Any motor vehicle accident can be devastating physically, mentally, and financially. Not only may you experience the pain and suffering of your bodily injury, but your vehicle may be a total loss, and you missed time from work. However, unlike a car accident, when it comes to a truck accident or semi truck accident in particular, being experienced and knowledgeable about truck accidents can make the difference between a good and poor outcome.
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In this article, we shall be addressing:
- Why Truck Accidents Happen
- Who Can Be Held Liable For the Truck Accident
- What Kind of Remedies Are Available to Those Who Become Victims of the Truck Wreck
- How to Avoid a Truck Accident
- What to Do If You Find Yourself in a Truck Accident
- Why Hire a Truck Accident Attorney
Why Truck Accidents Happen
Like most motor vehicle accidents, accidents involving trucks most often occur due to the negligence of the driver that caused the accident. This may include the following reasons:
- Driving too fast
- Driving too fast in bad weather conditions
- Following too close behind the injured party
- Not stopping at a stop sign
- Driving through a red light
- And just general negligent driving
However, truck accidents are unique in that in addition to the above, truck drivers often have their own unique reasons why such accidents occur. This may the include the following:
- Brake Problems
- Prescription Drug Use
- Traffic Flow Interruption (Congestion, Previous Crash)
- Unfamiliarity With The Roadway
- Traveling Too Fast For Conditions
- Roadway Problems
- Over-The-Counter Drug Use
- Required To Stop Before Crash (Traffic Control Device, Crosswalk)
What Kind of Injuries Are Involved in a Truck Accident
Since trucks weigh so much, carrying various freight, with a fully loaded large truck weighing as much as 80,000 pounds, the nature of the injuries to a victim of a truck accident can be very severe. While most injuries hopefully will just be the nature of a neck sprain, whiplash or back strain, accidents involving trucks may not only permanently destroy your vehicle, but also will leave you with permanent disabilities. Some of these injuries include:
- Paralysis Such as Quadriplegia or Paraplegia
- Traumatic Brain Injury or Other Neurological Damage
- Amputation of An Arm or Leg
- Broken Bones
- Injuries To Internal Organs
- Injuries To The Back
- Neck or Spine
- Wrongful Death.
Who Can Be Held Liable For the Truck Accident
When it comes to a truck crash and personal injury cases, oftentimes, pointing at who and why somebody is liable can be difficult. The first party that can be held liable is the truck driver themselves, even if they were working for an employer when the accident occurred. To further complicate matters, since the commercial vehicle accident may have been caused by the truck driver not following federal law by not abiding by a federal trucking regulation, such as overloading a truck or failing to take a required rest break, the suit may be filed in both federal and state courts. Accordingly, having a thorough understanding of this area of the law, its application, and being familiar with truck accident reporting procedures is essential to getting the best result possible.
The other parties that can be held liable is the driver’s employer, the truck manufacturer, or the company who owns and loaded the cargo. All three of these parties may be liable to the victim of the truck accident and only an experienced and knowledgeable truck driver attorney would be able to investigate this matter thoroughly to determine which parties are negligent.
The employer, for instance, may have hired the truck driver knowing full well that the driver had a history of accidents or had some type of negative history indicating that the driver should not had been hired to begin with. Accordingly, this would be indicative of negligent hiring by the employer. Or, the employer may have not trained the driver properly and therefore may be negligent for negligent supervision.
Likewise, the reason for the accident may have to do with the truck itself failing, such as improper breaks, engine failure, improperly installed tires, etc. In these situations, the truck manufacturer and maintenance provider could be held liable as well.
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Lastly, if the company who owns and loads the cargo was negligent in not loading or unloading the cargo properly, causing the cargo to spill and cause the accident, they could also be held responsible too.
Since there are so many factors and parties involved, it is very important that you consult with an experienced truck wreck lawyer to carefully review the facts and find out which parties are at fault and why.
What Kind of Remedies Are Available to Those Who Become Victims of a Truck Wreck
If you are a victim of a truck wreck, like other motor vehicle accidents, you are entitled to pain and suffering which equates to your damages. There is no magic formula in determining how much your damages are. However, one common factor that is usually considered is medical bills. Since a Plaintiff’s pain and suffering is often considered subjective, medical bills are often used as a concrete demonstration to a jury that go towards pain and suffering in the sense that the more medical bills and treatment there is, including surgeries, permanent hardware in the body, and any medical permanent impairments imposed by the physicians, the greater the degree of pain and suffering theoretically the Plaintiff sustained.
Another important factor to consider is the type of medical treatment you received. Since medical treatment received is probably the single biggest factor in claiming pain and suffering, how much and what type of medical treatment is important. Accordingly, if you have to undergo surgery of some sort, obviously having surgery is indicative that your award or settlement should be higher than somebody without surgery.
Another factor when considering your pain and suffering is any lost wages that you’re claiming. If you have to miss work, whether it is for a short period of time or for six months, you’re entitled to be compensated for the time you had to miss work. Accordingly, you need to keep track of dates and document all the work time you missed.
Another factor that needs to be considered is any prescriptions that you paid out of your own pocket. This is another factor that needs to be analyzed when dealing with your pain and suffering. As such, anything you pay out of pocket should be documented and all receipts should be kept in a safe place to be presented.
Finally, once the injured party reaches maximum medical improvement and is finished with active treatment, whether or not the injured party has sustained any permanent disability and what that permanent disability is needs to be considered.
If a Plaintiff, for example, is left with a permanent limp, but was formerly a very active person who enjoyed participating in a variety of activities, such as sports, dancing with their spouse, or hunting and fishing, and their damages are based on “loss of quality of life,” this factor will likely be higher in the mind of a jury than if he had not been physically active before the injury and maintained a sedentary lifestyle. In another example, if the truck accident left Plaintiff permanently disabled in a way that does not affect their occupation or livelihood, obviously that Plaintiff’s damages for lost earning potential will be lower than a Plaintiff whose livelihood is affected by the truck accident.
You should note that since truck accidents are often more catastrophic in nature, the insurance policy coverage is much greater. Commercial truck driver companies routinely cover at least one million dollars in liability coverage when it comes to a truck crash, whereas most motor vehicle accident policies cover only a fraction of that. Although this doesn’t guarantee that you’ll receive an automatic one million settlement or award, it does help reassure the victim of the accident that there should be sufficient funds for recovery.
How to Avoid Truck Accident
Like any motor vehicle accident, it is always better to use caution and be safe when it comes to trying to avoid being a victim of a truck crash. Accordingly, you should avoid any distractions, such as cell phone use and texting. You should also try to keep your distance and not be an overly aggressive driver. Although it is good to be defensive, taking risks and being reckless and aggressive in your driving always opens yourself up to danger.
What to Do if You Find Yourself in a Truck Accident
First, you’ll want to report the accident right away. In doing so, you should contact the police immediately, no matter how small or minor the property damage or your bodily injuries. This will establish documentation with the police officers opinion as to who is at fault and how the truck accident occurred. The next thing you should do is gather evidence. You can speak with the liable party to determine if they make any admissions of guilt or fault. Next, you should take pictures of any property damage on the vehicles as well as the accident scene.
You should make note of any skid marks on the ground, the conditions of the road, and the weather. You should also make note of any witnesses who may have seen the accident. You should document their names, addresses, and phone numbers. You should seek medical attention immediately. Oftentimes, a victim may wait to go see a doctor. Doing so may deter the validity and legitimacy of any pain and suffering you’re claiming. If you suspect any injury, even if just to get examined as a precaution, then you should seek medical attention immediately.
Lastly, you should file a claim with the insurance company. An experienced truck accident lawyer will help you file a truck accident claim and make sure you don’t say the wrong thing.
How Long After a Truck Accident Can You Sue?
In New York, generally, when it comes to accident claims, you have 3 years from the date of accident to file a lawsuit claiming damages sustained as a result of the accident. This is the truck accident insurance claim time limit or what is often called the statute of limitations. However, there may be some exceptions, such as if the truck that caused the accident involved a government entity, so you should contact an experienced truck accident lawyer to find out about your particular injury claim.
Q: Can I sue a trucking company without a lawyer?
A: Technically, you may sue a trucking company without a lawyer, but it is not advisable to do so. To quote Abraham Lincoln: “He who represents himself has a fool for a client.” This is as true today as it was back then. The reason for this is because when it comes to contested matters, and even if the commercial insurance company is accepting liability, the insurance company will still try to diminish your claim and pay you as little as possible. Accordingly, if you give them a statement or sign anything, they will try to use that information against you. If, for example, you sign a medical authorization allowing them to access your records from the accident, you may be signing a medical authorization allowing them to access your records even prior to the accident. Accordingly, the neck pain that you are currently experiencing from the accident may be, according to the insurance company, from when you slipped on ice ten years prior. The point is that although you technically can represent yourself, it is highly advisable to allow an experienced truck accident attorney to handle your claim.
Q: Can I sue the truck driver’s trucking company for my injuries?
A: Yes, not only can you sue the individual driver for your injuries, but you may also be able to sue the truck driver’s employer as well. The company may have hired the truck driver knowing full well that the driver had a bad history of such accidents and therefore the employer may be liable for negligent hiring. Additionally, the company may not have properly trained the truck driver, and therefore, the company would be responsible for negligent supervision. Again, an experienced truck accident attorney would be able to investigate and tell you what your different options are.
Q: I’ve read that motorists often sustain serious injuries after getting involved in a commercial truck accident. What exactly is a “commercial truck?”
A: When using the term “commercial truck”, one may be referencing fleet vehicles, company trucks, or other vehicles used for business that carry commercial goods. Examples are eighteen-wheeler tractor trailers, big rigs, tanker trucks, delivery vehicles, and other large freight trucks. A weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more is always considered commercial. Accordingly, whether you call the attorney a tractor trailer accident attorney, 18 wheeler accident lawyer, big rig accident lawyer, or just a truck accident injury lawyer, you should consider consulting them to determine if the vehicle that injured you was in fact “commercial” or not.
Q: How commercial truck accident settlements work?
A: Generally, the truck accident injury process involves certain basic stages. After you file a claim with the insurance company, the first stage is the medical treatment phase. During this stage, the injured party will just focus their attention on attending and receiving the medical treatment from the injury. This may be as little as a emergency room visit followed up with some physical therapy to treat a soft tissue injury, or it could be treatment for a disc herniation or bulging disc that will require surgery. Whatever the treatment is, focus should be on getting better.
Once you’re done treating and are considered to have reached maximum medical improvement, then you’re at the stage of gathering stage where you will be collecting your medical records and bills. Reaching maximum medical improvement means you don’t have any upcoming or future medical appointment with any doctor(s) because of the accident and your physician has told you that this is the best you’re going to be as far as your medical condition, and there is nothing more that can be done for you as far as medical treatment for the injuries sustained in the accident.
Contacting an experienced truck accident attorney to help you with organizing all of the relevant records and bills related to the injury, as well as gather any receipts that you are claiming, is a critical step in the process. The purpose of this is to formulate a demand or “specials” letter to be sent to the insurance company to claim money for the pain and suffering you’ve endured. In that letter, your lawyer will detail the theory of your liability, the damages that you suffered, and how you wish to resolve your truck accident by setting a certain dollar amount to resolve your case. Again, each particular case is different, but an experienced truck accident attorney will be able to articulate your position and the basis for it.
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The third stage is the negotiation stage. In this stage, the insurance company will most likely deny your claim or provide you some sort of initial settlement offer. Your attorney and the insurance company will then negotiate and go back and forth about why they think their side will prevail. Most of the time this is the final stage and an accident settlement is usually made.
However, should the two parties be unable to come to a resolution, the fourth stage is that your case is filed in court. In this stage, a complaint is drafted and served upon the liable party(ies) who is(are) then referred to as the “Defendant(s).” The liable party’s insurance company will then hire a defense insurance company attorney to defend their case.
Once the case is filed, that does not mean that the truck accident case won’t be resolved or settled, but it can complicate and prolong matters. What happens during the lawsuit after a truck accident? Once the Defendant provides an answer to your complaint, the discovery process is next. During the discovery process, each side is able to extract information from each other about what witnesses will be listed, what they will say, and what evidence each side will present. It gives each side a chance to evaluate the other side’s evidence and chances of winning at trial. Unfortunately, this process can take awhile because each side has a chance to interview each other’s witnesses in what’s called a “deposition” or “examination before trial,” also known as an EBT.
After discovery is completed, each side generally then files various legal motions to try to dismiss the other side’s case. In almost 90% of the time, even if the case is filed in court, the truck accident settlement will take place and rarely ever will it go to trial. However, should each side not be able to come to some sort of compromise, the next step is trial.
Although the above is a brief synopsis of the different stages and everything might seem clear and straightforward, having an experienced truck accident attorney on your side to help you navigate you through the different stages is ideal. This is especially true in the early stages of the truck accident settlement process. Oftentimes, a person may provide a statement or sign a document for the insurance company, without being represented, and that admission may dismantle or hurt their case in the long run, albeit unknowingly.
Q: What is the average settlement for a truck accident?
A: Since every case is different, there is no average settlement for a truck accident. Again, the factors taken into consideration is your pain suffering, which includes your medical bills, medical treatment, lost wages, and the degree to which you are disabled.
Q: How long do I have to file a lawsuit after a truck accident?
A: In New York, the statute of limitations for a motor vehicle accident, including ones dealing with truck accident cases, is three years from the date of accident. However, you should contact a truck wreck lawyer who is familiar with truck accident law to verify.
Q: Who pays me for injuries in a truck accident?
A: Like most motor vehicle accidents, it is the insurance company that insures the negligent party that is responsible for paying you your injuries in a truck accident. This may include the insurance company of the individual driver, the truck driver’s employer, the manufacturer of the truck, or the company that loads and unloads the truck. Some or all of these parties may be responsible and you should contact an experienced truck accident law firm to find out more.
What Can a Truck Accident Attorney Do to Help?
Experienced truck accident lawyers understand the truck accident settlement process and the law and what your case is worth. With this information, they are able to defend, negotiate, speed up, and help obtain a good truck accident settlement. When it comes to choosing personal injury attorneys, you need to discuss your case with a competent and experienced truck accident attorney to discuss how to best pursue your truck accident. You’ll want someone who has experience with commercial truck accidents and who has no problem handling truck accidents.
A qualified truck accident attorney from Law Office of Yuriy Moshes has the expertise, knowledge, and experience to do this. Moreover, they offer a free consultation. They help victims in the New York City area including all its boroughs (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island) as well as Northern New Jersey, Long Island, and Upstate New York.