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Commercial Truck Accidents in Iowa

Anyone who has ever traveled on the U.S. interstate highway system knows how ubiquitous commercial trucks are — big rigs are everywhere, not just on the interstates. About two-thirds of the nation’s freight is moved on commercial trucks by about 3 million commercial truck drivers, according to the American Trucking Association, the industry’s leading trade group.

Tractor-trailers dwarf other vehicles by their sheer size, and sharing the road with 18-wheelers in and around Des Moines, Iowa, Polk County, Iowa, or Central Iowa can be a nerve-wracking experience, especially in heavy traffic, in bad weather, at night, or in unfamiliar surroundings.

Trucking is an industry regulated by the federal government. Truck drivers are required to have special training and must meet special licensing requirements to operate legally. However, commercial trucks are sometimes involved in accidents, and due to their massive bulk, they may cause significant damage to a car and its occupants that may result in injury or death.

A rollover, jackknife, or underride accident, an improperly loaded truck that causes an accident, or a crash with a stalled or illegally parked commercial vehicle may cause lifelong injuries that require expensive, ongoing medical care. Driver fatigue, driver inattention, and aggressive driving or speeding are also common reasons why commercial trucks are involved in accidents.

Des Moines, Iowa Auto Accident Lawyer

If you had an accident or crash with a commercial truck and suffered injuries or property loss, or if a family member or loved one suffered serious injuries or died in a commercial truck accident in Des Moines, IA, you should contact McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C.. We represent accident victims throughout Polk County and the state of Iowa, and we are experienced in these types of cases.

A commercial truck’s driver or owner may be liable for your injuries or property loss, and you may be able to recover damages. The experienced personal injury attorneys at McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C. can evaluate your case and help you decide what to do next. We aggressively negotiate with insurance companies to compensate our clients fully for their injuries and financial losses. We are also prepared to go to court to seek justice for you.
Contact McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C. at (515) 279-9700 today to schedule an appointment. You deserve full compensation for the injuries and losses you suffered in a commercial truck accident. Let us help you achieve justice.

Iowa Commercial Truck Accident Information Center

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Commercial trucks on Iowa roads

Commercial trucking is regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT). In addition to federal laws for trucking, state laws also apply.

Iowa Administrative Code Title VIII, Chapter 321.1(12) defines a commercial vehicle as a vehicle or combination of vehicles used to transport passengers or property of any kind if any of the following apply:

  • The vehicle or any combination of vehicles has a gross weight or combined gross weight of 10,001 or more pounds;
  • The vehicle or any combination of vehicles has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating of 10,001 or more pounds;
  • The motor vehicle is designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver; or
  • The vehicle is used in the transportation of hazardous material of a type or quantity requiring vehicle placarding.

For purposes of administering and enforcing federal commercial driver’s license provisions, the weight thresholds listed above rise to 26,001 pounds or more under Chapter 321.1(11) of the Iowa Administrative Code, but do not change for vehicles designed to transport 16 or more people, or for vehicles transporting hazardous materials.

Therefore, in Iowa, a commercial vehicle is not necessarily an 18-wheeler; it can be a bus, a box truck, a van, or a tow truck. Other types of commercial vehicles include cement mixers (concrete transportation trucks), dump trucks, garbage trucks and trash haulers, log carriers and flatbed trucks, mobile cranes, tanker trucks transporting gasoline or other liquid cargo, and tractor units (a motorized truck cab with or without an attached trailer, also known as a semi).

With some restrictions, farm equipment engaging in farm operations is exempt and not considered a commercial vehicle. (Iowa Administrative Code, Chapter 321. 176A).

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What to do if Involved in a Commercial Truck Accident

An accident between a commercial truck and any kind of smaller vehicle is often a harrowing incident for those in the smaller vehicle, but there are several things a person involved in an accident with a commercial vehicle can do to at the scene, including:

  • Stay calm in the moments after a crash
  • Determine if injuries occurred and administer first aid to anyone injured, if possible
  • Call 911, then wait for the police or emergency services to arrive
  • Move any vehicle that is blocking traffic to the side of the road, if possible
  • Accept no blame for the accident and do not accuse the truck driver of being at fault
  • Contact your insurance company and discuss the accident only with the police or a representative of your insurance company
  • Take photos to document the scene and make written notes about what happened
  • Seek medical attention because injuries sometimes do not appear for days or weeks after an accident
  • Seek the advice of an attorney experienced in commercial truck accidents and personal injury law

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Common Types of Commercial Truck Accidents in Iowa

Due to their size and weight, commercial trucks are sometimes involved in unusual accidents. An accident investigation involving a commercial vehicle will attempt to determine whether negligence by the truck’s driver or owner was a contributing factor. An experienced attorney may be able to uncover facts the investigation disregards. Our attorneys have represented clients in these and other types of commercial truck accidents:

  • Jackknife Accidents
  • Rollover Accidents
  • Underride Accidents
  • Driver Fatigue
  • Improperly Loaded Trucks
  • Aggressive Driving and Speeding
  • Driver Inattention
  • Stalled Vehicle or Mechanical Failure

There may be time limits on how long you have to file an insurance claim, so if any of these types of accidents occurred in your case, you should seek the advice of a personal injury attorney as soon as possible.

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What types of injuries are typical in commercial truck accidents?

Size matters. It’s not too difficult to predict who will suffer more when an accident with a commercial truck occurs. Some people are lucky to walk away with minor injuries or no injuries at all, but the injuries suffered are often more serious than those in a crash between vehicles of similar size.
The kinds of injuries that can occur range from bruises and cuts to burns, broken bones, concussions, internal injuries, or permanent disfigurement or paralysis. In the most severe cases, an accident with a tractor-trailer may result in a coma, brain injury, or death.

Even if no injury is apparent immediately after an accident, an accident victim should visit a doctor anyway because insurance companies often impose strict deadlines on how long a person has to file an injury claim. In order to avoid covering your own medical expenses, you should see a doctor to confirm your injury status.

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Torts and Determination of Damages

If you suffered injuries in a commercial truck accident, you may have a “tort,” the legal term for a “civil wrong which results in wrongful death or injury to person or injury to property or injury to personal or property rights …” (Iowa Code Ann. Title XV, Subtitle 5, Chapter 670.1(4)).

A person injured in a commercial truck accident will usually seek to recover damages from an insurance company, which employs an army of lawyers who will often oppose a claim or the amount of damages sought. The company may offer a settlement, but its initial offer is often not enough to cover all damages. Your lawyer may be able to negotiate a better settlement. If a counteroffer is unsatisfactory, you and your lawyer may decide to take your case to court.

Compensatory damages for pain and suffering are sometimes limited under Iowa tort law. In some cases, a victim may be awarded punitive damages or exemplary damages in addition to compensatory damages.
If a loved one is killed in a commercial truck accident, a family member may be able to file a wrongful death claim, which may lead to compensation for funeral expenses, loss of financial support, or less enjoyment of life.

A local Central Iowa attorney experienced in personal injury law and insurance negotiations will certainly be able to explain all the scenarios and possible outcomes arising out of a commercial truck accident.

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Additional Resources

Iowa Administrative Code, Title VIII (Transportation), Chapter 321 — This portion of Iowa law addresses “Motor Vehicles and the Law of the Road.” The website offers a search tool to find subsections within Chapter 321 related to commercial trucks, or you may search through your web browser’s search tool.

Iowa Truck Information Guide — This 84-page booklet, published by the Iowa DOT and intended for truck owners and drivers, addresses many of the rules and regulations concerning the operation of commercial vehicles in Iowa.

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Find a Commercial Truck Accident Attorney in Des Moines, Iowa

If you were injured in a commercial truck accident in Des Moines, Iowa, hire a skilled, experienced personal injury attorney to fight for you. The lawyers at McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C. have more than seven decades of combined legal experience. We represent accident victims the Des Moines area, including Polk County and Dallas County, and throughout the state of Iowa.

We will seek just compensation for your injuries and help you recover what you have lost. We are not afraid to take on trucking companies and their insurance companies in order to obtain a satisfactory settlement. We are also experienced trial attorneys and we are prepared to go to court if necessary to get justice for you. Call us today at (515) 279-9700 to schedule a consultation.