No matter where or how it happens, an accident involving a large commercial truck is a life-changing experience. The crash happens in a few seconds, but the devastation it leaves behind for the family involved can go on indefinitely. The injuries sustained in a big rig vs. motor vehicle, cyclist, or pedestrian are usually severe, and the crash scene can be confusing. A truck accident is a catastrophic experience for the injured person and the family depending on them.
No one (at least most people) ever anticipates being the victim of a motor vehicle accident. No one is prepared for the worst thing that can happen; these things just come upon us without warning and when we are least prepared and unable to afford the expected consequences. At some point, accident victims will ask themselves, “What is going to happen to my family now?”
Let’s Begin With The Best Case Scenario
Although a truck accident is far from the best thing that can happen, if and when it does, the best thing that can happen is:
- Someone calls emergency services and the police. Victims are evaluated for life-threatening injuries at the scene, and an official police report is started.
- The victim (or passenger in the victim’s car) gets the truck driver’s name, the company’s name, and insurance information. The truck should display the United States Department Of Transportation number, which can aid in a legal investigation
- Someone from the damaged car takes pictures. The damages and positions for all vehicles (this evidence will disappear once road crews clear the accident scene), a wide-angle view of the crash area, pictures showing any roadside damage and any debris on the ground around the accident scene, and pictures of the victim’s injuries.
So, let’s not dwell on what can go wrong. Let’s discuss what can go right with the help of an experienced truck accident attorney.
Timing Is Everything Following A Truck Accident
There is no time to waste after a crash involving a commercial vehicle. Why? Because, in all probability, the insurance carrier for the trucking company has already disbursed a first-response accident claims adjuster to the scene. Trucking companies have large insurance policies and much to lose when the commercial carrier is responsible for damages to another person. They will waste no time in gathering their support system to preserve their bottom line.
A truck accident lawyer is a valuable support system for a family in need after a truck accident. Once a victim contacts a personal injury attorney, an injured family has a support system. This allows a family to focus on healing and recovery while the lawyer deals with the legal aspects of building a strong case for financial recovery. Having legal representation is a critical component in a truck accident claim.
Timely action is also essential when working within the statute of limitations for a personal injury claim.
Here is what a family needs to know about these statutes:
- The statutes of limitations are state specific
- The statutes of limitations can be different for personal injury, property damage, and wrongful death
- There are special statutes of limitations for lawsuits against a government entity
A seasoned truck accident lawyer can help a family deal with the statutes of limitation for all possible claims. This is what they do; they handle the details so a family can heal and move forward.
A Truck Accident Lawyer Protects A Family’s Legal Rights
Put your family in the best possible position for financial recovery. A truck accident lawyer will advise a suffering family to document their losses (vehicle, personal property damaged in the crash, and any time missed away from work) and keep detailed records regarding any accident-related expenses.
A lawyer will advise those injured in a car accident to begin a journal documenting in their own words as many details as they can remember about the accident.
Even small details can be important, such as:
- The time of day
- What the weather was like
- Was there anything unusual going on in the area?
- What direction are you traveling at the time of the accident?
- What is the first thing you did after the impact?
- Did anyone speak to you?
- Did you speak to anyone?
A lawyer will advise an accident victim of their legal right not to give any statement to the truck company’s insurance company. It is not unusual for at-fault insurance companies to use underhanded tactics to get a victim (or family member) to give a recorded or written statement.
The insurance company can and probably will use anything said to deny or devalue a claim. A truck accident lawyer will handle all communications with insurance companies —even the accident victim’s insurance.
A Truck Accident Lawyer Will Help A Family Explore Possible Financial Resources
The expenses of day-to-day living do not stop after a truck accident. In addition, a family now faces substantial property damage and mounting medical bills. In most instances, a family will have several forms of insurance that can help handle some of the expenses until a financial settlement can be reached.
While any funds or payments made now may eventually have to be reimbursed back to the carriers, they will help solve an immediate need. A personal injury truck accident lawyer can help a family explore and coordinate funding from various potential insurance options.
All states mandate motor vehicle owners to carry insurance except New Hampshire. Some states (Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, and Utah) require PIP (personal injury protection) coverage.
In Pennsylvania, the law requires drivers to take out $5,000 in medical benefits but does not mention personal injury protection. This type of insurance provides coverage for the policyholder, the vehicle’s passengers, or anyone driving the vehicle regarding medical bills (and possibly other expenses) related to the accident.
Although health insurance policies have coverage limits, and some have deductibles and possibly co-pays, they provide a family with some immediate relief regarding the cost of medical treatment.
Long-term disability insurance
Those accident victims with this type of supplemental insurance will receive a specified amount of money for essential living expenses if unable to work because of illness or injury.
Workers’ compensation insurance
Texas is the only state where worker’s compensation insurance is not required. If the accident victim is “on the job” at the time of the crash, it may be possible to recover financially under the terms of the state’s specific work comp laws.
Additionally, a personal injury truck accident attorney knows community resources and may also help a family contact a financial expert for advice about the feasibility of using funds from savings accounts and investment accounts as a source of revenue.
A Truck Accident Lawyer Can Help A Family Recover Financial Compensation
Victims of a truck accident pay a hefty price for another person’s negligence. Catastrophic physical injury, long recovery periods, extended time away from work, mountains of bills, and unexpected expenses can change the family dynamic drastically. While there are some things a family can put a definitive price on (economic damages), there are those inevitable consequences( non-economic damages) that have no “set in stone” dollar value.
Both economic damages and non-economic damages are compensable. The truck accident lawyer helps a family build a case that illustrates and validates all the losses and inconveniences they endure because someone else made a poor choice.
Examples of economic damages
- Past medical expenses can include ambulance services, emergency room treatments, diagnostic testing, surgery fees, hospitalization costs, physician’s fees, medication, rehabilitation services(physical, cognitive, and psychological).
- Future medical expenses may include the estimated or projected costs of rehospitalization, the need for in-home medical skilled care.
- Medically related expenses for such things as adaptive equipment, modifications to the home due to disabilities, pain management treatment, crutches, slings, wheelchairs, mileage reimbursement set by the IRS, the cost of rideshare (Uber, Lyft) services to and from medical appointments.
- Lost time from work can cover not only the amount of money missed due to the injury but also the dollar value of used sick days and vacation days and any raises, bonuses, or commissions missed due to the accident.
- Future lost income can be based on the accident victim’s age and educational background. A truck accident may be able to determine the value of further anticipated time off from work due to permanent disability.
- Repair or replacement of personal property in addition to the cost of repair or replacement of the damaged vehicle, accident victims may seek reimbursement for damaged clothing, electronics, jewelry, and leather goods such as briefcases or handbags.
Examples of non-economic damages
Although these are subjective non-monetary losses, they hurt and damage a family. A life turned upside down need not be ignored, discounted, or devalued. Insurance companies tend to downplay these losses to save money in a settlement.
A truck accident attorney will show an insurance adjuster, a judge, and a jury how these debilitating issues affect the family.
These things matter, and a personal injury lawyer knows how to tell your family’s story.
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium if the victim can no longer have a physical relationship with their spouse.
- Loss of companionship if the victim can no longer participate in family activities.
- Physical impairment.
- Mental and emotional anguish.
- The inability to perform tasks
- Inconvenience if the victim or their family has to pay someone to do the chores the victim would normally do, including but not limited to childcare, shopping, cleaning, home maintenance, or lawn maintenance.
- Loss of life’s pleasures once enjoyed
- Social withdrawal
Sometimes punitive damages may be available, especially in cases where the defendant’s actions were grossly negligent or intentional. Not all states allow for punitive damages after a motor vehicle accident (Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, and Washington do not), and some states have restrictions or limitations.
For example, Louisiana only allows punitive damages in accidents that involve a DUI, and Massachusetts allows punitive awards only in cases of wrongful death. While compensation for economic and non-economic damages are not taxable, punitive damages are considered income by the IRS and, as such, are taxable.
The Worst-Case Scenario
In the unfortunate instance where the accident victim dies due to a collision with a large commercial vehicle, qualified family members (generally spouses, children, and parents) may receive compensation by filing a wrongful death suit. The laws as to who must file and who qualifies to file differ, but they help a family deal with unexpected burial expenses and the permanent loss of financial support.
This is a highly emotional and trying time for a grieving family. A truck accident lawyer cannot undo the damage done by the negligent parties, but they can help a family through a difficult time as they try to move on from a tragedy.