Truck accident lawyers are busier than ever. Since 2013, mostly because of the ongoing truck driver shortage, the number of large truck crashes has increased significantly. This shortage peaked at 80,000 drivers in 2021. The resulting responses are mostly responsible for the increased number of crashes.
The driver shortage forces existing drivers to carry heavier loads more quickly over longer distances. Stress was already high in these three areas. For example, truckers can legally drive at least eleven hours a day. They can be “on duty” twelve hours a day, or more. The line between driving and on-duty is very fine.
Regulators responded by easing HOS (hours of service) restrictions and truck driver qualifications. The HOS changes include technicalities that seem minor but make a big difference. For instance, regulators blurred the line between lightly-regulated short haul trips and heavily-regulated long haul trips. Additionally, in some states, people as young as eighteen can get behind the wheel of a semi-truck.
At AskLegally, we help crash victims choose the best truck accident lawyer. Only the best lawyer will do. These cases are very complex. When things get tough, everyone including a truck accident lawyer, often looks for an easy way out. Unless you’re willing to settle for less, you need a lawyer who resists that temptation and is with you to the end of the line.
How is a truck accident different from a car accident?
The extreme force in a truck accident usually makes a truck accident different from a car accident. Most semi-trucks carry hundreds of gallons of highly-explosive diesel fuel. They often carry this fuel in external tanks. Altogether, including fuel and cargo, a large truck usually weighs at least 80,000 pounds. Due to the aforementioned shortage, regulators often allow overweight vehicles and look the other way when a truck exceeds weight limits. Some serious injuries unique to truck accidents include:
- Severe Burns: Regular gasoline and diesel fuel burn at different temperatures. Additionally, diesel fuel has a gelatin-like quality that regular gasoline doesn’t have. Therefore, these victims often sustain serious burns that require extensive, and costly, treatment and speciality regional burn centers.
- Advanced PTSD: About half of vehicle collision victims deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Acute Stress Disorder, a less-serious kind of PTSD, is common among car crash victims. Huge trucks and huge fireballs often cause uncomplicated PTSD, a condition that’s much harder to manage.
- Crushed Bones: Frequently, truck crash victims are pinned underneath these massive vehicles until emergency responders arrive. Therefore, broken bones become crushed bones.
These serious injuries don’t just create treatment issues. They also create cost issues. The average injury-related medical bill is over $40,000. Most families live hand to mouth. They cannot possibly pay such a large bill.
An attorney addresses both problems. But we aren’t quite to this point yet. We have a couple of other points to address first.
What should I do after a truck accident?
Because of these serious injuries, especially the burns, most truck crash victims aren’t in a position to do anything immediately after a truck accident. When they regain consciousness, usually in a hospital recovery room, they usually don’t regain their wits. Therefore, many crash victims unintentionally say and do things that hurt their cases later.
Statements to insurance adjusters are a good example. TV commercials feature Flo from Progressive, the guy with the ostrich in Liberty Mutual commercials, and other affable types. The real world is different. These companies instruct their adjusters to extract as much damaging information as possible from people who, as mentioned above, aren’t thinking clearly and are therefore easy to take advantage of.
So, aside from vague “there was an accident” statements, victims shouldn’t say anything to insurance adjusters. Let your lawyer handle these conversations.
What happens if a truck driver gets in an accident?
Financially, nothing happens if a truck driver gets in an accident, at least in most cases. However, truck drivers that cause accidents face some repercussions.
Insured truck drivers don’t pay legal fees or any other litigation expenses. The insurance company is financially responsible for these costs. After the dust settles, the insurance company could raise the driver’s rates or even drop coverage.
Truck drivers aren’t financially responsible for damages either. The respondeat superior rule usually applies. Employers are financially responsible for accidents their employees cause during the course and scope of employment. Once again, after the dust settles, employers can usually discipline or even terminate such drivers.
At-fault accidents also go onto a driver’s permanent record, which in this case is the SMS (safety measurement system) report. An SMS report is like an expanded multi-state driving record. It includes items like traffic tickets, collisions, HOS violations, and HMC (hazardous material carrier) violations.
Attorneys often use these reports during court cases. If a truck driver has a low HMS score, jurors often award additional damages.
When should I consult a lawyer for a truck accident?
Now, we go back to the aforementioned medical issues. To get the medical treatment you need, you should immediately consult with a truck accident lawyer.
Attorneys have professional relationships with doctors who focus on injury-related conditions. So, a lawyer can refer a victim to a top-notch doctor. Generally, once again because of the professional relationship, this doctor doesn’t charge anything upfront. In other words, an immediate partnership with a lawyer means immediate medical and financial relief.
Medical bills must be paid eventually. When that time comes, lawyers usually negotiate with doctors and reduce medical bills. In most states, that reduction could mean more money in a victim’s pocket.
Assume Sarah incurs $100,000 in medical bills after a truck crash. If her lawyer reduces that amount to $80,000, she might get to keep the other $20,000. The collateral source rule, which controls such matters, varies in different states.
Why should I hire a truck accident lawyer?
We’ll keep this point short and sweet. Attorney-negotiated settlements are three times higher than other settlements. So, if you want maximum compensation, you should hire a truck accident lawyer. If you’re willing to settle for less, you don’t need a lawyer.
What should I ask a truck accident lawyer?
At your initial consultation, ask about the truck accident lawyer’s dedication, experience, and accessibility.
The best truck accident lawyers devote most or all their time to personal injury matters. Undedicated lawyers often abandon the cause when the going gets tough. It’s gut-wrenching to watch a basketball team quit when it falls behind. It’s much worse to watch your lawyer quit.
A lawyer’s experience should include trial experience. Insurance companies know which attorneys hide in “settlement closets.” Since they never go to trial, they never get the best settlement offers.
Accessibility is a fine line. An attorney should be available for a meeting on relatively short notice. But if a lawyer is twiddling her thumbs and can meet you immediately, that’s a bad sign.
What does a truck accident lawyer do?
A lawyer does more than obtain more money, as mentioned above. A truck accident lawyer also gives a victim solid legal advice.
Lawyers don’t wave magic wands and obtain maximum compensation. Instead, they diligently build cases from the ground up, using evidence like the police accident report, witness statements, and medical bills. Electronic evidence, like security camera footage, comes into play as well. A lawyer turns this pile of bricks into a solid wall.
Walls contain bricks and mortar. If bricks are the evidence, legal analysis is the mortar. Negligence theories, like ordinary negligence and negligence per se, cement the brocks together. Without this additional step, the big bad insurance company wolf could easily blow the wall down. Okay, that analogy didn’t quite work. But hopefully you get the point.
Usually, legal advice means two things. Victims should know what to expect in truck crash cases. Victims should also know if a settlement offer is fair.
Who is liable in a truck accident?
A driver could be at fault for a truck accident but not be liable for that truck accident. A head-on truck wreck is a good example.
Almost invariably, insurance adjusters, emergency responders, and other investigators rule that the wrong-way driver was at fault. That determination often doesn’t hold up in court. Legal theories, which non-lawyers don’t know, come into play.
In most states, truck drivers and other commercial operators have a duty to anticipate and avoid accidents. Assume Sherry is driving her big rig in the southbound lane of a two-lane road. She sees Ben recklessly pass several vehicles as he travels north. Because of the duty of care, she must assume that Ben will veer into her lane. If Ben does so, Sherry should have anticipated and avoided the wreck.
Comparative fault is another example. If speeding Ben runs a light and hits Sherry, upon initial review, he’s 100 percent at fault for the wreck. If a subsequent investigation proves that Sherry was dangerously fatigued, the responsibility percentage may be more like 50-50.
What is the average settlement for a semi truck accident?
An “average truck settlement” is like an “average home price.” Beverly Hills mansions cost a whole lot more than Boise starter homes. So, the “average” is pretty much meaningless.
That being said, we can focus on the process. A truck settlement amount usually begins with medical bills and other economic losses. Then, depending on the facts of the case and a few other factors, attorneys multiply those losses by two, three, or four to set noneconomic losses for pain and suffering.
If you buy a Beverly Hills mansion or settle a personal injury case, the negotiations involve some give and take.
How long does it take to settle a semi truck accident claim?
The only honest answer to this question is “longer than you think.” A settlement timeframe is almost impossible to predict.
Additionally, quick settlements are usually unfair settlements. Initially, as outlined above, all the evidence isn’t available. If it’s based solely on insurance company-friendly facts, guess who gets the short end of the stick in a settlement.
How much does a truck accident lawyer cost?
We saved the best for last. Truck accident and other personal injury lawyers typically have contingency fee agreements with clients. Victims don’t pay any upfront legal fees. INstead, the lawyer takes a small cut of the settlement. The no-upfront-cost arrangement usually applies to other litigation fees as well, such as expert witness fees.