Why Truck Accident Cases Require Experienced Legal Experts (And How to Find Them)

Driving down the highway, you’re hyper-aware of the massive 18-wheelers surrounding you. And for good reason – a collision with one of those 80,000 pound rigs would likely be catastrophic.

Unfortunately, truck accidents are all too common on America’s roads. In 2021 alone, over 5,000 people were killed in crashes involving large trucks and buses. When these massive vehicles collide with smaller passenger cars, the results are often devastating injuries or fatalities for the occupants of the smaller vehicle.

If you or a loved one have suffered serious injuries from a trucking accident, you know the physical, emotional, and financial toll can be completely overwhelming. Extensive hospitalizations, surgeries, rehabilitation, home care assistance, permanent disabilities, and more. All while facing a total loss of income and stacks of growing medical bills.

That’s why hiring an experienced commercial truck accident lawyer is absolutely critical. These specialized attorneys fight for the rights of truck wreck victims to ensure they receive the full compensation they deserve. Not just for current costs, but for ongoing future care, lost income, and damages as well.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about these complex cases and how the right truck accident firm can make an immense difference in your recovery.

What Causes Truck Accidents?

Commercial Truck

While there are many potential causes, the majority of commercial trucking crashes stem from some form of negligence or safety violation. Some of the most common examples include:

  • Truck driver fatigue from working excessive hours in violation of hours of service regulations
  • Distracted driving behaviors like texting or watching videos behind the wheel
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol, illegal drugs, or prescription medications
  • Speeding to meet tight delivery schedules set by trucking companies
  • Failure to properly maintain and inspect the truck’s brakes, tires, lights, etc.
  • Improper hiring, training, or supervision of drivers by trucking companies
  • Loading trailers improperly or over the truck’s rated weight capacity
  • Reckless or aggressive driving like tailgating, frequent lane changes, etc.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) sets strict regulations that trucking companies and drivers must follow around issues like hours of service, vehicle maintenance, cargo loading procedures, driver screening and training, and more. When these rules are violated, either by the trucker or their employer, it creates an unreasonable risk that can have catastrophic consequences if a truck accident occurs.

Why You Need a Truck Accident Attorney

The injuries sustained in a tractor-trailer collision are often life-altering – traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord damage, crushed or amputated limbs, severe burns, paralysis, permanent disfigurement, and more. Victims frequently require multiple surgeries, months of hospitalization, years of physical therapy and rehab, round-the-clock home care assistance, accessibility home modifications, vehicle modifications, and may never be able to return to their previous job or live independently.

At the same time, most trucking companies are owned by large corporations with teams of lawyers, adjusters, and insurers whose main goal is to minimize any settlement payouts. Without proper legal representation, you’ll likely get taken advantage of and pressured into accepting a low settlement that doesn’t come close to covering the damages.

Hiring a skilled truck accident injury lawyer levels the playing field. These attorneys specialize in this complex practice area and will fight aggressively to get you full compensation – not just for current medical bills, but for anticipated future care needs, loss of earning capacity, pain and suffering, and all other damages you’ve incurred. With their expertise, they know exactly how to:

  • Investigate the accident thoroughly by interviewing witnesses, analyzing driver logs, vehicle maintenance records, dashcam footage, cargo loading procedures, and more to establish negligence and liability
  • Work with accident reconstruction experts to defend against attempts to assign unwarranted blame on the victim
  • Calculate current and future economic damages like medical costs, lost income, home aid expenses, and reduced earning potential
  • Determine non-economic damages like physical pain, emotional suffering, disability accommodations, and loss of enjoyment of life
  • Deal directly with trucking company insurers to negotiate a proper settlement amount
  • Prepare to take the case to trial if insurance companies refuse to pay what the case is truly worth
  • Advocate for you at every stage and ensure you’re not being taken advantage of by trucking company lawyers and adjusters

What to Look for When Hiring a Truck Accident Law Firm

Accident Lawyers
Accident Lawyers

Not all personal injury law firms have specific expertise handling truck accident cases. These are highly complex cases that require specialized knowledge and resources. When vetting potential attorneys, ensure the firm you hire has:

  • A dedicated truck accident division with lawyers focused specifically on this niche practice area (not just general personal injury)
  • A proven track record of multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements in prior trucking collision cases
  • Access to resources like accident reconstruction experts, medical professionals, forensic economists, and more to thoroughly investigate and calculate damages
  • A reputation for aggressively taking cases to trial instead of pushing quick, lowball settlements
  • No fees unless they win your case (they should work on a contingency basis)

Many qualified commercial truck accident firms operate on a national scale with offices across multiple states. This allows them to provide experienced legal representation no matter where the accident occurred.

How Much is My Case Worth?

There is no set dollar amount when it comes to potential compensation, as each case is unique. The damages and settlement value depends on factors like:

  • The severity of injuries and anticipated future medical/care needs
  • Whether injuries resulted in permanent disability or disfigurement
  • The degree of negligence involved (higher compensation if gross negligence occurred)
  • Income and projected future loss of earnings/earning capacity
  • Available insurance policy limits of the trucking company and all other liable parties
  • State laws around damage caps and other regulations

An experienced truck accident lawyer will be able to evaluate all of these factors and diligently calculate and fight for the full compensation you deserve based on the facts of your case and their expertise in this complex legal arena.

The Process of Filing a Truck Accident Lawsuit

Commercial Truck k

Most trucking companies are massive operations with enormous legal resources. As soon as an accident occurs, their team starts working to try to minimize any payouts. This is why you need an expert trucking collision lawyer advocating for your rights from day one.

Here’s a general overview of how these cases typically proceed:

  1. You hire an experienced truck accident law firm after suffering injuries. Most offer free initial consultations.
  2. The firm immediately sends investigators to the scene to gather and preserve any perishable evidence like video footage, cargo documentation, driver logs, etc. Accident reconstruction and other experts are retained.
  3. A thorough investigation is conducted into all potential areas of negligence – driver training/qualifications, truck maintenance history, loading procedures, company policies, and more.
  4. The lawyers formally demand a settlement amount from the trucking company’s insurers after calculating economic and non-economic damages based on all evidence.
  5. If the insurer refuses to pay fair value, the firm files a lawsuit and the case enters a lengthy discovery phase where both sides request documents, interview witnesses, and build their case.
  6. If no reasonable settlement can ultimately be reached, the case goes to trial where a jury decides on damages after seeing all evidence and testimony.
  7. Even after a verdict, there is typically an appeals process where the trucking company’s lawyers attempt to dispute and reduce any juror’s award.

As you can see, having proper legal representation is absolutely critical from the very start. Don’t attempt to navigate this extremely complicated process alone against teams of lawyers from trucking corporations whose interests lie in minimizing payouts, no matter how significant your injuries.

Truck Accident FAQ

What types of compensation can I get?

Depending on the specifics of your case, you may be entitled to economic damages like current and future medical costs, lost income, loss of earning capacity, home care expenses, and more. As well as non-economic damages for things like pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, punitive damages if gross negligence occurred, and more.

How long do I have to file a lawsuit?

There are strict statutes of limitations, which vary by state, that dictate how long you have to properly file a truck accident lawsuit or settle your case. In most states it ranges from 1-3 years, but there are exceptions. An experienced lawyer will ensure you don’t miss the deadline.

Who can be held liable?

In addition to the truck driver, there are typically multiple other potentially liable parties like the trucking company, truck owner, cargo company, maintenance contractors, parts manufacturers, and more. A thorough investigation is required to determine all negligent parties.

What if I was partially at fault?

Most states follow a doctrine of comparative negligence, where compensation gets reduced by the percentage you were also negligent. For example, if you’re found 20% at fault, your awarded damages would get reduced by 20%. An attorney fights to ensure fault isn’t unfairly shifted to the victim.

How much does a truck accident lawyer cost?

The vast majority of qualified attorneys in this practice area work on a contingency basis. This means you don’t pay anything upfront or out-of-pocket fees. The lawyer’s fee is a percentage of any settlement or award obtained, typically 30-40%. If they don’t win your case, you owe nothing.

What damages are available if a truck accident results in death?

If a loved one tragically died due to the negligence of a truck driver or trucking company, certain family members can pursue a wrongful death claim. This allows recovering damages like funeral/burial costs, loss of future income, loss of care/companionship, and more. Laws vary by state.

How can I choose the best truck accident law firm?

Research reviews and past settlements, look for firms that focus exclusively on this niche practice area, ensure they have ample resources to fully investigate, and select a firm with a reputation for taking claims to trial instead of settling cheap. Most offer free case evaluations.

What To Do After a Truck Accident In the aftermath of a serious commercial truck collision, there are some crucial steps victims should take to protect their rights and strengthen their case:

  1. Seek immediate medical attention – Even if you don’t feel injured, the extreme forces involved in these crashes can cause internal injuries that may not be immediately apparent. Having your condition evaluated creates a record tying it to the accident.
  2. Contact the police – Having law enforcement respond to the scene and file an official report documenting evidence is critical. Share witness information with the officers.
  3. Gather information – Try to get the truck driver’s name, employer, and insurance details if possible. Also identify any witnesses.
  4. Document the scene – Take photos and videos of any visible injuries, vehicle damage, road conditions, and the overall accident area from multiple angles. This evidence could disappear quickly.
  5. Avoid discussing fault – Don’t admit any guilt or speculate on what happened, as this could potentially hurt your case later. Only provide basic facts to the police.
  6. Contact an attorney immediately – Most truck accident lawyers offer free consultations and can immediately work to obtain and preserve critical evidence like driver logs, dashcam footage, cargo documentation, and more.

Preserving Evidence is Critical One of the most important reasons to hire an experienced truck accident lawyer right away is their ability to act quickly and decisively to obtain and preserve key evidence that could make or break your case.

Trucking companies have sophisticated protocols for immediately launching their own investigations and working to mitigate any liability. Your lawyer needs to be just as proactive to overcome these efforts and protect relevant evidence that could get intentionally destroyed or “lost.” Examples include:

  • Truck “black box” data that records events like speeds, braking, etc. before the impact
  • The truck driver’s qualification files showing their training, safety record, driving history, and any prior violations or citations
  • Hours of service logs and records related to the driver’s hours worked and rest periods before the crash
  • Inspection and maintenance records of the truck’s critical components like brakes, tires, and lights
  • Video footage from onboard truck cameras, dash cams, traffic cameras, and any surveillance systems in the area
  • Procedures for how cargo was loaded, secured, and distributed weight-wise
  • Drug and alcohol testing records if impairment is suspected
  • Cell phone records that could indicate distracted driving And much more must be meticulously gathered and secured by qualified professionals to strengthen the claim.

Why Truck Accident Cases are Extremely Complex On the surface, these cases may seem straightforward – a large truck crashed into another vehicle and caused injuries, with the commercial driver bearing responsibility. However, there are numerous factors that make trucking collision litigation incredibly complex.

Potentially Liable Parties – Beyond just the driver, there are typically multiple other parties that could hold partial liability like the trucking company, truck owner (if different than the company), any third-party cargo companies, part manufacturers, maintenance contractors, and more. Theories of negligent hiring, training, supervision, inspection protocols, cargo loading procedures, maintenance issues, and more all come into play.

Spoliation of Evidence – As mentioned, trucking companies have big incentives to intentionally destroy or withhold evidence like driver logs, maintenance reports, driving records, and more that could hurt their case. Legal experts are required to fight against these tactics.

Comparative Fault – Determining percentages of negligence between the truck driver, trucking company, third parties, and even the plaintiff is extraordinarily complicated. Truck company lawyers will work aggressively to try to shift as much perceived blame onto other parties to reduce payouts.

Federal Regulations – The trucking industry is governed by a lengthy set of federal safety regulations around driver certification, truck maintenance, cargo rules, hours of service, drug testing, and much more. Proving any violations occurred requires extensive investigation and understanding of the complicated laws.

Catastrophic Damages – With medical costs frequently running into the millions and issues like permanent disability, disfigurement, loss of earning capacity for decades ahead, numerous expert witnesses like economists, vocational experts, life care planners and more are required to properly calculate total damages.

Aggressive Defense – When faced with multi-million dollar liability, trucking companies hire powerful teams of defense lawyers and experts who will ruthlessly look to poke any holes in the plaintiff’s case. They bank on being able to out-spend and out-resource injury victims.

These are just a few of the many factors demonstrating why having proper legal representation from qualified truck accident lawyers is truly a necessity, not a luxury. Their knowledge and resources in this niche practice area heavily impacts their ability to overcome the obstacles and recover appropriate compensation.

When to Hire a Truck Accident Firm While the days and weeks following a serious truck wreck are obviously traumatic, it’s crucial victims take the step of hiring legal counsel as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the higher the risk of critical evidence being lost or compromised.

Independent investigations need to be launched immediately at the scene. Driver qualifications and inspection/maintenance histories must be obtained. Black box data and camera footage from the truck and any other sources needs to be preserved.

By bringing in an experienced trucking accident law firm from day one, you ensure there’s an advocate protecting your rights and preventing anything from undermining your ability to recover full compensation down the road.

Most respected truck crash attorneys provide free initial consultations and only get paid if they win your case. Take advantage of the free case evaluation and let them determine if you have strong grounds for a claim and sue the right parties from the start.

Don’t take on these incredibly complex cases alone against teams of corporate lawyers and adjusters. Having the proper legal representation from the very beginning provides you the best chance at getting the financial recovery you deserve after suffering life-altering injuries or losing a loved one to such a preventable tragedy.

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