Commercial truck accidents are among the most disastrous road mishaps due to the sheer size and weight of the vehicles involved. Understanding what happens when a truck driver gets in an accident can be helpful for both truck drivers and other accident victims.
At Richardson Richardson Boudreaux, we fight for the rights of truck accident victims following a serious traffic accident involving tractor-trailers. Truck driving accidents, particularly those involving commercial vehicles, are always serious because of their potential to cause serious injuries, even at low speeds. We have substantial experience handling different types of truck accident cases, and we can use our expertise to help you if you have been involved in a truck driving accident.
How Common Are Truck Accidents?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published accident statistics in 2020. They indicate approximately 415,000 police-reported crashes involving large trucks in the United States. More than 4,000 involved fatalities, and more than 101,000 involved serious injuries.
What Are the Different Types of Truck Accidents?
There are various types of truck accidents, each posing unique risks and creating different circumstances for accidents, injuries, and other parties involved:
- Jackknife Accidents: This occurs when a truck folds onto itself, similar to a folding pocket knife. It often happens when a driver brakes hard and fast, causing the trailer to swing out.
- T-Bone Accidents: These are frequently called side-impact accidents. They transpire when the front of one car or truck strikes the side of a truck in the shape of a T.
- Tire Blowouts: Commercial trucks often carry heavy loads, putting immense pressure on the tires. A tire blowout can lead to losing control of the vehicle and a potential accident.
- Rear-End and Head-On Collisions: Rear-end accidents can occur if other drivers fail to keep a safe distance, as trucks require much more room to come to a complete stop. Head-on collisions, although less common, are particularly catastrophic.
What Should You Do if You Get in a Trucking Accident?
If you find yourself implicated in a trucking collision, following a few crucial steps can help safeguard your rights, build a strong case, and ensure you are compensated fairly:
Report the Accident to the Authorities
After ensuring everyone's safety, your first step should be to immediately call the police. This is important, as the authorities will document the accident, assess the scene, and create an official accident report. This report typically includes crucial details, such as the involved parties, location, time, and potential factors contributing to the accident.
Later, this report can be vital evidence when negotiating a settlement or proceeding with a legal claim.
Gather Evidence and Document the Scene
Next, take time to gather as much evidence as possible. Take pictures and videos of the accident scene from multiple angles using your phone. Capture the positions of the vehicles, any skid marks, injuries, and damage to your vehicle.
Furthermore, document weather conditions, traffic signals, and any road defects that might have been partly responsible for the accident. All these details can provide a more vivid picture of the accident circumstances, which can help you prove fault or negligence.
Source for a Witness and Get Their Contact Information
Witnesses can offer an unbiased account of the accident, often shedding light on details that the involved parties might have missed or perceived differently. If any individuals saw the accident, ask for their contact information. Make sure to note what they saw and heard. Their statements can corroborate your version of events and strengthen your case.
Seek Legal Help
After dealing with immediate concerns, seek professional legal advice. Get in touch with a seasoned truck accident attorney as soon as possible. These legal professionals can advise you through the complicated aftermath of a trucking accident, from managing communication with the insurance company to gathering additional evidence (such as truck driver logs, maintenance records, or data from the truck's black box).
An attorney will have expertise in navigating the complexities of commercial vehicle accident laws and work to guarantee your rights are protected and you receive the compensation you deserve.
What Are the Different Liable Parties in a Truck Accident Case?
In a truck accident case, liability can extend beyond the commercial driver. Multiple parties may be involved, and determining who is responsible can often be complex. These parties may include:
The Commercial Driver
The truck driver is usually the first individual examined for liability. If the investigation reveals that the driver violated traffic laws, was driving under the influence, was distracted, or was fatigued, they could be liable for the accident. In such situations, evidence such as driver logs, testimonial evidence, and law enforcement reports can help establish the driver's negligence.
The Trucking Company
The truck driver's employer could also bear responsibility for the accident. Trucking companies are mandated to follow regulations set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), including rules about driver hours, vehicle maintenance, and driver qualifications. If a company encouraged unsafe driving practices to meet tight deadlines, failed to maintain its vehicles, neglected to verify the qualifications of its drivers, or did not provide adequate training, it could be held accountable.
Your attorney may need to delve into the company's records, maintenance logs, communication history, and hiring practices to establish this. For example, if a company employed a driver with a known history of reckless driving, the company might be found liable under the principle of negligent hiring.
The Truck Manufacturer
Finally, the truck manufacturer could also be implicated if a defect in the truck contributed to the accident. This could include faulty brakes, defective tires, or problems with other critical components. In such cases, the accident might fall under product liability law. Here, the plaintiff must prove that the truck or a specific part was "unreasonably dangerous," that the vehicle was operating in accordance with the intended purpose, and that the vehicle's performance was the cause of the accident.
Establishing the truck manufacturer's liability may require expert testimony to demonstrate the defect and its role in the accident. This type of claim can be complex, as manufacturers often have extensive resources to fight these allegations.
What Are the Available Damages to Victims of Truck Accidents?
The after-effects of a truck accident can be severe. Therefore, truck accident lawsuits provide you with an opportunity to pursue damages in a variety of categories. The most common examples include:
Economic damages are meant to compensate for the quantifiable financial losses that directly result from the accident. These could involve, among others:
- Medical Expenses: This includes the cost of immediate treatment after the accident, ongoing medical care, surgical procedures, medication, and any future medical care related to the accident.
- Lost Wages: If your injuries result in work absences, you can claim compensation for the wages you lost during this period.
- Loss of Earning Capacity: If your injuries have long-term effects on your ability to work, you may be entitled to indemnities for the loss of future earning capacity.
- Property Damage: This includes compensation for the damage to your vehicle and other personal belongings as a result of the accident.
Non-economic damages are intended to compensate for non-tangible losses that don't have a precise dollar value but significantly impact your life. These may include:
- Pain and Suffering: This covers physical pain and discomfort you've endured as a result of the accident and anticipated future suffering.
- Emotional Distress: This acknowledges the psychological impact of the accident, such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- Loss of Enjoyment of Life: If your injuries hinder you from enjoying daily pursuits like hobbies, working out, and other recreational pursuits, you may be compensated for this loss.
- Loss of Consortium: If the accident has adversely affected your relationship with your spouse, you can legally claim for loss of companionship.
Beyond economic and non-economic damages, in cases where the defendant's conduct was particularly egregious, punitive damages may be awarded. These are not meant to indemnify the victim but punish the wrongdoer and deter others from engaging in similar conduct. For instance, punitive damages may be considered if the truck driver was inebriated when the incident occurred, or the trucking company knowingly violated safety regulations.
Is There a Deadline When You Can File a Personal Injury Claim?
Yes, under the Oklahoma Statutes, you generally have two years from the date of the accident to file a personal injury claim. However, exceptions may apply, so be sure to consult a lawyer as soon as possible.
Can a Driver Lose His Driver's License or CDL Following an Accident?
Yes, subject to the severity of the accident, the violation committed, and whether it resulted in injury or death, a driver may lose their commercial driving license (CDL).
What Help Can a Truck Accident Lawyer Offer in This Situation?
An experienced truck accident lawyer is a crucial ally following a truck accident. Their extensive knowledge of the law and familiarity with the trucking industry can significantly increase your chances of a favorable outcome. A truck accident lawyer can help:
- Navigating the Complex Legal Landscape: Truck accident claims are far more complicated than regular car accident claims. They involve federal and state regulations specific to the trucking industry. A seasoned lawyer can guide you through these complexities, ensuring that all legal procedures and deadlines are met.
- Investigating the Accident: Determining the cause of a truck accident and identifying the liable parties requires a thorough investigation. An experienced truck accident lawyer can meticulously gather evidence, such as driver's logs, vehicle maintenance records, and electronic control module (ECM) data from the truck.
- Preserving Evidence: Trucks are often owned by large corporations that have teams of lawyers working to minimize their liability. They may not preserve crucial evidence for long, such as driver's logs and truck maintenance records. A truck accident lawyer can send a spoliation letter to ensure this evidence is preserved and available for your case.
- Calculating Damages: A lawyer can accurately estimate the total extent of your economic and non-economic damages. This includes future medical expenses and the accident's impact on your future quality of life.
- Negotiating with Insurance Companies: Insurance companies often attempt to minimize the compensation they pay out. A truck accident lawyer knows how to negotiate effectively with these companies to ensure you receive fair compensation for your injuries and damages.
- Representing You in Court: A truck accident lawyer will be equipped to take your case to trial if a just settlement cannot be agreed upon. They will present a compelling case on your behalf, advocating for your rights and interests.
Ultimately, a truck accident lawyer can be your advocate and guide during this challenging time, providing you with the legal support needed to seek the compensation you deserve. Their expertise can help level the playing field against large trucking companies and insurance providers, allowing you to focus on your recovery.
Schedule an Initial Consultation With Our Truck Accident Lawyer at Richardson Richardson Boudreaux Today
If you've been in a truck accident, don't hold back to contacting Richardson Richardson Boudreaux. Our dedicated team is ready to offer personalized, compassionate, and aggressive legal representation to ensure your rights are protected. We are fully aware that there might be numerous emotions that may arise in your mind following a truck accident, but we are here to handle the legal issues for you, freeing you up to focus on your medical recovery.
You must ensure your rights are secured after a serious truck accident. That is where we can help you. Always see a doctor as promptly as possible following a truck accident. Then, give us a call to schedule your initial consultation. It would be our honor to represent you, fight for your rights, and help you pursue all compensation you are entitled to.