It’s All About ControlEven in the face of an obvious liability accident, neither the trucking company nor its insurance company welcomes high-dollar catastrophic claims with open arms. Often, these companies fight to control every aspect of your claim until a personal injury attorney forces them to let go. First of all, as a seriously injured victim, you should have no doubt that you need a tough legal representative to handle negotiations on your behalf. Your attorney must understand that the trucker represents a whole network of potentially responsible parties. Your attorney must have the guts to challenge a panicky, defensive truck driver, his or her hard-nosed transport company employer, a cost-cutting insurer, and any other entity in the chain of responsibility.
A Trucker Initiates Control at the Accident SceneAfter an accident, a trucker’s protectionist behavior often comes across like a serenity mantra for negligent drivers… Accept the things I cannot change and find the nerve to change (or lie about) the things I can.
Rationalizing and DefendingIn that very human need to defend oneself, a trucker is no different than any other negligent driver on the road. He or she has no choice but to accept the injuries and the damage. Still, truckers sometimes find ways to rationalize and defend their apalling actions. While many drivers do this to protect themselves after an accident, truckers often do it to protect their livelihood and the long list of big-dollar commercial interests that they represent.
Accusing and BlamingWhen it’s easy to assess a trucker’s negligence, he can’t easily avoid responsibility. When liability is questionable or the accident details are fuzzy, a trucker has more flexibility to shift the blame for his or her actions. Truckers may attempt to do the following to avoid liability:
- Blame the other driver
- Blame the accident on road surface conditions
- Blame the weather
- Blame a load shift
- Blame a vehicle, component, or tire defect
- Blame malfunctioning traffic lights
- Accuse a phantom car
- Explain that he or she really doesn’t know what happened
Truckers Know That a Police Officer Doesn’t Necessarily Determine FaultWhen a police officer investigates an accident, there is only so much that he or she can do. The officer often arranges medical transportation, confirms identities and registrations, and documents physical evidence: vehicle damage, road conditions, traffic signs, signals, and accident debris. If the drivers and injured passengers are conscious and able to communicate, the officer may add their versions of the accident to the police report. Unless an officer finds unbiased witnesses or irrefutable evidence (or he witnesses the accident himself), his report is simply a documentation of verifiable facts. If the officer places the blame on one driver or another, it’s just an opinion. While a police officer’s opinion on fault is usually based on experience, it’s still subject to dispute. Trucking companies, insurance companies, and attorneys defending the truck driver in court understand and rely on this dynamic. An officer may help determine a trucker’s non-compliance with state or federal codes. These issues may have a greater influence in determining a driver’s negligence and ultimate responsibility for an accident.
- If a court convicts a driver of excessive speed, reckless driving, or other motor vehicle violations, he is subject to CDL disqualification.
- Truckers and their employers must comply with mandatory alcohol and substance abuse screenings following an accident.
- A trucker must produce manual logs or, in most cases, electronic logging device data to show compliance with work hour limitations. Transport companies must implement ELD technology in every truck.
- A trucker must prove compliance with federal minimum financial responsibility codes.
Trucking Companies Control Claims When They CanIf you’re injured, don’t be surprised if you never talk directly with anyone from the trucking company. If you do, never expect an apology. They might consider that as admitting fault. In most cases, a trucking company immediately forwards an accident report to a claim professional for investigation. When a transport company is self-insured based on federal guidelines, it pays liability claims out of its own financial resources. Self-insured companies have several claim-handling options, including:
- In-house claim staff, a private trucking company claim-handling unit that investigates and resolves all claims.
- Captive insurers, a private insurance company that insures and handles claims for a single company.
- Independent claim service, where a trucking company assigns a claim to an independent adjuster and provides detailed instructions on how it should be handled.