Truck Accident Lawyer FAQ
Getting into an accident with a semi-truck is often much more serious than a single-vehicle accident or collision with another passenger vehicle. Understanding exactly what a truck accident is and how it differs from regular auto accidents can be very important if you ever experience one.
What is a Truck Accident?
Truck accidents occur when semi-trucks (sometimes referred to as 18-wheelers) either hit another vehicle or somehow causes an accident due to the conditions or the actions of a driver. Since semi-truck drivers are all required to hold a commercial driver’s license, they generally get better classroom and on the road training than an average car driver. In the U.S., this results in truck drivers causing fewer accidents per mile driven than non-commercial truck drivers, but nearly every truck driver will be involved in an accident in their career.
Why Are Trucks So Dangerous?
Semi-trucks can weigh more than 20 times as much as a mid-sized car depending on what kind of load they are carrying. This makes it far more likely for someone driving in a passenger vehicle to be badly injured or killed in a truck accident as opposed to the truck driver. Most truck drivers are required to maintain nearly spotless driving records specifically to cut down on the number of accidents they might have over their career. When an accident does happen, the unpredictability of the trailer’s load adds an extra element of danger that can turn a bad situations into something disastrous.
What Causes Truck Accidents?
Trucks get into accidents for many of the same reasons a passenger vehicle will get into an accident. Road conditions can sometimes become very dangerous in a short amount of time, leaving a truck driver no time to safely exit the highway. Isolated thunderstorms can cause downpours with just a few seconds’ notice, making it extremely hard to see more than a few feet in front of you. Road construction can also have a major effect on truck accidents since all drivers are required to slow down or stop in an area where they may have never had to stop previously.
Careless driving by either a truck driver or passenger vehicle driver can also cause an accident, this includes using an electronic device while driving or not keeping your eyes on the road. Negligent drivers are among the most dangerous on the road since it is usually only a matter of time before their habits cause an accident. Drivers considered DUI/DWI are among the most negligent and will almost always be considered at-fault in a truck accident, regardless if they are driving the truck or not.
Who is Considered At-Fault in a Truck Accident?
Fault cannot be automatically assigned in a truck accident. There will be times when the truck driver is clearly at fault and others when the driver of another vehicle is the one at fault. Sometimes, there is a shared responsibility for the accident, which can make it difficult to determine who needs to pay certain bills. Everything depends on the circumstances around the accident, whether or not any driver involved was acting in a negligent manner, road conditions, traffic, etc. In most cases, a police officer’s opinion in their report will carry a lot of weight when it comes to determining fault, but the final decision will usually be made by a judge if it goes to court.
Can I Sue the Driver of a Commercial Vehicle?
Again, everything depends on the circumstances surrounding the accident, but different factors are usually looked at in determining whether or not you can successfully bring a lawsuit against an individual. Truck drivers who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol will have a hard time defending a case against them once any settlement or award hits their insurance limit. Likewise, an independent contractor will usually be more liable in a civil case as opposed to someone who works directly for a trucking company as a driver. In general, there are cases where you will be able to sue the truck driver, mainly if negligence can be proven, but bringing a lawsuit against an individual above what their insurance will pay you might result in them declaring bankruptcy, essentially leaving you with nothing to show for it.
Can I Sue the Company That Owns the Truck?
In many cases you can sue the truck company but you will likely be dealing with their insurance provider. Trucking companies generally have high limits on their insurance policies and those providers are usually willing to spend a lot of time and money to keep potential payouts as low as possible. The company itself would be on the hook for any award or settlement more than what their insurance limit would cover, which may require you to bring a lawsuit against them in order to force them to pay you what they owe.
Can a Settlement Be Worked Out in a Truck Accident?
Yes, settlements can be hammered out between your attorney and the lawyers defending either the trucking company, the driver, or their insurance providers. These settlements often come about when there is clear evidence that you will win a court case if it goes before a judge and the other side wants to avoid the cost of litigating a losing case.
Will My Insurance Cover What The Other Driver/Company Does Not?
Your insurance will only cover up to its required limits for an uninsured/under-insured motorist, which generally is not very high if the amount you are awarded is more than a business’ insurance limit. Even so, after your insurance pays out what they are required to, they will usually bring their own suit against the at-fault party in order to recoup what they paid to you. If after the other party’s insurance and your own insurance has paid out to their maximum limits, you would need to seek the rest of the award from either the driver or the trucking company, depending on who was found liable.
Would I Get Compensated for Lost Wages After an Accident?
Generally, if the accident is not your fault, the amount of money you lose while you recover can be included in a lawsuit or settlement. On top of that, you may be entitled to even more if your injury caused you to lose out on a raise, bonus or promotion. If you are found at-fault (or mostly at-fault) in an accident, you will have a hard time getting compensated for lost wages from the other party. Depending on your insurance provider and plan, you may be able to make a claim with them.
How Can I Avoid Getting Into a Truck Accident?
Being a defensive driver goes a long way in helping to avoid truck accidents. Since most semi-truck miles are put on the Interstate system, be sure to use caution when you are passing a truck and generally only stick to passing on the left. Be wary when trucks signal their intention to merge into another lane since there are a few blind spots that are hard for even the best drivers to monitor, let alone a truck driver who may be distracted or tired.
In urban areas, semi-trucks making a turn will usually swing well out into another lane if they need to turn right, making it important to give yourself enough room to maneuver out of the way if a truck takes the turn too wide.
What Can I Do If I Am Involved in a Truck Accident or See One?
If you are involved in a truck accident you need to make sure that you and your passengers are alright if the accident is not life-threatening. Calling 911 with your approximate location is important to get emergency services to you as quickly as possible in order to take care of injuries and make sure the accident does not consume other vehicles. In serious accidents, if you are able, getting out of the car, especially if it is still on the roadway, is important to prevent another vehicle from injuring you further by driving into the accident scene. Calling 911 should be high on your priority list since you will likely be unable to treat any serious injuries yourself.
For those driving by and witnessing a truck accident, the first thing you need to do is pull over and dial 911 with your location. When it is safe to do so, in serious cases, you may need to render immediate assistance, but in most cases either everyone is uninjured or the injuries are too serious for an untrained individual to treat.
In any case, you will probably be required to give a statement to the police concerning what happened and what you witnessed. Sometimes, these interviews can wrap up fairly quickly and you will never hear about it again. Other times, you may be called into court in order to testify in front of a judge or jury if the circumstances surrounding the accident necessitates a lawsuit or criminal charges.