Truck accidents are often catastrophic, usually because of the size and weight of the truck. Additionally, more than one person or company might share fault in a truck accident. Just one of these factors complicates truck accident cases, but they become even more complex when you put both together.
Most truck accident attorneys work on a contingency basis. In short, if you do not get paid, the attorney does not get paid their attorney’s fees.
The Costs of a Truck Accident: Not Just Financial
Truck accidents cost more than money. They can wreak havoc on your personal life, too. Depending on the accident’s severity, an accident victim could suffer significant losses that affect their family life. Even when an accident victim physically recovers, they still have to deal with the psychological issues of getting into an accident, including emotional issues if the wreck was traumatic.
In cases where an accident victim suffers from psychological issues, such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder, those around the victim could withdraw, especially if they do not realize what is happening to their relative or friends. Losses include emotional stability and the loss of friendships with those around the victim.
Severe physical losses could mean the loss of the ability to enjoy time with the family, participate in events the victim previously enjoyed, and even the loss of a physical relationship with a spouse.
The at-fault driver is responsible for paying for these losses. While the money does not make you physically and emotionally whole again, it does make you financially whole; thus, reducing the financial and economic stress that could exacerbate emotional issues.
Reasons Trucks Wreck
One of the first questions that might cross your mind after a truck accident is, “How?” After all, truckers are supposed to be professional drivers. Even professionals can make mistakes. Other times, it is just plain poor judgment that causes an accident. Regardless of the reason, in most cases, the driver or someone else, such as the trucking company, a dispatcher, inspector, manufacturer, or auto technician, was negligent. Sometimes, more than one could share responsibility for your injuries.
Reasons truck driver crash include:
- Driver error, including driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, inattentiveness, driving distracted, driving while fatigued, or inexperience.
- Poor weather conditions. Even if a driver slows down well below the speed limit, the weather could cause accidents.
- Poorly maintained roads.
- Inspectors who do not notice a problem with the truck or who let a problem slide.
- Dispatchers who “encourage” truckers to “do what it takes” to get a load delivered on time, which often means speeding or breaking the hours-of-service regulations.
- Manufacturers who knowingly sell defective trucks, trailers, and/or parts.
- Trucking companies and owners/operators who do not keep their trucks properly maintained.
Sometimes, accidents happen. For example, a tire that looked perfect before a driver started on their run could separate after a few hours on the road, causing the driver to crash. Air brake connections that looked fine in an inspection could suddenly fail, causing the driver to lose brakes or the brakes to lock up. Accident investigators will look at this evidence to determine if the failure was negligent maintenance or if the cause was unexpected.
Types of Injuries Commonly Seen in Truck Accidents
Because of the size and weight of trucks, accident injures are often severe, catastrophic, or fatal. Injuries might include:
- Minor injuries from bruises and cuts to strains and sprains.
- Pulled and torn muscles and other soft tissue injuries.
- Simple and compound fractures and crushed bones.
- Face and eye injuries.
- Ear injuries in the event of an explosion.
- Head, neck, and spinal cord injuries.
- Traumatic brain injuries.
- Internal injuries.
- Back and spinal cord injuries.
- Secondary injuries, including infections, deafness, paralysis, and amputations.
Steps To Take After A Truck Accident
If possible, take steps to preserve evidence at the accident scene. After you call first responders and check on others involved in the accident, take pictures of the accident scene. Do not forget to take photos of skid marks and other damage to the road. Also, take pictures of the damage to nearby property, including fences, trees, mailboxes, and yards.
Always allow emergency medical technicians to check you over. This is the first step in documenting any injuries, including minor injuries. If it is questionable whether you should accept a ride to the hospital in an ambulance, take the ride.
As soon after the accident, contact a truck accident attorney. Although you have four years to file a lawsuit for injury or two years to file a lawsuit for wrongful death, insurance companies often give as little as 15 days to notify them of a claim.
Dealing With Insurance Companies After A Truck Accident
While you can contact your insurance company to notify it that you were in a truck accident, you should only give your contact information, policy number, date and location of the accident, and your truck accident lawyer’s contact information.
Insurance companies have several tricks to deny a claim or justify offering a pittance for a settlement. They will coerce you into talking about the accident, then twist what you say to blame you. If you call the at-fault driver’s insurance company, it will offer that its client was at fault and make a settlement offer. This offer is almost always too low. It is hoping that you will accept the offer since it accepted the liability for its driver.
These are just two of the ways insurance companies try to get away without paying the compensation you deserve. Even your insurance company will pull these tricks, regardless of whether you paid on time every month or had the same insurance company for many years. Insurance companies are only loyal to their bottom lines.
Proving A Trucker or Trucking Company Was Negligent
Your legal team consists of investigators who go to the accident scene to piece the accident together. They will also look at the truck and your vehicle. This is one of the main reasons you must contact a truck accident lawyer as soon as possible evidence tends to disappear, whether by erosion or because a defendant purposely destroys it. In some cases, people and agencies inadvertently destroy evidence.
The Elements of Negligence
To prove that a truck driver or another person or company was negligent, the accident victim must show that:
- The driver or another person or entity had a duty to keep others safe.
- The person or entity breached that duty with their actions or inactions.
- The breach of duty caused the accident.
- The accident caused damages, including financial damages.
Every driver on the road has a duty to others to keep them safe, which means that no driver should drive under the influence, aggressively and/or recklessly, while tired, be inattentive, or take other actions or inactions that could put others in harm’s way
Recoverable Damages After A Truck Accident
The money you pay an attorney for their time after you win your case, of course is often worth what you get out of it. The defendants must pay any expense that their negligence caused, including attorneys’ fees and costs.
Additional damages you might recover in a truck accident include:
- Medical expenses. If your doctors expect your injuries to result in long-term or permanent disabilities, this amount will also include an estimated amount for those expenses.
- Replacement or repair of destroyed or damaged personal property.
- Lost wages.
- Loss of future earning capacity. Even if you can return to work, but work only part-time, or if you have to take a lower-paying job, you could recover the loss of future earning capacity. You receive the difference from the time of settlement or the trial award through the date you would normally retire.
- Death-related expenses, including funeral expenses and some probate expenses.
- Pain and suffering.
- Loss of consortium and/or companionship.
- Loss of quality of life.
- Loss of use of a body part or bodily function.
- Amputation, disfigurement, and/or excessive scarring.
- Inconvenience for paying someone to do the chores you usually do, including but not limited to grocery shopping and house cleaning.
How A Truck Accident Contingency Contract Works
When you retain a personal injury firm, you typically do it on a contingency basis. That means that you do not pay attorneys’ fees unless the attorney wins your case. Your legal team has a lot of motivation to recover the compensation you deserve when it works on a contingency basis.
During your free initial case evaluation, your attorney will explain the contingency contract to you. They can outline all fees in the contract. Always read the contract thoroughly, and be sure to ask questions if you do not understand something. In most cases, it costs you about 33 percent of your settlement or trial award, plus any costs that the attorney pays on your behalf. If you have to go to trial, the percentage could increase up to 40 percent.
Expenses Involved In Litigating A Truck Accident Case
Because of the complexity of truck accidents, you will most likely incur expenses, especially if your case goes to trial.
Some of these expenses include:
- Investigator’s fees.
- Deposition fees.
- Fees for expert witnesses.
- Arbitration or mediation fees.
- Court reporter fees.
- Court filing fees.
- Fees for filing and serving subpoenas.
Investigators look at the accident scene and try to recreate the accident. They also look at the vehicles involved in the wreck to determine what happened, whether the truck driver, you, the weather, poorly maintained roads, or something else caused the accident.
Expert witnesses are professionals who testify on your behalf or create reports documenting the accident, your injuries, or other items that need an extra level of proof. For example, your doctor might expect that your accident injuries will result in a permanent disability. However, the defendant will always question that. Your attorney can retain experts in their field of medicine to back up your doctors’ findings. Expert witnesses will also testify in court whether they believe your injuries will lead to permanent disabilities.
Steps to Get Your Money After A Truck Accident Settlement Or Trial Award
Once you win a settlement or the jury awards compensation to you, several steps take place before you receive your money:
- The attorneys draft a settlement agreement. If they draft it, you review it before they forward it to the insurance company. If the insurance company’s attorneys draft it, you can review it and request changes before signing it.
- If you win a trial award, the court will ask one of the attorneys to draft the final judgment. The drafting attorney must forward the proposed final judgment to the other attorney. Once both attorneys agree that the final judgment reflects what the court ordered, one of them forwards the document to the court. The judge reviews the agreement and, if they agree that it reflects their ruling, executes it, files it with the court, and forwards conformed copies to the attorneys.
- Once the insurance company receives the signed documents, whether the settlement agreement or the final judgment, it processes the documents and cuts a check to your attorney.
- When your attorney receives the check, they deposit it into an escrow account to wait for it to clear the bank. This could take up to 14 days, depending on the amount of the check
Once the check clears the bank, the attorney pays any outstanding medical expenses you have. Then, the attorney reimburses your health and auto insurance companies, if you used them to cover medical expenses from the accident. Your attorney then deducts their percentage and costs from the amount. Finally, the attorney forwards the balance to you to do with as you wish.
If you suffered injuries or lost a loved one in a truck accident, contact a personal injury law firm for hiring a truck accident lawyer as soon as possible for a free case evaluation.