What You Should Do After a Commercial Vehicle Accident
Accidents with commercial vehicles are not just another traffic accident. These collisions usually are severe and could involve catastrophic injuries, such as broken bones, head injuries, spinal injuries, and organ damage. If a commercial vehicle hits you, it is critical to seek immediate medical attention and to speak to a personal injury attorney.
Below is more information about commercial vehicle accidents, sample settlements, and much more. If you have questions about your crash with a large truck, you can find an experienced attorney using the attorney search tool on Lawsuit Info Center.
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First Steps When Hit By a Commercial Vehicle
It is vital to protect your health and legal rights after a commercial vehicle accident. Follow these steps:
- Take care of your health first. Get immediate medical attention after a tractor-trailer accident. There is a good chance you have injuries, even if you do not feel them at first. Call 911 as they will ensure you get the medical attention you need. They also will file the necessary accident reports that could be important when you file your claim.
- Document the crash scene. If you can, take photos of the crash scene. Take pictures of the vehicles and damages, skid marks, vehicle positions, and your injuries. The trucking company may send a team to the crash scene to collect and even hide evidence. If you cannot document the crash scene, call a truck accident attorney. The lawyer will send an accident investigator to the scene right away. He also can file motions to prevent the trucking company from removing critical evidence.
- Do not speak to anyone. The trucking company’s claim adjuster might contact you. They only want to protect the company’s interests after the accident. They will use anything they say against you. The best idea is to have your truck accident attorney talk to their insurance company.
- Call a commercial vehicle accident lawyer. The insurance adjuster may discourage you from hiring an attorney, but you need one when you are in a commercial vehicle accident. Your attorney will ensure you get enough compensation to cover your future medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
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How Commercial Accidents are Different
Commercial vehicles might drive on the same roads as other motorists, but they abide by slightly different rules. At both the state and federal level, commercial drivers are held to a different standard than your average motorist. Because the commercial driver is an employee, liability becomes more complicated. The employee, the company or both may indeed be liable for the damage done in the wreck.
Generally speaking, you will likely recover damages from the employer of the commercial driver. They are responsible for their workers’ actions on the road. The exception to this is when a driver is using their work vehicle while off the clock. In such cases, you should seek recovery from the driver’s insurance company.
Commercial vehicle insurance is likely to have much more coverage than average. This means you won’t need to settle for anything less than what you deserve because of policy limits. When more money is at stake, however, the insurance company may be more likely to defend their case. Because of this, commercial vehicle claims often take a long time to settle.
Trucking Accident Facts That May Surprise You
Beyond passing tractor trailers on the highway, we rarely consider the trucks that ship our goods and packages across the country. The reality is, though, that big rig trucks make up a significant portion of the traffic on our roads. Without an understanding of these large vehicles, you could underestimate the potential risks associated with trucks.
Because of the sheer size difference between trucks and the average passenger vehicle, few can appreciate how dangerous these vehicles are. Since most truck accidents occur on the highway, many incidents also involve high speeds. This makes these accidents inherently more risky. The damage done by such accidents is often catastrophic. Here are some other trucking accident facts that you might not know:
Bad Weather Increases the Risks of an Accident
We all recognize the inherent dangers of driving on wet, icy or snowy roads. Multiply the usual risks by the large weight and size of a tractor trailer and these factors become life-threatening. Throw in stiff deadlines and driver fatigue and you have a recipe for disaster.
Thankfully, the federal government has certain requirements for long-haul truckers to abide by. Section 392.14 of the U.S. Code of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations states that when truckers are driving in poor weather conditions, they must exercise good judgment and drive defensively. They’re also required to reduce their speed, use their lights and be ready to stop on a dime. This is harder than you might imagine, with thousands of pounds behind them to weigh them down. Still, following these requirements can prevent accidents and ensure the ones that do occur aren’t as catastrophic.
Driver Error is the Leading Cause of Truck Accidents
Truck drivers have special licenses, years of experience behind the wheel and training to handle the unique challenges of driving tractor trailers. Regardless, the American Trucking Association reports that a majority of truck accidents are due to driver error. When under pressure to meet deadlines and power through long shifts, many drivers turn to substances to get through. From caffeine to more serious drugs, these substances can impact a driver’s decision making skills.
Even when drivers stay clean, fatigue can set in, clouding their ability to make good choices at the wheel. Driving distracted is another common problem. Truckers face the same temptations to text and drive as any other motorist. All these can add up to serious mistakes made at the wheel. Enough of these mistakes can often result in a serious accident.
Maintenance Isn’t Guaranteed
With thousands of trucks on the road every day, you’d expect trucking companies to pay close attention to the maintenance of their vehicles. Unfortunately, though, these vehicles aren’t always looked after with care. It is the responsibility of the driver to inspect their vehicle before hitting the road. However, these inspections are often rushed or overlooked. When the driver is under pressure to head out on the highway, these inspections can be especially shallow. Too often, trucking companies have strict deadlines to meet and send vehicles out without performing the necessary maintenance.
Poor maintenance is one of the other leading causes of truck crashes. In these instances, the trucking company or the truck manufacturer is to blame. It can often take months to understand the neglected maintenance, resulting in a lengthy legal battle for liability.
Liability Isn’t Always Clear
Trucking companies, their drivers and even the individuals who load the freight can all be responsible for damage done in an accident. Whereas most collisions between passenger vehicles impact people involved in the wreck, truck accident liability has further reach. One employee’s failure to properly strap down cargo, for instance, can lead to a truck crash hundreds of miles from the loading dock.
Getting into an accident with a truck is a nightmare for many reasons. But the ongoing legal battle that can wage on for months after a wreck can make a bad situation even worse. An attorney can help investigate the incident and ensure protection of your rights. All the while, the trucking company, their driver and insurance company battle it out for the blame. Even if you’re not sure if you need a truck accident attorney, speaking with one can help clarify your legal options.
Who Is Liable For a Collision With a Commercial Vehicle?
Usually, companies are responsible for their workers’ actions when they get in accidents in a commercial vehicle on company time. This means that the company is generally liable when workers are in an accident when carrying out their work duties.
Also, the driver could be liable if negligence played a role in the big rig accident. Employers can be responsible for the following:
- Inadequate supervision
- Not verifying license or certification of the driver
- Poor hiring practices
- Not properly training drivers
- Not maintaining tractor-trailer
- Improperly loaded freight
What happens if the worker drove the company truck for personal reasons and hit you? The employer may still be at-fault in this scenario. The truck company must use due care when allowing someone to drive the rig.
Suppose the company failed to check the worker’s driving record or should have known he had medical problems that affected his ability to drive. In that case, they can be found liable for negligent entrustment.
Most Common Commercial Vehicle Accidents
There are many reasons for being hit by a tractor-trailer. The driver may have been on drugs or alcohol, tired, or failed to maintain their vehicle. Distracted driving also often happens with tractor-trailer drivers on cell phones and using GPS navigation systems. Commercial truck accidents are not uncommon and can have serious effects on drivers. Some of the most common commercial vehicle accidents are:
Rear-end crashes: If the truck driver is tired or distracted, the driver can get into a rear-end accident. In the United States, texting and driving are major causes of distracted driving for significant rig drivers. A tractor-trailer driver texting and driving is 23 times more likely to get into an accident when compared to a big rig driver who does not text and drive.
Jackknife crashes: If a big rig’s cargo is not balanced correctly, the driver tries to take a turn too fast, or they lose control of their rig, the truck can jackknife in the middle of the highway. This can happen quickly, and other drivers can slam into the tractor-trailer, leading to severe or fatal injuries.
Turning accidents: Tractor-trailers can occupy two lanes when making a full turn and have several blind spots. If a truck driver is not careful when making a turn, a severe crash can happen.
Speeding accidents: Seventeen percent of large truck accidents in 2016 involved speeding.
Bad weather crashes: An average tractor-trailer can take 20-40% longer to stop than a passenger vehicle. If the roads are wet or icy, it can take much longer for the truck to stop.
Sample Commercial Vehicle Settlements
Tractor-trailer accident settlements tend to be larger because of the more severe injuries and higher insurance amounts available. Below are some sample truck accident settlements. Use the attorney finder at Lawsuit Info Center to find a lawyer to discuss your truck accident if you want more information about a potential payment.
$445,000 Truck Accident Settlement
A tractor-trailer made a left turn in front of a motorcyclist in Florida. The motorcycle rider was thrown from his bike. The police cited the truck driver for causing the crash.
The motorcyclist broke his finger and leg. Specifically, he suffered a tibial plateau fracture. He had surgery on his leg and finger. The man stayed in the hospital for a week.
The trucking company insurance provider offered a low $100,000 settlement. His attorney rejected the offer. The motorcyclist had severe pain and suffering and required surgery, so the attorney demanded more money. The case settled for $445,000.
$210,000 Truck Accident Settlement
Another truck backed into a truck driver’s front end, causing the driver to need surgery on his labrum tear. The trucker also said the accident aggravated his three herniated discs.
His attorney contacted the insurance company, and it offered only $25,000. The insurance company made a low offer because they like to take advantage of people who their drivers injure.
The injured truck was working when the accident happened. Workers’ compensation paid $88,400 in lost wages and medical bills. This is critical because they wanted the full $88,400 back when the insurance company settled. The skilled personal injury attorney persuaded them to take back only $19,000 from the settlement.
The trucker’s final settlement was nearly 10 times the original offer. That is what a skilled, experienced truck accident attorney can do for you.
$52,000 Scooter Accident Settlement
An auto parts company truck hit a scooter rider in Miami. The moped rider suffered an eye injury but did not have health insurance. His attorney found him an eye doctor, and he got treatment for aches and pains. If you choose the right attorney, they may be able to help you find medical care at a reduced price.
The insurance company quickly paid a settlement of $52,000.
$28,000 Tractor Trailer Accident Settlement
A tractor-trailer driver rear-ended a box truck driver in Sumpter County, Florida. The police officer investigating the scene cited the driver in the rear for careless driving.
The injured driver did not go to the hospital until six days after the accident. He felt pain in his elbows, neck, and back. The back pain radiated down his right leg, and he also had muscle spasms.
Doctors performed an MRI because of the pain radiating to his leg. He suffered two bulging discs in the lower back from the accident. His doctor prescribed a pain reliever and a muscle relaxant.
His attorney argued that the accident aggravated the chondromalacia in his left knee.
The injured driver had Allstate insurance, and it paid $28,000 in PIP benefits to settle the case.
$10,000 Tractor Trailer Accident Settlement
A tractor-trailer rear-ended a Toyota 4Runner that was declared a total loss by the insurance company. The driver suffered a herniated disc in the accident.
A chiropractor treated his herniated disc. The trucker who rear-ended him received a ticket for careless driving. The injured driver wisely bought uninsured driver insurance, which paid $10,000 to settle the claim.
Get Legal Help With Your Commercial Vehicle Accident Case
If you suffered injuries in a commercial vehicle accident, it is vital to hire a personal injury attorney. Dealing with trucking insurance companies is difficult, and they will do their best to compensate you as little as possible. Your attorney will negotiate aggressively to get you the best settlement, and the possibility of filing a lawsuit may encourage the insurance company to offer fair compensation.
Lawsuit Info Center can help you find an experienced personal injury attorney in your area. Use our site to find a licensed attorney near you today.
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