While any motor vehicle accident can be serious, passenger vehicles often bear the brunt of the damage and loss when a commercial truck is involved. A passenger car is no match against the size, weight and power of a truck, whether it's a large box truck or a semi or tractor-trailer.
Get an idea of how your personal injury lawyer will start to work through your case and help you recover damages for your accident losses.
Proving Fault: Who Will Answer for My Injuries?
- The parties involved. The trucker, the trucking company, the truck manufacturer and others may all carry responsibility for the accident
- The driver. An investigator must take a close look at the truck driver's actions and responsibilities, credentials and training, and physical and mental state. This may include testing for drugs and alcohol
- Driver's logs. Driver fatigue is a leading cause of trucking accidents. The driver's logs are reviewed to confirm that federal and state laws and rules on rest periods were followed
- The vehicle. Records are reviewed for truck maintenance, inspections, testing and loading
- The roadway. The condition of the road, its design and signs can also contribute to an accident
This list shows trucking is much more complex than passenger vehicle use.
Collecting Evidence and Your Accident
Here are sources that may reveal evidence of fault in your case:
- Trucking logs
- Witness statements and observations
- Police reports
- Cell phone or other communication records of the driver and trucking company
- The truck driver's personnel file, including safety and driving records, and training and driving licenses
- The trucking company's safety record
Evidence collected at the accident scene may show possible defects and failure of truck equipment. An attorney would then try to find evidence of other accidents involving the failure of the same or similar equipment.
This could prove a product liability claim against the equipment manufacturer. Or a negligence claim could be made against the trucking company for not a finding problem before it caused an accident.
Expert Witnesses and Proving Your Case
Many types of experts are hired to help reconstruct an accident scene and establish liability. Experts in trucking accident cases include:
- General accident reconstructionists
- Computer graphics technicians
- Forensic specialists
- Specialists in trucking safety
Trucking Company Investigators
Trucking companies often have investigators who immediately start collecting evidence after an accident while victims and their families are still grieving or injured.
These investigators look carefully for any evidence showing the passenger car driver contributed to the accident by:
- Passing unsafely
- Crossing center lines into oncoming traffic
- Drinking or using drugs
- Not obeying traffic laws by following too closely, running a light or speeding
- Driving in the truck's blind spot or "no-zone," or in a "squeeze play," by cutting between a truck and a curb
Your losses as a victim of a trucking accident may include:
- Economic damages. Costs of medical care and rehab, nursing home care, loss of earnings and loss of earning capacity
- Noneconomic damages. Pain and suffering, disfigurement and loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium. Loss of intimate relations on behalf of your spouse
- Punitive damages. Damages to punish a trucking company that acts in bad faith, such as being dishonest or reckless
- Double or triple damages. Extra damages if the truck driver acted under specific circumstances, such as drunk driving
If you are the victim of a trucking accident, don't give trucking company or insurance investigators any statements or sign medical or other releases. Talk to your own trucking accident attorney first to make sure evidence is preserved and your rights are protected.
Questions for Your Attorney
- Will you do an accident investigation before advising me on my claim?
- Should I talk to a lawyer before I talk to my own insurance company about the accident?
- What if I'm partly to blame for my collision with a big truck? Can I still make a legal claim against the trucking company?