A Complete Guide to Winning Truck Accident Lawsuits
Terrifying experiences, like semi-truck collisions, can raise a lot of questions. After such a fraught experience, you deserve answers and compassionate support.
If you have been involved in a collision with a semi-truck, you or a family representative will need information about how to proceed immediately following the accident. You may also have concerns about whether you are at fault or how to deal with law enforcement and insurance companies after such an unpleasant event.
A personal injury lawyer who has experience in dealing with the intricacies of truck accidents can help you with all of these concerns. In addition, this guide will help you figure out what you need to do next and how to choose a great truck accident attorney who will do their best to help you get your life back on track.
Table of Contents
- Statistics and Causes
- What to do
- Dealing with insurance companies
- Choosing an attorney
- Filing a lawsuit
- Case value
How Many Accidents Are Caused by Semi-trucks?
An alarming number of collisions involving semi-trucks occur each year. During 2016, a total of 4,440 large commercial vehicles were part of accidents that resulted in fatalities.1 Most fatal accidents involving large trucks (62%) also involved at least two other vehicles1. According to the most recent statistics available from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, this was a 6% increase from the previous year.1
Commercial vehicle accidents can also occur when they aren’t even in transit. Specifically, backing-up accidents are more commonly associated with commercial vehicles than you might think. The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration estimates annually around 24% of backing-up accidents with fatalities involve vehicles like big rigs.10 This type of collision occurred 463 times from 2002-2006 according to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration2.
With all the technology available today, it seems outrageous that truck accidents are still as common as they are. However, a review of the possible causes of truck accidents, especially backing collisions, may shed some light on why these dangerous incidents still happen on a regular basis.
What Causes Most Big Rig Accidents?
Driving a truck professionally requires a great amount of skill. Unfortunately, drivers who do not have the experience or knowledge to do the job competently still often get on the road with the rest of us. There are also numerous other reasons why semi-truck accidents occur.
Up to 22% of truck accidents are caused by general driver error9. Perhaps a driver is tired, or maybe they were under the influence of mood-enhancing drugs to stay awake on long stretches of road. Drug use and driving while tired make big rig accidents much more likely.9
Inattentiveness and carelessness can also contribute to semi-truck accidents. The driver may have been distracted by something as simple as the radio or just more reckless than they should have been while driving a vehicle of that heft.9
Most semi-truck accidents (73%) occur because of a “collision with a vehicle in transport”.1 This may or may not include accidents of a backing or back-over nature.2 Truck maintenance can be a collision-causing issue. It is possible that a trucking company or driver did not maintain the vehicle properly, which can contribute to an accident.9
It seems simple to maintain something like brake pads appropriately, but some companies or drivers may choose to take shortcuts where maintenance is concerned. 9 If the driver does not service his brakes as required due to time or financial constraints, the consequences can sometimes be disastrous or even deadly.
Bad weather can also be a frequent contributor to semi-truck accidents9. Due to their large size and heavy cargo weight, a large semi-truck is physically unable to stop at the same speed as a smaller vehicle. When a truck hits something like an ice patch, it may skid into other cars as it attempts to slow.9 Although truck drivers should be prepared to utilize safety precautions in these dangerous conditions, they may choose not to or the weather may make it difficult to do so.
During inclement weather, how cargo is loaded on a tractor-trailer can be an even more important issue. Unfortunately, some big rig accidents have been caused simply by improper cargo loading, causing fishtails, truck-turnovers, and crashes.9
Each driver and team should follow specific industry-wide rules, but it is not unheard of for these rules to be bent at times.9 In particular, it is quite common for these rules to be contorted a bit when a driver needs to back up into a difficult to reach spot for cargo loading and unloading.
What Causes Most Backing Up Truck Accidents?
Backing up a truck and trailer is one of the most complicated maneuvers that a driver can perform.11 Unfortunately, there are many reasons this procedure can go wrong, no matter how experienced the driver is.
A lot of backing accidents occur because the driver must back using only their mirrors as a guide, which is called “blindsiding”.11 In other words, they are backing into a spot that they are literally unable to see any other way.11 Most professional drivers attempt to avoid “blindsiding” if at all possible, as it raises the risk of a truck accident greatly.11
Rushing drivers can be another cause for backing collisions. Drivers may not always take enough time to properly utilize professional safety precautions.11 Obviously, it requires more work to get out of the vehicle to check the status of the maneuver frequently.11 Busy truck drivers may not be willing to take extra safety measures on a regular basis when it seems to them that using mirrors is probably adequate.
Some drivers may even request that a spotter help them get into a challenging opening while also using their mirrors to assist them with back up.11 Unfortunately, unless the spotter is a professional driver as well, this could also be a big liability. Non-professionals do not always understand the complicated physics of backing a tractor and trailer together.11
Furthermore, a driver may not be experienced enough to know how slowly they must go to complete this job accurately and safely.11 Strictly speaking, backing a big rig up successfully is extremely difficult and takes a great deal of practice to do well.
Some of these issues are often preventable. However, should a commercial vehicle accident occur, these types of collisions often have more serious repercussions for those involved because of the sheer size and weight of the truck.9 Because of this, it is essential that you know what to do if you are ever in a similar situation.
What Should You Do Immediately After a Truck Accident?
After an accident, you have a hundred thoughts running through your mind, including the amount of pain you might be in. Big Rig accidents are terrifying, but there are a couple things you can do to expedite your return to safety.
- Contact Medical Professionals (especially if there is an emergency) Although it is easy to feel overwhelmed, you should always contact emergency services promptly if medical care is needed.4 If there are concerns about personal injury to any party, those issues should be dealt with first, before contacting an attorney. Should you see any type of medical professional shortly after the event, you will also want to keep good records about those experiences.3 Even if it does not seem like the medical issue is directly related to the collision at the time, be sure to document everything in case you need those medical reports for future use.
- Contact a Truck Accident Attorney Barring any medical emergencies, it can be a good idea to call an attorney first. A highly experienced truck accident lawyer can suggest what you should do next and who you should contact with additional issues.
- Contact Local Law Enforcement Local law enforcement will also need to be called quickly regarding most semi-truck accidents for several reasons. There will likely be “significant property damage”3 when a commercial vehicle is involved, and that must be assessed even if there is not an injury. It is equally important to note that in Arizona drivers are legally required to stay at the scene of an accident until law enforcement can arrive to assess the situation and to document this in their report.8 Law enforcement officers also have several days to officially file their police reports8, so be aware that it may take some time to gather the necessary evidence to support your accident case. After a big rig accident, law enforcement may also be able to assist you with things like collecting statements and evidence if needed. Although that may appear to be an unpleasant prospect following such a harrowing experience, it is beneficial to gather such information to support your side of the story, whether you decide to pursue a lawsuit in the future or not. Not only will law enforcement and possibly even attorneys be involved after such a frightening event, but you will want to have your information gathered and well organized when dealing with insurance companies following an accident.
- Contact Your Insurance Company It can be helpful to contact your insurance agent while you are at the scene of the accident.4 They will be able to tell you exactly what kind of information and evidence you will need to help verify what happened, as well as what you can expect to happen next on their part.4
- Collect Statements and Gather Evidence Regarding the Accident What type of information should you gather at the scene? First of all, be sure to swap contact information with ALL PARTIES INVOLVED, even if you aren't sure you will need it.3 You may need that information later, and it will be easier to obtain right after the incident instead of having to track people and documentation down when you may not be feeling your best. The information you collect should include things like names, addresses, phone numbers, and insurance company information, including a policy number.3 It is also advisable to document things such as the license plate number of the vehicle, vehicle make/model/year/color, as well as the registration number of the vehicle.3 You will likely also want to write down the other person's driver's license number for future reference.3 These may seem like trivial bits of information, but they can be very advantageous should the authorities have questions for you in the future. When possible, it is especially beneficial to take down statements from any consenting eyewitnesses who were there when the event took place.3 Be sure to record their contact information including name, address, and phone number as well. A testimonial from an eyewitness can often be key in proving who was at fault in a semi-truck accident. It is important to take pictures of any damage to the vehicles if it is safe to do so, a picture of documents, id cards, and license plates can also be helpful if there are disputes as to who was involved and what happened.3
Furthermore, any physical injuries that may require additional assistance3 should be photographically documented shortly after the incident occurred. These types of evidence can also be meaningful should you decide to file a claim or lawsuit in the future. If the weather appears to have contributed to the circumstances of the encounter, be sure to take photographs of how the weather was a factor.3 The sooner you can do these things the better, as it will be important to your case to have as much information about the actual day of the accident as possible.3 When it is available, it is also important that you get a copy of the police report regarding the incident. You may also want this paperwork for your insurance company.3
What If I Feel Like I Am Partially at Fault for a Truck Accident?
The most important thing to remember during this entire process is to focus on the facts of the situation.5 In other words, always be truthful with your report, but you do not have to offer any “unsolicited” information5. Should the parties involved need additional information about a particular topic in the future, they will be sure to let you know.
In addition, be aware that your memory may not be as clear as you would like immediately following an accident5. This can be quite common after a traumatic experience. Don’t feel like you have to share things that you are unsure of. It is completely fine to give your best guess of what occurred5 to the authorities.
What Can a Truck Accident Lawyer Do for Me?
You may know you need a lawyer but are unsure of what a personal injury attorney can do for you. Perhaps more importantly, you may wonder if the services available would be worth it to you in regard to the cost. A good Truck Accident Lawyer can make your life much easier during a difficult time and can assist you with many things you may not have thought of.
Dealing with large companies that have impressive legal teams on retainer, such as those in the insurance industry, is not something that most people do regularly. However, it’s something that personal injury attorneys do on a daily basis. As such, it could be very advantageous to have a truck accident attorney who can correspond with insurance companies on your behalf. This can be especially helpful if you are dealing with painful medical issues or overwhelming mental health concerns that may have stemmed from your recent truck accident.
A personal injury lawyer who is highly experienced in truck accident cases will attempt to obtain the greatest amount of compensation possible for you in your case. They are very familiar with how to make sure that damages or injuries are properly assessed so that future bills that stem from the accident are taken care of as well.
Truck accident lawyers do this in several ways. For example, they may examine police reports or employ advanced technologies to recreate your accident. Activities such as this can often lead to discovering additional evidence that will help them advocate on your behalf.
Truck accident attorneys may also have better luck in obtaining the information that you were unable to gather at the scene. For example, if there were any witnesses during the event, they can subpoena them as needed. Having this sort of authority can be extremely important if the witnesses do not want to get involved in the process. A Truck Accident Attorney’s foresight and experience can lead them to ask the questions you may not have known to ask.
A truck accident attorney will take over all facets of your case and work for your benefit. That way you can relax and focus on getting better after a life-changing experience.
What Should I Look for When Hiring a Semi Truck Accident Lawyer?
It may take some time to process your experience if you are unfortunate enough to be involved in a semi-truck accident. After you have had time to heal, you may realize that you need to seek legal representation through a personal injury lawyer after being in such a catastrophic incident with a commercial vehicle.
How do you know which personal injury lawyer to choose? There are several areas in which a truck accident lawyer should have exceptional knowledge. Below are some questions you can ask to determine a good fit for your case.
- Ask an attorney if she or he is experienced with truck accidents and truck accident law specifically. An attorney who does not focus in this area may not have the knowledge needed to win a difficult case for you. Field knowledge and past experience can be vital in winning a truck accident lawsuit.
- Ask how long the attorney has been specializing in the area of truck accident law. An inexperienced attorney may have lower rates, but you want someone with specific experience negotiating on your behalf when a great deal of money could possibly be on the line.
- Ask how successful an attorney has been in the past with this specific type of case. It may be necessary for you to do some research on this. However, a good attorney will let you know how successful they have been in past cases. They should also provide you with statistics regarding their success rate as it pertains to truck accident lawsuits.
- Ask and/or research what rates a truck accident attorney normally charges. As with many other issues in life, you often get what you pay for. If the personal injury attorney that you choose seems particularly inexpensive, there may be a good reason for that.
- Ask how you will be billed. It is very helpful to know up front how your legal representative plans to charge for their services for a couple of reasons. For instance, some attorneys do not charge up front and only get paid if they win your lawsuit. This can be especially helpful for those who are struggling financially after an accident.
Dealing with such a traumatic event will be difficult enough, so you don’t want to place your trust in a personal injury attorney who is not a good fit. You want an attorney who will listen to you and fight for you tooth-and-nail in court.
When Should I File a Lawsuit for an Injury Accident Involving a Commercial Truck?
After all this, you may still be unsure if you should go ahead and file a lawsuit. This decision is something that a personal injury lawyer with specific experience in truck accident law can assist you with.
One of the things that may worry you is how long it will take to know what your medical status will be after such a physically traumatic event. A few weeks to a month is usually long enough for a doctor to decide if you have sustained a serious injury from an accident or not. However, only a medical professional can decide how severe those injuries are and how dramatically they may impact your life in the future.
A truck accident attorney will take all these things into consideration, as well as legal issues such as the statute of limitations, trucking, and traffic laws. Then they will make a suggestion about when you might be ready to file a claim or start the legal proceedings against other parties.
Turn to Alex & Associates when you need legal help after a truck accident. Call (602) 483-6114 for Top-Rated legal support today.
How Do I Deal With Insurance Companies After Being Hit by a Big Rig?
It can be frustrating to deal with the red tape of bureaucracy, including that of your own insurance company. You may also be quite worried about how all of this is going to affect your automobile insurance rate.
You may be afraid that your insurance company will react negatively to the news of your accident by raising your rates or canceling your policy. Although some people may tell you otherwise, it is always in your best interest to notify your insurance company of an accident with another vehicle. There are so many possible issues with multiple vehicle accidents that an outside arrangement rarely works out best for both parties without some sort of legal intervention.6
The accident should be reported to the insurance company in an efficient manner for several reasons. Your insurer will likely have a time limit placed on how long you have to file a claim regarding a vehicle accident. The specifics of this information should be included with your policy4. If you want them to process your claim quickly, it is important to report the accident in a timely manner.
In Arizona, law enforcement officers are not required to report an accident if there is no significant damage to persons or property (7). However, the majority of big rig accidents do not fall into this category9 as a vehicle of this magnitude is difficult to regain control of once it has been lost.
Consequently, someone is probably going to report this accident to your insurance company. For this reason, and many others, you should be upfront and honest about what happened. It is safe to assume other parties and your insurance providers are in communication, so you should always be careful about what you say and how you say it.
You should also be aware that the other individual's insurance company may try to contact you personally. You are not usually required to work with these companies directly. Your insurance agent should coordinate with the other company to work out the specifics4 without you having to get involved in the negotiations. It is important to note that, legally speaking, your insurance company works primarily for their own benefit, not on your behalf.
This can be another instance in which having a truck accident lawyer can be very beneficial to you. A truck accident lawyer would focus on your legal issues entirely, unlike law enforcement or insurance companies. It is always good to have someone in your corner watching out for your interests, especially if you are recovering from injuries.
How Long Do I Have To File a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
You may not have as long to file a lawsuit after a big rig accident as you might believe. In Arizona, there is a two-year statute of limitations for most cases. If a child was injured, it is possible that the statute of limitations may be longer. Keep in mind that there are specific rules if the semi-truck is owned or operated on behalf of a government entity.
Generally, it is not a good idea to wait to file because the legal process can be long and complicated. You should consult an attorney about what is best for your particular situation. Only they can give you an idea of what to expect, including how much your truck accident case might be worth in the long run.
How Much Is My Accident Case Worth?
If you don't have a truck accident attorney yet, you may be wondering how much your truck accident lawsuit might be worth to you in general. Unfortunately, this is a very complicated issue. Primarily, it depends on what type of damage you, your family, and your property may have sustained from the big rig accident.
A majority of jury awards after an incident like this are labeled as "compensatory." This suggests that the damages which are claimed are supposed to compensate the individual for what was lost in relation to the accident. In other words, the compensation is meant to help make the victim whole, as much as that may be possible for someone who has endured a traumatic physical and mental event like a semi-truck accident.
In Arizona, your truck accident attorney can also seek damages for things like pain and suffering, as well as the actual costs related to medical treatments from injuries sustained in the event. This should also factor in any future medical procedures or costs these injuries may require. For someone who was in a highly traumatic accident that perhaps involved a fatality or gross negligence, this may be something you want to think about pursuing.
You and your legal team may also want to seek redress for emotional distress in such traumatic instances. When one is in a serious accident like a semi-truck collision, there may not only be medical injuries that are long term. The psychological trauma involved may also cause long-term emotional damage as well.
It is important when addressing damages, to factor in any lost income. Should you be either temporarily or permanently disabled, your income may change a great deal after a truck accident. If you are unable to work after you have been in a big rig collision, it is critical to get compensation for your lost wages.
To do this, you will need to provide adequate documentation of any lost income. In fact, gather as much evidence as you can to show the amounts and times where you have specifically been unable to work due to the truck accident. You may need to contact your employer or former employer to get these types of records.
Your attorney will also want to add any property losses that you may have incurred. In most truck accidents, your vehicle will be greatly damaged or perhaps totaled. A truck accident attorney will help you attempt to get coverage to fix or replace your vehicle. This can be extremely important if you are medically cleared to go back to work but do not have transportation to get there otherwise.
If a fatality resulted from the semi-truck accident, you may want your truck accident attorney to pursue a loss of consortium. This means that in cases where there are extremely serious issues, perhaps catastrophic injuries or death, damages for future claims may also be an option. In such traumatic events, it’s hard to quantify damages or claims that may be needed in the future.
Punitive damages are rarely awarded in semi-truck accidents because it would require some type of gross negligence, recklessness, or willful or wanton behavior on the part of the truck driver or trucking company. However, it can be pursued by your truck accident attorney in Arizona if they feel this was a factor in your case.
It can feel unpleasant and overwhelming to navigate all of these issues after such a horrible event, but, that is yet another reason to have an experienced truck accident lawyer on your side.We hope this guide has provided you with the information you need to find a great truck accident attorney.
- Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Statistics
- DMV Guide to Car Accidents
- What You Should Know in Case of a Car Accident
- Tips on Talking to Your Insurance Company After a Car Accident
- When to Report a Car Accident to an Insurance Company
- Car Accident Basics in Arizona
- Important Steps to Take After a Car Accident
- 5 Most Common Causes of Truck Accidents
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Estimation of Backover Fatalities
- Smart Trucking - Backing Up a Tractor Trailer
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