Trucks are an important part of the economy and interstate commerce. Over 70 percent of all goods in the United States were delivered by a truck, according to PolicyAdvice.net.
However, the presence of these large vehicles on our roads can have negative consequences as well. Based on data from the Department of Transportations, over 4,000 people died in large truck accidents in one recent year. Perhaps even more startling, the number of fatal truck accidents increased 10 percent in only one year recently, per the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Even if you survive, being involved in a serious truck accident can change your life forever. You may be left with debilitating injuries, loss of employment, and precipitous medical debt. Getting back to anything resembling normal may take months, or even years, of arduous rehab, hard work, and perseverance.
It is not always clear where to turn after such a traumatic experience. Coming to grips with the accident and its aftermath may take time. But, victims need to know that they may be entitled to relief if they were wrongfully injured. The law creates rights for people harmed by the negligence or wrongdoing of truck drivers or trucking companies.
Although you may still be emotionally distraught and disoriented, acting quickly is critical in the days following a truck accident. It is equally important to make informed decisions for the sake of both yourself and your family. If you or a loved are involved in a truck accident, here is what you should know:
Seek Medical Attention as Soon as Possible
It may be tempting to avoid going to the hospital, especially if you are not in pain immediately after an accident. However, some injuries—even serious injuries—may not become apparent until days or weeks after the fact. A medical professional could uncover these latent injuries immediately and begin providing treatment.
Additionally, medical records describing injuries and their consequences may be valuable in court. They could help prove the extent of injuries and demonstrate pain and suffering. Courts may compensate victims for their medical costs.
You May Recover Compensation
The law creates rights for truck accident victims whose injuries resulted from negligence or wrongdoing. The injured or, in some cases, their family members can sue the responsible parties in a court of law. If the lawsuit is successful, the court could grant the plaintiffs an award of damages. Damages are usually a monetary sum intended to compensate the victim(s) for a hardship they incurred because of the accident.
Damages may be awarded to cover medical costs, loss of income, loss of companionship with a loved one, pain and suffering, amongst many other things. In the common parlance of the courts, they are intended to make the plaintiff whole.
For a court to grant damages, the plaintiff must often prove that their injuries were the result of negligence. In the context of a truck accident, the plaintiff demonstrates negligence by proving that the defendant owed them a duty of care, they violated that duty, injuries resulted, and the injuries were a direct result of that violation.
In rare situations, the court may grant what are known as punitive damages. Punitive damages go beyond compensating the victim—and courts grant them to punish the defendant. In these situations, the court is sending a message that the defendant’s conduct is unacceptable.
The defendant’s behavior must be grossly negligent or reckless for this to be an option. For example, if a trucking company knowingly allows a driver to operate his truck under the influence of alcohol, and the driver causes a severe accident, the court may find this worthy of punitive damages.
Multiple Parties May Be Liable
The truck driver is not the only party that may be sued, the trucking company might be a defendant in the suit as well. In fact, any party that was responsible for the accident may be sued if it can be demonstrated that they acted negligently. For example, if the trucking company failed to properly train a truck driver, and this failure to train was a cause of the accident, the trucking company could be liable. Furthermore, if road conditions were also a cause of the accident, then the government entity responsible for their maintenance might be liable as well.
The Insurance Company Is Not Necessarily on Your Side
It is tempting to believe that your insurance company will always be there when it matters. However, an unpleasant reality is that insurers are often more concerned with their bottom line than their client’s well-being. They might provide a payout for some of your claims, but may look for loopholes to avoid paying the full amount. Not only can this be infuriating to the client, but it may deny valuable funds to aid in their recovery after an accident.
If you get into a dispute with an insurance company, it is important to consider having an experienced attorney by your side. They have experience negotiating with insurers, and can increase the likelihood that your payout will help reflect what you actually deserve.
Consult an Experienced Truck Accident Attorney Right Away
Meeting with an experienced truck accident attorney can be critical even if your injuries do not seem severe. In some instances, serious injuries may not become apparent until days or even weeks after the accident. If serious injuries do arise, you will want to be prepared to pursue immediate legal action.
On a related note, some states have a two-year statute of limitations on truck accident claims. And, the complexity of truck accident lawsuits makes it important to start laying the groundwork for a potential claim right away.
Finally, an attorney can give you a sense of your options and assist you in formulating a plan for how to move forward. This can help you and your family gain control of an otherwise chaotic and unsettling situation.
The physical and emotional fallout of a serious truck accident can last a lifetime. Trying to heal physical wounds while coming to grips with a new reality is a struggle few can understand. Knowing that your injuries were the result of someone else’s wrongdoing can make coping all the more difficult. Victims should know that they do not have to suffer in silence, they may obtain compensation for themselves and their loved ones through the court system.
It may be difficult to determine if you are entitled to compensation. The law is vague in certain areas and riddled with ambiguities. However, help is available. Contact an experienced truck accident lawyer who can provide important guidance and give you a sense of your options.
If you are entitled to compensation, the attorney could work diligently on your behalf to obtain the relief that both you and your family deserve. This can provide stability in an otherwise tumultuous time in addition to the peace of mind that comes from knowing those responsible were held accountable.