Truck Accident Attorney's Guide: A Complete Resource for Accident Victims
Have you been hit by a semi truck?
Maybe you were the victim of a jack-knife tractor-trailer incident. Are you dealing with medical bills, job loss, or property damage? Or is it much worse?
The trucking company’s insurance may be pushing you to settle your claim, but you are not sure that doing so is in your best interest. Here is what attorney Rocky McElhaney, a truck accident legal expert, wants you to know about truck accidents…
What Causes a Semi Truck Accident?
A general list of possible accident causes might include driver error and fatigue. But even here, there are statistics. A closer look at the drivers’ actions at the time of an accident reveals the top three problems you face when on the road:
- Drivers following too close behind another vehicle.
- A motorist’s failure to yield the right of way at intersections.
- A failure to stay in the lane.
- Tractor trailor making a U-turn or crossing the path of a car.
Although the figures do not differentiate between actions taken during a passenger car and commercial truck accident, they acknowledge that there is plenty of room for operator error. Many Nashville truck accident lawyers would look for specific circumstances that may have contributed to the crashes. Examples include:
- Driver fatigue.
- Vehicle operators without proper training or licensing for the machines they operate.
- Equipment failure or poor maintenance of the truck.
- Decisions to speed to meet tight deadlines for delivery schedules.
When you become the victim of a crash involving a large commercial vehicle, a Tennessee truck injury attorney will help you look at every aspect of the event. In some situations, a collision may have multiple contributing factors. Each of these affects the outcome of your case.
A Typical Truck Crash Injury and Damage Report
What differentiates a typical vehicle accident from one involving a semi truck is the amount of damage the latter will do. Fully loaded, a truck can weigh about 25 times what a typical passenger car weighs. When an object of this weight reaches a certain velocity and hits another object, it can inflict tremulous damage.
Big rigs may jack-knife, turn over, or run across multiple lanes of traffic before coming to a stop. If you have been involved in this type of collision, you may suffer significant injuries. A typical truck crash injury report includes:
- Potential for spinal cord damage, temporary paralysis, or permanent disability.
- Damage to bones, organs, and skin.
- If there was a fire or the truck carried chemicals, there may also be burn injuries of varying degrees.
- Brain injuries that may affect your ability to live independently.
- Whiplash injuries might make it challenging to return to work without accommodations.
Other injuries are more difficult to record. They include the psychological impact you feel now and in the future from having become a victim of the experience. You may suffer from nightmares, panic attacks, and irrational fears or driving or being in traffic.
Damage to your vehicle may make it inoperable. You may lose the use of it altogether if it costs too much to do the repairs. Whatever you were transporting at the time is also most likely broken or lost.
Other losses involve your ability to earn a living. Injuries, the loss of a vehicle, and an inability to focus may make it impossible to return to work. You may lose income and the potential for promotions or performance-based bonuses.
How a Truck Accident Attorney Can Help You Identify Defendants
Who is at fault for causing the accident? Most any Tennessee truck accident lawyer will warn you to be careful when the trucking company’s insurance offers to write you a check quickly. The odds are good that they just want you to settle so they can get the incident off their books.
However, by moving hastily, you may sign away some rights. In fact, doing so may prevent you from identifying all the possible defendants in this case, which could influence the value of your settlement. No wonder insurance companies want you to sign quickly!
For example, did you know that if a truck driver is an employee of the trucking company, it is the business that may face legal liability for the operator’s mistakes or negligence? If you are dealing with a national trucking business, the damages the insurance company should pay out will be significantly higher than if you are dealing with the insurer of an individual. In fact, the company may be liable even if the driver is an independent contractor.
Sometimes, there are multiple layers of liability. For example, the vehicle’s operator and the company that hired him may be one set of defendants. But if the cargo that the trucker hauled contributed to your injuries, it may be possible to apportion some liability to the shipper.
A commercial vehicle accident attorney will look at your case from all angles. Doing so benefits you because it presents you with a clear picture of who is involved.
How to Prove Your Case
Before discussing fair compensation, the majority of truck accident attorneys will decide if a case involves criminal components or negligence. In commercial truck accidents, negligence is most commonly the reason for the events. Sometimes, an attorney will pay a firm to recreate the accident with a computer model.
The goal of this exercise is to identify what the circumstances behind the accident were. Doing so factors in traffic volume, weather, and visibility. Next, the police report will show whether there are grounds for believing that the driver neglected to exercise a reasonable level of care to prevent the crash.
An example may be a driver who is overly fatigued or whose attention is diverted because of a cell phone conversation. High speeds on wet roads could be another sign of negligence. An attorney will then connect the dots and show how the actions – or inactions – of the truck driver resulted in the accident, which then led to your injuries and damages.
Putting it All Together: How a Tennessee Truck Accident Lawyer Litigates Your Claim
When you contact a law firm for help, make sure it has a Tennessee truck injury attorney on staff. The office should also have a strong background in personal injury litigation. A good-quality firm will offer you a free consultation, which helps you to decide if you want to enter into a client relationship with the office.
Step 1: Hire an Attorney
After you have representation, do not give any statements to insurance adjusters. If they want to talk to you, they have to do so through the law firm. Doing so protects your rights and prevents you from being asked leading questions that may hurt your case.
Step 2: Your Attorney Investigates the Accident
Once you decide to work with a particular commercial truck accident attorney, the firm will investigate the accident. Mind you, the insurance company for the truck driver and the company will do the same. Evidence gathering during the investigation involves a review of the police report, witness interviews, and protection of physical evidence.
Examples of the latter include the truck as well as your vehicle. Until the insurance company knows that you have legal representation, they may contact you to gain access to medical records or to discuss a financial settlement. It is important to let them know right away when you decide to hire a truck accident lawyer.
Step 3: Continue with Your Medical Treatment
While the attorney works, you need to focus on getting well. Let your truck accident lawyer worry about dealing with insurance companies. In the meantime, you do everything the doctors ask of you.
In the process, you get a clearer picture of all injuries you are dealing with. You recognize which may require a more extended recovery period. If you have disabilities, you may learn how they will affect you in the long run.
This is information your attorney needs to know as well. Because the commercial policies for the trucking company should provide for making you whole, it may be necessary to include costs for extended physical therapy now and in the future.
Step 4: Your Attorney Discusses a Possible Settlement with the Insurer
After the investigation and an identification of all possible defendants, your attorney now also has the medical information you provide. These elements allow for the beginning of settlement discussions between the law office and the trucking company’s insurer. If the insurance company has tried reaching out to you before, you may be surprised to learn how differently they interact with the attorney.
Step 5: Litigation Proceeds with a Suit
It does not happen very often that a semi truck accident ends up in court. Typically, there will be intense negotiations that usually result in a fair settlement. Sometimes, however, it becomes necessary to file a suit. Even then, there is still ample time to talk about a settlement right up to the moment that the parties enter the courtroom.
Finding a Commercial Truck Accident Attorney You Can Work With
Big rigs of all types cause considerable damage during accidents. It does not matter if you were the victim of a collision with an 18-wheeler, a semi-truck, or a tractor-trailer. As discussed previously, the sheer weight and size of these commercial trucks contribute to devastating injuries and significant property damage.
The trucking company’s insurance agency will work quickly to settle your case with you – as long as you do not have legal representation. They do so because they count on you not knowing all the facts. They also figure that they can just write you a check that looks big even if it does not cover your future medical bills.
Do not allow yourself to be victimized again! Instead, interview an aggressive personal injury attorney who feels comfortable negotiating and litigating. Remember: You only have one opportunity to get the compensation you deserve.
Tennessee Accident and Truck Crash Injury Statistics
Traffic accidents in the State of Tennessee happen more often than you think. The Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security offers a different look at the various facets that make up the statistics. For example, did you know that there have been 151,592 traffic accidents so far in 2017?
Of these, 723 resulted in fatalities while 37,264 caused injuries. These crashes also caused property damage. A total of 113,605 accidents resulted in property damage exceeding $400.
Breaking it down county by county for heavy and medium truck accidents, it is clear that the most dangerous areas are:
Truck Accident Legal Resources
Were you injured in a trucking accident in Tennessee? Our attorneys can help.
Trucking and transportation laws are complicated; choosing the right lawyer for your needs shouldn’t be. The Rocky McElhaney Law firm in Nashville fights for your rights when you’ve suffered an injury because of a truck accident. To schedule a free initial consultation, please call 615-425-2500 or fill out our contact form. We are proud to help clients from all over Tennessee, including Murfreesboro, Chattanooga, Memphis, Columbia, Knoxville, Hendersonville and Kingsport.