At first glance, this question seems straightforward, but one can’t fully answer this question without exploring the 5 Ws.
A truck accident lawyer can answer these and other questions for you:
- Who is driving? Who else may be involved? Who is affected?
- What happened? What happens next? What are the long-term consequences?
- Where did the accident take place? Where can an accident victim go for help?
- When did it happen? When can a victim expect resolution?
- Why did the accident take place?
Exploring the big picture can give the issue some clarity. A truck accident is complex for several reasons. The physical damage can be extensive, insurance coverage limits are frequently higher than that of a car vs. car collision, and there can be more than one responsible party.
Report It, Report It, Report It
Time is valuable, but timing is critical regarding a driver’s responsibilities after a motor vehicle accident. First and foremost, report the accident at the scene. The police and emergency first responders are usually the first to arrive at an accident location.
Addressing immediate medical needs is paramount, and having an official police report is the basis of an insurance claim and a personal injury lawsuit. Notify law enforcement and your insurance carrier, and then contact a personal injury truck accident attorney.
Filing a No-fault Insurance Claim
Currently, only 12 states have no-fault insurance laws. These include:
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Dakota
In these states, drivers must look to their own auto insurance Personal Injury Protection (PIP) for funds to cover the costs of medical care and loss of income. In the case of a no-fault state, there is a very limited amount of time to notify a PIP insurance carrier of an accident.
Collecting Compensation From the At-Fault Driver’s Insurance Company
Proving liability and pursuing compensation for a truck accident can be more complicated than a car versus a car collision. You may hold multiple parties responsible, and even when traveling at low speed, the weight and size of a commercial vehicle give it the upper hand in a motor vehicle accident.
Truck accidents usually cause significant property damage, and and life-changing or fatal injuries. An experienced truck accident attorney can ensure the filing time frame, called the statute of limitations, does not run out.
The statute of limitations varies from state to state and may seem like plenty of time to initiate legal action, but when it comes to a truck accident, sooner is always better as a claim can take immense preparation.
Waiting to pursue a claim can:
- Dim the witnesses’ recollection of the crash
- Result in the disappearance of important evidence
- Give the defendant’s insurance the impression the claimant’s injuries are not that severe
- Give the claimant opportunity to say or do something that can harm their case
A truck accident lawyer needs time to locate, preserve, and investigate critical evidence that may prove wrongdoing. Some of these include:
- Photos of the accident scene that shows weather conditions, road conditions, and damage to all vehicles involved
- Video camera surveillance footage
- Statements from eyewitnesses
- Police and emergency responder’s accident reports
- Copies of the 911 emergency call(s)
- The at-fault driver’s DMV history report
- Information from an accident reconstructionist
- Copies of the insurance policies for the at-fault party
- Copies of the truck driver’s medical clearance physical exam
- Copies of the driver’s regular drug screen tests
- Data from the truck’s black box
- Truck maintenance schedule logs
- The driver’s hours of service log
- A copy of the trucking company’s training manual
- The medical records for the injured accident victim
- The attending physician’s statement of prognosis
- Cell phone records
The Types of Trucks Typically Involved in an Accident
Trucks move goods and provide services across the nation—the economy depends on the trucking industry, and we depend on them.
However, we share the roads with large, heavy vehicles like:
- Cement mixers and construction area vehicles
- Dump trucks, garbage trucks, and gravel trucks
- Tractor trailers
- 18 wheelers
- Oil tankers
- Moving vans
- Tow trucks
- Car carriers
- Emergency response vehicles
- Delivery vans
Many drivers operate these vehicles under intense pressure to meet unrealistic deadlines. They are often novice commercial truck operators with insufficient training. Long-haul drivers may not know the roads on which they drive. They often drive tired, distracted, and impaired. These challenges cause many injury-causing truck accidents.
Big trucks (in fact, most trucks) must swing wide to make a 90-degree right-hand turn. Encroaching another driver’s travel lane is almost always an accident waiting to happen.
Some of the most common causes of a sideswipe accident include:
- Truck drivers failing to check blind spots
- Reckless or distracted driving
- Driving too fast for roadway conditions
Even with enhanced braking systems, a large commercial truck needs more braking distance than a car. When 80,000 pounds (the weight of a fully loaded tractor-trailer) of metal slams into the back of an automobile, the car’s occupants may not escape without serious injury.
The following can cause these accidents:
- Mechanical issues
- A truck driver is following too close to the vehicle in front and cannot see it
- Inexperienced drivers
Because large commercial trucks have a high center of gravity, they easily lose balance when traveling too fast on entrance or exit ramps or when navigating sharp turns. An unbalanced cargo can also result in a rollover accident.
Semi-trucks in the United States average about 8.5 feet wide, 72 feet long, and 13.5 feet tall. When a tractor-trailer skids, the front of the vehicle turns, but the attached trailer may not, causing the rig to spin horizontally and drift into other travel lanes.
A truck may jackknife due to:
- Poor braking skills
- Brake failure
- Traveling too fast for roadway conditions
- Turning too quickly
- Inadequate truck maintenance
- Fatigued driving
Whether we call them side-impact, broadside, or T-bone collisions, these dangerous and often deadly accidents frequently happen at intersections when:
- Truck drivers run a stop sign
- Truck drivers blast through a traffic light
- Truck drivers fail to see a car
- Truck drivers do not yield the right of way
Reasons for Truck Accidents
A crash between a semi-truck and another vehicle, causing injuries or fatalities, happens over 110,000 times per year. Accidents are bound to happen when a large commercial vehicle isn’t operated or maintained properly. Some of the reasons for truck vs. car accidents are driver errors, such as:
- Driving while distracted
- Misjudging the speed of other vehicles
- The use of prescription or over-the-counter medications
- Aggressively driving
- Following too closely
- Failure to maintain lane
- Making unsafe or illegal turns
- Driving while fatigued
Mechanical and Maintenance Issues
A trucking company is required by federal law to keep maintenance records for the vehicles in its fleet. A violation of legal mandates can help establish liability in a truck accident. Time, however, can often be an important issue in reviewing evidence in a truck accident case. These maintenance logs only have to be kept for one year, and if the vehicle involved is no longer in the fleet, the logs can be gone in six months.
Some of the records a truck accident attorney may need to review include references to:
- Worn or defective brakes.
- Transmission failure
- Broken windshield wipers
- Bad tires
- Malfunctioning lights (headlights, taillights, and signal lights)
- Steering issues
Poor Hiring Practices and Lack of Supervision
Fleet owners who do not thoroughly vet prospective drivers or fail to provide sufficient training may be found liable for a truck accident. Setting unrealistic time constraints or overlooking hours of service violations can often be the proximate cause of a truck crash.
Some Noteworthy Statistics
- In one recent 12-month period, nationally, 4,842 large trucks were in fatal crashes—over 13 fatal accidents every day.
- Tire defects cause almost one-third of truck accidents
- Recent data indicate, in a recent year, 96 percent of vehicle occupants killed in two-vehicle crashes involving a passenger vehicle and a large truck were occupants of the passenger vehicle
An Injury From a Truck Accident Can Change a Life Forever
Victims of truck accidents often face long-term battles for recovery following a catastrophic injury. Some are likely to experience a degree of disability, possible disfigurement, a loss of bodily function, mobility and sensory issues, and severe pain. Truck accident survivors are prone to depression and anxiety and often exhibit signs of post-traumatic stress.
Some of the most common truck accident injuries are:
- Brain injury
- Severe and disfiguring burns
- Spinal cord damage
- Crush injury and internal organ damage
- Traumatic amputation
- Wrongful death
Determining Liability for a Truck Accident
Anyone whose negligence, carelessness, or wrongful actions contributed to the accident may be found liable for compensation.
This can include:
- The truck driver
- The trucking company
- Companies that manufacture and sell defective or dangerous parts
- The company that loaded the cargo onto the truck
- The truck maintenance company
Recoverable Damages After a Truck Accident
A truck accident attorney is able to develop a comprehensive and compelling list of damages that may be requested following an accident. These may include lost income due to the accident, including employer-paid health insurance benefits, missed sick or vacation accruals, and profit-sharing contributions.
The cost of medical expenses (current and anticipated future needs) for:
- Emergency medical transport
- Emergency room charges
- Physician’s services
- Mental health services
- Hospital stays
- Surgical fees
- In-home nursing care
- Physical, occupational, and vocational rehabilitation
- Lab tests
- Radiology studies
Factors That Influence the Amount of Financial Compensation
What can influence the amount of compensation after a truck accident? First and foremost, it is the personal injury attorney’s skill, tenacity, dedication, and expertise.
The level of financial reimbursement is dependent on several factors and how well an attorney is able to substantiate, justify, and validate things such as:
- The severity of the injuries
- The prognosis for full recovery
- The amount of long-term care that is required
- The age and educational background of the injured victims
- How the incident affects the accident victim’s family dynamic
- The extent of non-economic damages suffered because of the accident
What Can a Lawyer Do After a Serious Truck Accident?
Time is everything following a truck accident. Reach out to a personal injury lawyer.
Working within the constraints of state statutes of limitations while keeping the physical, financial, and emotional needs of their client, an experienced truck accident personal injury attorney is able to make a difference by:
- Doing an in-depth investigation into the causes of the incident
- Gathering evidence to prove the “Who. What, When, Where, and Why”
- Taking care of the administrative paperwork and documentation state and federal statutes require. A lawyer can ensure a client’s ability to recover damages is not barred because important deadlines are missed.
- Identifying all liable parties.
- Utilize accident reconstructionists and medical experts to develop a compelling case.
- Negotiate with insurance companies for a settlement that includes all losses.
- Being willing and able to take a case all the way to trial if necessary.
- Keeping a family advised of all of their legal options.
Are you or your family suffering because of a truck accident? Contact a truck accident attorney as soon as possible for your free case evaluation.
Mr. Finkelstein is the Managing Partner of Finkelstein & Partners, LLP. He has become a noted consumer activist through his representation of injured individuals against corporate wrongdoers and irresponsible parties.
An accomplished litigator, Mr. Finkelstein has represented Plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has successfully handled dozens of multi-million dollar cases.