In one recent year alone, 4,136 people lost their lives in large truck crashes. Truck occupants account for 16 percent of these deaths, while 67 percent were occupants of cars and other passenger vehicles. The other 15 percent are pedestrians, bicyclists, or motorcyclists. What’s even more concerning is that the number of individuals who died in large truck crashes was 31 percent more than it was a decade earlier. With increased safety technologies, these statistics are both scary and tragic.
Most people will be in at least one or two car accidents in their lifetime. If they’re lucky, they will be fender benders without injury. However, a semi-truck accident is nearly always devastating and severely impacts victims and their families.
One of the best choices they can make after an accident of this magnitude is to hire a truck accident attorney.
You can benefit from legal representation after a semi-truck accident. You might be surprised to learn that you generally don’t need money to retain the services of an experienced attorney. If you or your loved one recently suffered injuries in a semi-truck accident, a truck accident lawyer can help you.
Don’t Miss the Filing Deadline
Many truck accident victims are unaware that there is a deadline for filing their legal claims. This deadline is commonly called the statute of limitations. Each state determines its own deadline. However, it is generally between one and five years. Suppose you don’t file a legal claim within this given timeline. In that case, chances are incredibly high that you will not receive compensation for your injuries through the legal system, if at all.
By hiring an attorney who is very familiar with your state’s statute of limitations, you can ensure that your claim gets filed on time. The sooner you reach out to an attorney, the sooner they can get started on your case, which will help you not miss the filing deadline.
Truck Accidents are Complicated
Even if you are lucky and escape a semi-truck accident without serious injuries, truck accidents are still complicated compared to most other types of motor vehicle collision cases. With all of its complexities, it is difficult to sort out and ensure that you are getting the compensation you need and deserve. Consider the factors that make truck accident claims more challenging than your typical car accident:
Insurance carriers determine the amounts and costs of coverage for semi-trucks based on the size of the truck. Insurance policies for trucks can be worth 40 times more than average passenger vehicle insurance policies. With so much at stake, insurance companies would love nothing more than to escape their liability to pay for your damages. They will fight hard to deny your claim or pay you much less than its worth.
Truck accident victims generally have injuries of greater severity than a crash between passenger vehicles. Semi-trucks are the most massive vehicles on the road. They are also more robust and weigh more than passenger vehicles. Their size and weight mean the increased potential for more force and severe injuries in the accident. The greater the severity of the injuries, the more complex the truck accident claim.
With severe injuries, damages are also more extensive. Most of the time, medical bills are higher. The need for ongoing care is more likely, and property damage is more extensive and significant in truck accidents. Your lawyer can help you account for all of these damages to ensure you get the maximum compensation possible for them. They can also help you gather the evidence you need to prove them.
Semi-trucks are more likely to hit several vehicles when they cause an accident than passenger vehicles. Large vehicles are hard to stop when there is an emergency. They also take longer to slow and stop, increasing the chances of impacting more than one vehicle in an accident. With so many parties involved in the accident, it is challenging to determine fault. Many insurance companies will be in negotiations to settle the case. There may be much blaming and finger-pointing. Many truck accidents end up going to trial for this reason. Whether your case goes to court or not, it’s always helpful to have a truck accident lawyer on your side who can help sort out the liability for your accident.
Semi-Truck Ownership and Liability
Most passenger vehicle accidents are straightforward. There is a relatively clear at-fault party with one insurance company. Truck accidents can be much different. Truck drivers can be owner-operators, which means they are the full owners of their trucks. Other truckers drive a truck that is owned by another company. To complicate matters even further, trucks might be carrying loads that belong to an outside party. Since liability can depend on ownership, it can be a time-consuming task to determine who is indeed liable for your damages.
Trucking Industry Laws and Regulations
Truck drivers must follow more rules, regulations, and laws than most other drivers. For instance, most truckers are only allowed to drive for a specific maximum number of hours in 24 hours to limit the possibility of fatigue. Suppose a trucker goes over the allotted hours. In that case, their violation may increase the chances that they are at fault for the accident. With so many rules and regulations, it can be hard to determine if the truck driver broke the law or not. Truck accident attorneys are well-versed in these laws and can pinpoint if a truck driver might have exceeded the bounds of the law.
Some semi-trucks have a black box that captures various data points, such as traveling speed at various points of time. Investigators can use this information to reconstruct the events leading up to the accident. However, if the black box data conflicts with other evidence, the case can become even more complex.
Truck accident lawyers have the knowledge and expertise to work through the complicated issues of a truck accident case. They know where to look for evidence, what laws apply, and which parties could be held liable. Taking on these tasks without the resources and experience you need will likely end with you not receiving full and fair compensation for your damages.
You Need Someone Working on Your Behalf
Truck drivers, trucking companies, and even parties that own the loads they carry all have insurance companies and lawyers representing them and protecting their interests. Their lawyers will work hard to decrease their liability for the accident. They work for big insurance carriers and aren’t afraid to be aggressive to save their clients’ money. Who will be there for you?
If you don’t hire a truck accident lawyer, you will need to protect your own interest. This isn’t easy if you aren’t sure what exactly they are and what you need to do. You will also have to stand up to these big powerful insurance companies who know how intimidating they can be. They hope that they scare you enough to make you go away for as little money as possible.
The people who caused your accident have legal professionals working for them. Shouldn’t you? Another benefit of hiring an attorney is that these insurance companies and their lawyers know that you take your claim seriously. You won’t back down for a small settlement. They know that your attorney will fight for justice after your accident.
Your Attorney Speaks to the Insurance Company, Not You
Once a lawyer represents you, the insurance companies have to speak to them to speak to or communicate with you. They are not permitted to have direct contact with you outside of your lawyer’s presence. Not only does this keep you from being intimidated by insurance companies and their attorneys, but it also protects you from saying something that could hurt your claim.
The insurance adjuster or anyone else working on behalf of the parties responsible for your injuries can use anything you say against you. They like to twist what is said and get you to talk as much as possible. The sooner you contact an attorney after your accident, the sooner you can eliminate the chances of this happening. You also shouldn’t have to deal with insurance companies while you are trying to heal and recover from such a traumatic event. If a lawyer represents you, and they call to speak to you, simply tell them you have hired an attorney and provide them with your attorney’s name and number.
Knowledge of Your Case Value
You can’t get what you genuinely deserve for your damages unless you know what they are worth. Unfortunately, most truck accident victims and their families don’t know the value of their claim. They lack the knowledge and experience to put a price tag on what they have been through. Medical bills can be easy to calculate, but do you know what your pain and suffering are worth? Receiving compensation to pay or reimburse you for paying your accident-related medical expenses is no doubt a relief. However, you deserve much more for all you have been through.
Having represented cases similar to yours and keeping up to date on the results of similar lawsuits give attorneys an intimate knowledge of what claims are truly worth. Most laypeople lack this knowledge and will sell themselves short without legal representation.
An experienced lawyer can help ensure that you include all of the damages in your claim. Most individuals involved in a semi-truck accident will have both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages, also known as special damages, are the financial costs or losses associated with the accident.
- Medical bills, including hospital stays, surgeries, prescriptions, medical devices, home medical care, therapies, and doctor appointments.
- Lost wages for any time you couldn’t go to work as a result of your injuries or going to medical appointments related to your injuries.
- Property damage, which is usually the repair or replacement of your vehicle, can also include damage to other property such as a lost or damaged wedding ring from the accident.
- Long term care that some individuals will need to heal and help care for themselves.
- The value of any anticipated and future necessary medical treatment
Economic damages are evidenced by medical bills and pay stubs. To estimate the value of your future medical needs, an attorney can call experts who can determine what those costs might add up to be.
Non-economic damages, also known as general damages, are more difficult to prove and to value. There are no bills or receipts that can measure the physical, mental and emotional pain you might have endured since the accident. No one else knows what it’s like to be in your shoes. Even the same injuries can affect people differently. However, your attorney can help you identify these types of losses and gather evidence to prove them.
These damages can include:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium (including the loss of love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society, and moral support, and the loss of the enjoyment of sexual relations or the ability to have children)
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Disfigurement or scarring
In some truck accident cases, the injured victim can ask for punitive damages. However, they don’t always apply, and each state has its own laws about awarding punitive damages. Instead of compensating an injured individual for their damages, these damages punish the at-fault party and deter them and others from repeating the same behavior.
Punitive damages only apply if the at-fault party was extraordinarily reckless in their behavior, leading up to the accident. For example, a truck driver who is drunk or a truck driving company that ignored the fact that some of their drivers lack the necessary training to drive big rigs might have to pay punitive damages if they cause an accident. In these cases, the accident was easily avoidable.
An attorney will know your state’s laws regarding punitive damages and whether they apply in your case or not. If so, they will help you petition the court for them, further increasing your claim’s value.
Your Attorney Understands Your Injuries
Injuries incurred in a truck accident are often severe and complicated. You likely won’t understand all the medical jargon or the ins and outs. However, a seasoned truck accident attorney is well-versed in the common injuries this type of accident can cause and what kind of lifestyle and the financial impact they can have on you.
The most common types of severe injuries in a truck accident are:
- Back and neck injuries: The back and neck contain fragile and small bones and ligaments. They are easily injured during actions that cause the head and nick to fly forward, otherwise known as whiplash. Although it can be severe, this injury might not cause pain or other symptoms until days or hours after the accident.
- Spinal cord injuries (SCI): Spinal cord injuries can cause partial temporary or complete paralysis of the extremities, lower body, and torso. The spinal cord is responsible for carrying important messages from your brain to other parts of your body. Spinal cord injuries are not easy to fix, and many may never be reparable. Even with months or years of surgeries, treatments, physical therapy, adaptive devices, you could remain paralyzed and permanently disabled.
- Brain and head injuries: Maybe your truck accident gives you a mild concussion or a bruise that both go away on their own. Or perhaps it gives you a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) that has many long-term effects. Individuals with severe brain injuries may need to relearn basic skills such as walking or swallowing. They may have frequent seizures or personality changes.
- Amputation and disfigurement: The force and nature of the accident itself can cause an amputation or disfigurement, as could other injuries such as a severe burn or infection. Truck accidents can crush limbs and other body parts due to their extreme force. Victims that endure these injuries will likely require adaptive devices such as prosthetics to function as close to normal as possible. They will also need continued medical treatment.
- Internal injuries: Sometimes, it’s the injuries that can’t be seen that end up being the worst. You could escape spinal cord injuries or head trauma, but you could still sustain severe internal injuries. Airbags can often cause internal injuries even though they protect you from other injuries. Your bladder, kidneys, liver, spleen, and pancreas could all sustain trauma. Internal injuries often cause severe bleeding. If bleeding goes unnoticed for too long, it can be life-threatening.
- Burns: These are some of the most painful injuries to come from truck accidents. Since trucks are more massive than passenger vehicles, they carry more gasoline. There is also a higher risk that their fuel tanks will rupture in an accident. Suppose a fire starts after a semi-truck crash. In that case, it can spread quickly, causing it to engulf not only the truck but any surrounding passenger vehicles. Occupants of nearby vehicles can have severe painful burns that leave them with permanent disfigurement and disabilities. Depending on the degree of the burn and how much of the body the burn covers, these injuries can be life-threatening or lead to other complications such as infection.
- Broken bones: Broken bones might seem minor compared to the previous injuries, but they can also be serious. Larger bones such as the femur or pelvis can lead to fatal complications such as blood clots or infections. They often require multiple surgeries with hardware to get the bones to heal in place. Broken bones are extremely painful, take many weeks to heal, and can be debilitating.
Truck accident injuries are painful, life-altering, debilitating, and expensive. Whether you suffer from one of these injuries or others, an experienced truck accident attorney understands the implications such injuries have on your life both now and in the future. Armed with this understanding, they can fight to get you the compensation you need to recover.
Finding All Liable Parties
Sometimes big rig accidents involve multiple at-fault parties. To maximize your compensation, you should identify each of these parties and name them as defendants in your lawsuit. However, determining who could be liable is a complicated endeavor.
The liable parties for your injuries could be:
- The truck driver
- The trucking company
- The truck’s manufacturer
- Other drivers involved in the accident
- Various government entities such as the jurisdiction responsible for road conditions or traffic lights
Your semi-truck accident lawyer can help you determine all liable parties so that you get the best possible outcome for your claim.
Collecting Crucial Evidence
Truck accident cases use evidence to prove that the defendant is at-fault for the accident and that the plaintiff suffers injuries as a result. Without evidence, there will be no case. Do you know what evidence is necessary to win your case? An attorney does.
If you hire one, they can help coordinate a truck accident investigation. Your truck accident injury attorney or someone on their behalf will investigate the accident scene and gather witness testimonies.
Your attorney will examine the following for evidence:
- The trucker’s employment record, training, drug and alcohol tests, and driving record
- The trucking company’s insurance company and policy information
- An inspection of the semi-truck involved in the accident
- Any property damage to your vehicle
- Medical records regarding the injuries you sustained in the accident
- The semi-trucks electronic control module (ECM), also known as a “black box”
- Inspection and maintenance records for the semi-truck involved
Truck Accident Lawyers are Skilled Negotiators
Negotiating a large and complicated legal settlement is not something you should endeavor to do without experience. Lawyers receive extensive training in thoroughly preparing for any negotiation. They know that they must back up their demands.
Truck accident attorneys know that they are “bargaining under the shadow of the law,” meaning that both sides are aware of what might happen if they go to trial. Attorneys for both the plaintiff and the defendant will not agree to a settlement unless they know it is preferable to go to trial and risk a larger court award. Sometimes this requires hours upon hours of research and analyzing the accident to determine precisely what happened.
For most truck accident injury victims, getting the most out of their claim but also settling before trial is preferable to getting less or going to trial. Throughout your case, your attorney will attempt to negotiate a settlement amount that fairly compensates you and reduces the risk of you going to court and losing your claim.
Negotiating a settlement is preferable for both sides because it:
- Saves time
- Saves money and resources
- Reduces the risk of going to trial
- Lets both sides help determine their own outcome instead of a jury or judge
- Can help trucking companies maintain a good reputation by not having the negative attention a truck accident lawsuit can bring
However, sacrificing full and fair compensation by settling to avoid court isn’t necessarily the best idea either. During settlement negotiations, your attorney can provide you with their professional opinion about whether the offers the defense is presenting are fair or not. It is up to you to decide if you want to accept those offers or not. If you do not accept them, you can keep negotiating. However, eventually, if either side cannot settle, the case will proceed to court.
Peace of Mind
Involvement in any type of accident is often traumatic and stressful. You might be worried about how you will pay your bills and if you will ever return to your job or even the line of work that you love. Medical debt collectors might start to call you, and it can feel like you are in a nightmare that you will never wake up from. It’s common to feel like this process will last forever.
Having helped many clients through personal injury cases, a truck accident attorney can provide you with case updates and encouragement to keep you going. They may even provide you with medical or mental health resources. They have an intimate understanding of what it is like to be in your position.
If you need help with your medical bills, an attorney can work with your provider to set up healthcare liens. With these liens, they place your account on hold, and no collections companies are involved. You don’t need to pay any money now, but the medical provider agrees to wait on getting paid until you get paid. When you receive your settlement or court award, your attorney pays the medical provider out of those funds. Arranging medical liens can take a lot of pressure off injured individuals who don’t know how they are going to pay these necessary bills.
You Can Focus on Healing
Being your own lawyer is like going to school and getting a full-time job in your field at the same time. Except, you are also severely injured and trying to recover. Any way you look at it, this is far from an ideal situation. After being in a semi-truck accident, you need and should focus on recovering from severe injuries. You need your physical and mental rest. You need time and space. You need to go to your medical appointments and schedule other things around them, not vice versa.
If you don’t hire a lawyer and choose to take on your claim on your own, you will have a lot of work ahead of you and can’t focus on getting better.
You will need to:
- Gather and document evidence
- Be on the phone and respond to emails
- File court documents
- Respond to legal paperwork
- Stand up to large insurance companies and their attorneys
None of these tasks sound relaxing or beneficial to healing. Injured accident victims who attempt to be their own attorney can significantly increase their own stress by handling these lawyer duties. Since most accident victims have little or no truck accident experiences, not only can self-representation interfere with physical healing, but it can also obstruct your ability to receive a fair monetary award.
What if You Can’t Afford a Truck Accident Attorney?
Many different types of legal services require money upfront to even meet with an attorney. This can be quite intimidating if you don’t have much money to spare or if you were recently in an accident and are struggling to pay your everyday expenses and medical bills. Too many times, this stops accident victims from seeking the legal representation they need after an injury.
Without an attorney, they may not get what they deserve for their injuries. If only they knew that most truck accident attorneys provide free, no-obligation consultations to injury victims. Not only that, but if the injured individual decides to hire them, it’s common for the attorney to take clients on a contingency fee basis.
This type of fee arrangement means:
- You owe no money upfront to retain your attorney
- You will pay your attorney a predetermined percentage of the proceeds of your settlement or court award once you receive it
- If your attorney can’t obtain compensation for your damages, you owe them nothing
- You have nothing to lose by meeting with an attorney to discuss your claim
Insurance companies don’t like it when lawyers represent their claimants. By attempting to settle your truck accident claim without legal representation, you risk losing the money you deserve for your damages. You also miss out on all of the benefits an attorney can provide you. Contact Brauns Law, PC for a free consultation today.