Some of the most devastating accidents you will encounter on the road involve commercial trucks. Commercial vehicles are 20 to 40 times heavier than passenger vehicles, making collisions between the two dangerous and severe. When you are the victim of a truck accident, you will likely suffer many injuries and losses. You can often seek economic and non-economic damages through a lawsuit to compensate you for your losses.
Filing a truck accident lawsuit is challenging, even when liability and the cause of the accident are seemingly straightforward. Additionally, the insurance company is unlikely to want to settle for how much your case is worth because that is how these companies operate. A truck accident lawsuit requires the help of an experienced truck accident lawyer.
How long do truck crash victims have to file a claim?
The statute of limitations for an injury lawsuit will vary in each state, but always know that you do not have much time to file a claim. The best way to know how long you have and get a complete picture of the process is to speak with a local truck accident lawyer.
Most states have a two or three-year statute of limitations for truck accident lawsuits. There is rarely a grace period for these claims, as the clock starts on the day of the accident for most claimants.
You cannot procrastinate in filing a claim because once the statute of limitations lapses, you will lose your rights to any legal avenues for compensation. You can try to file a lawsuit, but the court will likely dismiss it, barring rare exceptions.
Remember, there are many steps to take before you can file a lawsuit. Before filing a case, your truck injury lawyer will try to negotiate with the truck company and their insurer. The insurance company can also use tactics to delay claims and wear down victims, so they settle for less than they deserve. Never let this happen; seek help from a lawyer who can identify when it is time to file a lawsuit.
The insurance defense lawyers are gathering evidence and building their cases to avoid liability. Move quickly because the truck company will be doing the same. You need to get prompt medical attention and hire a legal advocate to begin building your claim.
Determining the value of your claim
Your lawsuit will be heavily contingent on how severe your injuries are. A truck accident lawyer will need to demand a certain amount of compensation when they file your lawsuit. They will review all of your losses and identify whether you will have ongoing and potentially lifelong effects of your injuries.
Calculating these costs and finding any additional expenses you will incur from this accident will be vital. Your truck accident lawyer will work with different experts to evaluate your circumstances and find a suitable amount of compensation for your case. Your lawyer will need to have a number in mind when filing your lawsuit, and they will make sure to include all past and future losses.
Economic damages will resolve expenses concerning out-of-pocket and medical costs. They will also address lost wages and future medical care. Non-economic damages address losses that are intangible, like pain and suffering, disfigurement, and impairment. You can also get compensation for loss of companionship and a lower quality of life when applicable.
In extreme cases, you can obtain punitive damages when there is extremely reckless or willful conduct. Punitive damages do not compensate victims but serve as a way to punish the truck driver or trucking company for their actions. These losses are only available in a lawsuit, so this is always something to consider when you take your case to litigation.
Identifying who is responsible
To file a lawsuit, you must know who you are filing the case against. You will need to name all liable parties as defendants in your lawsuit, and your lawyer will assess who should be responsible.
Truck accidents regularly involve more than one liable party. Aside from the truck driver, you can also hold the truck company indirectly responsible for the negligent conduct that led to the accident. Trucking companies can also be directly liable when they are negligent in their training, hiring, maintenance, or supervising tactics. Having multiple defendants in your lawsuit can complicate your case but also help you get the full payment you deserve.
Aside from the truck driver and trucking company, some other potential defendants in your lawsuit can include:
- The cargo owner
- Truck owner
- Maintenance company
- Truck parts manufacturer
- Truck designer
Identifying and naming all possible defendants in a lawsuit is essential. You will have access to more insurance coverage, which makes successfully obtaining higher compensation more feasible.
What do you need to prove in a truck accident lawsuit?
Every legal action requires a plaintiff to prove legal elements, and a truck accident lawsuit is no different. In most cases, you will have to prove the elements of negligence: duty, breach, causation, and damages.
The first element is often the simplest. You and your representative must prove the truck driver had a duty to you. It is generally easy to prove because all motorists owe each other a duty of care when they get on the road. The duty is to drive safely and adhere to all traffic laws. Trucking companies also owe motorists a duty to hire and train drivers and maintain their trucks.
The next element is breaching their duty. You will need to prove that the truck driver was in direct breach of the duty they owe to motorists. This element can be challenging because you must show the driver did something they should not have done or should have taken action and did not.
After the breach, you must show that you sustained an injury due to the violation. If they had not been negligent in their actions, then you will not suffer an injury.
Lastly, you will need to show that the harm you suffered from the breach of duty results in damages. Damages typically involve medical bills, lost wages, and intangible losses like pain and suffering.
What happens after you file a claim
The first legal step you will take is enlisting the help of a local truck accident lawyer. Once you sign with a law firm, your lawyer will begin to file a complaint and serve the defendants. Within the complaint will be facts supporting the elements of your claim. Your lawyer will also send a copy of the complaint to the defendants as official notice of the lawsuit.
The defendants will need to respond to every allegation in the complaint, whether they admit or deny what is in the complaint. They will also have a timeline to respond when they receive the complaint. They will also need to include their counterclaims. Failure to respond to a claim constitutes acceptance of the allegations under the law.
The litigation process
Filing a petition is the first part of the litigation process. A complaint is the beginning of working through the court and officially initiates your lawsuit.
The next step in the litigation process is discovery, where both parties will exchange information and evidence about the case. There will also be depositions, which are questions taken under oath.
During discovery, the cases for each side will develop further, and there should be a concise idea as to who will be the victor in court. If it becomes clear that you will likely win at trial, the insurance company might be willing to offer a favorable settlement. This allows them to control how much they pay you instead of putting it in the hands of the judge or jury.
Many cases settle following the discovery period. If yours does not, your lawyer will need to prepare to go to trial.
What does a trial look like?
When the case must proceed to trial, a trial date will be a few months out to give both sides time to prepare. There will be a calendar call where both parties meet with a judge to determine whether they are ready for trial. The defendants can still make a settlement offer before the trial starts to avoid beginning the process.
During the trial, each side will present evidence and try to sway the jury or judge in their favor. The evidence will heavily focus on liability concerns so the jury does not doubt who should pay for your losses. If liability is not in question, the trial will primarily revolve around the damages you deserve.
The jury will work together to determine how much to award you, and the judge might adjust the amount in some cases when necessary under the law. The only time you can extend your lawsuit beyond a trial is if one party files an appeal, which is often rare.
Common truck accident causes
Similar to car accidents, a truck accident can happen in many ways. Trucks are harder to maneuver; therefore, a tiny mistake can result in extreme loss of life.
Common causes of truck accidents are:
- Poor loading
- Distracted driving
- inadequate driver training
- Impossible deadlines
- Reckless driving
- Poor vehicle maintenance
- Weather conditions
While the list is long, not all reasons are listed here. If you are in a truck accident caused by a truck driver acting negligently, you must meet with a local truck accident lawyer to determine your legal rights to compensation. Truck accident lawsuits will take time to resolve, and multiple parties are often liable for the accident aside from the truck driver.
Truck industry regulations
Truck drivers must adhere to all traffic laws and have additional regulations. Since commercial truck drivers have greater responsibilities, they must also meet a higher standard than other motorists on the road. Each state will have different regulations for truck drivers, but every truck driver in every state must adhere to the federal guidelines.
One important regulation involves hours of service. Under federal regulations, truck drivers cannot drive more than 11 hours for one shift. They must take ten hours off before beginning the next 11-hour shift. Truck drivers must legally take a 30-minute break when driving for eight hours.
Trucking companies are in charge of assignments and must supervise truck drivers to ensure they stay safe and take breaks. While on the road, truck drivers must fill out their logbooks accurately to show how long they drove and when they took a break. A truck accident lawyer will request log books to look for inaccuracies and violations.
This is only one example of how the federal regulations can play a role in your lawsuit.
How can a truck accident lawyer help?
A truck accident lawsuit can take time to resolve, and your truck accident lawyer will work to settle for a fair amount before it goes into litigation. The trial process is expensive and lengthy. While we understand that you want to finish this part of the process so you can move on, you will need to have patience. The insurance company might not want to offer a fair settlement, so you will need to wait it out to obtain full compensation.
When you hire a local truck accident lawyer, they will handle all the legal paperwork on your behalf. What you must do during this time is focus on your physical recovery. The insurance company wants you to complete a lot of paperwork, and the slightest error can result in a lower settlement. Your lawyer should handle all of this for you.
If you were the victim of a commercial truck crash, you must have a truck accident lawyer ready to fight for your compensation and rights, including filing a lawsuit when needed. There are many reporting deadlines and processes you must be aware of. If you miss even one deadline, you put your entire case at risk. The negotiation process is often the longest part since both sides are trying to avoid going into litigation or trial.
When a truck accident lawsuit gets filed, the time, energy, and money necessary will heavily increase. You need a truck accident lawyer ready and willing to do what it takes to get you a fair settlement.