In this article you’ll find 5 things you need to know about handling commercial truck accidents that result in personal injury or wrongful death.
1) Document the scene.
If you’re faced with an accident, speak only to the police to file a report. Do not speak to the trucker, company representatives, or insurance representatives until you have a lawyer. At the scene, get photos, contact information, and all other important details you have access to and contact a lawyer. It’s critical to do this right away. Waiting can result in lost, damaged, or destroyed evidence, and unreliable memories of the incident instead of hard facts.
For example, without a specific legal document it’s possible for trucking companies to intentionally destroy evidence after the accident without breaking the law. Have your lawyer inspect the damage on all vehicles involved in the accident so he or she has all the facts readily available to mount a strong case on your behalf.
2) Get a good lawyer.
Law firms are unique and have different areas of expertise. Some are more experienced at handling accidents and holding commercial trucking companies responsible. A good law firm for your case will be one that has tried similar cases in the past, and has the resources to access the best experts, technology, and analysis to make your case.
Personally, you should feel that the attorney is attentive to your needs, professional, and knowledgeable. If you do not feel that the lawyer is authentically concerned for the well being of you and your family, don’t be afraid to find someone else. This individual will be helping you make serious decisions that impact your life. Take the time to find someone who has the expertise and the empathy you need.
3) Let your attorney do the talking.
Do not sign any documents or speak to any insurance or trucking company representative without first consulting a lawyer. Federal and state governments oversee the trucking industry. Attorneys with experience in this field have a working knowledge of how to navigate these regulations to hold truck drivers and companies responsible for a semitrailer crash.
In most accidents, the insurance company pays the money won in a settlement. Because of that, the insurance company may try to have you sign away your rights to a higher settlement before you hire a lawyer. This can result in you getting a settlement that is much less than the amount of money you deserve.
Refer all calls and questions related to the accident to your lawyer, especially those from an insurance company. Do not say anything or sign anything without a lawyer present. Even if the conversation seems casual, anything you say or do can be used in your legal case to reduce the amount of your settlement. Your lawyer is your advocate and has experience dealing with the insurance companies. Let them be your advocate.
4) Know who is responsible.
In an accident with a commercial trucking rig where the truck driver is at fault, you may be entitled to sue several individuals and companies. For example, if a commercial truck driver has a blood alcohol content of 0.04% or greater and causes an accident, both the driver and the company who hired him or her are responsible for damages and injuries suffered by you and your passengers.
A good lawyer will identify all parties who are legally responsible for the accident. This may include, but is not limited to:
- Trucking rig owner
- Tractor-trailer cab / trailer owner
- Freight owner
- Cab, trailer or vehicle parts manufacturer
Proving fault in a court of law requires evidence. Your attorney will interview people who witnessed and were directly involved in the accident. They will collect law enforcement records of the incident and relevant corporate documents. They will review the crash scene and damage to all vehicles involved – even recruiting expert testimony to build and support your case.
Even in the event that a commercial driver is only partially to blame for the accident, you may have the right to sue the driver, trucking company, and connected entities to cover medical expenses, lost income, damages, and more. Actions that can put a commercial driver at fault include:
- Driving aggressively
- Driving too fast
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Driving without adequate rest
- Exceeding the legal limit of driving hours
- Failing to stop or slow to avoid a likely accident
- Losing control of any part of the vehicle
- Not checking blind spots
- Not yielding where appropriate
5) Understand your rights.
In a collision with a commercial truck, you may be entitled to damages if you are a:
- Driver in a personal vehicle affected by the crash
- Passenger in a personal vehicle affected by the crash
- Passenger in a commercial truck affected by the crash
- Passenger in a commercial truck which caused the crash
- Pedestrian or cyclist affected by the crash
- Family member of a driver or passenger killed by the crash
In the event of personal medical needs and property loss due to the accident, filing a suit against the individual(s) and company(s) responsible is the path to cover your related expenses. This can also cover other damages (lost wages, pain and suffering, etc.) due to the collision.
If a family member was killed in a collision with a semitrailer you may have the right to sue for compensation and get justice for your loved one. This is possible if the evidence supports a wrongful death claim. Speak with an attorney about what options are available if your family has suffered the loss of a loved one in a commercial truck accident.
If you are involved in a collision with a commercial trailer, hire an experienced attorney who can advocate for your rights and ensure that you receive the justice you deserve.