Catastrophic injuries resulting from a truck accident may strike a physical, emotional, and financial blow to a victim. They may miss time from work while accumulating medical bills, and they may endure a painful recovery as well as psychological trauma that persists for long after the crash. Victims can pursue compensation from any other person or entity that may have caused or contributed to an accident. Some potential at-fault parties may include:
A truck driver
A trucking company
A truck manufacturer
A truck maintenance company
A cargo loader
A government agency that built or maintained a road
Investigating a truck accident can reveal who was responsible and allow a victim to bring a legal action for compensation. They generally would need to show that the defendant was negligent, which means that they acted unreasonably dangerously under the circumstances. This lack of reasonable care must have directly and foreseeably caused the accident. In cases involving truck manufacturers, though, a victim may be able to use a theory of strict liability. This means that a truck or component contained a defect in its design or manufacturing. Strict liability does not require proving a lack of reasonable care.
Statutes of Limitations
Each state provides a deadline for filing a personal injury lawsuit. If a case is filed after the statute of limitations expires, the defendant can ask the court to dismiss the case, even if they were likely at fault.
Damages in Truck Accident Cases
Victims of truck accidents can recover damages for economic and non-economic harm. Economic damages reimburse a victim for any out-of-pocket expenses, such as medical bills and lost income. They also can recover future economic damages, including the costs of future treatment or a reduction in their earning capacity. Non-economic damages account for subjective harm, such as pain and suffering. If an injury prevents a victim from engaging in their normal activities, they can recover compensation for lost enjoyment of life.
After a fatal accident, family members of a victim may recover damages through a wrongful death claim. These may account for the loss of the financial support provided by the victim, as well as more intangible harm such as loss of consortium, companionship, and society. The estate of the victim also may recover damages similar to those that the victim could have recovered if they had survived.
Truck Accidents on the Job
If a victim was injured in the course of their employment, they can recover workers’ compensation benefits regardless of fault. However, these benefits cover only medical expenses and a portion of lost wages, so a victim still may want to bring a lawsuit against any at-fault party other than an employer or coworker. This can help them recover many additional forms of damages.
Most truck accident cases do not go to trial. Instead, a lawsuit usually will be resolved through a settlement in which a victim receives compensation from an at-fault party or their insurer in exchange for releasing their claims against that defendant related to the accident. Defendants and insurers usually try to resolve these claims quickly and cheaply, so a victim should think twice before taking the first offer. They cannot get more compensation later. Often, a victim should wait to settle until they have recovered to the extent possible so that they can calculate the full scope of their damages. A settlement can occur at any time, even after a trial has started.
Evidence in Truck Accident Cases
A victim may provide both documentary evidence and witness testimony to show the liability of a defendant. Documentary evidence may include the police report from the accident, photos of the aftermath, and information from an event data recorder (“black box”) in the truck. This may reveal a violation of trucking regulations. Eyewitness accounts of the accident also can delineate the sequence of events.
Other forms of evidence can prove the scope of the damages incurred by the victim. These may include medical bills and records, pay stubs, and photos of property damage. A victim also may present testimony from their treating physicians and from medical and vocational experts. This may be especially useful in proving future damages related to medical treatment and lost earning capacity. Testimony from friends and family members can illustrate non-economic damages, which also may be documented by photos and videos of the victim.
Hiring a Truck Accident Lawyer
To protect their rights after an accident, a victim should strongly consider hiring a lawyer to bring a claim or lawsuit on their behalf. A lawyer who is experienced in truck accident cases will understand trucking industry regulations and launch an investigation into the sequence of events. They can help the victim compile evidence and sue all the at-fault parties, while complying with any procedural rules. Large trucking entities and their insurers usually retain capable defense attorneys to fight these cases, so a victim will face an uphill battle without representation of their own.
Truck accident attorneys recognize that victims often face financial pressure, so they do not ask them to pay attorney fees upfront. Instead, they handle cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that they collect their fees as a percentage of the compensation awarded to a client. The percentage often depends on how far the case progresses before it reaches an outcome.