No motor vehicle accident is a good accident, but truck and tractor trailer wrecks are particularly bad. The sheer size of semitrailers increases the danger of these crashes, which kill 4,000 people in the U.S. each year.
Truck accidents occur for a number of reasons. First, there’s an epidemic of trucking companies pushing their drivers to work longer hours, despite federal safety mandates. They incentivize drivers with bonuses or threaten their jobs, and drivers find it difficult to say no in the face of those threats and promises. These overworked drivers are inattentive and fall asleep at the wheel, which leads to deadly consequences.
Drug use also contributes to accident rates, as does poor driving. Truck drivers will often work even when their vehicles are in need of maintenance, or they’ll make illegal and unsafe maneuvers. The tragic result is that innocent victims suffer for their negligence, and many endure burns, brain injuries, broken bones, and other forms of trauma.
To make matters worse, victims barely have time to collect themselves before they must think about their legal protection.
How Are Truck-Involved Crashes Different From Auto Accidents?
The dynamics of truck-involved crashes are very different from auto-to-auto accidents. Auto insurance companies carry less exposure than trucking companies and their insurers, so they’re not rushed to complete investigations. Their liabilities are also capped, reducing incentives to fast-track investigations or interfere with evidence.
However, trucking companies carry significant liabilities, particularly because they’re uncapped. To mitigate the chances of a lawsuit, their rapid response teams are dispatched to accident scenes immediately to collect evidence, interview witnesses, and take photographs and measurements. These efforts are solely for their benefits, not the injured parties’. It’s important that victims understand that, unfortunate a reality though it may be. That’s why it’s best not to speak with insurance investigators until you have an attorney. In some cases, companies will try to destroy or obscure evidence that could hurt them in a lawsuit.
For those reasons, victims who don’t act swiftly to bring trucking companies to justice often find themselves in an uphill battle against wealthy and well-funded businesses. No one expects to be involved in a truck accident, and our hope is that you never will be. But should the worst happen, here’s what you must do.
How to Protect Yourself After A Truck or Tractor Trailer Accident
Hire an attorney.
Look for a firm with expertise in trucking cases, as they’ll understand the urgency of the situation. If you or any of your passengers have suffered severe or life-altering injuries, the attorney will document them as soon as possible. They will also document the recovery process and shield you from insurance adjusters who may try to take advantage of you during this vulnerable time.
As with the accident investigators, you should refuse to give any statements without counsel. Trucking defendants have been known to pressure witnesses and victims to change their stories, so do not engage them unless your lawyer is present.
Your attorney will also hire an investigator to conduct an independent investigation that can be used against that of the trucking company. Firms that are familiar with trucking cases understand the mentalities of these companies, so they know what types of evidence and strategies are needed to bring them to justice. What seems like an insignificant detail to a victim could make millions of dollars worth of a difference in court.
Secure custody of your vehicle.
The bulk of the evidence in an accident case is in your vehicle’s black box, so it’s important that you don’t break the chain of custody. Your attorney will advise you on where to have the car taken so it’s not exposed to tampering.
Ideally, the car should be in a protected location where only authorized individuals can access it. The investigators your attorney hires will use information from the car and the scene to recreate the accident, and you want to provide them with as much quality evidence as possible.
Don’t speak with the defendant’s insurance company unless your attorney is present.
Depending on your case, your attorney may advise you against giving a statement at all. In some instances, they’ll recommend that you speak with the defendant’s insurance company, but they’ll be in the room to ensure that the questions are fair.
The insurance company’s job is to protect their client, so everything they ask will be framed through that lens. You want your attorney there to offer counsel and serve as an ally in what can be an emotionally fraught situation.
Focus on healing.
A lawsuit is the last thing you should be worrying about while you or a loved one are recovering from an accident. Many people fixate on anxieties about how they’ll pay their medical bills or what will happen if they can’t go back to work, and this is where a good attorney can provide peace of mind.
If you’ve hired a firm that specializes in trucking cases, you can trust that they will help you address these challenges. They understand the financial obstacles you’re facing, and they will fight to ensure that you’re adequately compensated. The only thing you should focus on once you’ve found the right attorney is your recovery.
Finding a Good Truck & Tractor Trailer Accident Lawyer
Any decent attorney will be able to get about $1 million for a victim injured in a truck accident. But a firm that specializes in these types of cases may be able to get $10-20 million, which makes a significant difference when you’re facing years of rehabilitation or reduced work capacity.
Attorneys who regularly handle trucking cases understand how these companies think. They know how often the companies have gone to trial and how many verdicts have already been made against them. These and other factors drastically increase the value of the case, and only experienced lawyers will know how to leverage them for better client outcomes.
To find a qualified lawyer, look at their case history, certifications, and the maximum compensation they’ve won. Those data will serve as good indicators of whether this person will be able to represent you adequately against trucking companies.