Bagen Law Firm | May 23, 2023 | Truck Accidents
Involvement in any motor vehicle accident usually comes as quite a shock, but a truck accident is worse. While necessary to our way of life, large trucks pose many dangers to all who share the road with them. If an accident occurs, severe and even fatal injuries can occur.
Far too many innocent motorists lose their lives on highways and interstates every year. Those who survive often have significant or catastrophic injuries requiring medical care or help with simple everyday activities like dressing and bathing.
While you can’t help what happened to you, if you take the right steps, you can put yourself in a position to receive the best outcome possible in your case and maximize your compensation.
Negligence in Trucking Accidents
To prove liability for a crash, victims and their attorneys must prove that a driver or another party’s negligence.
The elements of negligence include:
- Duty: One party owes another a duty of care. For example, a truck driver owes other drivers a duty of care to drive the speed limit or regularly inspect and maintain their trucks.
- Breach of duty: For whatever reason, the one party breached their duty of care. Maybe the company in charge of loading the truck’s cargo skipped corners, or perhaps the trucking company hired a truck driver with a history of DUIs.
- Cause: One party’s breach of duty was the proximate or direct cause of the victim’s injuries. For instance, a truck driver drove while intoxicated, resulting in an accident that caused the victim to sustain a broken leg and pelvis.
- Damages: The victim has compensable damages such as pain and suffering, medical bills, and lost income.
When negotiating a settlement or arguing your case in court, a truck accident attorney will work diligently to prove each of these elements.
Truck drivers can be negligent in ways other drivers can’t or that are not as obvious. For example, truck drivers must take rest periods after driving a specific amount of hours under federal law. Their rest periods also must meet minimum standards.
Before they can begin a shift, they must have had so many hours of rest or sleep. If a truck driver fails to abide by these federal laws and causes an accident, a truck accident lawyer can likely prove their negligence by using these violations. Whereas, if a non-commercial motorist caused an accident, proving they were drowsy or tired might be more difficult without official logbooks.
Steps to Take After a Truck Accident
What you do in the minutes, hours, and days following a truck accident can have a substantial impact on your health and your injury claim. Unfortunately, when it comes to truck accident claims, what you don’t know can hurt you. Here are several crucial steps that all truck accident injury victims should take to protect their interests.
Get Medical Attention
First, seek medical help right away. If an ambulance arrives at the scene and paramedics recommend you go with them to the emergency room, do so. Otherwise, get a medical exam as soon as possible, even if you don’t feel injured. Sometimes an adrenaline rush after an accident can cause you to feel little or no pain. You cannot detect some serious injuries at the scene. You want a medical professional document your injuries as soon as possible, as this will protect the integrity of your legal claim.
Avoid Admitting Fault or Apologizing
Always be cordial with the other drivers and passengers involved whenever possible. However, don’t admit fault or apologize. Anything you say can potentially come back to haunt you in your injury claim. If you admit fault or say you’re sorry now, the insurance adjuster might say it proves your fault and use it to devalue or deny your claim.
Report the Accident
Since most truck accidents are serious events, law enforcement was likely at the scene of your accident to make an official report. If not, ensure that authorities create a report after the fact. The accident report serves as an official record of how the accident occurred and who might be at fault. It’s valuable evidence in any motor vehicle accident claim. Your attorney will rely on it along with other evidence to prove your injury claim.
If possible, collect evidence in support of your claim. Depending on the severity of your injuries, you might not take this step at the accident scene, and that’s okay. However, if you can, photograph the scene and your injuries. Take pictures of the cars involved, the roads, and any road or other conditions that might have contributed to the accident. You can also take pictures of your injuries in the various stages of healing.
As soon as you can, write down your account of how the accident occurred. Your own testimony will serve as evidence as well. Consulting with a truck accident lawyer immediately can help ensure they collect the necessary evidence for your case.
Watch What You Say
An insurance adjuster will likely contact you within a few days after the truck accident, asking for a recorded statement. They might seem nice and well-meaning, but they can and will use anything you say against you or twist it to fit their agenda. It’s best to politely tell them you have retained legal counsel and tell them how to contact your truck accident lawyer.
In addition, never post about the accident on social media or discuss it with others. This it increases your exposure and the chances that something you say or do can work against you.
Record After Effects and Additional Details of Post-Accident Life
Record any aftereffects of your injuries. Victims can experience other symptoms or side effects long after the initial truck accident is over. Even if they aren’t severe enough to report to their physician, they are often worth mentioning to their truck accident lawyer. These can support your claim and maximize your damages. Some victims find it helpful to keep a journal specifically related to their accident.
Here they record symptoms or circumstances, such as:
- Trouble sleeping
- Inability to attend work or school due to the accident
- Inability to go to their children’s school or extra-curricular activities, or even a family vacation or wedding
Be Aware of the Statute of Limitations
A statute of limitations restricts the amount of time to file a legal claim. Each state determines its own statute. Some have relatively short time limits, such as one year. Some are two to three years, and others can reach five years. States may give different injury claims different filing deadlines. For example, the deadline often decreases if your claim involves a government entity.
You must be aware of your state’s statute of limitations. You should meet with a knowledgeable truck accident attorney who can tell you when you will need to file your case. Once the deadline expires, you can still file a lawsuit. However, the opposing party will more than likely file a motion asking the court to dismiss it due to the expired deadline. If so, you will lose your right to seek compensation through the court system for your injuries.
Contact a Qualified Truck Accident Lawyer
Finally, don’t forget that you should reach out to a qualified truck accident attorney as soon as possible. They can help you collect evidence and begin investigating the cause of your injuries. If you don’t know where or to whom you need to report your injuries, they can also help with that. An attorney will be a reliable advocate from the start.
Truck crash claims involve more complicated areas of law. They may require extensive investigation to determine and establish negligence in the accident. Taking on commercial trucking companies is often more challenging than bringing a claim against another private motorist.
If you sustain injuries in any kind of motor vehicle accident, consulting with an experienced accident lawyer is crucial to discuss a possible legal claim. While any car accident claim can have rare circumstances and complications, those involving large commercial trucks are arguably some of the most challenging types of personal injury cases. Parties involved in large commercial truck accidents often have the most devastating injuries. They should never be afraid to hold negligent parties accountable for their damages. You always want to seek the assistance of a truck accident lawyer with experience handling this type of case.
Why Are Big Rig Accidents so Destructive?
Thankfully, big rig accidents don’t occur as typically as passenger vehicle accidents. However, when they do occur, they are severe. Commercial trucks have much larger dimensions and weigh much more than other vehicles they share the road with. They need more time and distance to stop, and when they collide with something, their weight makes them more destructive than a smaller vehicle.
Depending on how the crew loaded, packed, and secured the cargo, their weight can also make them more likely to cause an accident.
A semi-truck’s tires, brakes, and other parts suffer extreme wear and tear from so many miles on the road, putting them at risk of causing an accident from a tire blowout or breaks that have stopped functioning. These two factors alone can cause catastrophic accidents.
Truck Accidents May Involve Multiple Parties
Often, a commercial truck accident involves more than just the driver. Your truck accident lawyer must determine all potential at-fault parties to adequately seek full compensation.
Depending on who owns the truck, what caused the accident, and other specifics, you can hold these parties liable for your injuries:
- The truck driver
- The trucking company
- The cargo loading company
- The truck or its parts manufacturer
- A municipality
- Another driver
When multiple parties, some closely intertwined, such as a truck driver and the trucking company, can be liable for an accident, the claim is more complex.
Truck Drivers Must Abide by Federal Standards
Not only do truck drivers have to follow the same traffic laws that other drivers do, but they are also subject to federal safety regulations and standards specifically for commercial truck drivers. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) enacts and enforces these additional regulations for all commercial vehicles.
They include rules about:
- The use of cell phones while driving
- Rest periods and hours of service
- Truck inspections and maintenance
- Logging driving hours and maintenance
When drivers don’t abide by these regulations, the chances of an accident increase. Showing that they didn’t follow FMCSA regulations can help prove negligence. A truck accident attorney knows these regulations well and can determine if the driver followed the standards.
Determining the Cause of a Truck Accident
Investigating truck accidents is usually more complex than an accident involving passenger or smaller type vehicles. For example, carrying large loads of different materials or substances and how crews load and secure the cargo can lead to an accident. A truck accident lawyer can enlist the help of accident reconstructionists to help determine the cause.
Call an Experienced Truck Accident Lawyer Today
Being involved in a truck accident can be a frightening and traumatic experience – so much so that it leaves you not knowing what to do next. Unfortunately, what you do after an accident, both immediately and over time, can leave a significant impact on your legal rights and options.
You will want to hire an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible after the accident. They can help you with all the necessary steps you should take and even the ones you should avoid.