If you've been in an accident involving a large or commercial truck, you know how it can turn your life upside down in an instant. From dealing with physical implications, such as loss of property and injury, to the mental and emotional toll it takes, a semi-truck accident can feel like a never-ending nightmare. On top of everything, you must also determine how much compensation you're due, which can be an overwhelming and confusing process. Fortunately, there are truck accident attorneys you can turn to that will work with you and guide you as you navigate this complicated process. Let's take a look at what you can expect during this process and what goes into determining liability in a truck accident case.
Why Big Trucking Accidents Occur
While truck crashes and commercial vehicle crashes are not as common as typical car accidents, trucking accidents do occur, and they're often devastating to the driver and the other vehicles involved. Since their trucks and trailers are so large, commercial truck drivers undergo intense comprehensive training to learn how to respond to (and hopefully avoid) dangerous situations on the road. They also know that an accident could result in a revoked license, termination, or legal action if they are at fault. Here are a few ways a truck driver could be responsible for an accident while on the road: fatigue or exhaustion, failure to maintain space around them, failing to properly inspect and maintain equipment, speeding or improperly parking, overloading, inadequate training, texting or using the other electronic devices, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, tailgating, tailing to use signals or making improper turns.
What To Do if You're in a Truck Accident
If you are in a truck accident, there will be a flurry of activity from the moment the dust settles. If you're injured, you will immediately be treated by the first responders and transported to the hospital for care. Now begins the arduous process of determining why the accident occurred, who's at fault, and how to calculate compensation.
You should always preserve evidence and, if possible, obtain documentation of the accident scene, being sure to take pictures of your vehicle and the surrounding area. When time permits, record as much information as possible, such as what you were doing at the time the accident occurred and the actions of the other driver. The more specifics you can include, the better, including the location, time of day, which direction you were heading, your speed, road conditions, and more. Truck accident attorneys can work with you to help put the pieces together, figuring out exactly what happened and uncovering the truth of the situation.
To determine the circumstances surrounding the accident, a comprehensive investigation will begin. During this time, several pieces of evidence should be preserved and may be examined. These include:
The Engine Control Module “ECM,” i.e., “Black Box” on the Truck
Did you know that, like airplanes, commercial trucks are required to contain a black box of sorts that records and stores information on how the vehicle operates? This is great news for anyone involved in a truck accident since this device often shows the speed the truck was traveling before impact, whether the driver had their seat belt on, and when they used the brakes.
Other information also exists on commercial vehicles, including how long the driver had been continuously driving, communications with the dispatcher and trucking company, whether there were speed limitations placed upon the vehicle, and whether it was attempted to be exceeded. Sometimes more interesting yet is that some trucks are now equipped with multiple cameras, both forward and driver facing. A disadvantage of these electronic devices is their limited data-holding capabilities, which can only store this vital information for a short period of time. Meanwhile, moving the vehicle can sometimes change event related data after the crash. Insurance companies often have specialized teams on standby to respond to every significant truck crash scene to gather as much of this information as possible and get out ahead of the injured person. That's why hiring a personal injury lawyer for truck accidents is important, since they will know how to navigate the system and retrieve the data before it's lost.
The Accident Scene
Examining the scene of the accident can give insight into how the accident occurred and the circumstances that followed. We regularly work with reconstructionists to examine the vehicles in the context of the scene combined with information gathered as described above to try and figure out exactly what happened. Things like debris fields, fluid marks, tire marks, and final resting places of vehicles and trailers can tell the true story of what happened.
A truck accident lawyer knows how to retrieve the driving records that can help support your case. They can find information like timesheets, maintenance records, driver complaints, records of tickets or accidents, and any medical conditions like sleep apnea that could impact the case. Now, much of this information is electronic. Some is stored with the driver’s employer, and other times it is stored elsewhere.
Speaking to eyewitnesses and finding any video footage of the accident can be invaluable for your case. It will help corroborate your story, add clarity, and introduce additional details you may not have known. Sometimes this is people who happen to be there at the time of the crash, and other times it is first responders.
Expert Witness Testimony
Expert witnesses aren't involved in the accident, but they have the experience and expertise to recreate or reconstruct the scene of the crash, give insightful information on the circumstances leading up to it, and identify failed procedures that should have been followed and other issues that led to the crash and resulting injuries..
It's important to note that time is of the essence after a trucking accident. Insurance companies often want to minimize storage of damaged vehicles, and other times drivers and companies actively work to destroy evidence, deleting cell phone calls and messages or otherwise changing circumstances in and around the vehicles to avoid liability. Statutes of limitations can vary, particularly if a local government or state shares responsibility as the statute is even shorter. Be sure to ask your truck accident attorneys about the time limitations in your area.
How Much Does a Commercial Truck Accident Cost?
According to an analysis by the FMCSA, the average cost of a truck driving accident is $91,125, but this number can vary significantly according to the severity of the accident. This figure doesn't take into account inflation, which could create up to a 30% increase, or the long-term physical and mental effects for those involved.
What Happens When Liability Is Determined?
Once facts supporting a liability determination are gathered, it's time to focus on figuring out what a fair settlement amount would be. Multiple factors are involved in developing this payout, including:
- Injury severity
- Injury duration
- Injury impacts daily life
- The amount of emotional distress and loss of enjoyment of life
- Financial loss associated with being out of work or unable to work in the future
- State laws
- The magnitude of the at-fault driver and any one else's negligence
- The amount of available Insurance
How Do I Know if I Am Receiving a Fair Settlement?
Navigating the legal process is confusing, which is why hiring a commercial truck accident personal injury lawyer is essential to ensuring you receive a fair settlement. At Turbak Law Office, P.C., we aren't afraid to go up against anyone to get you the settlement you deserve. We proudly represent any commercial truck driving accident victim, so you can rest assured you're in good hands. When searching for a truck accident lawyer in Watertown, turn to Turbak Law Office, P.C. and see why we're the most trusted name in the business! The first call or meeting is always free!