Trucking Companies During an AccidentBy Stewart J. Guss on August 25th, 2019
When a trucker crashes into your car, your injuries become one of his or her biggest problems. It’s not that a trucker has no remorse or concern over your life-changing injuries. You need only talk to a trucker a few weeks down the road to see how much a horrific accident can affect his or her mental state. However, before some truckers reach this point of regret, the accident may trigger a self-preservation instinct.
In the minutes and hours following an accident, a trucker’s survival instincts kick in. Truckers may panic as they consider what might happen if they lose their jobs, their commercial licenses, or their professional reputations. Fines, jail time, and other penalties may break them financially. The anticipation of what comes next sometimes alters the tone and content of a driver’s statements to the police, employer, and insurance company.
Sometimes that means blaming others or stretching the truth to fit a falsified version of the accident worked out in his or her head. It always means never admitting liability. As the driver is the trucking company’s sole connection to an accident, his version usually controls what happens after the authorities clear the accident scene. If you or a loved one have experienced this, seeking out legal advice from a truck accident lawyer could help you get the compensation you deserve.
It’s All About Control
Even 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 Scene
After 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 Defending
In 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 Blaming
When 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 Fault
When 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 Can
If 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.
When a trucking company has traditional insurance, it relinquishes control to the insurance company’s claim department. Independent, captive, and insurance company claim handlers usually have similar training and follow the same basic claim-handling guidelines. The major difference is that, with an insurance company handled-claim, a trucking company can’t call the shots or control when, if, or how much the insurance company pays.
When a claim investigator receives a new truck accident claim, they understand that it will likely involve serious, catastrophic, or fatal injuries. That makes them high-dollar cases subject to an urgent effort to control the claim’s direction. In an injury claim context, that idea of control has several meanings, but it’s mostly about keeping the injured person under control, which means ATTORNEY-FREE.
Controlling the Injured Person
Control is the art of convincing an injured person to believe that they’ll be just fine without legal representation. Of course, a claim representative can’t legally tell you that you should or should not consult with an attorney, so they gain your trust by being “nice.” With seriously or catastrophically injured people, claim personnel rarely behave like the dreaded adjuster you’ve been conditioned to expect. There’s too much at stake.
Seasoned claims investigators convince you of their sincerity by putting on a human front to gain your trust.. Experience has taught them that unexpected kindness is the best resource for controlling an injured person. You’re more likely to give them a recorded statement or sign a waiver to access your medical records. If a claim person is really good at controlling you, you might never see them as a threat. When you’re ready to settle your claim, you might even trust them to negotiate a fair deal. That’s serious control, and sometimes it works. Do not fall for these tactics. Make sure you seek out an experienced truck accident attorney before giving a statement, signing any documents, and negotiating with the insurance company.
Controlling the Investigation
Whether or not a trucking company’s initial report paints liability as questionable, the claim investigator will investigate all serious injury claims. Their insurer’s version of the accident, police report, site photos, and witness statements are usually easy to obtain. It takes a bit of effort to get statements from an injured driver and their passengers. That’s usually impossible when an injured person has an attorney protecting his or her rights.
That’s the primary reason why some claim departments require that investigators make contact with injured victims within 24-hours of receiving a trucking company’s accident report. Early contact (regardless of whether you’re hospitalized or on medication) gives an insurance investigator a chance to get your information before an attorney takes charge of your case.
When you’re in pain or on medication, you might not see the harm in giving a statement to the nice claim adjuster.. You may have no problem in helping the “sincere” insurance investigator to confirm your injuries, wrap up the investigation, and set their claim reserves. Unfortunately, your early cooperation can provide information that jeopardizes your claim when it’s time to settle.
Controlling Claim Reserves
Insurance companies have a legal duty to evaluate cases quickly and set a timely reserve. A reserve is the insurance company’s best guess as to an eventual claim payout. Once they set a reserve, they must set aside funds for future claim settlements. Reserves affect a trucking company’s loss ratio, its insurance premiums, and its profits. When a self-insured trucking company pays for its own claims, it also needs to know how much money is at stake.
To set meaningful reserves, claim investigators need first-hand information, and they need it quickly. They need regular reserve updates for accuracy. A lot of the information they need should come directly from you. When an insurance investigator can’t get the information they need because you’re represented by an attorney, they can get sneaky, seeking other ways to gain information whether immoral or not. .
When a Claim Investigator Loses Control of Your Claim
When you realize that you need an attorney in your corner, it’s a good move for you, but not for the claim investigator. He or she still needs information and will likely do whatever it takes to get it.
If you feel like someone is watching you, you’re probably right. When you’re represented by a lawyer, a claim representative doesn’t simply go away. He or she comes to your neighborhood and hangs out. Investigators watch as you perform your daily chores and shoot videos of you coming and going. They talk to your neighbors, your friends, and your enemies. They’ll ask about your injuries and listen for dirt that they can use to defend their case or dispute your injuries.
Social Media Investigations
If you don’t see a man (or woman) parked on your street with a camera pointing at your house, that doesn’t mean the claim investigator isn’t watching you. Social media gives investigators the power to monitor you remotely. They may send a friend request on Facebook. If you don’t accept, they can follow you anyway. They gain limited access by sending a request to one of your existing friends. They may follow you on Instagram, Twitter, and other social media sites.
If you post, share, like other people’s posts, or make comments about your daily life, you’re giving claim investigators some helpful information. When it’s time to settle your claim, an astute claim observer can twist your online activities to suggest that you’re not quite as injured as you say. Tight security settings might help, but it’s best to limit your posts to information an insurance company can’t use to dispute your injuries—no dancing videos and no videos of you participating in the latest challenge.
Some claim investigators run credit checks to search for useful information. They may access employment and location data to determine whether you’re having difficulty paying your bills. Your financial background helps an investigator establish a negotiation strategy based on how badly they perceive your need for money.
Index Bureau Search
Some insurance companies subscribe to claim information databases with decades of claim data. When they open up a claim for your injuries, they submit your accident details to an information database. Their submission generates feedback about your past accidents and injuries and other relevant claim information.
Controlling Your Settlement
When you’re in a truck accident, claim investigators follow your case from the moment you’re injured. They uncover every possible detail they can find about you and your life. When it’s time to settle your claim, they may make outrageously low offers and use whatever they can as a negotiation tool.
If your case goes to trial, they may claim that you were negligent and caused the accident. They may question your injuries and cite affirmative defenses hoping to dismiss your claims altogether. An efficient, aggressive truck accident legal team can stop the madness before it starts.
Claims Adjusters Are Not Your Friends. Call a Truck Accident Lawyer
If you were injured in a truck accident, don’t allow a trucking company or an insurance company to control your fate. Find an experienced truck crash attorney who understands what you’re up against.