Truck accidents are among the most devastating of traffic collisions. Heavy, cumbersome commercial trucks can do severe harm when they collide with smaller vehicles, often leaving victims with severe injuries and significant expenses from medical treatments, time away from work, and vehicle damage.
Moreover, truck accident claims are highly complex and often involve many liable parties, overlapping insurance policies, and aggressive defense lawyers. As a result, victims often struggle to recover the money they deserve.
If one of these devastating accidents injured you, it’s a good idea to hire a truck accident lawyer as soon as possible. An experienced truck accident attorney can handle all of the complicated legal details while you focus on your recovery. The sooner you do so, the stronger your case will likely be.
Understanding Truck Accidents
Before you can understand why getting in touch with a lawyer after a truck accident is important, it helps to understand what sets these incidents apart from other traffic collisions.
What Makes Truck Accidents So Devastating?
Truck accidents are particularly devastating because they involve:
- Larger vehicles. The average commercial truck is significantly wider, taller, and longer than passenger vehicles, which can worsen the severity of an accident in several ways. For one, larger vehicles like trucks impart more force in a collision. For another, big trucks take up more room on the road, making them likelier to hit several vehicles when they crash.
- Heavier loads. Fully loaded semi-trucks can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, the equivalent of about 20 full-size family sedans. One of these trucks has literal tons of momentum behind it, meaning the force of impact in an accident is often immense.
- Higher centers of gravity. Most states allow commercial trucks as tall as 13 feet, six inches, on public roads. Taller vehicles have higher centers of gravity, making them likelier to tip or roll over when they go around sharp turns or make sudden maneuvers. Rollover truck accidents are particularly devastating, especially when the truck lands on smaller vehicles or spills cargo on the road.
- Greater stopping distances. Large vehicles like trucks require considerable space to slow down and stop, which increases when they’re traveling at high speeds. This means truck drivers who fail to leave themselves enough following distance may not be able to stop in time to avoid catastrophic rear-end collisions with smaller vehicles.
- Hazardous cargo. Some trucks carry hazardous cargo, such as toxic chemicals and flammable gasses, potentially leading to fires, explosions, respiratory injuries, and even environmental disasters after collisions.
What Are the Most Common Causes of Truck Accidents?
Every truck accident is different, but many result from the same contributing factors, including:
- Texting or otherwise distracted driving
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Driving while dangerously drowsy
- Exceeding posted speed limits
- Driving too fast for conditions
- Tailgating other vehicles
- Following too closely for conditions
- Failing to monitor blind spots
- Failing to maintain a single lane
- Weaving in and out of traffic
- Passing other vehicles erratically
- Cutting too closely in front of others
- Failing to yield the right of way
- Running red lights or stop signs
- Turning or merging improperly
- Inexperienced driving or driving errors
- Failing to balance or secure cargo properly
- Overloading a truck with too much cargo
- Failing to maintain truck parts adequately
- Driving trucks with manufacturing defects
- Driving in poor road conditions
What Kinds of Injuries Do Truck Accidents Cause?
Truck accidents often cause victims devastating injuries, like:
- Concussions and other types of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
- Head and facial wounds that result in scarring and dental injuries
- Whiplash and other types of neck and shoulder injuries
- Herniated discs, muscle strains, and other back injuries
- Spinal cord injuries (SCIs) that cause partial or total paralysis
- In-vehicle injuries from seatbelts, airbags, and flying glass or debris
- Abdominal injuries, such as internal bleeding or organ rupture
- Upper arm, elbow, forearm, wrist, hand, and finger injuries
- Bone fractures, bruises, and dislocations
- Traumatic amputations, loss of limb, and permanent disfigurement
- Bruises, lacerations, puncture wounds, and other skin injuries
- Strains, sprains, and tears to ligaments, tendons, and other soft tissues
- Thigh, knee, shin, calf, ankle, foot, and toe injuries
- Road rash from high-friction contact with rough surfaces
- Burn injuries from fires or exposure to caustic or scalding substances
- Post-traumatic stress disorder and other emotional injuries
If you’ve suffered any of these terrible injuries, you need an experienced attorney to help you demand appropriate compensation.
What Makes Truck Accident Injury Claims So Complex?
Truck accident injury claims are uniquely complex due to several factors, including:
- Trucking companies. Trucking companies have a lot to lose from truck accidents. In addition to paying for truck damage and losing worker productivity, these companies have big insurance policies that get more expensive after costly truck accident claims. As a result, trucking companies have every reason to limit their losses by shifting blame, “misplacing” evidence, and working with their insurers to make lowball settlement offers or deny claims altogether.
- Multiple other parties. Numerous other parties could be liable instead of or in addition to the trucking company. Truck accident victims might have separate claims against the truck driver, other road users, cargo owners, cargo loading teams, truck manufacturers, and truck maintenance companies. While multiple liable parties can mean more options for compensation, it can also make a given truck accident case far more complex.
- Unfamiliar regulations. The trucking industry is subject to numerous state and federal laws, which govern everything from maximum truck sizes to hours of service limitations for truck drivers. Determining whether a truck or truck driver was in compliance with these regulations is a complicated task, especially since these regulations are unfamiliar to the average accident victim.
- More serious collisions. Truck accidents are more likely to cause extensive property damage and severe injuries, meaning truck accident claims are often more expensive. Insurance providers are usually reluctant to pay for high-dollar claims, and the longer claim timeline means more opportunities for new wrinkles to emerge.
- Different evidence. Truck accident cases involve many types of evidence that other cases do not. For instance, most modern trucks have black box devices that record operational data, and trucking companies have extensive records on things like hiring, training, and truck maintenance. These kinds of evidence are difficult for many truck accident victims to identify or obtain, but they can provide compelling proof in truck wreck cases.
Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer After a Truck Accident?
Yes, it’s always a smart idea to hire a lawyer after a truck accident. Truck accidents are often catastrophic and cases involving them are complex, so navigating the claims process without legal help is extremely difficult. Furthermore, you can be sure that trucking companies and other potentially liable parties will have lawyers of their own, meaning you’ll be at a considerable disadvantage without representation.
Many truck accident victims hesitate to seek legal help out of a concern that they can’t afford it. However, the truth is that hiring a lawyer is not only affordable for every budget, but it can also pay off in more money in the long run. A lawyer can calculate your past and future losses from the accident, identify all sources of compensation, and negotiate aggressively to maximize your settlement.
Most lawyer for personal injury, including truck accident lawyers, accept cases on a contingency fee basis. This means they will start working on your case at no up-front cost to you and only charge legal fees after recovering money through a settlement or verdict. The fee you pay them is a percentage of the recovery, so you never have to pay out of pocket.
How Can a Lawyer Help Me After a Truck Accident?
There are many benefits to hiring an attorney after a truck accident.
A knowledgeable truck accident lawyer can help you by:
- Listening to your story and evaluating the specifics of your situation
- Determining whether you have a case and explaining your options
- Calculating a reasonable estimate for the value of your injury claim
- Conducting an independent investigation into the truck accident
- Identifying useful evidence and interviewing witnesses for statements
- Obtaining important documents like medical records and crash reports
- Communicating with trucking industry representatives and insurers on your behalf
- Completing paperwork and preparing a strong truck accident claim
- Negotiating with the insurance companies to maximize your settlement
- Taking your case to court and representing you at trial, if necessary
What Happens If I Don’t Hire a Lawyer for My Truck Accident Case?
Failing to hire a truck accident lawyer to pursue your claim comes with several risks, including:
- Lost or deteriorated evidence. The trucking company might withhold critical evidence for your case if you do not know how to demand it from them. A lawyer can send a spoliation letter on your behalf, preventing the trucking company from getting away with this trick.
- Unfair intimidation tactics. Trucking companies and their insurance providers are far more likely to use unfair intimidation tactics against you if they know you don’t have an attorney. These tactics could include bullying you into accepting a lowball settlement offer, threatening to deny your claim entirely, or otherwise playing hardball. An attorney can protect you from this dishonest behavior and put the pressure back on the insurance companies.
- Missed deadlines and other errors. Truck accident injury claims are subject to different timelines and filing requirements, and a single mistake or missed deadline could derail yours. Additionally, every case is unique and subject to certain exceptions, so it’s always better to work with a truck accident lawyer who can keep your case error-free and on track from the start.
- Less compensation for your losses. Perhaps the biggest risk you take in forgoing a truck accident lawyer is undervaluing your claim. Unless you know from experience how much your claim is worth, which types of evidence are available, and how to build a strong case, you will likely receive far less money than you deserve.
What Should I Look for in a Truck Accident Lawyer?
When you’re looking for a truck accident lawyer after a wreck, you should consider:
- Their past experience with truck accident cases similar to yours
- Their previous case results from other truck accident claims
- Their reputation based on online reviews and references
- Any awards or professional recognition they have received
- Their resources to handle your case, including staff and availability
- Their communication style and whether it suits your preferences
- Whether you feel comfortable speaking to them on a personal level
- Their fee structure, including whether it is reasonable and transparent
Good lawyers offer free initial consultations, during which you can ask them the following questions to determine if they’re a good match:
- How much experience do you have with truck accident cases?
- Have you handled truck accident cases like mine?
- What is your success rate with truck accident cases?
- Have you ever taken a truck accident case to trial?
- Can you explain your approach to handling truck accident cases?
- How will you communicate with me?
- How often can I expect to hear from you?
- What resources do you have available to devote to my case?
- Can you estimate the possible value of my truck accident case?
- What is your fee structure, and how much will I owe under various outcomes?
What Should I Expect After Hiring a Truck Accident Attorney?
As soon as you hire a personal injury law firm in Bakersfield to handle your case, you should experience less stress and greater peace of mind. That’s because your attorney will handle every aspect of your case while you focus on healing and moving forward with your life.
Your lawyer can conduct an independent investigation into the truck accident, looking for evidence to support your claim. They can also communicate with the trucking and insurance companies on your behalf, so you don’t have to worry about falling prey to their aggressive tactics. Your attorney will also represent your interests in settlement negotiations and provide valuable advice as you consider your options.
The timeline for your truck accident case may vary, but it’s always better to hire a truck accident lawyer as quickly as possible. The sooner you have the right lawyer in your corner, the more time they’ll have to devote to your case, protect your rights, and fight for more money on your behalf.