What Is a Trucking Accident Lawsuit?
A trucking accident lawsuit is a legal case against a trucker or trucking company. The United States relies heavily on truckers to move goods around the country, but these massive vehicles can be dangerous if driven by untrained or careless individuals. A trucking accident is often more complicated than an accident involving two cars. While some truck drivers work as independent owner-operators and buy their own insurance, others work for trucking companies that insure their drivers and vehicles. In an accident involving a third party, such as a trucking company, getting the proper compensation can be challenging.
A victim injured in a trucking accident may have to file a lawsuit to get the compensation they deserve. Through a settlement or trial, they can ask for money to cover the following:
- Medical bills.
- Lost wages.
- Lost property.
- Pain and suffering.
Because semi-trucks often weigh 20 to 30 times more than a typical car, they can cause extensive damage to property and people in a collision. The cost of this damage can easily exceed a truck driver's or company's insurance coverage. If a person is in a trucking accident, they can contact a personal injury attorney to determine if they have a case and how to proceed in a trucking-specific injury suit.
Are there different types of trucking accidents?
Yes, trucking accidents can happen for several reasons. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration research says some of the top reasons for trucking accidents are as follows:
- Brake issues that prevent or delay stopping.
- Interruptions in traffic flow, such as congestion or another accident.
- The use of prescription or over-the-counter drugs that inhibit driver response time.
- Drivers exceeding the recommended speed for road conditions.
- Drivers who are unfamiliar with roads and terrain.
- Problems with the roadway, such as potholes or debris.
- Truckers who drive while fatigued or exceed their allotted hours.
These conditions may lead to one of these common causes of trucking accidents:
In a jackknifing accident, the truck driver hits the brakes suddenly, causing the trailer to swing out to a 90-degree angle. As the trailer moves, it can damage everything in its path, including nearby vehicles and their passengers. The trailer can even come loose from the truck, leading to further damage.
Turning too wide
When a semi-truck makes a right-hand turn, the driver must go wide to give themselves room to maneuver the load. Blind spots may prevent the driver from seeing other vehicles around them. If there are other cars, especially near the truck's rear, they can become trapped unexpectedly.
Blowing a tire
Truck drivers can travel thousands of miles and spend hours on the road. The truck's continual wear, combined with its heavy weight, can increase the incidence of tire blowouts. A blowout can result in the driver losing control of the truck and, ultimately, an accident. If the driver swerves into oncoming traffic or blocks the road, it can be dangerous for the driver and passing vehicles.
Rolling is a common trucking accident resulting from a truck driving too fast around corners. A rollover may occur when a truck's load is too heavy and the driver fails to follow the posted speed limits. The rolled truck may impede traffic lanes, and the accident may affect other vehicles and pedestrians, especially if it rolls over in a populated or heavily trafficked area.
If a passenger vehicle and a semi-truck hit head-on, it can be devastating. When a truck hits an object, especially one in motion like another vehicle, it does so with intense force that can lead to considerable damage. If a semi-truck carrying a full load hits a car head-on, it may result in serious injuries or death.
This type of accident can happen if a truck driver runs a red light, a stop sign, or otherwise does not yield when necessary. While often less devastating than a head-on collision, a car hit from the side by a semi-truck can also result in a fatality. Even if the impact occurs on the passenger side, the force may throw the driver from the vehicle and lead to serious injuries.
Losing control of a large vehicle like a semi-truck can happen when a driver panics. If the driver hits the brakes quickly, the load may sway without jackknifing or breaking free. When the driver responds, they may overcorrect the vehicle to unexpected results. The driver may also be unable to regain control, especially if the brakes stop working. The truck could hit pedestrians or other cars before it slows enough to stop.
Becoming wedged under another vehicle
This is known as an underride collision and occurs when a car gets stuck underneath a semi-truck. This situation can arise if the car's driver stops paying attention and merges into the same lane as the truck. It can also happen if a semi merges where a passenger car already is. Regardless of how it occurs, this type of accident can be dangerous and result in death.
The impact of trucking accidents
Trucking accidents affect all drivers. Those in these accidents can also suffer serious injuries that lead to lasting mental and physical challenges. Trucking accidents can also impact communities. An accident that injures several people simultaneously can have devastating effects that last for years.
Since completing the insurance claim process when working with a trucking company can take a lot of time, it may strain victims financially. Those suffering from injuries or the death of a loved one may have to rely heavily on community help while they wait for a fair settlement and compensation. This situation often occurs as they anxiously watch their medical bills increase.
Adverse events associated with trucking accidents
The IIHS reports that in 2021 there were 4,714 fatalities involving large trucks. Injuries suffered by car passengers tend to be more severe than those involving only passenger cars because of the huge size difference. The most common trucking accident injuries include the following:
- Head trauma: If a person's head strikes something like the windshield or steering wheel, it can result in trauma and brain damage.
- Back and neck injuries: Whiplash and other back and neck injuries can occur when the force of the impact leads the body to twist and jerk.
- Spinal cord damage: The force of a truck hitting a car can also result in spinal cord damage in the driver or passengers, which may lead to partial, temporary, or permanent paralysis.
- Burns: The impact of a truck hitting a car can lead to it catching on fire, making it more likely that a victim receives burns.
- Internal damage: Through blunt force, a driver or passenger may experience damage to their internal organs, including the spleen, bladder, and liver.
- Broken bones: Broken bones can occur if the driver or passenger hits an object or receives the force of an object because of the collision.
- Cuts and bruises: Cuts, scrapes, and bruises can happen when the impact from the accident throws or jostles a driver or passenger in the vehicle. They can also occur if the car crumples due to the collision.
- Disfigurement: If the collision ejects an individual from the vehicle, such as throwing them through a windshield or window, or the individual experiences severe force, it may result in disfigurement. This situation often results in permanent changes to the victim's daily life and may involve amputation.
Steps to take following a trucking accident
Victims of a trucking accident should follow these steps:
File a police report
A police report is essential for making a claim after experiencing a trucking accident. The insurance company and an attorney will request a copy of the official police report before beginning the claims process.
Gather and retain evidence
After the accident, the victim needs to prove their case, so gathering sufficient evidence is key. Vehicle photos, eyewitness reports, and medical records are all essential evidence when making a case for trucking accident injuries.
Talk to a truck injury attorney
Before filing a lawsuit, plaintiffs should speak with an attorney. Discussing a potential case with a professional can ensure there is sufficient evidence to support a claim. An experienced trucking accident attorney can explain how these cases work and determine the chance for a settlement.
Send a demand letter
Once there is enough evidence of the trucking accident, the attorney will typically contact the insurance company and related parties to explain the demands and settlement deadline. In some cases, the insurance company will offer fair compensation, but in others, the claim may advance to a trial to ensure a satisfactory resolution.
Settle or go to Court
If the victim receives a settlement agreement, they can decide if the amount is sufficient to cover their medical bills, relevant expenses, and losses related to the injuries. If they reject the settlement, they can take the case to Court.
Decisions regarding liability
Liability in a trucking accident generally depends on the circumstances of the accident and who was at fault. The truck driver may assume responsibility if the other vehicle's occupants or affected pedestrians can prove the trucker was driving recklessly or negligently. If the truck driver can prove another reason for the accident, such as faulty parts, they may be able to argue for a product liability case against the manufacturer. Ultimately, the judge or jury decides who was at fault and how or whether to compensate the plaintiff.