What Happens if an Accident Occurs With an Uninsured Truck Driver?
We must share the roads and highways with commercial trucks. These intimidating large trucks have the potential to cause significant damage, especially if they hit a small vehicle. Getting hit by a commercial truck can feel like being hit by a freight train, and the injuries accident victims suffer after an accident with a big truck can be life-threatening, permanent, or the accident can end in death.
When an accident with a commercial truck happens, the aftermath is overwhelming. However, we may take comfort in knowing that the accident is with a truck driver working for a commercial trucking company. However, our comfort may be misplaced because some truck drivers are uninsured. Despite the lack of insurance, you should receive compensation for your injuries.
To learn more about what happens if an accident occurs with an uninsured truck driver, continue reading and contact a truck accident attorney as soon as possible.
What Insurance Does Federal Law Require a Commercial Truck Driver and Trucking Company Carry?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) governs the trucking industry in the United States. The FMCSA is an agency of the United States Department of Transportation. The FMCSA sets the requirements for commercial trucking insurance minimums.
Per the FMCSA, every commercial trucking company must carry commercial auto liability insurance. The minimum limits differ based on the type of products the trucks carry across the country. Typically, the policy minimums that commercial trucks must have can be from $750,000 to $5,000,000 per accident.
Although the federal government requires minimum liability insurance from every trucking company in the United States, some companies fail to abide by the requirements. When a commercial truck driver uses a commercial truck without insurance, that is negligence. What are an accident victim's options when the commercial truck driver or the commercial trucking company fails to carry the required auto insurance?
An Accident Victim Must Rely on Uninsured and Underinsured Insurance?
If a truck driver and the trucking company fail to carry the required commercial truck insurance, you may need to rely on your own uninsured and underinsured motorist policy.
What Is Uninsured Motorist Insurance?
Uninsured motorist insurance coverage is coverage added to your insurance policy. Most states require some uninsured motorist coverage, but for states that do not require uninsured motorist insurance, you may need to sign an agreement that you refused to add uninsured motorist coverage to your policy.
What Is Underinsured Motorist Insurance?
Underinsured motorist insurance is coverage that you add to your policy that you can use to cover your injuries and property damage if you get into an accident with a driver who does not have enough insurance to cover your damages. Underinsured drivers have insurance, but their policy limits are inadequate.
Suppose a truck driver or the trucking company is either uninsured or underinsured, the money you need to pay for your injuries and property damage. An accident attorney can help you pursue an uninsured/underinsured claim. Although it is your insurer, and it seems that it should promptly pay your claim, your insurance company is a business and will actively work to increase profit.
What to Know if You File an Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Claim
If you file an uninsured/underinsured motorist claim and receive payments from the other party, you must repay your underinsured motorist policy.
Filing a claim against your uninsured/underinsured policy will not raise your rates.
Filing a claim against your uninsured/underinsured policy does not preclude you from filing a lawsuit against a negligent party.
An uninsured/underinsured policy can cover damages, including lost wages, medical care and rehabilitation, emergency medical services, and pain and suffering.
Pursue the Truck Driver’s Personal Assets
If the truck driver fails to obtain the insurance required by federal law, you can pursue the driver's assets to satisfy a judgment from a commercial truck accident. Despite the driver's insurance status, the negligent party is responsible for the harm caused in an accident.
The downside to pursuing the personal assets of an individual defendant is that they may not have enough money to pay the judgment. Depending on the amount of the judgment, even if the plaintiff seizes the defendant’s property, the judgment may not be satisfied.
To ensure that you receive total compensation for your injuries, you must name all potentially responsible parties in a complaint about injuries after a commercial truck accident.
Speak to an experienced commercial truck accident attorney in your area to get the best advice about what parties you should name as defendants. With these kinds of accidents, an injured person may have the right to pursue compensation for their damages from the trucking company that employs the driver. Keep reading to learn more.
Pursue the Trucking Company
The trucking company may be liable for the damages its employee caused. There is a legal principle called respondeat superior, which means that the employer is responsible for their employee’s negligence under certain circumstances. If the truck driver was operating a company vehicle negligently while performing their job duties, then the business is responsible for the harm that the driver caused. The doctrine respondeat superior gives accident victims the right to sue the truck driver and the trucking company if they suffer an injury in an accident with a commercial truck.
If a truck driver does not have the required insurance, the truck company may be responsible for paying all the damages you sustained in the accident. Although possible, a truck company is unlikely to operate without at least the minimum federally required insurance.
If the trucking company is uninsured or underinsured, then an accident victim may have the right to pursue the owner's assets. Depending on the business structure the founder of the trucking company chose, you may have access to the owner's assets if you cannot separate the owner's assets from the company's assets.
Truck Drivers as Independent Contractors
The doctrine of respondeat superior does not apply to independent contractors, who are different from employees, and independent contractors are generally not covered by the employer’s insurance.
While many truck drivers are independent contractors, the good news is that the law protects truck accident victims in this situation. You can often seek compensation from a trucking company that allows an independent truck owner-operator to use its vehicle, resulting in an accident.
Is Another Party at Fault?
Commercial truck accidents are chaotic. An extensive investigation will likely be required to gather the facts of the case. A vital part of the investigation is determining every party that may potentially be at fault for the accident. A driver may not have made contact with your vehicle, but they may have acted negligently in another way that contributed to the accident.
For example, if another driver slammed on their brakes too hard, the truck may react by quickly stepping on the brakes to avoid an impact, but inadvertently causing you to rear-end the truck. In that instance, the other driver may be responsible for your injuries, and you can pursue a claim with their insurance company.
If an accident involves multiple defendants, the law allows the plaintiff to receive compensation from each defendant. That means that each defendant is responsible for the entire amount of the judgment. However, that does not mean you will receive full payment of the judgment from each defendant, but rather that all defendants will contribute to the settlement.
Perhaps one defendant cannot pay their share of the award. The other defendant or defendants must pay the insolvent defendant’s portion of the judgment to the plaintiff. However, the defendant or defendants that contributed to the total settlement may pursue the non-paying defendant separately for the money owed.
How Can a Truck Accident Attorney Help Me?
Truck accident attorneys work to protect truck accident victims’ rights. Attorneys are zealous advocates for their clients and represent their clients’ interests during settlement negotiations and at trial. Unrepresented commercial truck accident victims face unnecessary challenges and may succumb to avoidable pitfalls. A truck accident lawyer can help protect you from these complications.
Working With the Insurance Company
An experienced commercial truck accident lawyer knows how to approach negotiations with the insurance company.
Remember, the at-fault party’s insurance company is not on your side. Insurance companies are businesses; thus, their goal is to protect the bottom line. The adjuster will employ specific tactics to protect the insurance company’s profit margin. The tactics include giving lowball offers, saying that your injuries are not real, not as severe as you claim, or that the accident did not cause them. Insurance companies know that they cannot pull the same tricks when an accident victim has an attorney on their side.
Taking Care of a Client Throughout the Lawsuit
There are many steps an injured person must take before a lawsuit reaches its resolution. It is hard for someone with little litigation experience to know what to do during each phase to maximize their chance of getting compensation after the case is over. An attorney can guide you through the process. Continue reading to learn more about what attorneys do to ensure they set their clients up for success.
Following Procedural Rules
A commercial truck accident lawyer has the experience, knowledge, and skill to increase your chances of success in a truck accident lawsuit. Many accident victims may not think of the procedural issues that affect their case. For example, if you don't file a lawsuit before the statute of limitations passes, the court will dismiss it. A statute of limitations is a deadline that limits the time an injury victim has to file a lawsuit.
Other procedural rules will affect your case. Attorneys are trained on those procedural rules and can help you avoid failing to abide by a rule and ruin your case.
As the case continues, your lawyer will help you through each phase. Discovery is the investigation phase of the case. Discovery includes gathering information via questions sent to the opposing party. These questions are called interrogatories. Another part of the discovery process is depositions. Depositions happen outside of a courtroom, but they bind witnesses to tell the truth as if they were in a courtroom.
During the discovery phase of a lawsuit, a lawyer must protect the client’s legal rights, and that includes asking the right questions to the defendant and their witnesses to elicit testimony to prove your case. An unrepresented client may not know what information to ask for from the opposing side that will put their case in the best position for success.
The idea of a trial is intimidating to most people. The most knowledge many people have of what occurs during a trial comes from television. However, the fictionalized version of courts and trials does not properly represent what happens during a trial.
A civil trial is a technical process. Attorneys do pretrial work that may affect what happens during the trial. The jury selection process may take many days or weeks. Attorneys object to the admittance of evidence, and responding to objections on your feet is vital to protect your case.
An attorney can only increase your chances of success for your commercial truck accident claim.
How Do I Collect My Judgment?
Collecting a judgment is the final step of receiving your compensation for your injuries caused by a commercial truck accident. After a judge or jury gives a money award to the injury victim, the original case is complete.
If a defendant fails to pay the judgment, a plaintiff may choose to pursue another case to collect the money owed to them. If you want to pursue money that a court awarded you in a commercial truck accident lawsuit, contact an attorney in your area.
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