called an Illinois Traffic Crash Report.
  • Even if an EMT or another medical professional examines you after the accident, schedule a follow-up appointment with your doctor. Many accident injuries have delayed symptoms, including whiplash, concussions, and other traumatic brain injuries (TBIs).
  • Call a car accident lawyer in your area as soon as possible to learn more about your potential legal options.

An attorney can protect your rights and demand accountability

When you have an experienced lawyer handling your case, you can ensure your injury claim or lawsuit receives the attention it deserves. Attorneys know how to investigate accidents and find evidence to build a strong case. They also know how to deal with insurance companies and advocate for fair compensation. Whether you're dealing with a commercial truck crash or a car crash that wasn't your fault, contact an experienced car accident attorney in your area today for a free consultation.

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