Chicago Utility Truck Accident Lawyer
A “utility vehicle” is really just a heavy-duty vehicle or piece of equipment that is intended for a specific application and they come in many different configurations. Utility trucks may arrive in the form of water trucks, gas trucks, sewer trucks, garbage trucks, street sweepers, snowplows, cherry pickers or even large construction equipment such as bulldozers, backhoes, or cranes.
These significantly large pieces of equipment have been specifically engineered for a purpose and therefore require a great deal of training, skill and focus to operate. Because they are so big, their size also puts other motor vehicles and drivers at a serious disadvantage in the event of a collision.
Unfortunately, it’s all too common for cities, municipalities, service companies and utilities to put commercial drivers behind the wheel of a utility truck without the proper training, experience, or demonstrated capability to operate the vehicle.
Here are just a few of the most common types of utility trucks that are involved in accidents:
- Communication Company trucks (Comcast, Cox, AT&T, etc.)
- Lawn care trucks, which are often found to be operating without insurance
- Construction trucks used for a wide variety of applications
- Oilfield trucks, which may also be hauling hazardous, flammable or corrosive payloads
- Cable trucks
The Big Differences Between “Big Rigs” and Utility Truck
One of the biggest obstacles to understanding how serious an accident involving a utility truck really is comes from the fact that by legal definitions, most utility trucks are not considered to be “commercial vehicles.” Nevertheless, a utility truck is still being used for business-related purposes and is likely to be owned by a company or an agency, not the driver involved in the collision. This makes liability a far more complex issue than situations where two passenger vehicles with consumer insurance are involved in an accident.
Even in cases where utility trucks are classified the same as an 18-wheeler, there are still key differences involved in a legal case. There is much more regulation on commercial big rigs than there is on utility trucks. 18-wheelers are often restricted from entering certain areas like residential neighborhoods, underpasses with low clearance, or areas with noise restrictions. But utility truck drivers—think plumbers, electricians and other skilled contractors—have much more freedom to driver anywhere their work may take them. This increases the potential for large utility vehicles carrying hazardous payloads to cause significant damage in accidents that occur where a large vehicle normally would not be a factor.
Another complication is the fact that the U.S. Department of Transportation offers little to no regulations or requirements for utility trucks. This ultimately means that many of the rules that apply to tractor-trailer drivers (such as mandatory inspections, breaks, medical inspections, etc.) simply do not apply to drivers operating utility trucks. Because this is the case, proving negligence on the part of a utility truck driver is not as cut and dried as it might be in the case of a commercial truck driver involved in a truck accident.
Common Arguments against Utility Truck Driver Liability
Two common themes will immediately be apparent once you file a claim against a utility truck driver or the company he or she was working for. It’s good to be prepared for some stiff opposition. Lawyers hired by utility truck-utilizing companies generally launch one of two arguments as their first line of defense.
The utility will claim that their driver was an independent contractor and not an employee.
The utility or truck owner will try to put distance between their assets and their driver, pushing more blame and therefore more liability for damages onto their driver.
This is misrepresentation and is essentially legal smoke and mirrors. It is an attempt not to take responsibility for the way their driver operated a utility truck improperly. While many employers will label their workers as “independent contractors,” the move simply allows them to save money on workers’ compensation and taxes. Once a real investigation is underway, it quickly becomes apparent in most cases that the driver is considered an employee and not an independent contractor.
The second scenario is even more muddled, legally speaking. Companies will argue that the utility truck driver was outside of the course and scope of their duties when the collision occurred.
They will claim to have put the driver through safety training, even in cases where they clearly did not. These are all simply convenient ways to levy blame onto a driver. Hiring a competent, trained, highly skilled attorney will help you force a utility truck company to do the right thing.
Contact a Chicago Utility Truck Accident Lawyer Today
Truck accident cases involving utility vehicles are complex and can prove confusing to their victims. Proving negligence in a crash that involves a utility truck takes an investment of time, experience and resources.
If you have been injured in an accident involving a utility truck, 18-wheeler, tractor-trailer or another large commercial truck, a truck accident attorney in Chicago at Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C. today at (312) 236-2900 can pursue the compensation you need and deserve.