What to Know if You Have Been Involved in a Truck Accident
Many truck accident victims assume that lawyers handle a truck accident like any other motor vehicle crash. However, a truck accident is a particular category under the personal injury umbrella. Truck accidents are complex and often result in catastrophic injuries. Vehicles involved in truck accident crashes are often total losses. One final complexity is the number of parties involved in truck accidents. Keeping these elements in mind, you need to contact a truck accident attorney to handle your case.
Do not leave a truck accident claim to just any personal injury attorney. You will need to find an attorney with specific knowledge of truck accidents and the resources to handle a case like yours. There are many intricacies that injury victims don't know, but a truck accident attorney in your area will know how to get through this difficult time.
Top Causes of Truck Accidents
Many injury victims are unaware of how common truck accidents are or what commonly causes them. Most truck accidents are avoidable, which often makes the mental toll on victims worse.
The top causes of truck accidents are:
Distracted driving: Driving requires the person’s full attention behind the wheel. When driving a truck, you assume the driver gives their full attention to the road. You do not think they are playing games or texting a friend on their phone. They have a greater responsibility than other drivers on the road due to the size of their vehicle. When a truck driver is distracted, their response time is affected, and they will be unable to avoid an accident. Distracted truck drivers are a danger to everyone on the road.
Speeding: Breaking the speed limit causes most motor vehicle accidents. The NHTSA reported that speeding accounted for over 9,478 deaths in one recent year. Speeding in a passenger vehicle is one thing, but the results are fatal when working with the thousands of pounds of metal and cargo that a truck has. A commercial truck is much larger and requires additional space and time to stop. If the driver is speeding, this will require even more time and space to stop adequately. The truck driver will be unable to stop in time when a hazard appears and they are speeding.
Fatigue: Truck drivers have varying and grueling schedules. They can work upwards of 70 hours each week. Truck drivers will sometimes have to be awake for 18 hours straight. Their schedules and deadlines lead to irregular sleep patterns. Lack of sleep affects a person’s motor skills and cognitive behavior like alcohol does. A driver can become tired on the road and cause an accident. Fatigued driving is similar to drunk driving.
Unsecured load: Truck drivers are carrying heavy loads. The trucking company must secure the cargo before the driver leaves the loading dock. An unsecured load can move around and even fall off the truck. This unsecured load can lead to fires and chemical spills depending on the load.
Mechanical issues: Truck drivers must inspect their vehicles before hitting the road. If there are any maintenance concerns, the drivers must address them. When a truck driver hits the road and maintenance has not been conducted, the driver can lose control of the truck. Defective parts can also cause mechanical issues. A faulty part comes from the manufacturer, meaning the product manufacturer is liable.
There are many other ways a truck accident can happen, and these are just a few examples. Regardless of why your accident occurred, speak with a truck accident attorney.
There are Multiple Parties in Truck Accidents
The trucking industry has many different processes and entities involved. You may believe the truck driver is the only person liable for an accident. Several people can be the truck owners and other parties responsible for factors leading to the accident.
You might hold these parties accountable for a truck accident:
Truck owners: There are three possible owners of one truck. The cab can have an owner, the trailer another owner, and the cargo a third. Depending on how the crash happened, these parties can be held liable. Each owner will have their employees and insurance policies. Establishing ownership is the first and most complex issue your truck accident attorney will face.
Truck driver: Another liable party in a truck accident is the truck driver. They must carry their own insurance policy. If the truck driver were careless in their actions and caused an accident, their insurance policy will be the primary source of compensation for your injuries and damage. There are varying minimums required by a truck driver's insurance company, depending on which state the driver resides in. These minimums can be extremely complex if you are involved in an accident with a truck driver from another state.
Truck driver’s employer: Most truck drivers do not own their rig. They often work with other trucking companies. Trucking companies must carry insurance coverage for their drivers and have enough coverage for any potential victims of an accident. If an employer of a company acts negligently to cause harm to another party, the company is the liable party. Inadequate training cannot be a defense as trucking companies are responsible for adequately training their employees.
Parts manufacturer: Truck part manufacturers play a significant role in keeping trucks safe. They need to ensure the parts they provide to maintenance companies are safe to install in these large vehicles. Several mechanical issues result from defective parts, such as tire blowouts, steering problems, or brake issues.
Government entities: There are also government-owned and operated trucks on the road. The government entity responsible for these trucks can be liable for truck accidents. These are the most complex cases, and there is less time to file a claim when you are going up against a government agency. You will need a truck accident attorney who knows how to move quickly and handle government truck accidents.
It is shocking to accident victims when they realize so many parties are involved in a truck accident. With so many parties involved, it can cause each to shift blame. While these parties are shifting blame, you are in pain and trying to recover. You want answers and results, and you will need to have a local truck accident attorney review your case and hold these parties responsible.
Your Insurance Policy Will Make a Difference
Insurance is handled slightly differently in each state. There are varying policy limits and regulations for insurance policies. In most states, they rely on the premise of fault when handling truck accidents. This theory will require the at-fault party to compensate anyone they harm. While it is a simple premise, it can become complicated extremely fast. Some states have no-fault options.
You will need to know how these work, as this may apply to your truck accident case depending on where the accident happened and where you live.
Full tort: A driver can file a claim for compensation from the at-fault party. This claim is the most common type a truck accident attorney handles. You can include non-economic damages here.
Limited tort: In contrast, limited tort limits the amount of compensation that an injury victim can recover from their insurance policy. Fault does not make a difference in these cases. You will only recover damages for medical expenses and lost wages. Non-economic damages will be unrecoverable in limited tort cases. One caveat is if the injuries are considered catastrophic. Truck accidents often result in devastating injuries, so limited tort may not apply to your lawsuit.
In either instance, you will need a local truck accident attorney to review the case, insurance policies, and applicable laws. You do not have to worry about these legal complexities but should be aware they exist. Your insurance policy will play a role in your claim, but the truck driver’s insurance will often cover the incurred damages.
Truck Drivers Must Follow Federal Regulations
Not just anyone can become a truck driver. Many individuals believe that only the state they work in regulates truck drivers. The truth is federal laws also restrict truck drivers. The federal government has authority over who can drive a truck, the cargo they can carry, and how much time a driver can spend on the road.
You need a truck accident lawyer who knows the regulations regarding:
Safety: Everyone should stay safe on the road, and safety regulations are some of the most important ones to consider. Truck drivers are legally required to attend yearly training and have annual inspections conducted on their trucks. There are also weight restrictions and endorsement restrictions. Failure to follow these regulations results in an accident; it can also result in federal action.
Driving hours: While there are federal regulations concerning the number of hours a truck driver can be on the road, drivers often avoid them. Many trucking companies will alter driving logs to allow drivers to push past the allotted driving time for profit. Truck drivers can only be on the road for 11 hours at a time within 14 hours. The 14-hour period begins after the driver has been off the road for at least ten days. A truck driver cannot drive more than 70 hours over eight days or 60 hours in seven days. The number of fatigued drivers makes you wonder how closely they adhere to these regulations.
Alcohol: Truck drivers do not have the same rules regarding alcohol consumption that other drivers do. A truck driver cannot consume alcohol within four hours of starting their shift. The blood alcohol level is irrelevant if a driver has consumed alcohol within four hours.
There are many other federal and state regulations to consider. An experienced truck accident is familiar with these regulations and can investigate whether the truck driver or trucking company did not follow proper protocol. Police responding to the scene may believe rule violations occurred and if so, can include this in their report or issue a ticket for an infraction.
Calculating Compensation After a Truck Accident
Truck accidents result in various damages to the other drivers and their passengers. Calculating compensation is vital after a truck accident claim. Every case is unique, and even two parties in the same vehicle can suffer differing damages.
After an accident, you may recover compensation for:
To reiterate, you will have certain damages you are entitled to. Even if your case is similar to another one, this does not mean you will garner the same results. Provide all of your expenses to your truck accident attorney. You need every medical bill and receipt for costs so your attorney can include them in your demand package.
Many factors can affect your deadlines. Every personal injury case has strict statutes of limitations. If you are filing a claim against a government entity, statutes of limitation are more stringent than against another individual. The extent of your injuries can also affect how long your case will take.
A truck accident attorney cannot request the total amount you deserve until you have reached maximum medical improvement. To reach MMI, you must have attended all doctor's appointments and received treatment for your injuries. Medical professionals must agree that there are no further treatment options available for your condition.
Since truck accidents cause catastrophic injuries, your recovery time will often be much longer than a minor accident. Your truck accident attorney will handle the legal aspect while you focus on recovery. There are many cases where victims are left permanently impaired after an accident. These issues will require special care and attention from your truck accident attorney, and you should get the legal help you need as soon as possible.
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