Commercial trucks cause mayhem when they are in a collision with another vehicle due to the size of semis and other trucks. Tractor-trailers weigh over 30 times more than passenger vehicles, so collisions are often severe or fatal. Since these trucks are so dangerous, insurance standards are higher than passenger vehicles. Truck drivers and trucking companies must legally carry higher liability insurance than other motorists.
While this is a legal requirement, some trucking companies and drivers fail to do the right thing. Insurance compensates accident victims, but what happens if an accident occurs with an uninsured truck driver? Injury claims become more complex when a driver is uninsured, especially when the at-fault party is a truck driver. You will need a local truck accident to identify legal options for your accident claim. For more information, please reach out to a truck accident lawyer.
How truck accidents happen
There are many reasons why truck accidents happen; most are contingent on the driver’s behavior or lack of action. Truck drivers have a higher standard of care and duty for safety than other motorists. When they breach these duties, they must be financially responsible for the losses resulting from such a tragedy.
Distracted driving is a leading cause of accidents in every type of vehicle. Truck drivers face distractions in and out of the cab. Inside the cab, they often use their phone or eat on the road. External distractions are also possible, or drivers can simply zone out on long and monotonous trips.
Drowsy driving is also widespread among truck drivers because of the time they spend on the road, poor rest, and other factors. There are laws regarding rest breaks for truck drivers and how long they can drive, but these often get overlooked when there is a tight deadline.
Impaired driving is also prevalent among truck drivers. They are looking for any way to get through the shift and will look to alcohol or other substances to help them. Alcohol and drugs will impair their driving abilities and lead to devastating crashes.
These are only some examples of common causes of truck accidents. Truck drivers can be negligent in many ways, and when this happens, their insurance coverage should kick in and provide compensation for victims.
What insurance requirements do truck drivers have?
Additional liability insurance is a must for commercial trucks. The damage they cause can be tremendous in comparison to passenger vehicle collisions. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires trucking agencies to provide proof of insurance for all trucks and drivers under their control. Failure to provide proof of insurance leads to fines and legal penalties.
The trucking industry insurance requirements are as follows:
- Commercial vehicles with a seating capacity lower than 15 must have a $1.5 million liability policy. If the vehicle seats more than 15, liability insurance must be $5 million.
- For trucks transporting goods, cargo insurance must be $5,000 per vehicle. The other requirement is $10,000 per occurrence.
- Commercial vehicles that carry over 10,000 pounds need liability coverage between $500,000 and $750,000.
Insurance requirements will vary depending on the weight and type of freight the truck is carrying. These policy limits cover freight and do not cover accidents with a cab that does not have any cargo.
Insurance is critical because the injuries that motorists can sustain from a truck accident are costly and might be life-altering. When a truck does not have insurance, the only way to get compensation for your losses is to file a personal lawsuit against the trucking company. A truck accident lawsuit can be very contentious, especially when insufficient insurance does not cover your losses.
What happens to the truck driver?
When trucking companies disregard their duty to insure their trucks and drivers, they will also face legal consequences. Since the truck driver and the trucking company must have individual policies, they will face different consequences when there is a lack of insurance. The truck driver who does not have insurance can face legal consequences like the loss of license, traffic citations, and even jail time.
The trucking company can lose its standing with the FMCSA and suffer financial penalties. The trucking company will also need to pay any victims of the collision for their losses. While these consequences punish these negligent parties, they do very little for your compensation claim. You can end up with life-changing injuries and extensive medical bills. You must hire a truck accident lawyer to review other options for obtaining a settlement when an uninsured truck driver hits you.
What are your options?
Most accident claims will go through the at-fault driver’s insurance policy, but since the truck driver does not have insurance, you need other options.
Since trucks have multiple parties to maintain, schedule, and operate the vehicle, even though you assume there is only one liable party, there might be others. Your uninsured truck accident lawyer will look at the facts of the incident and look for other negligent parties that can share responsibility and compensate you. The trucking company is often vicariously liable for the conduct of a truck driver, and their coverage can provide compensation when possible.
Depending on local regulations and your insurance company, you likely have the option to purchase an uninsured motorist policy. Some states require this additional policy provision, while others make it optional. If you bought the coverage, you can use it to seek compensation after an uninsured truck accident. There are some financial recovery limits to how much the policy will pay, but it is a viable avenue to get some payment for your losses.
Aside from uninsured motorist insurance, you can also obtain compensation from other policies you may have. Some states require additional insurance, and you can tap into these benefits to continue to recover compensation for your medical needs.
Other available coverage options are:
- Med-Pay policy
- Personal Injury Protection (PIP)
You can look for coverage options through any of these policies to make up the difference between your car insurance and your remaining bills. While these options exist, using your health insurance is not a good idea. You will likely need to pay co-pays and other deductibles out of pocket. Any additional expenses or lost income will come from your savings account. Truck accident injuries are often catastrophic, and you can also exhaust these policy limits. That leaves you with one other option.
One final legal option is to file a lawsuit against the driver or trucking company. These parties are responsible for your pain, suffering, and financial losses and should pay for the damage they cause. It is challenging to recover compensation directly from a driver because the most common reason truck drivers do not have insurance is that they cannot afford it. If truck drivers cannot afford insurance, they are unlikely to have assets that will cover your expenses. Other times, insurance lapses because they forgot to renew or pay the policy. Your attorney will review whether there are driver assets available to cover a judgment from a lawsuit.
When your local uninsured truck accident lawyer secures a judgment for your case, they will need to consider collection options. One of those options can be to garnish the truck drivers’ wages or find ways the trucking company can pay the judgment award. Your truck accident lawyer will look for those recovery options to ensure you get the payment you deserve for your losses. To find the best option, you must schedule a consultation with a truck accident lawyer.
There are time limits to filing a claim
While these accidents are serious and will take time to resolve, you must move quickly. Every state has different time limits to file an accident claim. Most statutes of limitations are two years from the day of the accident, but it can depend more or less on your case’s circumstances.
The court can dismiss your case if too much time passes. The court will say you are beyond the legal time where you can file a claim or argue that you do not have enough time to build a case. The best way to prevent any of these from happening to you is to discuss your options with a local truck accident lawyer.
While you must consider these deadlines, there are other reasons you must move quickly. Evidence is critical to your claim. You will first need to prove the truck driver was at fault and liable for your injuries and losses. You will also need to prove the severity of your injuries and losses. Important evidence can disappear if you wait too long to take action.
Waiting too long can place the financial burden of medical expenses and other losses on you. The losses after a truck accident can be extreme, and it can bankrupt you to handle these expenses on your own.
What damages can you recover from an uninsured motorist claim?
Always meet with a lawyer who can examine the facts and determine your case’s worth.
Some of the factors to consider are:
- The cause of the accident
- Evidence and facts regarding the accident
- How severe are your injuries are
- Financial and non-financial hardships
- Your future prognosis
They will look at each item to determine how much compensation you will need and should get for your expenses and losses.
Once your truck accident lawyer looks into these factors, they will seek fair compensation for:
- Property damage
- Medical expenses you incur
- Future medical expense
- Lost wages and benefits
- Mental anguish
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of future earning potential
Some financial damages are easy to calculate, while others require expert testimony and will be more challenging to determine an exact number. Luckily, when you have an experienced lawyer on your team, they will know how much these cases usually settle for and how to calculate each item. They can also look for additional compensation avenues available.
The truck driver is underinsured
There are some instances where a driver does carry insurance, but it is not enough to cover your losses. When there is an insurance policy, you can recover immediate losses up to the policy limit and use other methods to make up the difference. Another option is to file a personal injury lawsuit and sue the driver and their employer for all your losses. Each recovery method has pros and cons, and you will need the advice of a truck accident lawyer with experience handling uninsured trucking accidents.
Wrongful death and uninsured drivers
Truck accidents are often fatal, and when your loved one passes, there is no financial recovery that will bring them back. The legal process looks different when there is a death after an accident. You will need to file a wrongful death lawsuit against all liable parties. Finding every responsible party in these cases is vital to obtain maximum compensation.
The death of your loved one does not have a price tag and deserves respectful treatment. The damages and recovery through wrongful death claims are slightly different than in other personal injury cases.
Some of the damages you can recover are:
- Medical expenses the person sustained from the accident before their death, like emergency medical care and transportation.
- Lost income and loss of providing income to the home
- Funeral and burial costs
- Lost household services and support
Family members can also obtain compensation for the loss of companionship and guidance. Wrongful death claims are emotional, and the family has suffered enough by losing their loved one. You should not also suffer through the legal process. Allow a wrongful death lawyer to review your case and find options available to you and your family during this difficult time.
Call a truck accident lawyer today
The legal battle presents more challenges when the truck driver or truck company does not have insurance. Fault and liability are apparent, but monetary recovery becomes more complex. You might have other options, and you should always hire an experienced truck accident lawyer. Make sure you address all of your legal concerns during an initial consultation.