Frequently Asked Question About Truck Accidents
What is a “commercial truck”?
There is no one specific type of commercial truck. Instead, it is any truck that is used for commercial or business purposes. A commercial truck can be something as small as a van that is driven on behalf of a services company or it can be a large tractor trailer that is hauling goods on behalf of a merchant or retailer. Even a pickup used by a landscaping business can be considered a commercial truck. In other words, what makes a commercial truck is more a function of the purpose of its use than the size.
When should I file a truck accident lawsuit?
In Georgia this is governed by the statute of limitations for a personal injury claim which is two years after the date of accrual of the claim. This is when a plaintiff realizes that they have suffered injury. In most cases, this is the same thing as the date of the accident. However, in some cases, plaintiffs may not realize immediately after the accident that they have suffered an injury. There are limited exceptions to the statute of limitations.
Do I have to go to court?
This depends on how far your case progresses. Some cases will be settled before there is a trial. When that happens, you will not have to participate in a trial. If the case does not settle, you will likely have to testify as a witness in front of the judge and the jury. Even if your case settles before trial, you may still have to be a witness at a deposition which is a judicial type proceeding under oath with lawyers present. While going to court may not be pleasant, fear of a trial should not keep you from trying to obtain the compensation that you deserve.
What should I do if I have been injured in a truck accident?
The first thing that you must do after a truck accident injury is to seek medical help immediately. Not only do you critically need treatment, but it will also help you document exactly what the injuries are that require compensation. Immediately after the accident, you should hire a truck accident lawyer to represent you. Your personal injury claim starts to take shape immediately from the time of the accident, and you will need a lawyer to help guide your way through the litigation process necessary to receive compensation for your injuries.
What amount can I expect in a truck accident settlement?
This will depend on the extent and severity of your injuries. Given the size of trucks, it is likely that your injury is not minor in nature. If that is the case, the settlement should fully compensate you for the harm that you have suffered. This includes pain and suffering and your lost earnings. Truck accident settlements may be larger than car accident settlements because there is more damage and greater injury.
How much will a truck accident lawyer cost?
The simple answer is nothing unless you are successful in receiving a settlement or a jury award for your injuries. You will not need to pay the lawyer upfront for their costs. Instead, you will sign a retainer agreement that will specify the percentage they are to receive from your settlement. If you do not win or do not recover anything, you will not need to pay the lawyer anything. Lawyers will usually receive roughly a third of the amount that you are paid if there is a settlement. They may receive a higher percentage if they have to take the case to trial. Lawyers may not charge you an unreasonable amount because their fees are regulated by professional standards of conduct.
How are car accidents different from truck accidents?
Many truck drivers are not on the road for their own purposes when they are driving. Instead, they are on the road working for a company while they are driving. Thus, there may be an additional party to the case that will not be present when you are in a truck accident. An additional difference is that the severity of truck accidents is usually worse than car accidents. There is a greater chance of injury when you are in an accident with a truck.
Can I sue the truck driver’s employer if I am injured?
This depends on the facts and circumstances of the accident. Generally, if one is engaged in the duties of their job when the accident happens, then you can also sue the employer because the truck driver’s actions are imputed to the company for which they work. Whether they were engaged in employment at the time of the accident depends on exactly what they were doing. For example, if they were taking the company’s truck for a personal drive, the employer may not be liable. One possible issue arises when the truck driver is an independent contractor. If there is a company that has the power to direct their route and time of delivery, that company may possibly be sued for the accident.
Can I still win a lawsuit where I was partially at fault for the accident?
In most states, the answer to this question is yes. If the state is a comparative negligence state, the amount of the recovery will be reduced by the amount of the accident that is your responsibility. In other words, the jury may find you 15 percent responsible for the accident, and then you can recover 85 percent of your total damages. In some states, including Georgia, if you are more than 50 percent liable for an accident, then you are barred from recovering. Thus, even if you were going over the speed limit at the time of the accident, you can still receive compensation if the truck driver made an illegal turn and hit you in the process.
What are truck “no zones”?
“No zones” are blindspot areas where the truck driver cannot see. Each truck has several “no zones” where the driver may not be able to see drivers, thereby raising the risk of an accident. There are four primary “no zones” for a truck. Even though the truck is built in a way where the driver may not be able to see into the blindspot, it does not mean that the driver can escape liability for the accident. There may be reasons why the truck driver was not able to adequately see or avoid the accident that can be introduced at trial.
Do truck drivers have a legal limit on their driving hours?
Yes. The Department of Transportation has regulations that restrict driving hours. Truck drivers must take a certain amount of rest after driving. Even after the rest period, they are limited in the amount of time that they can spend behind the wheel. These limits apply to both shifts in a single day as well as restrictions on how much a driver can work in a week. If a truck driver has not followed these rules, they and their company can be held liable in an accident.
Are there different laws that apply to truck accidents?
The legal framework of a truck accident lawsuit will be the same one that applies to a car accident lawsuit. Plaintiffs must prove that the truck driver acted negligently behind the wheel. They must show that the truck driver owed a duty of care to the injured driver and did not act as a reasonable driver would under the circumstances, thereby causing injury to the driver. If there are any nuances or differences in laws that are applicable to truck accidents, it will be whether or not the truck driver’s employer may be sued for the injuries suffered.
Can I demand more money in my truck accident lawsuit?
The damages that you would receive are dependent on the injuries that you have suffered and the amount of your property loss. When you are in a truck accident, there is a higher chance that you may have suffered a significant injury, which will lead to a larger settlement amount. Another factor that can lead to a higher settlement is the fact that the employer may be sued for the damage suffered. While the plaintiff may not recover for more than what they have suffered, there may be a higher settlement amount when there is a corporate defendant involved.
Types of Truck Accidents the Eichholz Firm Investigates
- Head-On Collisions
- Jackknife Truck
- Lost Loads
- Rear Or Side Underride
- Side Collisions (T-Bone)
- Tire Blowout
- Truck Rollovers
Types of Trucks Involved in our Motor Vehicle Accident (MVA) and Truck Accident Cases
- Commercial Vehicles Of Any Size
- Tractor Trailers
- “Big Rigs” Or 18-Wheelers
If you are unsure about the types of vehicles involved in your accident, especially if more than one car or truck was involved, do not worry. Reach out to us so that we can help you locate any police accident reports generated in response to your accident.
The Difference Between a Truck Accident and a Car Accident
Truck accident lawsuits may be different than car accident lawsuits since accident victims may not be dealing with the other driver’s insurance company as they would in a car accident. There will still be an insurance company involved, but it may be that of the company which employs the truck driver, which means the insurance company will be operating under a different set of rules. The company will likely have lawyers on retainer so it is essential to contact a truck accident lawyer as soon as possible.
Common Causes of Truck Accidents
According to a pivotal 2007 study conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), fatigue is estimated to be a critical factor in 13% of all trucking accidents and 30% of all automobile accidents. In theory, this problem is supposed to be mitigated by Federal Hours of Service (HOS) regulations, which govern how many hours a trucker can drive at a time, how much time must be taken between shifts, and how many hours can be logged in any given week.
These rules are broken all too frequently. It is alarmingly common for drivers to falsify their logs, and for trucking companies to imply or baldly insist that their drivers breach the HOS rules. In their race to stay profitable, many companies push their drivers past the limits of human endurance.
Sometimes the average car driver may neglect their regular oil changes and tire rotation. That’s dangerous enough when it’s the family car. When it’s a big-rig truck, it may amount to catastrophic accidents. It is all too terribly common for truck tires to be worn out, for brakes, axles, and other truck parts to be old and in disrepair, and for maintenance to have been overlooked. Trucking companies and trucking brokers, out of concern for the bottom line, are often ready to shave their costs at the expense of safety.
Truck drivers work long hours in a dangerous job for low pay. They are alone much of the time, moving from town to town, with relatively little time to see their families. It’s a difficult life, and sadly, many of them deal with the tedium and stress by turning to substance abuse. Half of truck drivers have admitted to drinking and one-third to taking amphetamines. Many others consume cocaine and cannabis. While the pressures they face are a sad reality, there is no justification for the thousands of truck accidents that occur each year.
Truck Accident Settlements
There are five factors that affect liability in trucking accidents: liability, medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering.
Quite simply, how much at fault the truck driver, or the trucking company or brokerage, can be shown to have been, the higher the settlement is likely to be — especially in a “fault state” like Georgia. If the trucker was intoxicated or overworked, if the company did not properly maintain the vehicle, or if there was simply a human error or miscalculation, the accident victim is likely to be able to demand a higher settlement. Proving any of this, however, requires a truck accident lawyer with experience in these areas to properly investigate the matter.
The extent of the medical damage resulting from a trucking accident will play a huge role in determining the extent of the settlement. Generally speaking, the higher the medical bills, the greater the consideration. An injury that requires hospitalization or causes life-altering consequences such as permanent mobility impairment will result in more compensation than one that only requires outpatient care. The lifetime of high medical costs that are associated with severe injuries will most likely result in a substantial settlement.
Trucking accidents often cause injuries that prevent the victim from working for a period of time. Sometimes victims are permanently prevented from returning to their vocation. In cases like these, the claimant is entitled to compensation for lost wages or lost earning capacity. The inability to work must be proven. Typically, an employer must produce documented evidence that the patient’s injuries have made work impossible. The amount of the settlement will also vary by the patient’s income. A person making a six-figure salary will be entitled to greater compensation than someone earning $40,000.
Big-rig trucks are the largest vehicles on the road, so truck and car collisions will most likely result in far greater damage to the car and its passengers. Sometimes the damage inflicted is catastrophic. If the damage is repairable, the driver’s insurance company pays the bill and then the trucker’s insurance pays the driver’s insurance. But if the car is totaled, and the cost of repair exceeds that of the car’s value, the insurance must cover the blue book value of the car. Hence, information about the make and model of the driver’s car will determine the fair market value owed, and part of the legal settlement.
Pain and Suffering
The damages owed for pain and suffering are among the hardest to legally determine. A truck accident lawyer must look at all the causes mentioned above. The attorney will have to take into account the stress and aggravation caused, the lost life experiences, physical limitations, permanency, and other such factors. The lawyer also looks at the effects of an accident on others in the victim’s life, especially family and dependents. Also considered is the ability of a caregiver to support his or her family, how the familial and other relationships have been affected, and at the family’s anguish on seeing the driver’s impairment. Many of these factors are subjective and thus may be heavily disputed in settlement negotiations or in a courtroom. It is precisely for this reason that one needs an experienced truck accident lawyer.
Proving the Truck Driver Was Negligent
In order to successfully prove the claim in a truck accident lawsuit, the claimant must demonstrate that the other driver was negligent in their actions. There is no bright-line test to determine if a driver is negligent. Instead, there is a four-factor inquiry that each court will apply to determine whether there has been negligence. This test results from hundreds of years of case law and is applied to every situation in which potential negligence is involved. The elements of the test are as follows:
- The first question to be answered is whether the truck driver owed a duty of care to other drivers on the road. Usually, the answer to this question is an obvious yes. A truck driver cannot do whatever they please behind the wheel, especially as it impacts other drivers.
- Next, the court will determine whether the truck driver breached their duty of care. This question is framed as whether the truck driver acted as a reasonable truck driver would under the circumstances. This does not require absolute perfection, just that the driver did not act unreasonably under the circumstances. This part of the test is usually met if the truck driver broke a traffic law. For example, a reasonable driver would not travel at an excessive rate of speed or make illegal turns on the road.
- If the first two parts of the test are met, the court will look at whether the victim suffered an injury. So long as there is some sort of damage, this part will likely be met.
- Finally, the court will examine whether the truck driver’s actions were the proximate cause of the victim’s injuries. This is not always the case. For example, a truck driver can collide with another car as a result of another driver cutting off the truck. The question is “but for” the actions of the truck driver, would the victim’s injuries have occurred?
Even if the truck driver was negligent, there is another factor to consider. The court will then look at whether the victim was to blame in any way for the accident that caused their injury. In a handful of states, the victim may not recover anything at all if they share even part of the blame. In Georgia, that is not the case. Georgia uses a modified comparative negligence test. This means that a party who was partially responsible for the accident may still recover for their injuries. For example, if the victim bears ten percent of the blame, their damage recovery is reduced by that amount. However, the law states that any party who is more than fifty percent responsible for the accident may not recover anything.
Contributory and Comparative Negligence
Assuming that negligence is proven, the next step in a truck accident lawsuit is to examine the actions of the injured driver to see if they were partly to blame for their own injury. For example, the driver could have been struck by a speeding truck when they were making an illegal turn. Only a few states bar the injured driver from any recovery if they are partly at fault. This is called contributory negligence.
Most states, including Georgia, will reduce the amount of the driver’s recovery by the percentage that they were negligent. For example, if a jury decided that a driver was 20 percent negligent, they could only recover 80 percent compensation for their injuries. This is known as comparative negligence. Some states will not allow any recovery when a driver is more than 50 percent at fault for an accident.
How Can a Truck Accident Lawyer Help?
Accident victims should retain a truck accident lawyer as soon as possible. The truck driver’s employer will likely have their own attorney already on retainer. An accident victim will need an attorney immediately for several reasons:
- Identifying liable parties
Complex truck accident cases often involve multiple parties, thereby making it difficult to ascertain which party is responsible for the accident and if more than one party is at fault, what percentage of fault belongs to each of the parties. We have significant experience in this kind of complex truck litigation and are able to identify the responsible parties and seek legal recourse against them.
- Conducting thorough and independent investigations
Commercial trucking companies routinely employ their own slate of investigators in response to accidents of any magnitude, especially when litigation is likely to follow. Since the accident investigator works for the trucking company, their investigative reports are typically one-sided – against the interests of the injured party. Our team at the Eichholz Firm hires its own team of investigators and experts to conduct a careful, thorough investigation of the accident to ensure that a fair and balanced report is created for your case.
- Determining negligence on behalf of the driver or trucking company
Depending on the specific facts of your trucking accident case, our attorneys may allege that one or more parties involved in your accident engaged in the negligent conduct. Negligent conduct that may give rise to liability includes:
- Driving while under the influence of drugs (DUI/DWI)
- Driving while extremely fatigued due to lack of sleep or extreme working conditions
- Speeding or driving too aggressively for road conditions, violating driving restrictions
- Road rage
- Distracted driving, including texting or making phone calls while driving
In addition to negligence based on the conduct of the driver, there are several ways in which the trucking company can be negligent (even though the driver himself may not have been negligent):
- Setting routes and time constraints that lead to unsafe driving behaviors
- Failure to fix known mechanical or parts-related issues with trucks
- Inability to perform necessary diagnostic vehicle inspections
- Requiring truck drivers to log hours that are more than federal limits
- Dealing with Car Insurance Companies
Immediately after the incident, automobile insurance companies will be calling for details about the accident. If the victim has suffered an injury in the accident, they may not be able to aptly deal with the insurance companies and will need an experienced lawyer to communicate on their behalf. Insurance companies rarely have the best interest of accident victims in mind, so an accident victim can greatly benefit from the aggressive legal representation a lawyer provides.
- Recreating the Events of the Accident
Many of the facts surrounding the accident will need to be established. The accident scene is only preserved for a limited period of time. After that, witnesses will need to be interviewed and experts may need to be retained. A truck accident lawyer will need to establish a timeline of the incident along with a recreation of the actions of everyone involved.
- Negotiating a settlement
A truck accident lawyer will need to negotiate a settlement if possible. Insurance companies and other parties to the accident will typically not give their best offer at first. In fact, they will try to lowball their settlement offers if they make one at all. A truck accident lawyer will know if the settlement offer is reasonable and if an agreement can be reached with further negotiations.
There are often multiple parties involved in negotiations and pre-trial discovery that often include the commercial trucking company itself. As a result, it is crucial that you rely on an experienced team of attorneys who are skilled at handling complex civil litigation and pre-trial settlement negotiations. Our truck accident lawyers are successful in negotiating settlements with multiple parties involved in a trucking accident, which may include the insurance company, the truck driver, the trucking company that employed the driver, and any parts manufacturers that may be involved in the crash.
- Completing Lawsuit Paperwork
If it is necessary to file a truck accident lawsuit, the attorney will draft and file the complaint. Courts have stringent requirements for how the paperwork must be filed and will not necessarily be lenient on those requirements for claimants who do not have a truck accident lawyer.
- Expert Legal Advice
Accident victims need wise counsel throughout the entire process. Hopefully, the incident is the first and only time that the victim has been in an accident with a truck. The Eichholz Law Firm in Atlanta, GA has truck accident lawyers, and have helped many victims under similar circumstances and has the experience necessary to provide advice not just about legal matters, but about handling the accident as well.
- Dealing with Medical Insurance
The high likelihood of injury in truck accidents means that there will probably be medical bills to tend to. Attorneys can help the victim deal with medical insurance in the event that there are uncovered medical expenses.
I was involved in a trucking accident – what should I do?
The reality is that most commercial trucking companies are well prepared to handle an accident in its immediate aftermath, while the individuals injured in the accident are focused on recovery. When the company’s trucks are involved in a crash, the trucking company immediately dispatches its own team of internal investigators and insurance adjusters to interview drivers and witnesses and to obtain evidence that they will use in an attempt to avoid liability.
If you or a family member are involved in a truck accident, focus on your recovery first and foremost. The victims (and family members) should not give any statements to insurance companies or private investigators that claim that they are calling or visiting on behalf of the trucking company or its insurance company representatives. Instead, call the experienced truck accident lawyers at the Eichholz Law Firm immediately. We will handle any inquiries from the trucking companies and begin work on establishing your legal claim.
Filing a Truck Accident Lawsuit
If you or someone you love has been injured or killed as a result of a truck driver’s reckless or negligent driving, or due to suspected negligent conduct on the part of the trucking company, please call the skilled truck driver accident attorneys at the Eichholz Firm.
Our truck accident lawyers will discuss a timeline and suggest next steps so that we can pursue the financial outcome you deserve while you can focus on recovery. Our attorneys are available to discuss all aspects of your potential claim and can answer any questions you might have about what to expect when you bring a truck accident lawsuit against a negligent truck driver or trucking company.
Call The Eichholz Law Firm for a free case consultation if you have been involved in a truck accident.
- Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. “Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts 2017”, United States Department of Transportation, https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety/data-and-statistics/large-truck-and-bus-crash-facts-2017. Accessed June 13, 2019.
- Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. “The Large Truck Crash Causation Study – Analysis Brief”, United States Department of Transportation, https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety/research-and-analysis/large-truck-crash-causation-study-analysis-brief. Accessed June 13, 2019.
- Nolo. “Trucking Accidents: Common Causes & Liability”, Nolo, https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/trucking-accidents-common-causes-liability-30156.html. Accessed June 13, 2019.
- HG.org Legal Resources. “Truck Accident Law”, HG.org Legal Resources, https://www.hg.org/trucking-accidents.html. Accessed June 21, 2019.
- FindLaw. “Truck Accident Law: What You Need to Know”, FindLaw, https://injury.findlaw.com/car-accidents/truck-accident-law-what-you-need-to-know.html. Accessed June 21, 2019.