Truck accidents often cause serious injuries and fatalities. The weight of these vehicles maximizes the damage to everyone in the crash.
People injured in a truck crash usually file a claim against the at-fault party's insurance company in at-fault states. What happens, though, if an uninsured truck driver crashes into you? Does it mean you can't recover damages?
You may obtain fair compensation even if the truck driver or trucking company does not have insurance. To achieve this, you must hire a skilled truck accident attorney.
Insurance Requirements of Independent Truckers/Contractors
Independent truckers or contractors are self-employed, owning and operating their trucks. They have more control over their business operations, including insurance, than drivers working for trucking companies.
Independent drivers need:
- Primary liability insurance: This is the most crucial coverage for truckers. It covers damages to other vehicles or property for which the insured is responsible. Truckers must purchase this insurance coverage.
- Physical damage insurance: This protects the trucker's vehicle against damage from accidents, theft, or vandalism. While not a legal requirement, it protects their investment and capacity to continue operating.
- Cargo insurance: This covers the transported goods. It protects against loss of or damage to the cargo during transit. Note that it covers only the cargo, not the accident victims.
Insurance Requirements of Trucking Company Employees
Truck drivers who work for trucking companies may have different insurance requirements.
Trucking companies usually have comprehensive insurance coverage with much higher limits than individual auto insurance.
- Primary liability insurance.
- General liability insurance.
- Physical damage insurance.
- Medical insurance.
- Bobtail insurance (this covers the driver who is operating the tractor without the trailer).
If the truck driver uses the truck for private needs outside working hours, the trucking company's insurance does not apply. During these times, their personal auto insurance takes over.
Each state has its minimum auto insurance requirements, though the amounts rarely exceed $30,000 per person or $50,000 per accident. If you have an accident with an off-duty truck driver, you might only receive $30,000 from their insurance company.
What Happens if the Truck Driver Does Not Have Insurance?
You can still recover compensation when a truck driver does not have insurance. The required action depends on the nature of the truck driver's negligence and how this contributed to the accident.
Uninsured Employee of a Trucking Company
When a trucking company's driver has an accident without insurance, several scenarios may unfold:
You may hold the trucking company liable for the actions of its employees. If the accident occurred within their employment, you can pursue a claim against the trucking company's liability insurance. This coverage aims to protect the company and cover the damages their employees cause.
Even if the truck driver does not have insurance, their employer's policy should cover your damages.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage or Personal Injury Protection (PIP)
If you have uninsured motorist coverage as part of your insurance policy, you could file a claim with your insurance company. Uninsured motorist coverage provides compensation for injuries resulting from accidents involving uninsured drivers.
You can also turn to PIP. No-fault states require this insurance. Some other states make it optional or allow optional MedPay insurance. While obtaining payments from your insurance company may seem more manageable, this is not always so, and uninsured motorist coverage and PIP only cover some of your damages.
Personal Injury Lawsuit
If the trucker's employer fails to arrange insurance, you can file a lawsuit against the trucking company directly.
This action seeks compensation for medical expenses, lost earnings, pain and suffering, and other damages. The success of such a lawsuit depends on the trucking company's assets and the skills of your attorney.
Uninsured Independent Truck Driver
The scenario may differ if the truck driver is an independent contractor or an employee who operates the truck for personal needs or outside business hours. You can seek compensation from:
Personal Auto Insurance
If the truck driver uses the vehicle for personal use or outside business hours, their personal auto insurance policy may apply. This insurance does not cover sizable damages.
Personal Injury Lawsuit
You can file a personal injury lawsuit against the truck driver if insurance coverage is unavailable. This action seeks compensation for damages resulting from the driver's negligence. These damages may depend on the driver's personal assets and financial situation.
How to Sue an Uninsured Truck Driver
If the at-fault party in your truck accident completely lacks insurance coverage, you can file a personal injury lawsuit. To accomplish this, you need a lawyer to:
Gathering evidence to support your claim is essential for building a strong case against the uninsured truck driver. This evidence may include photographs of the accident scene, vehicle damage, injuries, and other relevant documentation, such as police reports or witness statements. You should also obtain medical expenses and treatment documentation to demonstrate the extent of your injuries.
If you did not gather evidence from the scene, do not worry. Once you hire an attorney, they can return to the site and collect any remaining. The sooner you work with an attorney, the more evidence they can gather.
Hire a Truck Accident Attorney
A personal injury attorney with experience handling accidents involving uninsured drivers can protect your rights.
An experienced attorney can provide legal advice, evaluate your case, and navigate the legal process. They can determine the best action and represent your interests.
File a Lawsuit
Your attorney can prepare and file a lawsuit against the uninsured truck driver. This lawsuit will outline the details of the accident, your injuries, and the damages you seek. Your attorney can follow the specific legal requirements and deadlines; failure to do so may cause the dismissal of your case.
Do not wait to contact a lawyer: You have limited time. Depending on your jurisdiction, you may have one to six years to start legal action. Your attorney can inform you of the statute of limitations and explain how much time remains to initiate legal proceedings. They can also clarify the options to extend this time.
Serve the Defendant
After filing the lawsuit, the defendant must have access to a copy of the legal documents, making them aware of the lawsuit and providing an opportunity to respond. Your attorney can handle serving the defendant while following legal requirements.
Speed in serving the defendant matters: They may have left the state by the time you hire an attorney. This will complicate the process and prolong the legal action.
If the uninsured truck driver fails to respond to the lawsuit or does not appear in court, there could be a default judgment in your favor. If the defendant does respond, the case can proceed to trial. During the trial, your attorney can present evidence, call witnesses, and argue your case.
At any time during the court proceedings, your attorney can negotiate a settlement with the truck driver or their legal team. They may offer to pay you a certain amount instead of taking the case further.
Once a judgment is ready, the next step is to enforce it and collect the awarded damages.
Your attorney can explore various methods of recovering your damages, such as income garnishment or placing liens on the defendant's assets. The judge may also allow the truck driver to pay in installments.
What Can You Sue for in a Truck Accident?
If you sustain injuries in a truck accident, you can seek compensation regardless of the driver's insurance. Whether you are suing the driver or a trucking company, your lawyer can try recovering:
One of the primary areas for seeking compensation in a truck accident case is medical expenses. These include the costs of emergency medical care, hospitalizations, surgeries, doctor visits, medication, physical therapy, and any other necessary medical treatments. You can sue for these expenses to cover current and future medical needs resulting from the accident.
Loss of Earnings
The truck accident may cause you to miss work or have income-related consequences. In this case, you can seek compensation for loss of earnings—absence from work due to disability or for medical treatment and recovery. You could also claim damages for the loss of future earning capacity if your injuries result in long-term or permanent disability.
Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering refers to the physical and emotional distress from the truck accident. It can include physical pain, discomfort, emotional anguish, mental distress, and diminished quality of life. You need a truck accident lawyer to assign a monetary value to pain and suffering.
If your vehicle or personal property sustained damage in the truck accident, you can seek compensation for the cost of repairs or replacement. These costs include towing fees or car rental while you repair your vehicle.
In addition to pain and suffering, you could sue for emotional distress. This can include anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, sleep disturbances, or other psychological injuries related to the trauma.
Loss of Consortium
Loss of consortium refers to the consequences of the accident for the relationship between the injured party and their spouse or partner. If your injuries harmed your relationship with your spouse or family members, you could seek compensation for loss of companionship, support, affection, intimacy, and the ability to engage in normal marital or familial activities.
If a loved one died in the truck accident, your lawyer could file a wrongful death lawsuit to seek compensation for funeral expenses, loss of financial support, and the emotional toll of the loss.
Recovering Damages From an Uninsured Truck Driver
To suffer injuries in a truck accident is emotional and painful enough. To learn that you can't count on insurance can add serious stress. It is reassuring to discover that you can win financial compensation even if the driver does not have insurance.
An experienced personal injury attorney can explain this, build a strong case, and fight for the money you deserve.