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Box Truck Accidents

box truck

Box trucks are among the most common commercial vehicles on U.S. roadways, being used extensively by large, nationwide delivery companies like Amazon and UPS, as well as local businesses as diverse as furniture stores, wholesale food deliverers, and appliance retailers. Additionally, box trucks are very common as rental vehicles, including rentals to individuals from U-Haul and rentals to businesses from fleet services like Ryder. What all these box trucks have in common with other trucks, in general, is that they are much larger and heavier than passenger vehicles and harder to maneuver and stop in emergencies. As a result, when box trucks are involved in traffic accidents, they tend to cause greater amounts of damage to the vehicles they impact and more severe injuries to the people inside those vehicles.

What are the Characteristics of Box Trucks?

In the United States, the Federal Highway Administration classifies trucks according to the vehicles' “gross vehicle weight rating” or GVWR. The GVWR rating from the truck manufacturers includes the vehicle's total weight, fuel, driver and passengers, and cargo. The classes run from Class 1 “light duty” vehicles such as light pickup trucks that have a GVWR less than 6,000 pounds up through Class 8 “heavy-duty” trucks like full-size tractor-trailers with GVWRs of greater than 60,000 pounds. Box trucks have a greater range of weight class ratings than any other type of truck, ranging from Class 3 trucks (as little as 10,000 pounds GVWR) up through Class 7 trucks (as much as 33,000 pounds GVWR).

The body-type characteristic that makes a box truck a box truck is its “cab chassis” or “half truck” body construction. This vehicle type has a forward cab containing the driver compartment and engine compartment, with an extended chassis behind which the cube-shaped cargo compartment is placed. This is differentiated from “van” type vehicles in which a unibody construction includes both the passenger compartment and cargo space within the same single chassis, as well as being different from the “tractor-trailer” arrangement in which the two pieces – the tractor with engine and passenger space and the trailer-borne cargo space – are actually separate vehicles that can be attached and detached from one another.

Depending upon their intended uses, box trucks may have doors on the sides or rear, a roll-up door, and/or an extendable rear ramp or automated lift. Some also have an upper extension of the cargo compartment that goes above the driver’s cab to provide extra cargo space and streamlining.

What is also a common characteristic of box trucks is that they are relatively large and harder to maneuver and stop than passenger vehicles, especially when they are fully loaded.

Common Factors in Box Truck Accidents and Personal Injury Claims

Box truck accidents that occur on freeways and interstates are often related to braking distances or sudden maneuvers. Remember that the largest box trucks can be up to 33,000 GVWR – that's about ten times the weight of a passenger car – and may require up to double the braking distance of a passenger vehicle traveling at the same speed. Give box trucks room – in particular, don’t be eager to change lanes too closely in front of a box truck in heavier traffic situations. Remember that they need a much greater braking distance to come safely to a stop.

Sudden maneuvers with a box truck, such as swerving around another vehicle, can also present a danger, especially when the box truck is fully loaded. These vehicles are relatively top-heavy, leading to rollover accidents (as in the video below), particularly if the cargo inside suddenly shifts in response to a hard maneuver.

The large size and weight of box trucks also present a greater danger when colliding with passenger vehicles in a traffic accident. Passenger vehicle construction and safety systems are designed to protect passengers from injuries in impacts involving vehicles of similar size. However, when a passenger vehicle is struck by a fully-loaded box truck that may weigh five or ten times as much as the passenger car, the smaller vehicle has little chance of avoiding major damage and potentially serious injuries or even deaths to the occupants.

This video shows how easy it is to accidentally roll over a top-heavy box truck simply by taking a curve a little too quickly. Fortunately, the driver and his passenger didn’t appear to be hurt:

More Likely Injuries Caused by Box Truck Accidents

Box trucks are large and heavy, with a great deal of momentum that can cause serious injuries or even death when colliding with smaller, lighter passenger vehicles.

Among the types of injuries that can be seen from box truck accidents are:

Insurance Coverage in Box Truck Accidents

Insurance claims for property damage and/or personal injuries from accidents involving box trucks will immediately run into the question of just who is insuring the vehicle and for how much. Box trucks owned by commercial businesses will typically have larger amounts of coverage. Those box truck owners that are commercial transport companies will almost always have liability coverage of $1 million or more. Likewise, box trucks that are fleet rentals for large companies will almost always have large liability policies.

Box trucks that have been rented by individuals, however, may have no more coverage than the state minimums. U-Haul, for example, offers additional insurance coverage to individual truck renters – both property damage and liability – but typically only carries the state minimum coverage on its own vehicles. In California, that’s only a minimum $15,000/$30,000 liability coverage. The individual renting the truck is usually covered by their own personal insurance policy while driving the box truck. However, that personal policy may also be only for minimum coverage limits. In box truck accidents that involve rental trucks, quickly tracking down and verifying the amount of available insurance coverage is crucial.

In those box truck accidents involving commercial companies, verifying available insurance is also important. Still, these claims and lawsuits often also turn upon the evidence of adequate screening, training, and monitoring of the companies’ drivers and proper maintenance of the vehicles if an accident appears to involve mechanical failure. As a result, these cases may be much more complex in the “discovery” stages of litigation, where depositions and document productions are used to collect and clarify the available evidence.

These factors combine to make box truck accident cases considerably more complicated and costly to pursue than “routine” passenger vehicle vs. passenger vehicle traffic accident claims and lawsuits. Therefore, it is critical in these claims that an injured person seeks help from an experienced attorney who has the resources and expertise to successfully complete these complicated cases.

Contact a Box Truck Accident Lawyer Today

A traffic accident involving a box truck can leave a person with serious physical injuries, major medical expenses, lost income, and other significant damages. In addition, the injury claims and lawsuits that result from box truck accidents require more resources and expertise to handle than other types of routine accident injury claims. My name is Ed Smith, a Box Truck Accident Lawyer in Sacramento, California. If you or a member of your family has been injured in a traffic accident involving a box truck, please give our legal team a call for free, friendly advice. You can reach us at 916.921.6400 or 800.404.5400 or by using our online contact form.

We are members of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and the National Association of Distinguished Counsel.

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Photo by abdul rohmad on Unsplash

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