Were you involved in a semi truck accident and are unsure if you need a semi truck accident attorney? We provided all the answers you need in this article.
Whether minor or severe, a motor vehicle accident would likely leave those involved with injuries and property damage. Sometimes, the parties involved escape unscathed. But the story is different for semi truck accidents.
After a collision with commercial trucks, occupants of the smaller vehicle involved would likely sustain catastrophic injuries. While truck drivers also get injured, usually the occupants of passenger vehicles suffer the most loss. In such a case, the smaller car driver can file a truck accident claim if the truck operator was negligent.
Proving negligence in collisions involving commercial vehicles like semi trucks is quite challenging. This is because you are not only dealing with the at-fault truck driver; there’s also the trucking company they work for, their insurance company, and their legal team. So, you should hire an experienced truck accident lawyer.
However, as we’ve often seen, some accident victims prefer not to work with attorneys, making mistakes that jeopardize their story. This shouldn’t be your case. So, to simplify the choice, we will share some reasons you may want to consider hiring a personal injury lawyer.
If you or a loved one suffered injuries from a trucking collision, a semi truck accident attorney at Kelly and Associates could help you hold the liable parties responsible. Contact us today.
Reasons Why You Should Consider Hiring a Truck Accident Injury Lawyer
Truck accident victims often wonder if they need a lawyer to hold the responsible party liable, here we’ll discuss some reasons why you may want to reach out to one. There are several reasons why you might want a law firm to represent you, and it goes beyond getting a fair settlement from the at-fault parties.
The trucking company that employed the negligent commercial driver has a legal team working for them to mitigate their liability. Unfortunately, even if the company has enough money to compensate you, they may offer a meager settlement if they see you without legal representation.
It can be challenging to navigate a personal injury or wrongful death case without an experienced lawyer. Below are reasons why you should hire a skilled semi truck accident attorney.
The Insurance Company May Offer You Meager Settlement
When trying to make a financial recovery after a trucking vehicle accident, the at-fault party’s insurance provider will make you a settlement offer. Unfortunately, often the money is less than what you are requesting and inadequate to cover your expenses from the trucking accident.
Insurance companies often make this offer after considering all the available evidence in the case. This includes the police report, witness statement, medical record, etc. So, while the low compensation is sometimes reasonable, they are often not justified.
However, alone, you may not know when an insurance company is making you a meager offer. You might accept that it is the best they can offer, thereby shortchanging yourself.
A truck accident injury lawyer will review the settlement offer before you sign. This is crucial because you cannot file a truck accident lawsuit or ask for more money once you sign the compensation agreement. Therefore, even if the insurance adjuster appears friendly, always remember that they are not acting in your best interest.
Find All Liable Parties
A truck accident injury lawyer knows what makes a party liable in a truck accident. So, they can help you identify the negligent parties. As mentioned earlier, there could be more than one at-fault party in commercial vehicle accidents.
The following are the class of defendants in a personal injury claim involving semi trucks:
- The Truck Driver
The truck driver is the first party responsible for injuries sustained in a truck accident. This is because the collision may have occurred due to their negligent actions. So, if a driver operates a truck under the influence and causes an accident, they will be liable to pay financial compensation.
- The Truck Company
The sheer size of trucks makes them a danger to other vehicles on the roadway. Therefore, it is expected that commercial trucking companies employ only qualified commercial truck drivers. If the company engages in negligent hiring by failing to check driver qualifications, it will bear the liability for any injury and financial losses caused by the collision.
- Cargo Loaders
Overloaded trucks are one of the common causes of this type of motor vehicle accident. When excessive cargo causes an 18-wheeler accident, the loading company will be liable. However, the truck driver may also be responsible for cargo accidents if they knew of the overload and failed to warn the loader or encouraged it.
- Third Parties
A third party is someone who did not directly cause an accident but contributed to it. For example, suppose a distracted driver veers into the lane of a semi truck. Then the semi truck driver, while trying to avoid the passenger car, brakes suddenly and causes a rear-end collision. The distracted motorist would be the one to pay compensation for damages.
- The Truck Manufacturer
Defective parts are known to cause semi truck crashes. In such instances, the semi truck manufacturer would be responsible for compensating you for your losses.
In cases where one or more of the above exhibited negligent behavior, an experienced semi truck accident attorney would be able to establish it. In addition, they will ensure you get maximum compensation.
Handle Complex Negotiations
Most personal injury claims begin and end with negotiations without the parties going to court. However, it helps to have legal experience to negotiate with truck insurance companies and win. A truck accident injury lawyer has most likely handled several negotiations and knows what it takes to get you a fair settlement.
Where the accident involves multiple parties, the negotiation might become complex. The preceding is significant because each negligent party may argue on their fault percentage. The percentage determines how much they will pay as compensation. During this process, your lawyer will ensure that fault is divided correctly and maximize the value of your case.
Develop an Appropriate Legal Strategy
As mentioned earlier, truck collisions cause catastrophic injuries. So, while recovering, you may be unable to develop an appropriate strategy for your case. An experienced truck accident injury lawyer will analyze your claim to know the right step to take. They will also gather evidence, locate witnesses, and develop an action plan.
Ensure the Proper Application of Comparative Fault Laws
Massachusetts is a comparative negligence state. Under the comparative negligence doctrine, your compensation is reduced by the percentage of fault apportioned to you. If the percentage is less than 51%, you will get a settlement, but any higher than that you will receive nothing.
Usually, insurance carriers invoke the comparative negligence law when trying to partly blame you for the collision. Your lawyer will ensure the proper application of this rule and keep you from getting accused by the other party. However, even if you contributed to the occurrence, your experienced semi truck accident attorney would ensure you get assigned the correct fault percentage.
Guide You Through the Legal Process
In addition to all we’ve covered, a semi truck accident attorney will guide you through the entire legal process. They will explain the documents they need to file, how long the claim might take, and what you might receive as compensation.
Your lawyer will also explain legal jargon and give you regular updates on the case’s progress. Finally, your attorney will ensure that your case is settled before the Statute of Limitations expires. If the date is close and there is no agreement with the insurance company, your attorney will file a personal injury lawsuit.
What Are the Causes of a Semi-Truck Accident?
There are different reasons why a semi-truck accident would occur. It could be because of one or more of the following:
- Drunk Driving
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), alcohol is one of the major overall causes of trucking accidents. A driver is considered drunk if their blood alcohol level exceeds 0.08%. For commercial truck drivers, the limit is 0.04%. Drunk driving is frowned on because alcohol inhibits the senses and slows the reflexes.
Therefore, a truck driver would do well to avoid consuming alcohol before getting behind the wheel. Also, a trucker should avoid driving under the influence of drugs, including prescription medicine and narcotics.
- Distracted Driving
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines distracted driving as doing another activity that takes the driver’s attention away from driving. Yearly, about 3,000 people die in collisions involving distracted drivers.
The distraction could be manual, visual, or cognitive. For instance, a driver texting with a cell phone would have exhibited all three types of distraction. To avoid accidents caused by distracted driving, truck drivers should not combine driving with any other activity.
- Driver Fatigue
Truck drivers convey goods from one part of the United States to another, putting them on the road a lot. As a result, drivers who fail to observe the federal driving safety regulations might be tired, increasing their chances of collision.
Employers in the trucking industry must ensure their employees do not drive longer than the hours of service regulations, even if they have to make a time-sensitive delivery. In addition, they should get adequate rest before continuing their trip after being on the road for 10 hours. This would save their lives and that of other road users.
- Poor Road Conditions
Semi-trucks are bigger than other vehicles on the roadway. Therefore, the drivers need to exercise caution. But sometimes, they may get on bad roads, resulting in situations that cause an accident.
When in a collision caused by poor road conditions, the liable party will not be the truck driver unless there’s proof of negligence. Instead, you can sue the government agency or municipality in charge of the road maintenance. However, note that filing a lawsuit against a government body can be challenging and requires the expertise of a semi-truck accident attorney.
Other causes of truck accidents are speeding, road rage, reckless driving, bad weather conditions, etc.
Injuries Sustained in a Semi-Truck Accident
As mentioned already, trucking collisions can result in devastating injuries. Some of the different types of physical injuries sustained are:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Broken bones
- Cuts and lacerations
- Neck and back injuries
- Internal injuries
Internal injuries or bleeding are bad because they may not show immediately after the accident. For instance, you might appear fine without any physical wounds in one moment and be fighting for your life in the next. Therefore always get a medical checkup at the accident scene or a hospital.
Also, if your wounds permit it, gather evidence to support your claim before leaving the crash scene. But if you can’t, don’t worry; a truck accident injury lawyer will help you get proof once you retain their service.
Some proof that will help to win a personal injury claim includes:
- The police report
- Pictures and videos of the crash scene
- Medical records
- Witness statements
- Accident reconstructionist reports
How Will Your Truck Accident Injury Lawyer Determine the Liable Party’s Negligence?
The first thing to note is that the at-fault party must have acted negligently for you to have a valid truck accident claim. This means that like in most personal injury or wrongful death claims, you must establish the four elements of negligence.
- First, you must establish that the at-fault party owed you a duty of care. This refers to a duty imposed by law on road users to behave in reasonably safe manners to avoid endangering other road users. Hence, the reason why drivers can’t drink and drive or disobey traffic laws.
- Second, you have to show that the negligent party breached their duty of care. A breached duty is as simple as driving distracted or failing to obey the federal hours of service regulations. What’s important is that the driver committed an act that put you in danger.
- Third, you must establish how the breached duty caused your injuries. Causation is crucial because there must be a link between your injuries and the accident to receive compensation. So, suppose you fell from a ladder at work and broke your leg. On your way to the hospital, the vehicle you traveled in had a minor accident with a semi-truck, but you were uninjured. You cannot file a claim against the truck driver for the broken leg because the crash was not the cause.
- Finally, you must show how the accident caused you damages. This element of negligence follows the legal doctrine that there must be wrong to get a remedy. So, drawing from the example above. Recovering compensation would be impossible if the truck accident was not the proximate cause of your injuries. However, if your car was damaged in the collision, you can request property damages.
What Compensation Can a Truck Accident Injury Lawyer Recover for You?
Injured victims are entitled to compensatory damages, meaning they get economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages cover losses that are quantifiable and have a fixed dollar amount. It is easy to calculate once you submit the receipts and invoices of the money spent and what you spent them on. So, generally, you can receive economic damages for:
- Cost of medical treatment (past, present, and future)
- Loss of income
- Loss of earning capacity
- Cost of medical equipment
- Property damage, etc.
If you lose a loved one to a trucking collision, the law allows you to receive some of the above compensation and their burial and funeral expenses.
Non-economic damages are harder to calculate because they are losses that do not have a monetary value. But you receive compensation for them because they resulted from the accident. Examples of non-economic damages are:
- Loss of consortium
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment
- Loss of companionship
- Emotional distress
- Mental anguish, etc.
Aside from these compensatory damages, the court sometimes awards punitive damages when the victim asks for it. But note that punitive damages serve to punish the at-fault party for being willfully or maliciously negligent and deter similar conduct in the future.
How Much Does a Semi Truck Accident Attorney Charge?
Legal fees are one of the reasons most people shy away from hiring a lawyer to handle their claims. However, it should not deter you, as most truck accident injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis. This payment structure allows you to get legal representation without paying upfront.
Instead, your lawyer receives a percentage of your settlement. Generally, the amount is between 30% and 40%. This is something to discuss with a potential semi truck accident attorney during your initial consultation with them.
Were You Involved in a Truck Accident? Contact a Semi Truck Injury Lawyer
The recovery journey after a truck collision can be long and expensive, especially if the damage is extensive. Thankfully, the law allows you to seek compensation as long as you have less fault than the other party. Our lawyers at Kelly and Associates can help you begin the claims and start working towards recovering compensation. Contact us today for a free case review.