Throughout the country, most states require motor vehicle operators (including truck drivers) to carry a certain amount of motor vehicle insurance to operate their vehicles on roadways within the state. However, some truck drivers choose to operate their vehicles with no insurance or with only a small amount of insurance coverage in place despite these laws.
If an uninsured truck driver causes their truck to collide with a passenger vehicle, serious accidents and injuries can occur, including soft tissue injuries, back and spinal cord injuries, traumatic head or brain injuries, and paralysis injuries. These injuries often come about when the collision’s impact throws the motor vehicle driver or passenger’s body around and about the interior of the vehicle.
In some cases, the accident victim’s body may even strike something in the vehicle, such as the headrest, window, console, dashboard, or steering wheel, increasing the accident victim’s chances of suffering a serious injury in the accident.
Moreover, when the truck driver who causes your accident is uninsured or underinsured, it can create complications. However, it is important to know that you still have options, including filing an insurance claim or lawsuit against the truck driver’s employer (such as the trucking company employing the driver) or filing an uninsured motorist claim with your own insurance company, seeking monetary compensation and damages for the injuries that you suffered in your accident.
If you have suffered one or more injuries in a truck accident that was caused by an uninsured or underinsured truck driver, you should speak with an experienced truck accident lawyer near you as soon as possible after your accident. An experienced truck accident attorney can investigate the circumstances of your truck accident, explain all of your legal options to you, and help you pursue the monetary compensation that you deserve for your injuries.
Common Causes of Truck Collisions
Truck collisions with smaller vehicles can happen for a variety of reasons. In many instances, driver error or negligence causes these accidents. When truck drivers violate traffic laws and engage in distracted driving, they increase the likelihood that they will bring about a serious collision with another motor vehicle, causing the driver and any passengers to suffer injuries.
Some of the most common causes of truck accidents include:
- Negligent truck operation – Truck drivers owe a duty of care to other motor vehicle operators to drive their trucks reasonably and safely at all times, which includes following the posted truck speed limits, obeying traffic control devices and traffic signs, using turn signals at the proper times, and keeping a safe distance from other vehicles that are present on the roadway. Truck drivers and trucking companies are also responsible for following all of the applicable state and federal motor carrier regulations.
- Intoxicated truck operation – Truck drivers often have to drive for hours on end. In many cases, when truck drivers arrive at their final destinations ahead of schedule, they are incentivized financially. Some truck drivers resort to drugs and other stimulants that can have side effects to stay awake for long hours. Other truck drivers get behind the wheel of their truck while they are under the influence of alcohol, increasing the likelihood that they will cause an accident while they are on the road.
- Distracted truck driving – Some truck drivers become distracted while they are behind the wheel, especially if they have to drive for hours and hours on end. Distracted driving often involves using a cellular phone or electronic device (such as a tablet) to make phone calls, send and receive email messages, or send and receive text messages while driving. Using electronic devices while driving diverts a truck driver’s attention away from the road and prevents them from operating the vehicle carefully and safely.
If you or someone you love has suffered injuries in one of these types of accidents that an uninsured or underinsured truck driver caused, an experienced truck accident attorney can help. Your lawyer can help you pursue the appropriate claim against the at-fault party or parties, seeking the monetary compensation and damages that you need.
Filing a Claim Against the Trucking Company
In some truck accidents, a trucking company employs the negligent driver who causes the accident. Trucking companies often have very large insurance policies. Therefore, if the truck driver who caused your accident is not carrying the appropriate amount of insurance, you can file your claim against the company that employs the truck driver. In addition, you can assert a legal claim against an employer trucking company for negligently retaining, supervising, or hiring the problem truck driver who caused your accident, especially if the driver has a history of infractions.
An experienced truck accident lawyer in your area can determine if you may assert a claim against the trucking company that employs the at-fault truck driver who caused your accident.
Bringing a Claim for Uninsured Motorist Benefits
In some cases, truck drivers are completely uninsured (or, in the alternative, underinsured). They might also be independent contractors who are not employed by a trucking company. If an uninsured or underinsured truck driver causes a motor vehicle collision in which you suffer an injury, you may need to turn to your own insurance company for the necessary coverage.
Your own motor vehicle insurance coverage may come into play through an uninsured or underinsured motorist claim. You would assert a claim for uninsured motorist benefits if an uninsured truck driver caused your collision. You would assert an underinsured motorist claim if the truck driver who caused your accident had insufficient insurance coverage to compensate you for all of your injuries and damages fully.
Uninsured or underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) claims are both tort claims and breach of contract claims. Because a UM claim bases itself upon the negligence of another driver who brings about an accident that leads to your physical injuries and other damages, it is a tort claim. A UM claim is also a breach of contract claim because premises that your insurance company breached its contract of insurance with you (such as when it refused to compensate you for damages sustained in your accident that was caused by an uninsured or underinsured driver, pursuant to the language of most insurance policies).
If the truck driver who caused your accident was completely uninsured, and there is no insurance coverage available to compensate you for your injuries, you could file an uninsured motorist claim against your own insurance company for benefits.
On the other hand, if the at-fault truck driver had insurance at the time of the accident, but their insurance coverage was insufficient to compensate you for your injuries and damages, then you could file an underinsured motorist claim with your insurance company. However, in many cases, you can only do this if the at-fault truck driver’s available insurance coverage is fully exhausted, and the insurance company offers up the full amount of the policy.
If you have suffered injuries in a truck accident that occurred because of someone else’s negligence, a skilled truck accident lawyer near you could help you pursue your claim for uninsured or underinsured motorist benefits and seek the much-needed monetary compensation for your injuries that you deserve.
Pursuing a Claim Against Your Own Motor Vehicle Insurance Company for Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Benefits
You or your attorney must file an uninsured or underinsured motorist claim seeking monetary compensation and damages with your own insurance company. Therefore, filing one of these claims essentially puts you into an adversarial relationship with your insurance company. After filing an uninsured or underinsured motorist claim, your insurance company is not supposed to undertake any retaliatory action towards you, such as by raising your insurance rates.
When an accident victim files a claim for uninsured or underinsured motorist benefits with their own insurance company following a truck accident, the claim typically proceeds just as if the at-fault driver’s insurance company were involved. The attorney for the accident victim will typically submit a settlement demand to the insurance company adjuster, laying out a monetary demand and attaching all pertinent records and documentation.
This documentation forms part of the demand package and typically includes copies of the police report (if a police officer prepared one following the truck accident), copies of the accident victim’s medical records and medical bills, copies of any lost wage documentation that the accident victim’s employer prepared, photographs of the vehicle property damage, and photographs of the injuries that the accident victim suffered in the accident.
When the insurance company adjuster receives all of this documentation, they will typically review it and make an initial offer to settle the truck accident claim. The initial offer the insurance company adjuster puts on the table depends upon a variety of factors, including the limits of insurance coverage available, the extent of the accident victim’s injuries and damages, and the costs of the medical treatment that the accident victim received following the truck accident. In many instances, these initial settlement offers are extremely low and do not fully and fairly compensate the accident victim for the injuries they suffered in the accident.
When that is the case, the accident victim’s attorney will typically need to negotiate with the adjuster in hopes of receiving a favorable settlement offer. If the parties reach an impasse and the insurance company is not willing to offer full and fair compensation for the injuries that the accident victim suffered, then the accident victim has the option of suing their own insurance company. Once an individual files a lawsuit, the litigation process begins. The parties may continue trying to negotiate a favorable settlement in the case, but they will also typically complete written discovery and oral depositions.
Once these depositions are complete, the insurance company may be more willing to offer favorable monetary compensation to the accident victim. If that does not work, the parties may elect to take their case to a jury trial or pursue some type of alternative dispute resolution, such as binding arbitration or mediation.
An experienced truck accident attorney can help you decide whether you should accept a particular settlement offer from your insurance company or pursue litigation against the insurance company in your truck accident case.
Types of Compensable Damages Following a Truck Accident
If you have been involved in a truck accident that an uninsured driver caused, you can pursue and recover monetary compensation for your injuries by filing an uninsured motorist claim. First, you could pursue compensation for all of your medical treatment bills, including expenses associated with medical visits, surgical procedures, and physical therapy. In addition, if your health insurance coverage, Medicaid, or Medicare paid for some or all of this treatment, you may still be eligible to pursue and recover these damages.
In addition, if you had to miss time away from work following your truck accident, you could pursue a lost wage claim. If you cannot work in the same field because of the injuries you suffered in your truck accident, you could even file a claim for loss of earning capacity.
Finally, you could file a claim for pain and suffering damages and pursue monetary compensation for all of your inconvenience. In some instances, truck accident victims suffer injuries so severe that their lifestyles are changed forever. In that instance, the accident victim could bring a claim for loss of enjoyment of life or loss of use of a body part. If the truck accident caused the victim’s death, then the decedent’s surviving loved ones could file a wrongful death insurance lawsuit and pursue wrongful death damages.
An experienced truck accident lawyer in your area can pursue the damages that you deserve and need to feel whole following your truck accident. Some truck accident claims can be more complicated than others, and you want the right attorney who can help address any particular issues in your situation.