If you’ve been injured in an 18-wheeler accident, you should know how to deal with truck companies to get paid what you legally deserve. Injury payments can cover the costs of your hospital and medical bills, physical therapy, lost wages and emotional damages. Though you have a legal right to make this claim, a truck company is likely to resist paying you what you deserve — which is one reason why you may need a truck accident lawyer from Jim Adler & Associates.
Trucking is Big Business
Commercial trucking in America is big business. According to the American Trucking Associations
, almost 70% of all U.S. freight tonnage travels on nearly three million heavy-duty Class 8 trucks (whose gross vehicle weight rating, or GVWR, exceeds 33,000 pounds). These trucks move 9.2 billion tons of freight yearly while burning 37 billion gallons of diesel fuel. But though trucks play a vital role in the economy, the trucking business’ enormity means individual Americans often must tangle with a monolithic and powerful company when trying to claim their legal right to economic compensation after a truck accident injury. Another aspect of a giant industry is ample room for mistakes, cost-cutting and squashing the “little guy.” That little guy often is an innocent American who is injured or killed by the negligence of a trucking line or truck driver, and whose family then has a difficult time collecting fair and fitting compensation. Over 5,000 Americans are killed yearly in trucking accidents. Given the fact that loaded big rigs may outweigh a car by 75,000 pounds, almost all fatalities and severe injuries in crashes between cars and semi trucks involve the persons in passenger vehicles, not the truck driver.
Causes of Truck Accidents
As for the causes of truck accidents, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration cites many. Some involve truckers driving recklessly or too fast for road conditions, driving while distracted by a cell phone or other device, or perhaps driving for longer hours than allowed by federal law. This results in fatigue, with slow reaction times. Truckers are legally allowed to drive for 11 hours at a stretch, but some say that’s still too many. And some truckers drive even more and then falsify their driving logs. Trucking lines also may be responsible for failing to train drivers properly or for failing to maintain vehicles properly. Vehicles must have regularly maintained tires, brakes and other equipment for safety purposes.
Are Truck Companies Liable?
You may be asking if truck companies are liable for a driver’s mistakes or for any cause of an 18-wheeler accident. If so, then you should know that yes, trucking lines can be held accountable for their negligence, including when the drivers they hire harm others. However, for a trucking line to be held legally responsible for a trucker’s mistakes, it helps if the driver is an actual employee of the company — and many are not. Instead, many truckers are independent contractors who are not technically employed by the truck company but take contract work on a job-by-job basis. If that’s the case, injured victims can direct their claim to the truck driver via his or her liability insurance provider. However, recent federal regulations have helped victims hold trucking lines accountable for crashes by contract drivers, even if they’re not directly employed by the line. If the driver of a tractor trailer was a trucking or shipping company employee, then certainly, liability is clear. Under the legal theory of “vicarious liability,” the trucking company can be held liable if the driver was acting within the scope and course of such employment. That’s especially true if the driver was a “bad hire” and was employed despite having drug dependencies, a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea or a poor driving record. Beyond drivers and their employers or contractors, liability may be spread around. For instance, if the truck’s cargo was loaded improperly and led to a crash in which dumped cargo contributed, those who loaded the cargo can be held partly liable for the accident.
Truck Company Insurers’ Tricks
Since truck companies often are liable and often face injury lawsuits, they are experienced in such matters and may employ deceptive practices to deny, delay or underpay victims. Innocent Americans must be wary of truck company insurers’ tricks to keep them from getting what they legally deserve after being injured in an 18-wheeler accident. Among these tricks is offering a quick “low-ball” payment when victims are most vulnerable: immediately after a crash. Victims may be suffering pain, missing work and seeing medical bills pile up, and they may seize at the chance to collect any money for their losses. The truck company’s insurer probably knows what an injury is worth but offers a small, low-ball but fast payment which gets it off the hook for any future claim. Trucking lines also may have insurance adjusters contact victims and pretend to be caring and helpful, when in fact the adjuster’s job is to minimize payments to the victim. One way to do this is to get victims to say things in recorded statements that can be used against them in a settlement process. Thus, victims should not agree to make a recorded statement. That is your right. Otherwise, you may be asked “That injury wasn’t as bad as you’d feared at first, right?” and if you agreed it would undercut your claim. Finally, a common strategy by trucking lines is simply to delay your claim. The trucking line or its insurer may request one document or record after another to perpetuate and justify delays, when delaying payments is the only real reason for such requests. A knowledgeable truck wreck lawyer
can fight back against needless delays.
A truck company even may destroy or alter evidence in an effort to avoid paying many thousands of dollars for a crash that was its legal responsibility. Unfortunately, the Texas Supreme Court, known for being pro-business, has taken a relaxed position on the preservation of evidence. This can enable truck lines to change driving logs, “misplace” documents and destroy results from drug tests. Trucking companies even may tell drivers to refuse taking drug tests after a crash, since the fine for such a refusal may be far less than the verdict if the driver fails the test. But more evidence may be available. Numerous big rigs today have a “black box” like those in airplanes to record details of a vehicle’s operation, such as speed at the time of impact and if brakes or evasive actions were applied. Your truck crash lawyer can subpoena that black box to preserve its evidence. Victims who quickly engage a truck accident attorney have a better chance of preserving evidence before it can be destroyed or altered. Notify Jim Adler & Associates today for an 18-wheeler lawyer’s help in sizing up your chances for a successful injury lawsuit or settlement.