Tractor-trailer accidents are some of the scariest and most traumatic events any person can ever experience. Large trucks can weigh up to 80,000 pounds with a full load, which is why collisions with smaller vehicles can be so devastating. Statistically speaking, occupants of passenger vehicles account for the vast majority of all deaths in truck accidents. According to the National Safety Council, deaths in truck accidents represent over 10 percent of all traffic fatalities in the country.
Depending on the severity and nature of the truck accident injury, the medical treatment can last for years or the rest of the injured party’s life. In some cases, the victim may never make a full recovery.
You can recover damages if the accident happened due to someone else’s negligence or wrongful conduct. If you suffered a serious injury in a tractor-trailer accident, consider speaking with a skilled Phoenix truck accident lawyer to discover your compensation options.
Causes of Tractor-Trailer Accidents
A tractor-trailer is a transport vehicle consisting of a semi-truck and a trailer attached to it. Accidents involving tractor-trailers occur for various reasons ranging from driver error to mechanical failures.
However, the vast majority of truck accidents occur due to a driver’s negligence. According to a causation study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), driver error is responsible for approximately 94 percent of all crashes involving tractor-trailers and other large trucks.
Some of the most common causes of tractor-trailer crashes include:
- Fatigued driving
- Falling asleep behind the wheel
- Texting while driving and other forms of distracted driving
- Driving while intoxicated
- Driving while impaired by drugs
- Driving too fast for conditions
- Driving recklessly
- Making illegal lane changes
- Aggressive driving
The operator of a tractor-trailer is not the only party that can be responsible for causing the crash. The driver’s employer—the trucking company—can also be liable if they fail to provide proper training to drivers, do not check drivers’ qualifications before hiring, fail to maintain trucks according to industry standards, or violate other trucking safety regulations.
Injuries in Tractor-Trailer Accidents
As mentioned earlier, tractor-trailer accidents can cause catastrophic and disabling injuries to passenger vehicle occupants. The bigger and heavier the motor vehicle, the more significant the energy and momentum it has. That is why smaller vehicles absorb greater impact when colliding with a large truck.
While some victims of tractor-trailer crashes can walk away from the scene of the accident with a few bruises and scrapes, most people who get into accidents with large trucks suffer disabling and life-threatening injuries.
Common injuries sustained by tractor-trailer accident victims include:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Back and neck injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Broken bones or bone fractures
- Severe burn injuries
- Hip and torso injuries
- Internal bleeding
- Wrongful death
Symptoms of an injury may not be immediately apparent following a tractor-trailer accident, which is why it is critical to seek medical attention as soon as possible. A doctor will help you understand the extent and severity of your injuries.
Why Tractor-Trailer Cases Are More Complicated Than Car Accident Cases
Accidents involving tractor-trailers can be much more complicated than crashes between two passenger vehicles.
Cases involving large trucks can be more complicated due to:
- Victims can suffer catastrophic injuries. Victims of tractor-trailer accidents—particularly occupants of passenger vehicles—can suffer more severe and devastating injuries due to the size and weight of large trucks. Estimating the victim’s damages becomes more complicated when injuries are disabling or severe.
- Multiple liable parties. Typically, a victim of a tractor-trailer accident can recover damages from several parties, including the truck driver, their employer, the company responsible for loading cargo in the trailer, the manufacturer of the truck and its parts, and others. Since truck accident cases can involve so many parties, determining liability becomes more challenging.
- Special laws and regulations. Truck drivers and trucking companies must abide by countless special safety regulations. Failure to comply with the trucking regulations can be strong evidence of negligence on the part of the trucker or their employer. However, because there are hundreds of rules and regulations in the trucking company, a victim might need the legal counsel of an attorney to determine liability.
Discuss your case with an experienced lawyer familiar with the trucking regulations to determine fault in your case and help you pursue the maximum possible compensation for your injuries.
How Do You Identify Negligence in Tractor-Trailer Accidents?
According to the National Safety Council, large trucks are involved in over 5,000 fatal accidents each year, of which about 6.4 percent occur in Arizona. The vast majority of such crashes occur due to negligence on the part of drivers.
However, proving negligence after a tractor-trailer accident can be a daunting task because there is usually more than one liable party. An injured party may need to hire a lawyer to investigate their accident and collect evidence to support their case.
While truck drivers must exercise reasonable care when operating the truck, trucking companies must be selective in hiring drivers and must follow both state and federal regulations to minimize the occurrence of preventable collisions involving their vehicles.
What Evidence Do You Need to Prove Fault in a Tractor-Trailer Accident?
Since there may be multiple liable parties in a truck accident case, it is essential to start gathering evidence as soon as possible. If you do not collect and preserve evidence quickly, some pieces of evidence can go missing, or parties might tamper with it.
Evidence that can be necessary to prove fault in a tractor-trailer accident include:
- Witness testimony
- The police report
- Pictures from the scene of the accident
- Surveillance video footage or traffic camera footage showing the moment of the collision
- Expert testimony
- The driver’s logbook
- The truck’s black box data
- The trucking company’s maintenance records
- The victim’s medical records
Your lawyer can use these and other types of evidence to determine liability and prove the extent of your injuries. Consider contacting a seasoned and results-driven attorney to conduct a comprehensive investigation and collect all available evidence proving the other party’s fault.
Compensation for Injuries After a Tractor-Trailer Accident
When you get injured in a tractor-trailer accident, it is vital to understand what compensation will pay for all of your losses. Consider speaking with an experienced lawyer to fight for fair compensation after your truck accident.
Usually, victims of tractor-trailer accidents can recover:
- Medical bills. Liable parties can be responsible for the victim’s medical expenses incurred because of the accident. Compensation for medical bills includes both past and future expenses.
- Lost wages. A victim may not be able to work for a certain time while recovering after a tractor-trailer accident. In some cases, the injured victim may lose their earning capacity forever. A skilled attorney can help you pursue compensation for the loss of income and the diminished earning capacity.
- Emotional (non-economic) damages. In many cases, non-economic damages such as pain and suffering can account for the largest portion of the settlement. Victims can seek compensation for their emotional distress, physical pain, mental anguish and suffering, the loss of enjoyment of life, and other non-economic effects.
- Punitive damages. Depending on state law and the other party’s conduct, punitive damages may be available to punish the other party for engaging in especially egregious conduct.
If you wish to get compensated for your damages and losses, it is critical to start working on your claim as soon as possible. You might benefit from seeking the legal counsel of an experienced lawyer to investigate your tractor-trailer accident, collect evidence to prove the other party’s negligence, obtain witness testimony, and help you obtain the compensation you deserve while you focus on your recovery.
Benefits of Hiring a Tractor-Trailer Accident Lawyer
A knowledgeable attorney on your side can help get you the compensation you need to put your life back on track and ease your financial and emotional burdens.
A tractor-trailer accident lawyer will work on your case to:
- Collect evidence to prove negligence on the part of the truck driver, the trucking company, or other parties
- Identify all potentially liable parties
- Communicate with insurance companies and protect your rights during negotiations
- Accurately estimate the value of your truck accident claim to determine proper compensation for your damages
- Retain expert witnesses to determine what caused the accident
- Hire medical experts to determine how your injury will affect your life
- If the insurance company fails to settle your claim for an adequate amount, take your case to court and represent your best interests in the courtroom
Almost all personal injury cases, including those stemming from truck accidents, settle pre-trial. However, in some cases, filing a lawsuit may be necessary to get the highest compensation possible.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Tractor-Trailer Accidents
Do All Tractor-Trailer Accidents Go to Trial?
While most truck accident cases settle out of court, some of these cases go to trial. A tractor-trailer accident case may go to trial if the victim’s injuries are too severe, the victim dies after the accident, or the parties cannot reach a mutually acceptable out-of-court settlement.
Taking your case to trial can be a costly and lengthy process that does not guarantee a favorable outcome, which is why you might want to consider speaking with a lawyer before filing a lawsuit to discuss your options.
How Long Will It Take to Obtain Compensation After a Truck Accident?
Seeking compensation after a truck accident can be a complex and time-consuming process. It is not possible to predict how long it will take a victim of a truck crash to settle their case and receive the compensation to which they are entitled. While some cases take a few months to resolve, others may go on for years and require litigation.
How Long Do You Have to File a Lawsuit After a Tractor-Trailer Accident?
The time limit for filing a lawsuit stemming from a truck accident is known as the statute of limitations. Each state has a different time limit for personal injury and wrongful death cases, which is why you might want to speak with a lawyer in your state to learn more about the applicable statute of limitations.
What Is the Average Truck Accident Settlement?
There is no such thing as the “average” settlement. Each case is unique, which is why the value of your claim heavily depends on the circumstances of your accident, the severity of your injuries, and other factors.
When reviewing your case, a skilled lawyer can evaluate your damages and losses and determine a reasonable settlement payment for your tractor-trailer accident.
Your lawyer will examine the following factors when determining how much money you can expect:
- The fault for the accident
- The severity and nature of your injuries
- The cost of your medical treatment
- Whether or not you will get back on your feet or make a full recovery
- Your lost wages
- The vehicle repair costs
- The effect of the accident on your emotional and psychological wellbeing
These and many other factors will affect the value of your insurance claim following a tractor-trailer accident. Consider speaking with a knowledgeable lawyer to determine a fair settlement amount in your case.
Do You Need an Attorney After a Tractor-Trailer Accident?
Yes—especially if you sustain a severe injury that affects your ability to work or will affect you in any other way for a long time.
A Phoenix truck accident attorney will advocate for your rights and ensure that you receive fair compensation for your losses. You may also need a lawyer to help you handle the claims process and negotiate with insurance companies to fight for the compensation you deserve. When looking for a lawyer, you need someone who has extensive experience handling tractor-trailer accident cases in Arizona.