The consequences of a truck accident often involve complex legal and insurance matters. Hiring a truck accident lawyer is crucial to ensure that your rights are protected, and you receive the compensation you rightfully deserve. These specialized attorneys have a deep understanding of the unique laws and regulations governing the trucking industry, as well as the severity of injuries often caused by truck accidents. They can gather the necessary evidence, negotiate with insurance companies, determine liability, and, if necessary, represent you in court.
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Thousands of motor vehicle accidents occur on the highways each year, resulting in severe consequences ranging from costly repairs to serious injuries, property damage, and fatalities. Unfortunately, the trucking industry is involved in thousands of related accident cases each year.
If you’ve been involved in an accident with a large semi-truck or other commercial trucks like UPS, FedEx, or Amazon, chances are you’ll face these severe consequences. Large trucks weigh 20 to 30 times more than regular passenger vehicles on the road, creating a more hazardous situation in the event of an accident.
Various types of vehicles, such as passenger cars, motorcycles, and trucks, can be affected by various factors related to traffic accidents in the United States.
Steps to Take After a Commercial Truck Accident
Accidents can be frightening and overwhelming, especially when they involve large vehicles. However, time can be a critical factor in gathering the type of evidence that will be useful in the personal injury claim process.
For safety reasons, it’s also important to contact authorities after an accident to seek professional assistance.
If you’re injured or sustain property damage in a truck accident, follow these steps:
The top priority when an accident occurs is the safety of all parties involved. If you or anyone around you appears to be injured, call 9-1-1 immediately to get medical treatment and report the accident to the police.
Medical records and official police reports can be crucial evidence to support personal injury claims or property damage claims after a truck accident.
Once the police officers arrive, they are responsible for documenting the accident, including the time and location of the accident, as well as statements from the drivers or other involved parties.
Additionally, it’s important for anyone who appears to be injured to receive medical assistance promptly. Even seemingly minor injuries, such as head trauma, can lead to more serious problems if not addressed promptly. Injuries resulting from accidents should be examined by medical professionals.
Next, start collecting information from other drivers, passengers, and accident witnesses. Record their names, phone numbers, insurance information, and license plate numbers. This information is crucial in the process of recovering damages from the accident.
Obtain Photo Evidence
Having photos of your injuries, the accident scene, and property damage can be helpful in supporting legal claims related to the accident.
While police officers often take their own photos to include in their accident reports, you may also want to take pictures of the accident to keep as part of your records.
Contact a Truck Accident Attorney
After experiencing an accident, it’s essential to feel confident in asserting your legal rights. However, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to do this on your own.
Your best course of action, after contacting the authorities and beginning to document the accident, is to reach out to a truck accident attorney who can represent your legal interests and guide you through the next steps.
Common Causes of Truck Accidents
Truck accidents in the United States can be influenced by various factors, including factors both within and beyond the control of the driver.
Large truck drivers can face many of the same issues as other drivers, such as poor road conditions, distractions while driving, and other typical hazards.
However, truck drivers can also encounter specific problems in their profession. One of them is a higher risk of fatigue since professional drivers often spend long hours transporting cargo from one location to another.
Excessive driver fatigue can make commercial truck drivers less aware of their surroundings on the road and can also affect their judgment and driving skills.
Additional causes and factors that can contribute to truck accidents include:
- Improperly loaded cargo
- Poorly maintained vehicles
- Equipment failures
- Use of over-the-counter and prescription drugs
- Alcohol use
- Unfamiliarity with the road
- Traffic rule violations
- Traffic flow disturbances (e.g., congestion)
- Brake issues
- Driver training levels
- Weather conditions
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) states that, according to accident experts, accidents involving large trucks are rarely caused by a single factor alone.
If you or someone you know has been involved in a truck accident, there may be more than one factor to consider when trying to identify the exact cause or causes of your accident.
Types of Truck Accident Claims
When considering options for seeking legal assistance after a commercial truck accident, it is essential to understand what legal options you have.
If you have suffered personal injuries due to a truck accident, you may be entitled to compensation by filing a personal injury claim.
If your accident resulted in significant property damage not covered by the at-fault party’s insurance company, you can also file a property damage claim to recover out-of-pocket expenses.
Personal Injury Claims
Truck accident claims fall under a highly specific area of personal injury law and can be subject to different federal and state laws than accidents involving standard vehicles. Personal injury claims are often filed based on negligence, as demonstrated by one or more parties involved in the accident.
Parties that may be responsible for injuries and other losses resulting from a commercial truck accident include:
- Truck drivers
- Trucking companies
- Truck manufacturers or their parts
- Companies that lease the trailer
- Parties that ordered the truck’s cargo
Property Damage Claims
The size and weight of large semi-trucks can result in significant property damage, even worse than typical accidents involving standard vehicles.
Filing a property damage claim may be an effective option to recover financial losses due to property damage resulting from a truck accident, such as repair costs and vehicle replacement.
Factors Affecting Truck Accident Claims
The success of a truck accident claim can depend on several factors, including evidence of negligence, who is considered at fault for the accident, the seriousness of the accident, and the extent of the resulting losses.
Was Negligence Involved
If you were injured in a commercial truck accident, proving that the accident occurred due to negligence can be a key element in your loss recovery process.
In truck accidents, negligence can refer to any behavior or action that can be deemed a violation of the truck driver’s duty of care—a legal obligation to act reasonably and responsibly to avoid harming others.
Based on regulations enforced by the FMCSA, truck drivers are responsible for complying with specific rules while on duty, some of which include:
- Driving no more than 10 hours per workday
- Maintaining travel logbooks
- Documenting rest and service breaks
- Proper cargo loading
- Not using controlled substances or alcohol
- Complying with legally mandated service and maintenance requirements
Common examples of negligence in truck accidents include texting while driving, falling asleep at the wheel, or driving under the influence.
If you have been involved in an accident with a truck driver who did not adhere to one or more of these regulations, you may be able to prove that the accident occurred due to negligence with proper evidence.
Who Can Be Held Liable in a Truck Accident
Commercial truck accidents may be viewed differently from individual car accidents. This is largely because truck drivers are typically employed by trucking companies. As employers of truck drivers involved in or causing accidents, trucking companies (carriers) may face legal liability.
Other parties that can be legally held responsible for a truck accident include:
- Manufacturers of large commercial vehicles
- Vendors used by trucking companies
- Cargo owners
- Local government or contractors (in cases of poor road design, etc.)
Severity of Injuries and Damage Level
Evaluating a truck accident claim also requires an assessment of the level of damage incurred and the severity of injuries suffered by the plaintiff.
In moderate to severe accidents, injuries can result in ambulance costs, hospital bills, and ongoing care for serious or permanent injuries. Filing a claim with a truck accident attorney necessitates accounting for all associated costs and non-economic losses such as pain and suffering and the loss of loved ones in cases of wrongful death.
Why File a Truck Accident Claim
Survivors of someone who died in a truck accident can choose to file a truck accident claim to seek compensation for the losses suffered as a result of the accident.
These losses, sometimes referred to as damages, can encompass financial losses, physical health impacts, trauma, and other expenses related to the accident.
The primary reasons for filing a truck accident claim are to recover damages resulting from personal injury, property damage, or death due to negligence.
These damages can have significantly adverse effects on most people, not only economically but also on their physical and psychological well-being. Filing a accident claim can be a way for individuals to alleviate this burden and recover costs not covered by their insurance companies.
How Much Compensation Can You Win?
The amount of compensation you can win in a truck accident lawsuit depends on the unique circumstances of the case.
Depending on the severity of the accident, the injuries it caused, and several other factors, you may see settlement offers ranging from thousands to millions of dollars.
To receive the most accurate estimate of a settlement amount, you should share your case details with a truck accident attorney, who can then provide a settlement offer range after reviewing relevant information.
Types of Damages Awarded in Truck Accident Claims
The type of damages awarded in truck accident claims depends on the specific circumstances of each accident but generally include compensatory and punitive damages.
Compensatory damages can be awarded as compensation to cover both economic and non-economic losses accumulated due to the accident.
The goal of compensatory damages is to restore the plaintiff’s physical, financial, and psychological condition as close as possible to before the accident.
Common types of compensatory damages include:
- Medical bills
- Ongoing treatment costs (projected costs)
- Lost wages
- Loss of earning capacity (e.g., if you lose your job due to permanent injuries)
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Property damage
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium (compensation awarded to a spouse or child for significant strain on the relationship)
Punitive damages refer to a form of punishment for the defendant and are intended to deter the defendant from engaging in dangerous or reckless behavior in the future. Punitive damages apply when the cause of the accident can be traced back to the defendant’s fraudulent, reckless, or malicious conduct.