After a truck accident that injured you, you can hold another party responsible for the crash. Proving liability, however, requires an experienced truck accident attorney. Learn below all the complex things a truck accident lawyer must do to prove liability for your truck accident.
What Does Liability Mean?
Liability describes fault for something, such as a motor vehicle accident. In most cases, the injured person can file for damages in a claim or lawsuit against the negligent party. But to do that, they must prove that person or entity caused the truck accident injuries.
When deciding liability for a truck accident, the insurance company may base its decision on the conclusions of law enforcement officials and others who investigated the incident for instance, a police officer from a local department where the truck crash happened or a state trooper who came across the accident on the interstate. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) officials might investigate and determine liability.
The trucking company involved also will conduct its investigation to determine fault. However, the company is not a neutral observer and can reach a conclusion that shifts liability to someone else. That’s why you need an experienced truck accident attorney fighting for your rights. You need your legal advocate to present substantial evidence that the trucking company caused the accident.
Some truck accidents involve several vehicles, and more than one person, company, or entity you can hold liable. Or, the companies that own the cab, trailer, and cargo can each have separate insurance policies, so your attorney will need to dig in deep to determine liability for the accident and which insurance policy applies.
Understanding State And Federal Trucking Laws
The U.S. Department of Transportation oversees interstate trucking companies through Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) rules. Most large commercial trucks, including freight trucks, moving trucks, transportation buses, and similar vehicles, must follow federal rules.
States, such as Illinois, passed additional regulations. In some accidents, though, only Illinois rules apply in the state, especially when the gross carrying weight for the vehicle is more than 18,000
Illinois also has its trucking laws that can influence liability in trucking accidents, including:
- The blood alcohol level for a truck driver cannot exceed 0.04 percent.
- Trucks can only go up to 65 miles per hour on rural roads, and 55 miles per hour in urban Illinois roads.
- Truckers can work in Illinois if they are 18 or older.
- Three route classes in Illinois – Classes 1, 2, and 3 – have assorted weight and speed limits. If the trucker violates these rules, you can hold them or their company liable for an accident.
Your truck accident attorney will review the federal and state laws that apply to determine liability for the accident.
Why Should You Sue the Trucking Company?
Truck driver negligence causes most tractor-trailer accidents. For example, the trucker can have caused the crash because of truck driver fatigue, texting and driving, speeding, drunk driving, or other dangerous actions.
However, many truck accidents cause devastating injuries, which may take months of recovery, permanent pain, and disabilities.
While you can file a claim against the truck driver, they may not cover much more personal liability coverage than the typical car driver. That is when your attorney may consider holding the trucking company liable for the truck driver’s negligent actions.
Trucking companies have larger liability insurance policies than regular vehicle drivers. That might reimburse you for your medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering.
A truck accident attorney can determine liability, then find every possible insurance policy that might pay your damages.
What Are Examples of Trucking Company Negligence?
Here are some of the common scenarios where you can hold the trucking company partly or fully liable for an accident:
Hours of Service (HOS) Violations
Federal law administered by the FMCSA requires all truck drivers to take eight hours off-duty before driving their next shift. The shift cannot log more than 11 hours of driving. If the trucking company does not ensure the driver follows the HOS rules, you can hold the trucking company liable for a crash.
Negligent Hiring or Supervision
The trucking company must ensure that any truck driver hired has all the required driver qualifications and training. It also must conduct thorough background checks to ensure the driver has a clean record and does not abuse drugs or alcohol. The company must also ensure its drivers follow state and federal laws and regulations. If a negligent or unqualified truck driver cause an accident, you can hold the company liable for negligent hiring and supervision.
Knowing About Truck Driver Violations
Some trucking companies do not stick to state and federal laws for commercial trucks. They might cut safety corners to save money and reduce costs.
For example, a truck driver might doctor his logbook to drive longer and reach his destination. The company may also set unrealistic delivery timelines, making it impossible to arrive on time without breaking the law. If the trucking firm sets unrealistic deadlines and a tired driver injures someone, you can hold it liable in a lawsuit.
Negligence Loading Cargo
The trucking or shipping company that loaded the trailer also must pack and secure all cargo safely. It cannot exceed the designated weight and volume limit. If the truck is too heavy or a shifting load occurs, a crash can happen because of company negligence.
Distracted driving is a problem for both regular and commercial drivers. Cell phones, radios, or GPS devices can distract long-haul truck drivers. Your personal injury attorney can get cell phone, GPS, and trucking company records to determine if distraction caused the accident.
The company that owns the trucks must regularly maintain and inspect them. They must quickly and thoroughly repair problems before deploying the truck. If the company does not do this and it crashes, you can hold it liable.
In these situations, the trucking company’s negligence can factor into a settlement or lawsuit. Your truck accident attorney will need extensive evidence to prove the trucking company’s liability. This evidence can include accident reports, truck black box recordings, cell phone records, traffic camera footage, eyewitness testimony, and more.
Are There Times When the Trucking Company Isn’t Liable?
Yes. If the truck driver was operating outside of his job duties or scope of employment, you probably cannot hold the company liable. For example, suppose the trucker took his rig out on the weekend when he was off and got in an accident. You cannot hold his employer liable for an accident during a personal trip.
How Do You Calculate Truck Accident Damages?
Assume that you suffered an injury from the trucking accident, and your attorney proved that the company is liable for a HOS violation. How much you will receive in damages depends on the severity of your injuries, whether you need hospital stays, surgeries, and rehab, and how much-lost work time you have. Also important is if you will fully recover or will be permanently disabled.
Most truck accident settlements involve economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages pay you for expenses related to the crash and your injuries. These include past and future medical bills, lost earnings, property damages, and lost earning potential. Provide your attorney with all of your medical bills and lost income information so you can get the most economic damages.
You also may recover compensation for your non-economic damages. These damages are harder to quantify and pin a number on, so you need a good attorney fighting for you. Non-economic damages include pain and suffering, mental anguish, disfigurement, and loss of enjoyment of life.
Non-economic damages are somewhat subjective but usually constitute the largest part of a truck accident settlement. Get a lawyer to assess these damages before accepting a settlement.
Contact a Truck Accident Attorney Today
If you were in a truck accident recently and have suffered an injury, talk to a best personal injury lawyer in Chicago area now. A truck crash usually causes severe injuries and requires a truck accident lawyer to fight for your rights.
If you attempt to negotiate a settlement on your own, you won’t recover enough money for your medical bills, income losses, and pain and suffering.