One of the scariest causes of personal injuries is a trucking accident. This is because when a passenger vehicle collides with a semi-truck, the passenger vehicle typically loses. And the injuries that someone riding in the passenger car sustains can be catastrophic, and many times fatal.
For these reasons, trucking accident cases present a unique set of challenges and issues that are not present in most auto accident cases. The injuries are typically much more severe, the laws are more complicated, and the cause of the accident is not always straight-forward.
While we frequently counsel people that have been involved in minor car accidents with small damages to handle their case on their own using the resources available on this website, we would never make the same recommendation for a trucking accident case.
The Facts About Trucking Accidents
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, in 2016 there were 4,317 people killed in an accident involving a large truck (defined as having a gross motor weight of more than 10,000 pounds). 152 of those people were killed in North Carolina. And for every person who is killed in a trucking accident, there are many more who are severely injured.
Trucking accidents happen everyday in our state. And with more and more people traveling our busy highways, and more businesses coming to North Carolina, the risk of being involved in a trucking accident grows everyday.
Why Do You Need a Truck Accident Lawyer
A trucking accident case is too complicated for the family of someone who has been injured or worse in a trucking accident to handle on their own.
This is because when someone is involved in a trucking accident, a trucking accident lawyer is needed to fully and properly investigate the case. Witnesses will need to be located, an accident reconstruction expert will need to be hired to determine how the accident occurred, and it is possible that other expert witnesses will be necessary.
The family of a trucking accident victim needs to help the injured person to heal and manage their care. If the victim died in the crash, then your family needs to grieve and focus on your own healing. Investigating what happened in your loved ones accident is a job that is best left to legal counsel.
Who is Responsible for Damages in a Trucking Accident?
One of the reasons that trucking accidents can be so complicated is that there are frequently many potential defendants at fault. There is the driver of the truck themselves who may have caused the accident. It’s possible another driver caused the accident leading to a multiple vehicle collision with the tractor trailor.
In some cases, the truck driver is an independent contractor, and in others, the driver is the employee of the trucking company. The truck could have been carrying a load that was inherently dangerous and contributed to the accident. In those situations, the owner or manufacturer of those hazardous goods could be liable.
The bottom line is that there can be many people responsible in a trucking accident case. The job of a trucking accident lawyer is to identify all possible defendants and lines of insurance.
What to Do After a Truck Accident
The days and weeks after a trucking accident can be some of the most painful times for a trucking accident victim. First and foremost, you should seek out medical attention for yourself or anyone injured in the crash. You and your family may be in shock about the severity of the accident, especially if there was an unexpected fatality. And if there wasn’t a fatality, there may still be a need for multiple surgeries and rehabilitation.
Notwithstanding all of this, it is important that you contact a trucking accident lawyer to start the process of preserving evidence, obtaining witness statements, and photographing the scene of the crash including the vehicles involved. This stage of your case is absolutely critical, because trucking companies are notorious for “losing” or misplacing important evidence that could prove their liability for the accident.
How a Truck Accident Lawyer Can Help You
After a trucking accident, the trucking company will dispatch its own investigators to the scene of the accident. It is important that you do the same. At The Hart Law Firm, we have investigators on call that we will send out to the accident scene immediately to photograph the scene, and note the presence of skid marks and oil, gas and radiator spills at the accident scene. They will help us to preserve important evidence, obtain witness statements, and document what happened.
In addition, we will also start the process of obtaining the crash report from the local police or highway patrol, motor carrier records, photographs and safety logs. The sooner that you retain our firm, the sooner we can start working for you to investigate your accident.
We don’t want to underscore the importance of getting a trucking accident lawyer involved as quickly as possible.
Expert Witnesses for Truck Accidents
Trucking industry experts and investigators are vitally important to obtaining a successful result in your case. We will work closely with these professionals to determine exactly what happened in your case and plot out a legal strategy for you to move forward. Other expert witnesses we frequently use include: engineers, doctors, economists, life care experts, and accident reconstruction experts.
How Much Does it Cost to Hire a Truck Accident Lawyer?
The trucking accident lawyers at The Hart Law Firm work on a contingent fee basis. That means that we will receive a percentage of your settlement as our fee when the case settles. This fee is typically ⅓, but can go as high as 40% if we decide to file a lawsuit.
By charging a contingent fee, The Hart Law Firm is giving all victims equal access to justice through the legal system. Trucking accident cases are complicated and expensive to prosecute. They take a great deal of time and we will pay for all the expert witnesses up front. But we do this because everyone deserves the same caliber of representation that the trucking company will have defending themselves.
A trucking accident can be one of the most devastating forms of personal injury accidents. Your medical bills may run into the thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. It is very possible that your health insurance or medical payments coverage may not cover all of your medical expenses. Getting you life back to the way it was may be impossible.
But with a trucking accident lawyer from The Hart Law Firm on your side, we can help you. Don’t wait, call our office for a free consultation at (919) 887-8582 or fill our our online contact form.
How Can You Protect Your Rights after a Trucking Accident?
The best way to protect your rights after a trucking accident is to not speak with anyone but your lawyer. You will receive calls from insurance companies that represent various drivers who were involved in the accident, as well as the trucking company itself.
These professionals are trained to get information from you in a way that will hurt your case and help theirs. If they ask you for a recorded statement you may politely decline. If they ask you how your medical treatment is going, tell them you aren’t sure. If they ask how you are feeling, tell them you will have to wait and see.
Basically, get off the phone with them as quickly as possible. Don’t answer any of their questions except for your name, address, and contact information. You owe them no legal obligation to provide them with any information whatsoever.
Furthermore, by talking to them, you could be hurting your own case.
The first any only call you should be making, after you have sought out medical help, is to your own trucking accident lawyer.
What Should You Do at the Scene of the Trucking Accident?
What you should do at the scene of the accident depends in large part on your medical condition. The more severe your injuries, the less you should do. But in general, here is a list of tips for you to consider:
- Turn on your hazard lights
- Remain calm and stay in your vehicle, especially if you aren’t sure the extent of your injuries
- Call 9-1-1 immediately – even if you aren’t hurt, chances are that someone else is, and you will need a police report to document the accident
- Make sure all of your passengers (if any) are safe
- Call a family member or friend who can come meet you at the accident or hospital
- If you are able to, get the names and phone numbers of all the other parties involved in the wreck, as well as any other witnesses.
- Use your phone to take photographs of the scene and the vehicles involved in the collision.
- Do not admit fault for the accident to anyone
- Do not discuss the accident with anyone other than the police officers on the scene and your own insurance company – you are not legally obligated to give statements to the other driver’s insurance companies
What if a Representative of the Trucking Company Calls You Before You Hire a Trucking Accident Lawyer?
Follow the advice in this article. Do NOT talk to or give a recorded statement to the other driver’s insurance company. This includes the insurance adjuster for any other passenger vehicles involved in the accident, as well as the insurance company for the truck driver and/or the trucking company s/he worked for.
In addition, they may send you paperwork and ask you to sign it voluntarily. Do not sign anything without talking to a trucking accident lawyer first. Here at The Hart Law Firm, we can offer you a free consultation to talk through what happened and review any paperwork you were sent. Simply give us a call at (919) 887-8582.
In the Days After Your Accident, What Should You Do?
If you were seriously injured, the first few days and weeks after the accident may be extremely stressful and painful for you, both physically and mentally. You may be dealing with traumatic physical injuries, surgeries, and perhaps even be confined to a hospital bed for several weeks.
Your primary goal during this time is to focus on your health, and trying to heal your body.
If and when you are up to it, you should begin to gather some information related to your case. Alternatively, if you have a family member or friend that can help you, you can ask them to gather the following information on your behalf:
- A copy of the police report
- A report from your insurance company showing what the property damage to your car way
- A list of any and all out-of-pocket expenses you may have incurred related to the accident
- Start to make a running list of your time off of work
- Keep a journal of your doctor’s appointments, your pain and symptoms, and how you are feeling each day. Make sure to get a copy of all test results, prescriptions, therapies and treatments, and any other relevant information about your medical treatment
Who Can Be Sued in a Trucking Accident Case?
One of the things that makes trucking accident cases so unique is that there are so many potential defendants and parties responsible for the accident. Putting together the pieces of what happened is like piecing together a really big jigsaw puzzle. For awhile it just looks like a mess of puzzle pieces on your dining room table. But after a little while, sections become more clear and recognizable, and by the time the case is completed, you will have a full picture of everything that happened.
In trucking accident cases, some of the responsible parties include:
- Other drivers of passenger vehicles that may have contributed to the accident;
- The driver of the truck;
- The company that owns the truck;
- The trucking company that employs the driver;
- The parent company that owns the trucking company;
- The company or entity responsible for the goods being carried on the trailer; or,
- The facility responsible for loading the truck.
So as you can see, there are multiple parties that may be involved in a trucking case. This is one of the many reasons it is important to call trucking accident attorney to help you with your case.
How Long Do You Have to File a Lawsuit after a Truck Wreck?
In North Carolina, the statute of limitations to file a lawsuit when there has been a motor vehicle accident is 3 years. However, just because you have three years to file a lawsuit doesn’t mean you should wait that long to contact a trucking accident lawyer. You should contact a lawyer as soon as possible so that they may start investigating your case.
This is also important so that your lawyer can send the trucking company and any other responsible parties a notice to preserve evidence letter. This is a special letter that will inform the defendants not to destroy any evidence, such as driver safety logs and vehicle inspection reports.
Tractor Trailer Accident Causes
There are a number of various reasons why accidents can occur with a tractor trailer and a vehicle. But one thing is certain. If a large commercial tractor trailer collides with a passenger vehicle, motorcycle, or even a pedestrian, a serious or catastrophic injury or even a death is typically the result. Tractor trailer are some of the biggest vehicles on the road and their sheer size and weight turn them into a deadly weapon if they are driven without proper care and thought.
And unfortunately, many of the drivers of these vehicles forget just how dangerous their truck can be. It is frequently the negligence or recklessness of the truck driver that causes tractor trailer accidents.
The driver of a tractor trailer requires a special commercial drivers license, and the operation of these vehicles is heavily regulated by federal and state laws. But notwithstanding these requirements, the trucking companies and their drivers will frequently look to cut corners and ignore important safety regulations that are intended to save lives.
Let’s look at some more specific scenarios in which tractor trailer’s can cause vehicle collisions and wrecks.
Why Do Tractor Trailers Cause Wrecks?
Tractor trailers can cause wrecks for numerous reasons. But here are some of the most common reasons.
Truck Driver Fatigue
If you have ever taken a road trip and gotten a little tired behind the wheel, then you understand what driver fatigue is. When I was 17 years old, I myself fell asleep at the wheel and drove my car off the highway and through the oncoming traffic. Fortunately, I didn’t hit anything or hurt myself or anyone else. But if I had been driving a huge semi and not a Ford Escort, the damages would have been catastrophic.
Prescription Drug Use
One of the number one causes of trucking accidents is improper prescription drug use. This can occur when a truck driver fails to read the labels on their prescriptions and takes the drug anyway, even though it may cause them to be unable to operate a vehicle safely.
Speeding and Reckless Driving
It is one thing for a vehicle to speed. Everyone has done it at one time or another. But if the driver of a multi-ton truck fails to adhere to the posted speed limits and loses control of their vehicle, it can have devastating effects.
Worse than drivers who speed are those that drive recklessly. Speeding and recklessness often go hand in hand. A reckless truck driver is one of the most dangerous people on the highway. One small mistake and someone’s life is put in jeopardy.
Another huge cause of trucking accidents is a truck that was not loaded properly. In these situations, the weight of the truck could be unevenly distributed, causing the truck to flip on its side, colliding with other traffic.
It is also possible that a load would not be properly secured on the truck, causing it to come loose on the highway and hitting the vehicles behind the truck.
Believe it or not, truck drivers have smartphones just like the rest of us. And if they attempt to check that text message while driving, it can have catastrophic consequences if they stop paying attention and fail to stay in their lane or slow down for oncoming traffic.
Failure to Inspect the Truck
There are a number of state and federal safety regulations that require regular inspections of the tractor trailer. If the driver or the trucking company fails to conduct those safety inspections, or if an investigation later shows that the truck failed inspection but was put into service anyway, it could be considered a cause of the accident.
If you have a question for us, you can submit it confidentially online by clicking here. You can also call The Hart Law Firm at (919) 887-8582. We are happy to speak to you and answered any detailed questions you may have.