What to Do After a Truck Accident - Hensley Legal Group, PC

What to Do After a Truck Accident

Trucking is a cornerstone of contemporary life, supporting business activity while providing the public with key goods and services. But as central as trucks and semi-trailers are, truck accidents are some of the most destructive events on our roads. It can be difficult to think clearly in the aftermath of a truck accident, but what […]

April 17, 2024

Trucking is a cornerstone of contemporary life, supporting business activity while providing the public with key goods and services. But as central as trucks and semi-trailers are, truck accidents are some of the most destructive events on our roads.

It can be difficult to think clearly in the aftermath of a truck accident, but what happens next could make or break any personal injury case you might have, so please join Hensley Legal Group as we explore what to do after a truck accident.

Truck Accidents Can Produce Devastating Injuries

There are about 13.5 million trucks weighing at least 10,000 pounds in the United States, though loaded semi-trailers may weigh many times more than that. Given their massive size, even a “fender bender” with a truck or semi-trailer can be catastrophic, inflicting significant harm.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has collected alarming data about domestic truck and semi-trailer accidents. According to the NHTSA:

· Large truck accidents killed 5,788 Americans in 2021 alone – representing a 17 percent increase over the previous year.

· Approximately 72 percent of those killed were the occupants of other vehicles.

· The truck drivers in these crashes had a higher percentage of previously recorded accidents compared to drivers of other kinds of vehicles, with 20.8 percent logging earlier collisions versus 14.2 percent of passenger car drivers.

· Trucks are involved in one out of every nine deadly traffic accidents nationwide.

Even non-fatal truck accidents can produce devastating injuries, including:

· Head and brain injuries – People in truck accidents frequently sustain traumatic brain injuries, such as concussions and post-concussion syndrome, which may be characterized by persistent headaches, dizziness, confusion, and memory loss. These conditions can degenerate if left untreated, leading to cognitive impairment, behavioral changes, and violent mood swings, while more extreme head and brain injuries could induce coma or death.

· Spinal cord injuries – Auto accidents account for nearly 39 percent of new spinal cord injuries, according to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, and the force of a truck accident can make an injury to the spine more likely. Spinal damage could sever the connection between the brain and the rest of the body, potentially causing partial or total paralysis.

· Fractures – Bones may be easily fractured in truck accidents, usually in the arms, legs, hands, or feet, though bones in the back, neck, or head may break as well, leading to critical medical complications.

· Internal organ damage – The internal organs can be heavily damaged in a high-velocity truck accident. Bruised, punctured, or compromised organs could cease to function or cause hemorrhaging throughout the body.

Moreover, truck accidents may result in major burns, disfigurement, lacerations, contusions, and so-called soft tissue injuries like whiplash and lumbago, among others. Depending on the injuries incurred, extensive medical treatment could be required that may exceed what many families can afford to pay, putting them on a fast track to ruin.

Common Types of Truck Accidents

On top of the sorts of auto accidents that could happen to any vehicle, such as rear-end crashes, sideswipes, and collisions during left-hand turns, certain types of accidents are much more common with trucks and semi-trailers, including:

· Jackknifing – A truck is said to jackknife when its trailer folds away from its cab at the hitch, such that the truck ends up facing two separate directions at a sharp angle and may strike other vehicles with its swinging trailer.

· Underrides – Because trucks can be much higher off the ground than passenger vehicles, a car could slide underneath a truck from the rear or the side when there is contact, possibly crushing the smaller vehicle and anyone inside of it.

· Blowouts – The bigger a truck is, the more strain it may put on its tires. When this added wear and tear is combined with poor maintenance or negligent manufacturing, a tire could blow out and make a truck roll over, jackknife, or swerve into another lane.

· Unsecured load accidents – Large trucks and semi-trailers are primarily used to transport cargo, which needs to be prevented from sliding around while in motion with the use of internal restraint systems. Should these restraints fail, the unstable cargo could shift a truck’s center of gravity and cause the truck to move in an unpredictable manner, which could in turn lead to a collision with another vehicle or fixed object. An unsecured load is further in danger of flying out of the truck and either becoming an obstacle or hitting a vehicle or bystander.

How Do Truck Accidents Occur?

Trucks are powerful machines that must be operated carefully in order to avoid causing harm. Unfortunately, they are driven by human beings, who occasionally make mistakes, so it may be no surprise that 87 percent of truck accidents are caused by driver error. Examples of negligent behavior that could cause truck accidents include:

· Distraction/illicit phone use

· Following too closely

· Failing to yield the right of way

· Inappropriate overtaking or passing

· Improper lane changes

· Speeding

· Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs

· Recklessness

· Disregarding traffic control signals

These errors can be made by drivers of all vehicles, not just truck drivers, who may even be less susceptible to some of them. Nevertheless, the trucking industry poses unique challenges that could make truck accidents more likely, particularly when it comes to driver fatigue, which contributes to an estimated 100,000 motor vehicle accidents, 50,000 injuries, and 800 deaths nationally each year.

The average motorist drives 61.3 minutes per day. In contrast, truck drivers making local deliveries may drive eight times as many hours per shift, to say nothing of long-haul truckers, who must spend practically all of their waking moments driving, sometimes for days at a time. Though federal regulations only allow truck drivers to work for 14 hours per day, with only 11 of those hours spent behind the wheel, economic pressures may encourage truckers to push themselves beyond the limits of the law and common sense and bring about a fatigue-related truck accident.

While driver error is the predominant factor in truck accidents, defects in the trucks themselves could play a role in some collisions, such as:

· Failing brakes

· Overloaded or unsecured cargo

· Trailer malfunctions

· Separated tire treads

· Snapped tow hitches

· Fading headlights

· Broken signals

Regardless of the specific cause of a truck accident, innocent victims will often suffer the bulk of the consequences.

Who Is Liable for a Truck Accident?

If you are one of the innocent victims of a truck accident, the good news is that you may be eligible to receive compensation by pursuing a personal injury case against those who are liable for it. But who exactly is liable for a truck accident? The reality is that many parties may share blame.

Aside from the truck’s driver and its owner (if separate from the driver), the company making use of the truck (if separate from the owner) may also bear responsibility for any damages that the truck causes. There are around 1.86 million trucking companies registered throughout the country. These companies have a duty to train their drivers to operate their trucks safely in accordance with the law. Furthermore, they must make sure that their trucks are functional and their loads are secured before sending them out. When a truck accident is caused by an incompetent driver, an unsafe truck, or an unsecured load, the trucking company could be culpable.

If an outside company is hired to pack the load being hauled, that company could be at fault as well for a load-related accident. Similarly, an outside servicing agent could be held accountable if a truck breaks down, as could the manufacturer, distributor, or retailer of a defective truck component that causes a crash. In some situations, multiple individuals and entities could have varying levels of legal liability at the same time, for which they could have varying levels of fiscal liability.

Given how many defendants there could be for a single truck accident, it is crucial to go after all of them within the time allotted by law, known as the Statute of Limitations. Plaintiffs who fail to file a lawsuit or resolve their truck accident cases before the Statute elapses could be forever barred from full recovery, leaving them shouldering the burden of somebody else’s misconduct entirely by themselves.

But with skilled legal practitioners in your corner, such as the dedicated truck accident lawyers at Hensley Legal Group, you can manage to avoid these pitfalls and establish a viable case.

What You Should Do After a Truck Accident

To make that case even stronger, there are important steps you should remember to take after your truck accident, including the following:

· Move to a safe place – You may be at risk of getting into another accident with an approaching vehicle if you remain on the road for too long, so move yourself and your own vehicle to a safe place before attempting to do anything else.

· Call the authorities – If emergency personnel have not already arrived, take out your phone and dial 911 so that police can document the incident and paramedics can attend to the injured. Be sure to give a thorough account of what happened to the responding officer, since inaccuracies in the police report could be detrimental to your claim.

· Seek treatment – Seek medical attention as soon as you can, ideally from paramedics at the scene. Delays in care could hinder your physical recovery and allow doubt to be cast on the causal relationship between the truck accident and your injuries, thereby hindering your financial recovery.

· Exchange information – You will not have any case at all if you do not know who the other parties are, so exchange the following information with the truck driver and anyone else who may have been involved:

o Name

o Address

o Phone number

o Email

o Insurance company and policy number

o Driver’s license

o Vehicle year, make, and model

o License plate

Don’t forget to ask about the truck’s owner and any company that was making use of the truck at the time of the crash. Try to take down the names and numbers of anyone else who saw the accident too, since eyewitnesses can provide independent confirmation of what transpired.

· Take pictures and shoot video – A visual record of the crash site could be invaluable in establishing liability and detailing your losses, so take pictures and shoot video of your surroundings, making sure to capture any logos, text, or identifying information painted or printed on the truck itself.

· Notify your insurance company – Notifying your insurance company promptly will allow you to remain in compliance with the terms of your policy and let you take advantage of any benefits that may be available, including payments for doctor visits, repairs, towing, and car rentals. Your insurance company will probably want to investigate the truck accident as well and contact the other insurance carriers involved.

· Avoid other insurance companies – However, if those other insurance carriers try to contact you, it might be best if you avoided them for the time being, since anything you say could be recorded and used to undermine your case. Instead…

· Speak to a truck accident attorney – A knowledgeable truck accident lawyer can answer your questions and educate you about what you can expect if you decide to initiate a truck accident case.

What Can a Truck Accident Attorney Do for You?

A truck accident can be a disaster, forcing you to cope with mounting medical bills and unforeseen expenses while making it harder to earn a living. Very quickly, you could have trouble simply making ends meet, much less acquiring the resources needed for the newfound demands on your pocketbook.

While a civil case against the at-fault parties and their insurance companies could be beneficial, a successful outcome is never guaranteed, even more so if you represent yourself. Chances are that this is your first truck accident, but it will almost certainly not be the first for your insurance adjuster, who may have handled hundreds of truck accident claims before, including some that are just like yours. The insurance company will be able to exploit your relative inexperience to minimize your claim, perhaps offering you pennies on the dollar to make your claim go away or even denying it altogether.

This is where working with an attorney, like the seasoned truck accident lawyers at Hensley Legal Group, can make a difference. While it won’t be the first case for your insurance adjuster, it won’t be the first for a veteran attorney either, who will have direct experience with standard insurance industry tactics and will not let the adjuster use them to settle for less. In fact, a study by the Insurance Research Council found that personal injury plaintiffs who hire lawyers to represent them obtain settlements or judgments that are 3.5 times higher than those obtained by plaintiffs who represent themselves, while another study reports that 85 percent of the funds paid out by insurance companies go to claimants with attorneys.

Once you retain a lawyer, he or she will identify and take action against every defendant within the time permitted by law while amassing the materials to build your truck accident case, including:

· Police reports

· Citations and dispositions

· Dash cam, traffic light, and surveillance footage

· Black box data

· Eyewitness accounts

· Phone records

· Hours of Service (HOS) and vehicular inspection logs

· Accident reconstruction and forensic analysis

This evidence is essential to conveying and getting you compensated for the totality of your damages.

What Compensation Can You Receive for a Truck Accident?

A truck accident attorney is generally better at assessing the true value of your case than you are. Plaintiffs who represent themselves may agree to settlements that only reflect their current losses, which could leave them holding the bag when additional losses related to their truck accidents arise. A savvy lawyer will strive to ensure that both the short-term and long-term costs of your truck accident are taken into consideration, such as:

· Past, present, and future medical expenses

· Lost wages

· Diminished earning capacity

· Pain and suffering

· Psychological and emotional trauma

· Reduced quality of living

· Permanent impairment

· Loss of consortium

· Punitive and wrongful death damages (if applicable)

Will You Have to Go to Court for a Truck Accident Case?

The vast majority of truck accident cases are settled during negotiations outside of the courtroom. Nevertheless, a trial might be necessary in some instances, especially when dealing with an obstinate insurance adjuster who consistently comes back with lowball offers in the hope that a plaintiff and his or her attorney will settle a truck accident case for less than it is worth.

For this reason, it is vital to be represented by a lawyer who can credibly threaten to go to trial and has numerous courtroom victories to back that threat up. Insurance companies may be more willing to tender fair settlements to a formidable litigator. If they do not, an accomplished attorney will be indispensable at trial, since plaintiffs who represent themselves in court only win their cases about 4 percent of the time.

What Will It Cost to Hire a Truck Accident Attorney?

Most truck accident lawyers work on a contingency basis, including the truck accident attorneys at Hensley Legal Group. Under such an agreement, you will not have to pay anything up front, and the law firm may even agree to cover the initial expenses associated with your case. Only when your attorneys achieve a favorable resolution will they seek reimbursement for their out-of-pocket costs and a fee for their services, typically as a percentage of your verdict or settlement.

Reach Out to a Truck Accident Lawyer Today

If a truck accident has turned your world upside down, reach out to a truck accident lawyer at Hensley Legal Group to learn how to set things right again. We have been getting justice for the everyday people of Indiana for more than 25 years, and we are eager to do the same for you and your family.

You can schedule a free consultation with one of our Indiana truck accident attorneys by calling or texting us at (317) 472-3333, chatting with us online, or filling out our contact form today.