While some of the distinctions between a truck accident and a car accident are normally obvious to the parties involved, others might not be. If you’ve been injured in a wreck caused by a commercial truck, understanding the nature of a truck crash claim can increase your chances of recovering fair compensation for your damages, which include medical expenses, property damage, lost income, and pain and suffering.
There Are Higher Standards for Trucks and Truckers
Like every other driver, a trucker is required to obey traffic laws, maintain a safe vehicle, and drive cautiously to ensure the safety of all motorists on the road. Unlike passenger cars and their drivers, however, commercial trucks and truck drivers are strictly regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These agencies set high standards for the condition of trucks on the road, the training and preparation of drivers, the hours a trucker may drive between rest breaks, the duration of those breaks, and more. If you can prove that a truck driver and/or the truck that hit you were in violation of traffic laws or Federal regulations, such a violation renders the trucker, the trucking company, and/or other defendants negligent and liable for your damages.
Major Property Damage and Severe Injuries Can Result
There are extreme differences in size and weight between a regular passenger car or SUV and a semi-truck, bus, or another commercial vehicle. While a passenger car generally weighs 4,000-5,000 pounds, a fully loaded 18-wheeler can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. Due to these differences, an accident involving a car and a commercial truck traveling at highway speed almost always results in major property damage and catastrophic injuries or death for the occupants of the smaller vehicle. If you’re lucky enough to survive a jackknife, rollover, head-on, underride, or another type of accident with a semi-truck, you could be left with one or more severe injuries:
- Fractured or crushed bones
- Lacerations and scarring
- Dislocated joints
- Eye injuries
- Spinal cord damage
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Severed limbs
- Surgical amputations
- Psychological trauma
Such injuries can lead to hospitalization, surgery, extensive long-term treatment, physical therapy, rehabilitation, home nursing care, assistive equipment for your car or home, and a long recovery period during which you cannot work. You’re likely to have astronomical medical expenses at a time when you’re unable to earn any money.
Fighting the Insurance Company
Your first step toward collecting compensation for medical bills, lost income, and other damages in any accident is generally the filing of a claim against the at-fault party’s insurance company. Because of the major or total damage to the smaller vehicle and the severe injuries typically suffered by its occupants in a truck-car crash, such a claim is likely to be a very expensive one for the trucking company’s insurer.
In order to pay you as little as possible in damage compensation after a wreck, an adjuster from the insurance company might contact you shortly after your accident to inquire about your condition and get you to talk about the crash. If you do, the adjuster will may find something that can be used against you in the claims process. The insurer might also use delaying tactics to stall your claim, putting pressure on you to accept a quick, low settlement that might not even cover your future medical bills or your pain and suffering. If this happens, we recommend you refer all calls and messages from the insurance company to an experienced truck accident attorney you retain who can counter such tactics and fight for a fair settlement.
What If There Is More Than One Defendant?
In an accident involving two passenger cars, the victim generally files one insurance claim for damages against the at-fault driver. In some cases, there might be a third party who also bears partial responsibility for your accident. If bad road conditions or a burnt-out traffic light played a part in your wreck, for example, you might have a third-party claim against a local or county government agency. In an accident caused by a commercial truck, though, there could be multiple defendants who bear some percentage of fault for your crash, including the following:
- A trucker who violated traffic laws or federal regulations
- A trucking company responsible for keeping its trucks safe and putting only well-trained and properly rested drivers on the road
- A truck manufacturer or a replacement parts manufacturer if equipment failure played a role in your wreck
- A mechanic or repair service responsible for maintaining the truck and/or installing replacement parts
- Loading dock personnel if improperly loaded or shifting cargo contributed to your crash
Your truck crash lawyer will know how to identify multiple defendants, determine their respective percentages of fault, file claims against their insurers, demand fair compensation from each, and file multiple lawsuits against any defendants who do not offer fair settlements.
Tips for Collecting Truck Crash Evidence
After any vehicle accident, you should take certain steps to collect evidence if you’re physically able to do so: Call 911 to report your accident, take photos of the scene and vehicles involved, exchange information with the other driver, get contact information from any witnesses, talk only to law enforcement officers, don’t apologize or admit any fault, seek medical attention immediately if you’re not transported to a hospital, notify your own auto insurer, and contact a truck accident attorney as soon as possible.
Talking to a lawyer right away is especially important in a truck crash case because your attorney will know how to obtain vital, time-sensitive evidence that pertains to truck accident cases. Most commercial vehicles are now equipped with black box data recorders and electronic logging devices (ELDs) that keep track of the miles the truck travels, the trucker’s hours of service (HOS) between rest breaks, and any equipment malfunctions or failures. This evidence is extremely valuable in proving the liability of the at-fault trucker or trucking company, but it remains in the possession of the trucking company and might routinely be erased every 30 days. Your attorney, however, can send the trucking company a spoliation letter advising that the onboard data is now evidence in a damage claim or lawsuit and may not be destroyed.
Have You Been Injured In A Charleston, South Carolina Truck Accident?
If you've been hurt in a truck accident you should speak with an experienced South Carolina truck accident lawyer as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Charleston, South Carolina office directly at 843.488.2359 to schedule your consultation. We are also able to meet clients at our Conway, Myrtle Beach, Murrells Inlet, Mt. Pleasant, North Myrtle Beach, Florence or North Charleston office locations.