EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT SEMI-TRUCK ACCIDENTS AND HIRING THE RIGHT LAWYER
Trucking is a huge industry in the United States. Because Kansas and Missouri are located in the center of the country, it is a crossroads of trucking. Kansas and Missouri roads and highways are among the most heavily trafficked in the nation. Semis, box trucks, and other commercial vehicles make up a large portion of traffic on Kansas and Missouri roads. The massive size of semi-trucks means that injuries resulting from accidents with these behemoths are generally more severe than passenger vehicle accidents. When an individual is injured in a trucking accident, the law provides a means of redress for those injuries. Below is an overview of common questions associated with trucking accidents.
What causes most truck accidents?
Truck accidents can result from a combination of factors, and pinpointing a single cause can be challenging. However, some of the most common factors contributing to truck accidents include:
Driver Error: Like many accidents on the road, truck accidents are often caused by human error. This can include issues like distracted driving, fatigue, speeding, aggressive driving, and impaired driving (e.g., due to alcohol or drugs).
Fatigue: Truck drivers often work long hours and may experience fatigue, which can impair their judgment and reaction times. Hours-of-service regulations are in place to address this issue and limit the number of consecutive hours a driver can operate a commercial vehicle.
Mechanical Failures: Truck accidents can occur due to mechanical failures such as brake problems, tire blowouts, engine malfunctions, or other issues related to the vehicle's maintenance. Regular maintenance and inspections are crucial to prevent these issues.
Poor Weather Conditions: Adverse weather conditions like rain, snow, ice, fog, and heavy winds can make driving challenging for truck drivers, increasing the risk of accidents. Reduced visibility and slippery roads can be especially problematic.
Inadequate Training: Inexperienced or improperly trained truck drivers may struggle to handle their vehicles in various situations, leading to accidents.
Overloaded or Improperly Loaded Trucks: When trucks are overloaded or loaded improperly, it can affect their stability and handling. Cargo shifts can lead to rollovers or accidents.
Unsafe Driving Practices of Other Vehicles: Accidents involving trucks may also be caused by the actions of other drivers on the road, such as sudden lane changes, cutting off trucks, or tailgating.
Road Conditions: Poor road conditions, including potholes, construction zones, and inadequate road signage, can contribute to truck accidents.
Reckless or Aggressive Driving: Some truck drivers engage in reckless or aggressive driving behaviors, such as tailgating or speeding, which can increase the risk of accidents.
Distracted Driving: The use of electronic devices or other distractions while driving can lead to accidents. This issue is not limited to truck drivers but applies to all motorists.
Inadequate Supervision and Regulation: Regulatory agencies and transportation companies play a role in ensuring that truck drivers and vehicles comply with safety standards. Inadequate oversight and enforcement of regulations can contribute to accidents.
It's important to note that many truck accidents result from a combination of these factors. To reduce the frequency of truck accidents, a multi-faceted approach is necessary, including improved driver training, stricter enforcement of safety regulations, and continued advancements in vehicle technology to enhance safety features and reduce the impact of human error.
Just as with most car accidents, the most common cause of an accident is negligence. The basis of a negligence claim is the legal principle that all drivers on the road, including truck drivers, must operate their vehicles in a reasonable and safe manner. For truck drivers, though the standard is the same, it often requires different actions because of the nature of semi-trucks. For example, the appropriate distance to follow another vehicle is very different for a semi-truck and a small car. Additionally, blind spots of semi-trucks are much larger than those of other vehicles, requiring extra precaution by truck drivers. When a truck driver fails to act reasonably and safely, causing injury to another driver, that injured driver has a valid claim for negligence.
Another common claim arising from traffic accidents is "negligence per se." This type of claim is based on violations of laws that result in injury to others. To be successful, the violation of the law must result in the type of harm the law was meant to prevent occurred and injured person must be the type of person, such as a car driver or pedestrian, that the law was meant to protect. For truck drivers, all the laws that normally apply to drivers may be the basis of this type of claim.
Truck drivers are also subject to extensive regulations and laws specific to operating large vehicles or using a commercial driver’s license. For example, Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Section 395.3 limits the hours a commercial truck driver can drive and how long the breaks between driving must be. If a truck driver violates this rule and falls asleep at the wheel, the injured individual can bring a "negligence per se" claim to collect compensation for injuries. However, if a truck driver violates this regulation but causes an accident due to speeding, not fatigue, the violation would not provide a means of a claim for "negligence per se"; the regulation is meant to prevent accidents caused by fatigue, not accidents caused by speeding unrelated to fatigue.
Is the Trucking Company responsible if of their driver gets in an accident?
In many cases, the trucking company can be held responsible if one of their drivers gets into an accident. However, whether the trucking company is held liable depends on several factors, including the specific circumstances of the accident, the driver's employment relationship with the company, and applicable laws and regulations. Here are some key considerations:
Employee vs. Independent Contractor: If the truck driver is an employee of the trucking company, the company is more likely to be held responsible for the driver's actions while operating the truck. In contrast, if the driver is an independent contractor, the company may have less direct liability.
Vicarious Liability: Trucking companies can be held vicariously liable for the actions of their employees while performing job-related tasks. This means that if the driver was acting within the scope of their employment when the accident occurred, the company may be held responsible.
Negligent Hiring or Supervision: If the trucking company failed to properly screen, train, or supervise their drivers, and this negligence contributed to the accident, they may be held liable.
Maintenance and Safety: If the accident was caused by issues related to the maintenance or safety of the truck, the trucking company could be held responsible if they failed to adequately maintain their vehicles or ensure compliance with safety regulations.
Hours-of-Service Compliance: If the accident occurred because the driver violated hours-of-service regulations (e.g., driving too many consecutive hours without rest), the trucking company may be held liable for pressuring the driver to exceed legal limits or failing to monitor compliance.
Negligent Retention: If the company knew or should have known about a driver's history of accidents or violations but continued to employ them, they might be held liable for negligent retention.
Insurance Coverage: Trucking companies are typically required to carry liability insurance coverage, which can provide compensation to victims of accidents caused by their drivers.
Contractual Agreements: The terms of any contractual agreements between the trucking company and the driver, including indemnification clauses, can affect liability.
Contributory or Comparative Negligence: Liability in truck accidents can also depend on the degree of fault attributed to each party involved, including the driver and other drivers on the road.
It's important to note that trucking companies often have legal teams and insurance companies to help navigate liability issues in the event of an accident. Determining liability can be a complex process, and it may involve negotiations, legal proceedings, or settlements. If you are involved in a truck accident or seeking to establish liability, it is advisable to consult with a qualified attorney who specializes in personal injury or trucking accident cases. They can help assess the specific circumstances of the accident and guide you through the legal process to pursue compensation for your damages.
The at-fault driver will be responsible for injuries resulting for a traffic accident. This principle holds true for truck drivers as well. Because insurance is required by Kansas and Missouri law, insurance companies will generally defend and pay for claims against their insured drivers. However, in the context of truck drivers, another party may also be liable: the employer of the truck driver. This is because of the doctrine of "respondeat superior." The doctrine of Respondeat superior makes an employer liable for negligent acts committed by their employees. Two important things must be proven for this vicarious liability to apply. First, the truck driver must be an employee, not an independent contractor. They key is not what the employer says in fact, employers often will intentionally misclassify workers to attempt to get the benefits of employing an independent contractor, but instead the level of control the employer maintains over the worker. This requirement will be difficult in a number of trucking cases, because most truck drivers are given a fair amount of freedom in executing their work. This is, of course, not always the case, particularly with trucking companies that may set specific delivery schedules and requirements. The second thing that must be proven is much easier: that the accident occurred during the course and scope of the truck driver’s employment. This simply means that the truck driver was either performing an assigned task when the accident occurred or otherwise acting to benefit the employer. Courts have traditionally applied this rule in a fairly friendly way to injured individuals, meaning most times a truck driver is on the road, the driving will be found to be within the scope of employment.
How Common are trucking accidents?
Trucking accidents, including those involving large commercial trucks like tractor-trailers, can vary in frequency depending on several factors, including location, road conditions, and the time frame being considered. Here are some key statistics and considerations regarding the frequency of trucking accidents in the United States:
Annual Statistics: According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in recent years, there were tens of thousands of fatalities and hundreds of thousands of injuries resulting from all motor vehicle accidents in the United States annually. Large trucks, while accounting for a smaller proportion of total accidents, were involved in a significant number of fatal crashes.
Fatalities: Large truck accidents tend to have a higher likelihood of resulting in fatalities compared to accidents involving smaller vehicles due to the size and weight of trucks. In the U.S., thousands of people die each year in accidents involving large trucks.
Injuries: Trucking accidents also lead to a substantial number of non-fatal injuries, ranging from minor to severe. These injuries can have significant physical, emotional, and financial impacts on individuals and their families.
Geographic Variations: The frequency of trucking accidents can vary significantly by region and road type. Accidents are more common on highways and major roadways, especially in areas with high commercial truck traffic.
Causes: As previously discussed, trucking accidents can result from various factors, including driver error, mechanical failures, weather conditions, and more. Identifying the primary cause of these accidents can be complex.
Safety Measures: Efforts to reduce the frequency of trucking accidents include regulations on driver hours-of-service, mandatory safety inspections, vehicle maintenance requirements, and improvements in safety technology (e.g., anti-lock brakes, stability control systems).
Safety Initiatives: Many trucking companies prioritize safety and invest in training programs, safety technology, and compliance with regulations to reduce accident risks.
Data and Reporting: The availability and accuracy of accident data can also influence our understanding of how common trucking accidents are. Reporting practices and data collection methods can vary between jurisdictions.
It's important to note that while trucking accidents can have serious consequences, the vast majority of truck drivers operate their vehicles safely and responsibly. Safety regulations and industry standards are in place to mitigate risks associated with commercial trucking.
To get the most up-to-date and region-specific information on the frequency of trucking accidents, you can refer to government agencies like the NHTSA, state departments of transportation, and local law enforcement agencies, which often compile and publish accident statistics. These sources can provide a more accurate picture of the current state of trucking accidents in a specific area or time frame.
Are Trucking Accidents Subject To Different Regulations than cars?
Yes, trucking accidents are subject to different regulations than accidents involving passenger cars. This distinction is primarily due to the differences in the size, weight, and operation of commercial trucks compared to passenger vehicles. Here are some key regulatory differences:
Federal Regulations: Commercial motor carriers, including trucks, are subject to federal regulations imposed by agencies such as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). These regulations cover various aspects of trucking, including driver qualifications, hours of service, maintenance and inspection, cargo securement, and safety equipment.
Hours of Service (HOS) Rules: Truck drivers are subject to specific HOS regulations that limit the number of consecutive driving hours and require mandatory rest breaks. These rules are designed to combat driver fatigue and reduce the risk of accidents caused by tired truck drivers.
Licensing and Training: Commercial truck drivers typically require a different class of driver's license (CDL - Commercial Driver's License) and often undergo specialized training and testing to operate these larger vehicles safely. Passenger vehicle drivers have different licensing requirements.
Vehicle Maintenance and Inspection: Commercial trucks must adhere to more rigorous maintenance and inspection standards compared to passenger vehicles. Regular inspections and maintenance are crucial to ensure the safe operation of these larger and heavier vehicles.
Weight Limits: Commercial trucks are subject to specific weight limits for both individual axles and the total vehicle weight. These limits are enforced to prevent overloading, which can compromise safety.
Cargo Securement: Regulations exist to ensure that cargo carried by commercial trucks is properly secured to prevent shifting or falling during transit, which could lead to accidents or road hazards.
Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs): Many commercial trucks are required to use ELDs to accurately track driving hours and ensure compliance with HOS regulations. Passenger vehicles are not subject to these requirements.
Safety Equipment: Commercial trucks are often required to be equipped with additional safety features not found in passenger cars, such as reflective tape, underride guards, and advanced braking systems.
Insurance Requirements: Commercial motor carriers are generally required to carry higher levels of liability insurance compared to passenger vehicle owners. This is because accidents involving commercial trucks can result in more severe damage and injuries.
Drug and Alcohol Testing: Commercial truck drivers are subject to mandatory drug and alcohol testing under federal regulations. Random testing and post-accident testing are also common requirements.
These regulations are in place to improve safety on the road and reduce the risk of accidents involving commercial trucks. Violations of these regulations can result in fines, penalties, and legal consequences for trucking companies and drivers. Additionally, compliance with these regulations is monitored and enforced by federal and state agencies. It is important to note that regulations can vary by jurisdiction and may be subject to updates and changes over time. Trucking companies and drivers are responsible for staying informed about and complying with the applicable regulations in their areas of operation.
What are the Most Commonly Violated Regulation That Results In an Accident?
Several regulations related to commercial trucking are commonly violated and can contribute to accidents. These violations can vary in severity, and their impact on accident causation depends on specific circumstances. Some of the most commonly violated regulations that can result in accidents include:
Hours of Service (HOS) Violations: Violations of HOS regulations are among the most common and serious violations in the trucking industry. These regulations limit the number of consecutive driving hours and require mandatory rest breaks to combat driver fatigue. Fatigued driving is a significant contributor to truck accidents when drivers exceed their allowed driving hours.
Speeding: Speeding is a frequent violation in both the commercial trucking and passenger vehicle contexts. Excessive speed can reduce a driver's ability to react to sudden obstacles or changes in traffic conditions, increasing the risk of accidents.
Improper Lane Changes and Following Too Closely: Truck drivers who fail to use turn signals when changing lanes or tailgate other vehicles are more likely to cause accidents, especially when driving in congested traffic.
Distracted Driving: Distractions such as using a cellphone, eating, or adjusting in-cab electronics can divert a truck driver's attention from the road, leading to accidents.
Overloading and Cargo Securement Violations: Overloading a truck or failing to properly secure cargo can compromise vehicle stability and lead to accidents, especially when cargo shifts or falls onto the road.
Inadequate Vehicle Maintenance: Failure to perform regular inspections and maintenance can result in mechanical failures, such as brake or tire problems, which can lead to accidents.
Failure to Yield the Right of Way: Accidents can occur when truck drivers fail to yield the right of way to other vehicles or pedestrians, particularly at intersections or during lane merges.
Running Red Lights and Stop Signs: Running red lights or stop signs can result in dangerous collisions, especially when a large, heavy truck disregards traffic signals.
Failure to Obey Traffic Signals and Signs: Violations of traffic signals, including failing to stop at railroad crossings when required, can result in severe accidents.
Driving Under the Influence: Although less common than some other violations, driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or prescription medications can lead to catastrophic accidents.
It's important to note that these violations can have varying levels of impact on accident causation, and not all accidents involving commercial trucks are the result of regulatory violations. Nonetheless, regulatory violations can increase the risk of accidents and the severity of their consequences. Strict enforcement of regulations and ongoing safety training are essential components of efforts to reduce truck accidents and enhance road safety.
Is It Easy To Access Medical Information Or Working Hours Of The Driver In A Truck Accident Claim?
Accessing medical information and working hours of a truck driver in a truck accident claim typically requires specific legal procedures and may not always be easy to navigate. Several factors come into play when seeking such information:
HIPAA Privacy Regulations: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in the United States protects the privacy of an individual's medical information. To access a driver's medical records, you generally need their consent or a court order. In a truck accident claim, you may need to request the driver's medical records through a legal process.
Discovery Process: In a truck accident lawsuit, both parties engage in a process called "discovery." During discovery, parties can request relevant documents, including medical records and work logs, from each other. However, these requests often require legal procedures, including subpoenas, to compel the release of such information.
Employer Records: Information about a truck driver's working hours and employment history may be easier to access through the trucking company. Trucking companies are required to keep records of their drivers' hours of service, and these records can be obtained through legal channels during the discovery process.
Police Reports: In many truck accidents, the police will investigate the incident and create an accident report. This report may contain information about the driver, their employer, and potentially some details about the accident circumstances. While it may not include medical records, it can be a valuable source of information.
Witness Testimony: Eyewitnesses to the accident and individuals involved in the accident, such as passengers or occupants of other vehicles, can provide statements and testimony that may shed light on the driver's actions, the accident cause, and other relevant information.
Expert Witnesses: In complex truck accident cases, experts may be engaged to review evidence and provide opinions on matters such as the driver's actions, vehicle dynamics, and accident reconstruction.
Court Orders: In cases where a driver or their employer is uncooperative in providing necessary information, the injured party's attorney may need to seek court orders compelling the release of specific records or information.
Accessing medical information and working hours of the driver can be a crucial part of building a strong truck accident claim. However, it often involves legal processes and may require the expertise of an attorney experienced in personal injury and truck accident cases. An attorney can help navigate the complexities of obtaining the necessary information and evidence to support your claim and advocate on your behalf throughout the legal process. In general, I would not say that those items are easily recovered. Trucking companies, for the most part, try to keep the information from appearing publicly in the context of a lawsuit that arises out of these types of cases. The lawyers are allowed to conduct a process commonly known as Discovery, which is simply asking for information and either getting it voluntarily or asking the court to compel the trucking company or the driver to produce this information. Once that information is produced, it is important that the person looking at it knows what to look for. One of the most important things in a claim relating to a wreck involving a tractor trailer is making sure that the trucking company receives a preservation of evidence letter as soon as possible.
In our office, immediately upon being retained to represent a victim in a truck accident case, we send the trucking company, the driver and the insurance carrier, a substantial preservation of evidence letter asking, in fact demanding that they preserve all of the necessary documentation that we are talking about that. This is required by the federal regulations, policies, procedures, hours of service logs, vehicle maintenance records, all of the documents that we look at to determine what the cause of the wreck was and what the likely factors are involved. That preservation of evidence letter getting to the insurance company, the trucking company or the driver as soon as possible is very important to making sure that documents and records do not disappear.
How Is A Truck Accident Claim Different From An Auto Accident Claim?
Truck accident claims and auto accident claims share similarities in that they both involve seeking compensation for injuries and damages resulting from a collision. However, there are significant differences between the two types of claims due to the unique nature of commercial trucking. Here are some key distinctions:
Severity of Injuries and Damages: Truck accidents often result in more severe injuries and property damage than typical auto accidents. Commercial trucks are larger and heavier, which means collisions with them can be more catastrophic, leading to more extensive medical bills, property damage, and long-term consequences.
Regulations and Compliance: Commercial trucking is heavily regulated at both the federal and state levels. Truck drivers and trucking companies must comply with regulations related to hours of service, vehicle maintenance, cargo securement, and more. Violations of these regulations can be critical in determining liability in a truck accident claim, whereas such regulations are not as prevalent in auto accidents.
Multiple Parties: Truck accident claims often involve multiple parties. In addition to the truck driver and the occupants of other vehicles, potential liable parties can include the trucking company, vehicle manufacturers, maintenance providers, cargo loaders, and more. Identifying all responsible parties can be complex.
Evidence Gathering: Truck accidents often require more extensive evidence gathering due to the complexities of the case. This may include obtaining the truck's black box data (Electronic Control Module or ECM), maintenance records, driver logs, and other documentation related to the truck's operation and maintenance.
Commercial Insurance: Trucking companies typically carry commercial liability insurance with higher coverage limits compared to the insurance policies carried by individual drivers. This can impact the available compensation in a truck accident claim.
Legal Expertise: Due to the unique aspects of truck accident claims, including regulatory compliance and multiple potentially liable parties, these cases often require specialized legal expertise. Attorneys with experience in truck accident litigation can better navigate these complexities.
Damages and Compensation: Given the severity of injuries in truck accidents, the potential damages can be much higher. Compensation may need to cover medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, long-term care, and other extensive costs.
Insurance Investigations: Commercial insurance providers for trucking companies may launch thorough investigations into the accident, sometimes even immediately after it occurs. They may employ their own accident reconstruction experts and investigators.
Settlement Negotiations: Settlement negotiations in truck accident claims can be more complex due to the presence of multiple parties and insurance companies. Negotiating with multiple insurers may require skillful negotiation and legal representation.
Litigation: Given the complexity and potential high stakes of truck accident claims, they are more likely to go to trial if a fair settlement cannot be reached. This can extend the legal process and involve courtroom proceedings.
Overall, truck accident claims tend to be more complex and demanding than typical auto accident claims. If you are involved in a truck accident, it is advisable to consult with an attorney who specializes in truck accident litigation to ensure your rights are protected and you receive appropriate compensation for your injuries and damages.
How long do you have to assert a claim after a Semi Truck accident?
It depends in what state the claim arises. Generally speaking, in Kansas, the statute of limitations is two years. In Missouri, the statute of limitations is five years. However, in Missouri, on a claim for a wrongful death, the statute of limitations is three years. So, it varies from state to state and from claim to claim. There are significant differences in the time periods. That is another reason why it is important to contact an experienced trucking lawyer as soon as possible not only to preserve evidence but also to get working on the claim immediately to make sure that those time periods do not expire.
Why is it important to hire a lawyer experienced with truck accidents?
The regulations are very detailed and very expansive and many times, a lawyer that does not handle trucking cases would not know what documents to tell the trucking company to preserve much less know what records to ultimately request from the trucking company. If you ended up a lawyer that was not familiar with the trucking industry and trucking regulations documents, they may not know exactly what to look for or how to piece the information together, whether it be driver’s log books, bills of lading or cell phone records and how to piece those things together. Lawyers that have actually worked on trucking cases have a better knowledge of the information and how to use that information to the advantage of the person making the claim.
How Often Are Accident Reconstructionist Used In Trucking Accident Claims?
More often than not. Most wrecks involving trucks where liability is disputed meaning that the trucking company is disputing that they are at fault, and even at times when they acknowledge they are at fault. At our firm we will retain an accident reconstructionist separate from the official police personnel so that they have our own boots on the ground and our own eyes looking at the scene, looking at photographs, looking at evidence and determining the vehicle dynamics involved. Accident Reconstructionist witnesses are used very frequently.
How Long Do Trucking Accident Claims Generally Take To Be Resolved?
It certainly varies. The average time is probably twelve to eighteen months for a case to resolve either by way of settlement or a trial. Many times, because of the volume of information and the magnitude of the wreck itself, just combing through the documents and materials takes a considerable amount of time. So generally, the cases last somewhat longer than a common car accident claim. However, many times, cases are able to get resolved early on if the trucking company discovers that the opposing lawyer knows what he or she is doing, knows what documents to request, how to interpret that data and is able to convince the trucking company or insurance carrier that this case should be resolved quickly and without full-blown litigation.
How Accurate Are Future Projected Medical Costs In A Trucking Accident Claim?
Before we would even recommend a settlement, we make sure that the client in the case, particularly if a catastrophic injury is involved, has seen a doctor or doctors that we have retained to evaluate the client and say, “Listen, this is all of the care and treatment that the client’s going to need in the future.” We would hire a life care planner to look at the recommendations of the health care professionals and put a figure on those future medical costs and those would be included in any settlement or in any demand or in the amount that we sought at trial because we do not want the clients to have these future medical costs hanging over their head. Future medical losses are always included in any settlement or resolution, those potential future medical costs are established by experts that do this for their job.
If The Driver Is An Independent Contractor, How Does That Impact Your Recovery In A Trucking Accident Claim?
It is just another factor to analyze whether the driver is an independent contractor and employer does not change the equation of whether the company or the driver are liable for the injuries and damages from a wreck, you still have claims against both.
What are the biggest challenges in a truck accident claim?
You are going up against very large, very well-funded entities, whether it be the trucking company or the insurance company. The size and resources of the adversary are always one thing that people are sometimes surprised by. Most of the time, when people hire a lawyer, they should feel like their only job is to get better physically or recover from grief or whatever the case may be that the client should be able to focus on getting better and healing from a wreck. Let the attorney handle all of the legal maneuvering and strategy and certainly the client should be kept informed of what is going on. But at least in our office, we hope that the client takes all of those issues with insurance and dealing with bills and set those on our desk so that we can focus on healing whether it be physically, emotionally or psychologically.
How important is “Evidence” in A Trucking Accident Claim?
Evidence is critically important in a trucking accident claim. Strong and compelling evidence can be the key to establishing liability, demonstrating the extent of injuries and damages, and ultimately securing a fair settlement or favorable verdict in a lawsuit. Here's why evidence is crucial in a trucking accident claim:
Establishing Liability: Evidence is essential for establishing who was at fault in the accident. This may involve gathering proof of the truck driver's actions, such as speeding, running a red light, or violating hours-of-service regulations. It may also involve examining the truck's maintenance records or cargo securement practices to determine if any violations contributed to the accident.
Proving Negligence: To succeed in a trucking accident claim, the injured party must typically show that the truck driver, trucking company, or another party was negligent or breached their duty of care. Evidence can help establish this negligence, such as eyewitness statements, photographs of the accident scene, and expert testimony.
Determining Damages: Evidence is crucial for assessing the extent of injuries and damages suffered by the injured party. This may include medical records, bills, and expert medical testimony to demonstrate the nature and severity of injuries, as well as their impact on the victim's life and future.
Causation: Evidence helps establish a causal link between the accident and the injuries. It must demonstrate that the accident directly resulted in the injuries claimed, rather than pre-existing conditions or other factors.
Insurance Negotiations: When negotiating with insurance companies, strong evidence can bolster your position and increase the likelihood of obtaining a fair settlement. Insurers are more likely to offer reasonable settlements when they are presented with convincing evidence of liability and damages.
Courtroom Success: If the case goes to trial, evidence is crucial in persuading a judge and jury. Effective presentation of evidence, including documents, witness testimonies, and expert opinions, can significantly influence the outcome of a trial.
Defending Against Counterclaims: In some cases, the trucking company or its insurer may counterclaim, alleging that the injured party was partially or fully responsible for the accident. Evidence can help refute such claims and establish the plaintiff's innocence.
Documentation: Properly documenting evidence is crucial. This includes taking photographs of the accident scene, preserving physical evidence, obtaining police reports, and collecting witness statements. Failing to gather and preserve evidence promptly can weaken your claim.
Expert Witnesses: Expert witnesses, such as accident reconstruction specialists, medical professionals, or engineers, can provide valuable testimony based on the evidence to explain complex issues and support your case.
In summary, evidence is the backbone of a trucking accident claim. Gathering and presenting compelling evidence can make a substantial difference in the outcome of your claim, whether through negotiation or litigation. It is advisable to work with an experienced attorney who can help you identify, collect, and present the necessary evidence to support your case effectively.
How do you determine The Amount Of Recovery In A Trucking Accident Claim?
Determining the amount of recovery in a trucking accident claim can be a complex process that involves several factors. The ultimate recovery amount will depend on the specific circumstances of the accident, the extent of injuries and damages, liability issues, and applicable insurance coverage. Here are the key steps involved in determining the amount of recovery in a trucking accident claim:
Assess Liability: The first step is to establish liability, which means determining who was at fault for the accident. Liability can involve the truck driver, the trucking company, other involved parties, or a combination of these. Gathering evidence, such as accident reports, witness statements, and expert opinions, is crucial in establishing liability.
Evaluate Damages: Damages refer to the losses and injuries suffered by the victim as a result of the accident. Damages can include medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and future anticipated costs related to the injuries. It's important to thoroughly document all damages and losses.
Insurance Coverage: The next step is to identify and assess the insurance coverage available. This may include the truck driver's liability insurance, the trucking company's insurance, and potentially other parties' insurance policies. Commercial trucking companies often carry higher insurance coverage limits due to the potential for more significant damages in truck accidents.
Negotiations: In many cases, a settlement is reached through negotiations with the insurance company or parties responsible for the accident. The amount of recovery will depend on the strength of your case, the severity of your injuries, and the insurance policy limits. Skilled negotiation by an attorney can help maximize your recovery.
Trial Verdict: If a settlement cannot be reached, the case may proceed to trial. In court, a judge or jury will determine liability and assess damages. The outcome of a trial can be uncertain, and the amount of recovery may vary based on the evidence presented and legal arguments made.
Comparative or Contributory Negligence: In some cases, the victim's role in the accident may be a factor in determining the recovery amount. Some jurisdictions follow comparative negligence rules, which reduce the recovery based on the degree of fault attributed to the victim. Others follow contributory negligence rules, which may prevent recovery if the victim is found even slightly at fault.
Punitive Damages: In cases of egregious negligence or misconduct, punitive damages may be awarded in addition to compensatory damages. These damages are intended to punish the at-fault party and deter similar behavior in the future.
Attorney Fees and Costs: The amount of recovery should also account for attorney fees and costs associated with pursuing the claim or lawsuit. Typically, personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, meaning they only get paid if you win your case, and their fees are a percentage of the recovery.
Liens and Subrogation: If you have received medical treatment through health insurance or other sources, they may have liens or subrogation rights to recover their costs from your settlement. These must be addressed when determining the final recovery amount.
Settlement Structure: In some cases, structured settlements may be negotiated, where the compensation is paid over time rather than in a lump sum. The structure of the settlement can affect the total recovery amount.
The amount of recovery in a trucking accident claim can vary significantly based on these factors, and it is advisable to work with an experienced personal injury attorney who can assess your case, advocate on your behalf, and help maximize your recovery while ensuring that all legal and financial aspects are considered.
How Do I Begin The Claims Process Against A Large Trucking Company?
The first step would be to contact a lawyer that is experienced in handling truck accidents. There are hundreds if not thousands of lawyers but a very small percentage of those lawyers actually have experience in handling truck claims. The lawyers that handle truck claims have attended seminars and have spoken on topics involving the trucking industry and know the trucking industry and know the regulations. The first thing that you would want to do to begin a claim arising out of one of these wrecks would be to contact a lawyer that is experienced in handling trucking cases.
I would want to ask that lawyer what your history of handling these cases is, how many of these cases have you handled, can you give me references of former clients that you have represented in these cases, and just generally get an understanding of how familiar they are with the industry and the regulations. From there, that lawyer should be able to assist you in pursuing your claim.
If a person is killed in a truck accident does their family have a claim?
When an individual is killed in an accident caused by a truck driver, a legal claim still exists. The estate of the deceased individuals can bring the claim that the individual would have been able to bring had he or she survived. This is true whether the injured individual dies as a result of the accident or passes away from unrelated conditions after the accident but during the lawsuit. The family of the deceased individual has another option, however. They can bring an action for wrongful death under Section 60-1901. This type of claim seeks to redress the loss of the loved one, rather than to compensate the deceased for injuries suffered prior to death. Section 60-1902 allows any family of the deceased to bring the action against the individual that caused the death of the deceased. Whatever recovery is awarded must be divided among all heirs, unless those heirs decline to partake in the lawsuit.
Trucking accidents are some of the most severe traffic accidents that occur. Individuals can be seriously injured or even killed in these accidents. If you or a loved one are injured by the carelessness of a truck driver, it is important to contact an attorney as soon as possible. Evidence regarding the cause of the accident is easiest to obtain just after an accident occurs and this evidence may be critical to establishing a claim for redress of injuries suffered.
Is a truck accident involving a Fatality dealt with differently than a non-fatality accident?
The process to go about recovery is very similar. First, you have to establish what the facts of the wreck are and then you have to establish liability on the trucking company or the driver. You have to determine whether an independent claim exists against the trucking company for what is called negligent hiring, training or supervision of the driver. That is simply that the trucking company did not do its job in hiring, training or supervising the driver. Then the damages in a wrongful death case are determined by statute. Both in Kansas and Missouri, there are separate wrongful death statutes that lay out the elements of damage for wrongful death claims as well as establish the identity of legal heirs that are entitled to recover under the particular statute.
How do you deal with clients when there is a Fatality in A Trucking Accident?
Obviously, the survivors of someone that has passed away following a truck wreck, they are in an emotionally devastated state. Many times, the trucking companies will call and offer to pay for funeral expenses and ask if there is anything that the family needs, any reasonable expenses associated with the funeral or transportation for the family members to the funeral or those types of things. Certainly, that is done to develop a connection with the family. Many times, the family is in an emotionally devastated state and is not able to process what is going on. They develop an open line of communication with the trucking company and that is just one of the tactics that trucking companies use to connect with the victims of a truck wreck very shortly after it occurs. At our firm, I try not only to be the advocate for the family but insulate them from the “tactics” of the trucking company.