The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) estimates the average cost of a commercial truck collision injuring one individual is hundreds of thousands of dollars. A trucking accident causing a fatality is considerably more expensive. Naturally, these figures will multiply if more than one person sustains injuries or loses their life. Depending on the severity of the victims’ injuries and the property damage involved, they can also increase.
Victims of these accidents and the family members of those who die deserve compensation for their damages. Unfortunately, when the truck driver or trucking company is to blame for the accident, they aren’t exactly excited to write victims the extensive checks they deserve. Instead, they search for ways to shift the blame from themselves to someone else and make themselves seem nearly innocent in the manner. So how can you fight back against the insurance company to get the settlement you deserve? It all boils down to hiring the right truck accident attorney.
Suppose you suffered injuries in a semi-truck accident and a lawyer doesn’t represent you. In that case, you risk being victimized a second time when the insurance company tries its tactics on you. However, with legal representation, they are much less likely to take advantage of you as they know that you are serious about receiving the compensation you deserve. They also know that your attorney won’t fall for their strategies.
How a Skilled Attorney Can Help You Get What You Deserve
A skilled attorney can maximize your compensation in many ways. Consider the following.
Investigating the Accident
Your attorney and their staff will investigate your accident. They may hire a private investigator or an accident reconstructionist to help them in some cases. They will rely on your account of what happened, eyewitness accounts, police reports, records from the trucking company, and any potential video surveillance of the accident. A thorough investigation is necessary to determine who is at fault for the accident.
Semi-truck accidents are often complex. One of the factors that makes them so complex is that several different parties can bear liability. Experienced personal injury attorneys know how to determine fault—such as by obtaining maintenance and inspection records from the trucking company or truck driver. A semi-truck accident claim is impossible without pinpointing at least one liable party. Attorneys determine who can and should bear liability for their client’s damages. Potential at-fault parties in a semi-truck accident claim can include:
The truck driver might have caused the accident through negligence, including speeding, fatigued/drowsy, intoxicated, or distracted driving. There may even be pending criminal charges and a conviction in some severe cases. A trucker is also responsible for inspecting their big rig to ensure adequate maintenance or loading/securing of cargo. If a maintenance problem or cargo shift results in a truck accident, the truck driver might be responsible for the accident.
A trucking company is responsible for its fleet and the truck drivers it places out on the road. You can hold trucking companies accountable for their hiring and training standards. For example, suppose the company uses drivers with driving or FMCSA rule infractions on their records or company records show a lack of necessary training. In that case, you can hold the trucking company at fault for the accident.
Trucking carrier records or employee interviews may reveal that the carrier encourages their truck drivers to save money through non-compliance with FMCSA hours of service (HOS) limits or big rig maintenance and inspection requirements.
Cargo Shippers and Loaders
Some goods carriers are contractors who ship cargo for other carriers. They frequently move sealed freight. Each party in this arrangement—such as the cargo originator, shipper, loader, and transporter—is responsible for following all applicable state and federal regulations and can also be accountable if negligent.
Suppose a cargo shift or other issues with cargo causes a semi-truck crash. In that case, your attorney may subpoena and examine records from each party involved with the load, including the carrier.
If a carrier has a large operation, they may use many vendors to complete outsourced work.
Carriers may outsource:
- Administrative work, such as recruiting more truck drivers or conducting background checks and alcohol and drug tests
- Truck maintenance, repair, and dispatching work
- Other parts of fleet operations.
- Brokers to locate cargo shipments for trucks
Third-party vendors can be liable for damages if their negligence gives rise to a truck accident.
Truck and Parts
Sometimes the truck or one of its parts fails—for example, brake failures or issues with the steering or coupling (kingpin) systems. Suppose the failed part or system was inherently defective. In that case, your attorney can help you with a product liability claim to seek to hold the manufacturer and distributor liable for their faulty products.
Government Agencies and Contractors
Local or state government negligence can cause roadway hazards, such as broken pavement or a soft shoulder. Likewise, you can hold contractors hired by the government liable if their work or inactions led to a problem and contributed to a semi-truck collision.
Holding all Accountable Parties Liable
In some semi-truck accidents, there is more than one party at fault. For example, the truck driver may have been driving while intoxicated making him at fault. However, if the trucking company knew he had a record of DUIs but hired him anyway, they can also be liable. By holding all responsible parties liable, your attorney can maximize your compensation.
Uncovering Sources of Compensation
Most of the time, the at-fault party does not compensate victims for their accident damages. Instead, it’s the at-fault party’s insurance company. Your attorney will work to uncover all applicable insurance policies available that may cover your damages. Doing so can be extremely important in cases where multiple victims suffer injuries and there is limited insurance coverage to pay for damages.
Ensuring You Demand All Available Damages in the Claim
Semi-truck accident victims typically have economic and non-economic damages. Economic ones represent their financial losses and expenses such as lost wages from missed time at work due to their injuries and medical costs. Non-economic ones are intangible losses or inconveniences such as pain and suffering, scarring and disfigurement, and loss of consortium. Your attorney can maximize your settlement by ensuring that you claim all of your damages in your case.
Negotiating a Fair Settlement
Experienced personal injury attorneys are skilled negotiators. They know how to highlight the strengths in your case and argue the weaknesses in the other party’s case. Your attorney will make every attempt to negotiate a full and fair settlement on your behalf.
How You Can Maximize Your Semi-Truck Accident Settlement
In addition to hiring an attorney, there are some actions you can take or avoid to ensure you don’t jeopardize your claim.
See a Doctor as Soon as Possible and Follow Their Advice
While many semi-truck accident victims are transported to the hospital immediately with severe or life-threatening injuries, some aren’t. If you are in the latter group, do seek medical treatment as soon as possible. A doctor should examine you to ensure you don’t have any life-threatening injuries such as internal bleeding and to create a formal record of your injuries and pain.
No matter if an ambulance took you to the hospital or you saw a doctor later, always follow your medical team’s treatment plan and advice. For example, if they tell you not to lift more than ten pounds for six weeks after surgery, make sure you follow those instructions. If you refuse to comply, you will hurt your claim.
Be Careful Communicating With the at-Fault Party’s Insurance Company
You or your attorney can report the accident and file a claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company. It’s also common for insurance claims adjusters to reach out to accident victims and request a recorded statement within a few days of filing the claim. If you have already hired an attorney, it’s in your best interest to inform them of such and not talk to them.
Your lawyer will handle everything they need. Be extremely careful if you haven’t hired an attorney yet or decide to give a recorded statement. You don’t want to say anything that can harm or devalue your claim. Insurance adjusters often ask leading or confusing questions to get you to communicate things in a certain way that will benefit them. They may also attempt to misconstrue what you say.
You don’t have to provide a recorded statement, even if the adjuster tells you that it’s required to process your claim.
Additionally, the adjust may attempt to get you to settle your claim right then. While getting a settlement right away may relieve some of your financial stress, the payment they offer you probably does not represent your claim’s full value. Therefore, you owe it to yourself to discuss any settlement offers you receive with an experienced semi-truck accident attorney. Your attorney can often negotiate a higher settlement that better represents all of your damages.
Be Honest and Cooperate With Your Attorney
Always speak honestly with your attorney regarding your accident, your damages, the accident’s impact on your finances, and anything else. Cooperate with their requests promptly.
For example, they will likely request that you complete forms giving them permission to obtain medical or employment records for your claim. Make sure you complete these as soon as possible. Any delays in your claim can lead to you not getting the compensation you deserve.
Contact a Seasoned Truck Accident Attorney Today
If you suffered injuries in a collision with a semi-truck, your right to compensation comes with deadlines. It’s in your best interest to contact a seasoned truck accident attorney today to start your claim.