You’re much more likely to receive fair compensation for your damages if you have an experienced attorney in your corner from the outset to navigate the legal landscape. Your first two steps after the wreck should be to get the medical care you need and to report the accident to the police. Your next step should be to schedule a consultation with a truck accident lawyer.
Truck Accidents vs. Car Accidents
Truck accidents differ from car accidents in significant ways that make it advantageous for the accident victim to have legal representation as soon as possible after the wreck.
Strict Regulations for Truck Drivers
Operators of commercial trucks are regulated not only by state and local traffic laws but also by Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) guidelines. Only properly trained drivers with commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs) may drive tractor-trailer rigs, which are required to be well-maintained and to pass safety inspections. Truck drivers are also required to document their hours of service (HOS) with logbooks or electronic logging devices (ELDs).
A trucker who spends too many consecutive hours behind the wheel or puts an unsafe vehicle on the road is in violation of FMCSA regulations and liable for damages caused by a resulting accident. A truck crash lawyer will be familiar with all FMCSA rules and know how to:
- Investigate the accident and inspect the truck for safety or maintenance issues
- Access the trucker’s logs and look for hours of service (HOS) violations
- Obtain crucial data about the truck’s operation from its black box recorder before that data is erased
- Check the trucker’s driving and safety records
- Access the truck driver’s cellphone records for evidence of talking or texting before the crash
- Look for evidence that the trucker might have been distracted, fatigued, drowsy, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the wreck.
Severe Injuries Mean Expensive Claims
The average passenger car or SUV weighs approximately 4,000-5,000 pounds, while a fully loaded 18-wheeler can weigh up to 40 tons. In an accident involving a semi and a passenger car, the damage to the smaller vehicle is likely to be total, and the injuries to its occupants could be catastrophic or fatal.
Victims lucky enough to survive a crash with a loaded semi-truck traveling at highway speed generally suffer broken bones, skull fractures, traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), spinal cord damage, paralysis, lacerations, scarring, disfigurement, and psychological trauma. The resulting high medical bills of the victim and significant lost income due to time off work make a truck accident claim very expensive for the insurance companies of the trucker and other potential defendants.
Fighting the Trucker’s Insurance Company
Even if the driver and trucking company are clearly responsible for the crash, their insurers will do everything in their power to delay, dispute, or deny your claim, hoping that you’ll accept a quick, lowball settlement offer or let the statute of limitations run and lose your opportunity to recover compensation for your damages, which include medical bills, property damage, lost income, and pain and suffering. The insurance companies’ adjusters and attorneys know you’re not likely to sue them without legal representation. They won’t take you seriously unless or until you have a lawyer to level the playing field and file a lawsuit if fair compensation is not offered.
Multiple Defendants in a Truck Crash
Unlike a car accident in which there is generally one at-fault driver from whom you may demand compensation for damages, a truck crash could be partially caused by more than one of the following defendants:
- A truck driver who operated negligently in violation of traffic laws or FMCSA regulations
- The trucking company that employs the driver
- The truck owner or a leasing company if the trucking company is not the owner
- The truck’s manufacturer or replacement parts manufacturers if mechanical failure played a part in your accident
- A mechanic or repair service if the truck is not properly maintained
- Loading dock personnel if improper loading and shifting cargo caused the wreck
Your truck crash attorney can investigate your wreck with the help of an accident reconstructionist, use other resources to identify the liable parties in your case and determine their respective percentages of fault. Doing so enables your lawyer to file more than one insurance claim if necessary, demand fair compensation from the right parties, and negotiate an adequate settlement for your damages. If fair offers are not forthcoming, your lawyer can file one or more civil lawsuits on your behalf and fight for you in court. Simply filing a lawsuit often motivates the defendant(s) to settle your case before it goes to trial.