​What Is the Claim Process for Truck Accidents?

Large commercial truck accidents happen daily across the country. These crashes can lead to severe repercussions, including life-altering injuries and fatalities that can leave victims and their loved ones struggling to recover.

While the victim needs to recover physically, mentally, and emotionally, they also need a financial recovery. When someone else was to blame for the collision, the law entitles victims to seek monetary compensation for their losses.

Compensation does not come automatically, however, and victims must know the legal process to receive the compensation they deserve. There can be various steps in the process, including insurance negotiations and a potential lawsuit in civil court. Speak with a truck accident attorney immediately about how to obtain what you deserve.

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Proving Liability

Million Dollar Advocates ForumTruck accident liability usually stems from negligence. An injury victim must prove each element of negligence to obtain compensation from liable parties and their insurers. The elements of negligence are below.

Duty

Generally, everyone owes a duty of reasonable care to other drivers and pedestrians. A duty of reasonable care means that each driver is responsible for driving safely and avoiding traffic and moving violations to ensure the welfare of pedestrians and other drivers.

Commercial trucking companies owe a duty of care to fellow drivers by ensuring that their company drivers are not engaging in negligent behaviors and their trucks are in working order.

Breach

The next element of negligence is a breach of duty. A breach happens when a driver fails to exercise reasonable care and uphold their duty. Failure to exercise reasonable care can include failing to stop at a stop sign, running a red light, failing to yield, speeding, etc.

This rule generally applies to a driver violating any traffic law or regulation, or engaging in conduct that can cause potential harm to a pedestrian or fellow driver.

Causation

An accident victim must prove that the party’s breach caused the accident. You must prove a link between the negligent conduct and the crash.

Damages

A truck accident victim must prove they suffered damages due to their crash-related injuries. These can include medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering.

Trucking Companies and Negligence

A trucking company’s responsibility is to ensure its drivers are qualified when hired and remain qualified for employment. If a trucking company fails to keep track of a driver’s qualification during the hiring or retention process, the company may be negligent and liable for an accident.

For example, if an employer hires a driver with a DUI on their driving record and keeps them on board, the company may be liable for negligent hiring and retention. In addition, a trucking company must sufficiently supervise all employees, ensuring each driver is completing the job and not working too many hours.

Trucking companies can also be vicariously liable for a driver’s conduct, even if the company was not negligent in its own right.

Causes of Truck Accidents

There are many reasons why truck accidents can occur. Below are only a few common causes of commercial truck accidents across the United States.

Impaired Drivers

An unfortunately common cause of trucking accidents is an impaired driver. An impaired driver is under the influence of drugs (prescription or recreational) or alcohol. For commercial truckers, operating their vehicle while impaired by any substance can cause severe damage to one or multiple people on the road. If a driver gets behind the wheel while intoxicated, they are negligent.

Other Driver Errors

Truck drivers can be negligent in many other ways than impaired driving, including speeding, distracted driving, tailgating, driving too fast for conditions, and much more.

Maintenance Issues

In addition to supervising employees, trucking companies must also keep up the maintenance of their vehicles. Companies must examine their trucks to see if any issues with them will comprise their performance. If so, trucking companies must find and correct the issues before the trucks return to the road. If there is a failure to maintain the trucks and a road accident happens, the company may be open to legal liability.

How Common Are Truck Accidents?

Commercial truck crash accidents are less common in the United States than passenger car accidents. However, there are still about 500,000 crashes per year, with a steady uptick in the past ten years, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

In a recent year, almost 5,000 commercial trucks were also in fatal accidents nationwide. According to the National Safety Council, this comprised four percent of all registered vehicles and nine percent of all vehicles that suffered a fatal crash.

Regarding impaired drivers, about three percent of fatal crashes in one year involved drivers under the influence of some substance. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about 22 percent of commercial truckers had an accident report on their driving record.

Common Truck Accident Injuries

Commercial trucks are enormous and certainly much larger than the usual passenger vehicle. As such, they can cause extremely severe damage, injuries, and fatalities.

Below is a list of typical sustained injuries from commercial truck accidents:

  • Broken bones
  • Cuts, bruises, lacerations, etc.
  • Paralysis
  • Head injuries, including concussions, skull fractures, etc.
  • Amputation
  • Internal bleeding
  • Organ damage
  • Death

The above is only a short list of injuries that can occur. If a commercial truck accident victim sustains any injuries, they should seek medical treatment immediately. Getting prompt medical attention will drastically improve the likelihood of making a physical recovery, and the medical records will assist the plaintiff as they try to get compensation while pursuing a claim.

Accidents Leading to Wrongful Death

The most extreme trucking accident case is when one involves a fatality. These can lead to enormous pain and suffering, grief, and financial loss for the victim’s loved ones. When the victim loses their life, their family can pursue a wrongful death lawsuit. What family members are legally allowed to seek a wrongful death lawsuit varies from state to state, so you should always consult with a truck accident attorney before filing a lawsuit.

Working With a Truck Accident Attorney

To receive full compensation after a commercial truck accident, hire an experienced truck accident attorney. Hiring an attorney has several benefits. They will assist their client in navigating the legal process, negotiating with the insurance company, and being an advocate if the lawsuit goes to trial. Before any of this, a consultation with the attorney will start the process.

What to Expect During an Initial Consultation

When someone is in a commercial truck accident and suffered an injury, they can seek a free case consultation. This consultation will typically consist of reviewing the relevant documents, pictures, and statements to help start the individual in the right direction.

Additionally, the consultee will have the opportunity to ask the attorney any questions about the process. The consultation is with a member of the firm’s legal team, and you will discuss a potential plan for representation specifically tailored to the case details.

Insurance Company Negotiations

One of the many benefits an experienced truck accident attorney can provide is negotiating with the insurance company on the victim’s behalf. While your case is pending, the attorney will demand a figure from the trucking company’s insurer, representing your losses. Because insurance companies are for-profit businesses, their main objective is to hold onto money instead of paying claims in full. To accomplish this, they will use several tactics to avoid liability or downplay your injuries.

An experienced attorney knows the various tactics that insurance companies use to prevent themselves from spending additional money.

Some of those common tactics include:

  • Insurance companies may try to claim that the accident did not cause the victim’s damages and injuries.
  • They may attempt to shift the blame from their insured to the victim or other drivers who were present at the time of the accident.
  • After the attorney’s settlement demands, they will offer smaller settlements that will not fully compensate the victim for the damages.
  • Upon receiving the medical bills, they may claim the medical fees were exorbitant and fail to pay for them.

The initial settlement demand usually covers the victim’s medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and more. The package can include evidence of liability and injuries, including an expert witness statement and a synopsis of how the accident has affected the victim’s life.

Filing a Lawsuit

After several rounds of negotiations, your attorney might inform you that the insurance company is unlikely to make a fair offer. They can escalate the matter by filing an injury lawsuit in the proper civil court. The litigation process has many steps, including discovery, further settlement conferences, and a potential trial.

An Overview of Discovery

Discovery is the investigation phase of the truck accident lawsuit. Each party must participate and comply with the state procedural rules. In this part of the process, each party uncovers all the facts of the case through proper methods, including interrogations and depositions.

Interrogatories

Interrogatories are requests for written answers from the opposing party. Each party must respond within the time set by law. Interrogatories can be ongoing until each party has satisfactory answers.

Deposition

A deposition is a witness interview under oath, so lawyers can see what key witnesses might say at trial. Though it is not in a courtroom, a deposition carries significant weight and can be critical evidence.

Preparing for a Trial

If a case does not resolve out of court in settlement conferences following discovery, it will continue to trial. At trial, a judge or jury will decide the outcome of your case.

An experienced truck accident attorney will be ready to take your case to trial and can help their client prepare in numerous ways, including:

  • An attorney will help prepare expert witnesses to testify at the deposition. An expert witness will discuss how the victim’s injuries and damages have affected the client’s life and how they may affect their lives moving forward.
  • The attorney will also prepare witnesses for cross-examination.
  • If they choose to do so, they will also prepare their client to testify.
  • They will prepare trial exhibits.

Collecting the Judgment

Reaching a settlement agreement with the insurer or a jury verdict is not always the end of the case. Your lawyer must collect the funds from the defendant’s insurance company and distribute them properly. The attorney will satisfy any medical liens you have, take their fees, and then you can receive the rest.

Common Damages in Truck Accidents

The types of damage recoverable in commercial truck accidents can be economic or non-economic.

Economic Damages

Economic damages are financial losses after a crash. Economic damages are tangible and usually easier to prove.

Examples of economic damages include the following.

  • Medical damages include the cost of current and future medical treatment, rehabilitation care, and medical equipment.
  • Lost income includes loss of current and future income and lost earning capacity.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are usually more abstract and more difficult to account for. The help of an experienced accident attorney can help you prove these losses.

Examples of non-economic damages include:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Permanent injuries and disabilities
  • Loss of consortium

Can You Afford a Truck Accident Attorney?

One of the hesitations in hiring a truck accident attorney is not having money to pay legal fees. When you already face huge financial concerns, the fear of the cost of hiring an attorney is quite common and understandable. Fortunately, most injury attorneys have a contingency fee arrangement to compensate for their services.

A contingency fee arrangement is a payment plan that permits a client to pay for legal services once the case ends and only if they obtain a settlement. Contingency fee arrangements must be in writing and include the terms of the agreement.

Contact a Truck Accident Attorney Today

Tatiana Boohoff, Lawyer for Motorcycle Accident cases near Tampa area.
Tatiana Boohoff, Truck Accident Attorney

A commercial truck accident can devastate victims and their loved ones. If you or a loved one suffered injuries in a commercial truck accident, contact a personal injury attorney to embark on your road to physical, mental, emotional, and financial recovery.

June 15, 2023
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