Truck crashes resulting in injuries and fatalities have been on the rise across the nation. Truck accident injury cases are more complex than many other personal injury cases. Drivers or pedestrians who suffer injuries in truck crashes need a truck accident lawyer to navigate the complexities of preparing a claim for damages, to advocate for them in negotiations and court appearances, and to help them obtain full and fair compensation for their injuries and losses.
Let’s take a look at why hiring an experienced truck accident injury lawyer to represent you gives you the best shot at recovering the money you deserve.
Heavy Regulation of the Trucking Industry
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates the trucking industry. The FMCSA is to trucking what the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is to aviation. Trucking companies and truckers must adhere to FMCSA rules and regulations, and face stiff fines and penalties for violations.
Prevailing in a legal action that seeks compensation for truck accident injuries often requires showing that a trucker or trucking company breached a duty of care owed to accident victims or the general public. Attorneys who represent victims of Pennsylvania truck accidents must therefore have a working knowledge of FMCSA rules and regulations, because a violation of those provisions often equates to a breach of the duty of care.
Examples of FMSCA rules violations that can lead to dangerous truck accidents include:
- Hours of service (HoS) violations. The FMSCA keeps U.S. roads safe by limiting the number of hours truckers can drive each day and each week before they must take a mandatory break. When trucking companies force their drivers to break these HoS rules or truckers don’t comply with them, dangerous accidents occur. Without rest breaks, truckers with demanding schedules become dangerously fatigued. In fact, studies have shown that driving drowsy is as dangerous as driving drunk.
- Cargo securement violations. The FMSCA enforces clear rules about loading and securing cargo so that it remains secure during transport. Workers and truckers who improperly secure cargo put others on the road at risk for an accident if the load spills or falls from a truck. Flammable cargo can cause dangerous fires or explosions.
- Handheld device violations. The FMSCA strictly prohibits truckers from using their cell phones while driving, unless they can use the device hands-free. Truckers can push one button to initiate or end a call, but anything beyond that is a clear violation of federal regulations. Texting and driving can lead to severe crashes.
- Maintenance violations. Trucking companies, owner/operators, and truckers are responsible for inspecting and maintaining trucks to keep them roadworthy. Mechanics to fix known issues or to complete mandatory inspections and preventative maintenance can lead to a mechanical failure truck accident. If a truck’s tire blows or defective brake failure at a critical time, a catastrophic truck accident can soon follow.
Multiple Parties Sometimes Share Liability in Truck Accidents
Some truck drivers are owner/operators—that is, they own their trucks and are self-employed. If an owner/operator trucker causes an accident, that individual alone (and his insurance carrier) may bear the sole legal liability to the accident victims.
However, many truck drivers work for a trucking company, or for a business that operates a fleet of trucks. A truck accident involving one of these drivers may create liability for several parties, including the driver, the trucking company or business, and even the party that owns the cargo the truck carries.
Truck accidents, in other words, can result in complicated scenarios in which multiple individuals and commercial entities share liability for accident victims’ injuries. This can make pursuing compensation for those victims especially complicated—far more so, for example, than seeking compensation for a victim of a collision involving passenger vehicles.
That is another reason why it is important to hire a skilled truck accident lawyer to represent you in seeking compensation for your truck accident injuries. Lawyers for truck accident victims have experience in untangling the complex webs of liability truck crashes can spin.
Parties that might have liability to truck crash victims can include:
- A truck driver;
- A trucking company or truck fleet operator;
- A truck maintenance company or individual mechanic;
- A truck or truck-part manufacturer;
- Other motorists on the road; and
- Government road agencies.
These are just some examples. Every truck crash has its own unique facts and circumstances. Speak with an experienced truck accident lawyer today to determine who may have a legal liability to you for your truck crash injuries.
Truck Accidents Typically Result in More Damage
One of the first science lessons we learn in middle school is about Newton’s Laws of Motion. Newton’s Second Law directly applies to truck accidents. In case you don’t remember, force equals mass times acceleration (F=ma). This means the force of an object increases as its mass or speed increases. Semi-trucks weigh up to 80,000 pounds fully loaded, more than ten times that of the average passenger vehicle. A truck’s mass alone is enough to create immense force, but the force is even more dangerous when a truck travels at highway speeds.
Regardless of where a truck accident happens, Newton’s Second Law tells us that a truck accident will impart far more force upon impact than the force of a collision involving a passenger car. Not only does this lead to more property damage, but drivers and occupants in motor vehicles are more likely to suffer injuries and have a greater chance of dying from truck accident-related injuries.
This, too, represents a reason to trust your truck accident injury claim only to an experienced truck accident lawyer. The more catastrophic an accident, the more complicated the factual and legal issues involved in seeking compensation. Truck accident attorneys know how to navigate these complex, messy cases to get their clients maximum compensation.
Complex Insurance Policies
Truckers and trucking companies have a lot of money invested in their trucks, which carry valuable cargo and, as mentioned above, can cause widespread damage in a crash. As a result, the insurance policies covering truckers and trucking companies against liability typically have higher limits and more detailed, complicated provisions. In a typical truck accident, several of these insurance policies may provide coverage to victims, which can lead to conflict between the insurance companies over who must step up first to pay victims’ damages claims.
Experienced truck accident attorneys do not fear to step into the middle of these fights, and have the experience and know-how to negotiate on multiple fronts at once to obtain the most money possible for their clients from each available insurance policy.
Valuing a Truck Accident Injury Claim
Truck accident victims rarely realize the scope of their rights to compensation. Experienced truck accident injury lawyers, however, understand all of the ways a truck crash can inflict physical, emotional, and financial pain today, and in the future, and fight to make sure the compensation their clients receive pays for the full range of those harms.
Every truck accident injury claim has its own unique facts and circumstances, of course, so there is no standard type or amount of damages a victim might have the right to recover. However, as a general matter, truck accident victims can typically obtain compensation to pay for economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages consist of a victim’s direct expenses relating to a truck accident and injury. Examples include:
- Current and future medical treatment costs including ambulance ride, emergency room visit, hospitalization, surgery, aftercare, followup doctor visits, and medication
- Travel costs to and from doctor/hospital
- Current and future lost wages and benefits resulting from missing work or being unable to return to work because of an injury
- Rehabilitation costs such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, and mental health services
- Home modification costs to make an accident victim’s house accessible after a permanent injury
- Costs for replacement labor services such as snow removal, lawn care, child care, cleaning, and laundry
Non-economic damages cover all of the other types of harm a truck accident injury can inflict on a victim’s life. They include:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional pain and suffering
- Reduced quality of life
- Loss of consortium with a spouse
- Scarring and disfigurement
Speak with an experienced truck accident injury attorney today to determine the appropriate types and amounts of compensation to seek for the injuries and losses you suffered in a truck crash.
Protection Against Insurance Company Tactics
Virtually all truck accidents trigger coverage under liability insurance policies, and so, insurance companies tend to play a significant role in how damages claims get resolved. An experienced truck accident injury lawyer speaks the language of insurance coverage, and knows how to protect clients against tactics those companies often use in an attempt to avoid financial responsibility for a truck crash.
Insurance companies do not like paying claims. They make money by holding on to money, not handing it out. So, truck accident victims often find that insurance companies with potential financial exposure to a truck accident work overtime to find reasons not to pay damages to truck crash victims, or to reduce the amount of their financial liability as much as possible.
Some tactics insurance companies use to accomplish these ends include:
- Trying to interview accident victims soon after a crash, hoping the victims will say something that the insurance company could use to escape financial responsibility for the victims’ injuries. For example, the insurance company that issued a policy to a trucking company might try to get a victim to admit that the victim contributed to the cause of a truck crash, knowing that the victim’s statement might reduce the value of the victim’s claim.
- Offering lowball settlements to truck accident victims before those victims have had the chance to speak with a lawyer. Insurance companies hope victims will agree to take what seems like “free money” without realizing that in agreeing to the offer, they risk giving up their legal rights to the far higher compensation they need and deserve for their injuries.
An experienced truck accident injury lawyer can steer clients around these insurance company tactics. Lawyers can take over negotiations with insurance companies to ensure the companies pay fair and reasonable settlements.
Having the Option of Going to Trial
The complex facts and legal issues involved in a truck accident claim can often spur lots of dispute between the parties involved over what happened and who should face legal liability for harm done to victims. Experienced lawyers virtually always try to resolve cases through negotiation. However, it often takes going to court to resolve highly contentious cases like truck crash claims.
Skilled truck accident injury lawyers prepare a client’s claim as if it will end up in a courtroom (even while pushing for a negotiated settlement). This often involves gathering detailed evidence to support the claim, working with accident reconstruction experts, and interviewing as many witnesses as possible.
Examples of evidence that lawyers might collect and review to support a truck accident claim include:
- Truck driver’s cell phone records
- Truck driver’s inspection log
- Trucking company’s maintenance records
- Trucking company’s compliance with
- Truck driver’s employment history, criminal history, and driving history
- Medical records for those involved in the accident
- Eyewitness and expert witness statements
- Electronic driver logs
- Accident scene pictures
- Crash reports
Evidence favorable to a claim provides leverage in negotiations, but it also serves as the basis for proving a case in court, if that is what it takes for a lawyer to obtain appropriate compensation for a truck accident victim.
Truck Accident Lawyers Get Results That Other Lawyers Might Not
Truck accidents cause widespread damage, involve complex facts and legal issues, and tend to spur heated disputes over who should pay compensation to crash victims. To ensure you have the best possible chance of recovering maximum compensation for your injuries in a truck crash, hire only an attorney with years of experience representing truck accident victims like you.
Contact an experienced personal injury accident lawyer today for a free case consultation.
The Levin Firm
1500 John F. Kennedy Blvd,
Two Penn Center, Suite 620
Philadelphia, PA 19102