Semi-trucks on American roadways are instruments of death. Truck accident lawyers handle cases with catastrophic injury and even death.
The average semi-truck and accompanying trailer is 53 ft long. The maximum weight for a U.S. semi-truck and trailer is 80,000 pounds.
These are monstrous vehicles.
The impact from a collision with these vehicles can cause catastrophic injuries or death for those in traditional passenger cars, motorcycles, bicycles, and pedestrians.
Trucking Safety Takes a Back Seat to Big Business
While we would expect drivers of these massive trucks to exercise extreme caution while on the road the reality is that trucking is big business in the US.
The more the truck driver drives the more goods are delivered and the better the profit for the big businesses. As a result, truck drivers often feel compelled to drive more hours than legal and for a longer duration.
For those injured in a truck accident and attorney may be able to help file a lawsuit to recover compensation for injuries and expenses caused by the accident to the victim.
This typically involves filing a claim against the trucking company that owns the vehicle not the driver himself. Trucking companies are big business hire the best legal firms to defend the claims.
That’s why it’s important to hire a law firm that has a specialized truck accident division with attorneys that are well-versed in the Federal Motor Carrier safety regulations that can affect a trucking claim in order to maximize settlement.
How a Truck Accident Lawyer Can Help You After Your Accident
Given the catastrophic damage caused by trucking accidents there is often a lot of money at stake for the insurance company representing the trucking company.
Under federal law the trucking company is required to carry a minimum of $750,000 and insurance on each truck. As a practical matter, most trucking companies are self-insured usually for up to a million dollars and then often stack additional coverage on top of that.
With potentially so many dollars at stake the trucking company and their insurance company start to defend a trucking accident case immediately after an accident.
That means while their victim is in the hospital or recovering from injuries. The insurance company is already at the scene of the accident gathering evidence trying to defend from a future claim from the injury.
Perhaps more so than any other type of auto accident case, it is vital that the injured party hire a truck accident attorney as close as possible to the accident.
We begin building an accident case the day that the client contact one of our Truck Accident Lawyers for help.
Trucking Cases: The Devil Is in The Details
We operate on a contingency fee basis, meaning that our clients don’t front any money to us.
Rather, we advance all costs and do the work up front and only get paid if we have a recovery. That means we want to make sure that we build the case as strong as possible from the very beginning so that we can get the best results both for us and for our client.
This often means that we will retain a handful of expert witnesses at the immediate outset of the case.
Gathering Evidence From the Beginning
An Accident Reconstructionist can arrive on scene and forensic Lee determine how the accident was caused. The best accident reconstructionist creates visual diagrams and exhibits to help communicate to the insurance companies later how they believe that the accident happened.
We also hire experts who understand how to take and read the Black Box inside of the truck and gather data from the Black Box.
One other important thing for us to do immediately upon being retained is to send a spoliation letter to the trucking company demanding that they don’t destroy any of the evidence from the accident.
You see, most trucks have the electronic control module or the black box, discussed above.
Because the federal law the drivers are also required to keep logs of how long they have driven on a shift and what their sleep time has been for their shifts. These logs are sent to the trucking companies corporate office.
Often these logs will detail that a trucking company and the truck driver has failed to follow federal law and has not been safe. In these cases, we can see punitive damages off and on top of the damages for pain and suffering and for medical bills.
This spoliation letter is important because if the company then destroys evidence after receiving our spoliation letter then we can ask the judge to tell a jury at trial that they should consider that the evidence destroyed was really good to us. In other words, the trucking company will get slapped and penalized for destroying evidence that could have been vital to prove our case.
Types of Trucking Law Suits
Types of trucking law suits include:
Negligence: The most common cause or type of lawsuit in trucking accident case is a negligence lawsuit. Simply, the allegation is that the driver had a duty of care to the injured party to drive reasonably on the roadways of Florida and the driver didn’t do that.
Negligent Entrustment: Similarly, our truck accident lawyers bring negligent entrustment claims against the trucking company. These are cases where the driver may have a bad history of doing wrong or driving without getting enough sleep or even driving on a suspended license, and the trucking company who hired the driver should have known better and shouldn’t have been trusted such a dangerous vehicle to the driver.
Wrongful Death: a special kind of trucking lawsuit and unfortunate one is that a wrongful death. Florida has a unique and specific law when it comes to Bringing lawsuits when somebody has died as the result of the negligence of another.
We call these wrongful-death actions and they have their own specific claim in the lawsuit.
Product Liability: Defective products like a blown out tire can cause catastrophic injury. We bring these actions against the product manufacturer as supposed to just bring the action against the driver of the vehicle or the owner of the trucking company. We call these product liability claims
The Causes of Trucking Accident Cases Affect the Value of The Case
In our experience, there are four main causes to truck accidents beyond what we normally see in a regular auto accident case.
This is important because the trucking company will do everything it can to deny that it’s driver is liable for the accident.
If the trucking company shirks responsibility then they can defeat the injured parties valid claim.
But by knowing the science behind the different causes of trucking accidents your lawyer can win.
Jackknifing: Jackknifing is wearing a large truck that is carrying a load in the back comes to a sudden stop and the load shifts inside the truck.
This sudden shift can cause the trailer to come around and go sideways even though the front of the truck is still going forward. The end result is that the trailer might even flip or roll.
Jackknifing occurs at speeds as low as 5 miles per hour. Improperly loaded trucks increase the odds of jackknifing.
Our Accident reconstructionists are important because they’ll go to the scene immediately after the accident and they can determine if the vehicle had jackknifed night due to the fault of the driver or if it was because of something that the driver couldn’t control, such as a slippery road. By proving the driver is responsible our truck accident lawyers maximize settlement value.
Wide Turns: We have all seen when drivers with big rigs need to use more than one lane to turn. Unfortunately, these wide turns when not done with the right amount of care can sweep over and swing by and hit an unsuspecting passenger car.
Not Stopping Timely: With the weight in a truck, trucks off and require much more time to stop the vehicle than the average passenger car. But sometimes truck drivers get lazy and end up driving to close to the car in front of them.
Because they don’t have enough time to stop these trucks can plow into the driver ahead of them causing massive damage and even death.
Driver Fatigue: The worst cause of trucking accidents is driver fatigue.
The National Highway Traffic Association Conducted a study that showed that while most people need 8 hours of sleep a day the average truck driver only gets 4.8 hours of sleep.
The study suggested that that little sleep can cause the driver to act as impaired as a drunk driver.
The study also found that many drivers had taken drugs while driving. Some of these drugs were stimulants to keep them awake. Other drugs were psychoactive drugs or alcohol.
Compensation for Trucking Accidents
Compensation for injuries and damages from a truck accident include the following:
Economic Damages: Naturally if you’ve been sent to the hospital because of an accident with a truck or have lost wages or the ability to work or earn then you can recover for these.
We call these economic damages because we can assign a specific dollar value to exactly what you’ve been put out for. If you missed three weeks of work we can assign a dollar value to that.
If you have medical expenses outstanding in the amount of $42,000 then obviously we can assign a specific dollar amount to that.
Pain and Suffering and Mental Anguish: Non-economic damages include pain and suffering and mental anguish. These are little bit more difficult to pin a dollar value to because they’re intangible. Nonetheless, they are no less real and they are still entitled to financial compensation.
Punitive Damages: Finally, in some trucking accident cases you can collect punitive damages. This is when the actions were willful malicious or intentional.
For example, when a truck driver is intentionally driving even though he has not done the sleep that’s required under federal statute a truck accident lawyer may claim for punitive damages in Florida.