Flatbed trucks are the most widely used open-deck trailers in the trucking industry. The total number of flatbed and open-deck trucks operating in the U.S. isn’t readily available. However, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) states that while dry van trailers are the most common trailer pulled, most of the 350,000 U.S. owner-operators do own and pull flatbed or reefer trailers.
These trailers haul various goods, including rebars, steel bars, steel coils, construction materials, lumber, machinery, military equipment, and other heavy goods. Flatbeds are usually 48 feet in length, but some are as long as 53 feet. While very necessary to the American way of life and consumer needs, they aren’t without danger. These trucks present hazards not only to drivers brave enough to get behind their wheels but to other drivers and their passengers.
If you or someone you love recently suffered injuries in an accident with a flatbed truck, you should reach out to a well-versed personal injury attorney for help. Injured victims deserve fair compensation for their damages.
Hire an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer
The steps you take after a truck accident will impact the value of your claim. One of the most important steps you can take is to hire an experienced personal injury lawyer. An attorney can help with your injury claim in many ways. Lawyers understand how to use the evidence in your case to maximize compensation for your damages.
Among other things, your attorney can:
- Handle all communications with the insurance companies and claims adjusters
- Gather and preserve evidence
- Investigate how your accident occurred and who is liable
- Ensure you get the medical care you need
- Calculate the value of your damages
- Point out the strengths in your case to the at-fault party’s insurance company and attorneys
- Make every possible attempt at negotiating a fair settlement for your claim
- If it becomes necessary, prepare your case for litigation and represent you at trial
Injured individuals receive more compensation when a seasoned attorney represents them instead of handling their claim alone. This is especially true for those injured in semi-truck accidents, as they are often up against large and powerful insurance companies.
Get Medical Attention ASAP
While your attorney will handle most of the steps your claim requires, you may need to do some. Another essential step after suffering injuries in a flatbed truck accident is to see a doctor as soon as possible.
Suppose you fail to seek medical care as quickly as possible after your accident. You may give the impression that you weren’t really injured. Waiting a few days or weeks and then claiming damages for injuries can leave the door open for the at-fault party’s insurance company to purport that you either weren’t injured or sustained your injuries in another way after the accident occurred.
When you seek medical care right away, you create a medical record that can be relied on as evidence in your claim. This shows that you took your injuries seriously and that you did, in fact, present with injuries shortly after the accident occurred.
How to Preserve Evidence for a Truck Accident Claim
Evidence in any personal injury case is extremely valuable. You need evidence to prove who caused the accident and who is responsible for it. You also need evidence to establish your injuries and damages. If you don’t have proof or strong evidence, your claim won’t be successful, or you will settle for less than you deserve. The best way to collect and preserve evidence in your claim is to hire a personal injury lawyer right away.
Trucking companies are known for attempting to hide and destroy evidence to relieve themselves and their drivers of responsibility in serious accidents. If your attorney doesn’t begin taking steps to ensure the preservation of evidence in your claim as soon as possible, the trucking company or other parties might lose or destroy it. If this happens, you can’t do much to get it back.
When it comes to evidence in your claim, reports from neutral parties, such as the police, can often prove crucial in establishing how the tractor-trailer accident happened and who’s at fault.
- Police Report: The law enforcement officer who responds to the scene and investigates that accident will file a formal police accident report. These reports will include the identification and insurance information from all involved drivers, eyewitness statements, and sometimes the officer’s opinion of who was at fault. Accident reports are typically available within a week or so of the accident. You or your attorney can request a copy of the police report.
- Security Cameras: Some roadways and intersections have cameras for various purposes. These often come in handy when there is a motor vehicle accident, as the cameras may have recorded the accident as it happened. Video of the actual accident is some of the best evidence an injured individual can have. Depending on who owns the cameras, your lawyer may need to subpoena the security video.
- Medical Records: You or your attorney should formally request copies of your medical bills and records. Your medical records will link your injuries directly to the flatbed truck accident. Your medical expenses are a crucial part of your settlement demand. Be sure to retain all of your receipts for out-of-pocket medical costs, like prescription medications or hospital parking fees.
- Lost Wages: You or your attorney will need to request a statement of lost wages from your employer. It should include any applicable lost overtime and sick or vacation leave you used or will need to use while recovering from the semi-truck accident.
- Your Notes: Keep a journal with notes about how and when the wreck occurred. Be sure to include detailed notes about your injuries, daily pain levels, inability to perform daily activities, interference with family relations, and emotional distress. This can provide powerful evidence to support your pain and suffering damages.
- Phone Records: Distracted truck drivers cause many accidents. Their number one distraction is cell phones. If you know or suspect that the at-fault driver used a cell phone when they hit you, notify law enforcement, your insurance company, and your truck accident attorney. Your lawyer will likely subpoena the phone records and can use them as valuable evidence in your claim.
What Happens if an Accident Occurs with an Uninsured Truck Driver?
Accidents involving semi-trucks or tractor-trailers, including those that pull flatbeds, are hazardous to other vehicles because of their massive size. They can weigh as much as 30 times more than passenger vehicles, and they still must stop, turn, or maneuver. Considering this, the federal government agency that regulates the trucking industry mandates that truck drivers or the owners of trucking companies carry a significant amount of liability insurance to compensate their accident victims. However, what if the truck driver is uninsured?
Unfortnately, if you were in a crash with an uninsured truck driver, your case will likely be complex. An experienced truck accident attorney can help you understand your legal rights and options.
Federal Insurance Requirements for Truck Drivers
Due to the extreme risk of severe injury or death posed by semi-truck, commercial truck drivers or trucking companies must have more liability insurance than most passenger cars or other vehicles.
- $500,000 to $750,000 of liability coverage for most commercial vehicles carrying over 10,000 pounds of freight. The exact amount of required coverage depends on the type of freight the truck is hauling and its weight.
- Commercial vehicles with a seating capacity of fewer than 15 people must have liability coverage of at least $1.5 million, and buses that seat a minimum of 15 people must carry $5 million of coverage.
- Semi-trucks transporting household goods must also carry cargo insurance at $5,000 per vehicle or $10,000 per occurrence.
Why Insurance Matters
Insurance pays compensation for motor vehicle accidents. Even though you might file a claim or lawsuit against an uninsured truck driver or the trucking company that didn’t prepare their driver for the job, motorists without insurance coverage can rarely handle their accident expenses out-of-pocket.
If a truck driver causes an accident and can’t show proper proof of insurance, they can face many penalties.
Legal consequences that truck drivers might face for driving without insurance include:
- Traffic citation
- Losing their driver’s license
Suppose a trucking company doesn’t insure their fleet. In that case, they will not only face the responsibility for compensating accident victims or their families for their damages, but they will also face monetary penalties from FMCSA and lose their good standing with this important federal agency.
Unfortunately, none of these consequences will help those injured in the truck accident obtain the compensation they deserve.
Your Options After a Crash Involving an Uninsured Truck Driver
Truck drivers only account for 16 percent of the fatalities and injuries in truck accidents. Sadly, 67 percent of those injured or killed in these accidents occupy other vehicles. In comparison, 15 percent are other roadway users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists.
Truck accidents frequently cause severe or even catastrophic injuries. Victims need and deserve monetary compensation. However, without commercial vehicle insurance coverage, getting compensation for damages can be tricky, even if the facts of the case are clearly in the victim’s favor. Among the many services an experienced flatbed truck accident lawyer can provide is a thorough investigation of your legal options to obtain compensation.
You and your lawyer might want to discuss several possibilities.
Other Liable Parties
Some accidents have multiple liable parties and result from errors committed by more than one driver. Your lawyer can investigate the specific details of your crash to determine if you can seek compensation from any other liable parties.
Uninsured Motorist Policy
Many states require drivers to carry an uninsured motorist policy as part of their minimum insurance requirements. In states that don’t mandate this coverage, drivers can purchase an uninsured motorist policy as an add-on. If you carry this type of coverage, you can use it to receive compensation for the expenses you incurred from the uninsured trucker.
Other Insurance Policies You Have
Uninsured motorist policies aren’t the only type of insurance policy coverage you might seek compensation from.
Other insurance that might assist you in this situation include:
- Personal injury protection (PIP) policies, which some states require
- Medical payments (Med-Pay) policies
- Employer or self-provided health insurance policies
- Suing the Uninsured Driver or Trucking Company
Another option is to litigate your case against the uninsured truck driver or the trucking company responsible for your accident. Explore this option with your truck accident lawyer if you have thousands of dollars in damages. If you win your lawsuit against the at-fault party, your truck accident attorney can collect your court ward. This might include attaching liens to their property or garnishing their wages.
No matter how simple or complex your flatbed truck accident might seem, it’s always in your best interest to contact an experienced personal injury lawyer for help. Reach out today to help maximize the compensation you deserve to receive.