If you’ve been hurt in a devastating truck accident, you’re probably in a lot of pain and facing serious financial hardship. You may have even started the process of talking to lawyers about your legal options for financial recovery.
Some of these lawyers might tell you that they’re ready to handle your case because they’ve successfully handled lots of car accident cases. To an average person, this might make sense: A big-rig truck is basically a very large car at the end of the day, right?
In fact, truck accidents are completely different from typical car crashes in many important ways that can affect your legal case, and you should be wary of handing your trucking accident case over to an attorney who hasn’t successfully litigated complex truck crash claims before.
In this article, we’ll explain four of the most important differences between car crash lawsuits and truck accident cases.
Difference #1: The Complexity of the Case and the Amount of Damages
The average commercial truck can weigh up to 80,000 pounds and creates incredible force in a crash. Often, large truck crashes involve multiple vehicles and lead to extremely serious injuries or even death for the victims. In fact, when a truck collides with a passenger vehicle in a fatal accident, the passenger vehicle occupant is the one who dies 97% of the time. This means the damages in these cases are much higher than in a typical car accident case.
The devastating nature of these crashes also makes for a more complicated case in all sorts of ways:
- More evidence at the scene
- More potential crash factors
- More doctors, medical bills, and medical records
- Your attorney may need to draw on opinions from medical experts to establish the long-term costs of care and rehabilitation, including modifications to your home and lifestyle
The list goes on.
An attorney who has only handled car accident cases before may not have the resources, know-how, and experience required. And if they become overwhelmed, it could put your case at a serious disadvantage.
Difference #2: The Number of Potential Defendants
In a typical car crash scenario that involves two passenger vehicles, your case will almost always be against the other driver and his or her insurance company.
In a truck accident case, however, things aren’t so clear-cut. Most truck accident claims involve the truck’s driver, but if the trucking company that employed the driver failed to follow proper hiring and training practices or encouraged the driver to break the law, your claim may involve the company, too.
Beyond that, you might have a claim against the company that manufactured the truck or one of its parts if a mechanical failure caused the crash that injured you. Even the company that loaded the truck could be liable for your injuries if they packed the truck’s cargo in an unsafe way that made the truck unstable.
These are just a few possible situations, and figuring out who might be responsible for your injuries and losses requires an in-depth, detailed investigation of the crash and all the factors that caused it. An attorney who has only worked on car crash cases before might not be fully prepared for this.
Difference #3: State and Federal Trucking Regulations
The trucking industry is governed by a complex web of federal, state, and local regulations, all of which can have a major impact on your legal case. Commercial truck drivers and their employers have to follow a very different set of standards than the average driver, and your attorney needs to understand these standards before they can accurately assess your case and figure out who might be liable for your injuries.
For example, federal regulations limit how many hours truckers can drive without a break. Some companies allow or even encourage their drivers to break these rules so they can squeeze out extra profits, so your attorney will need to investigate the driver’s logs as well as the trucking company’s overall history of compliance with regulations.
Regulations also require trucking companies to maintain their trucks and keep them in safe operating condition. Again, though, many companies would rather make a few extra dollars than ensure the safety of their trucks, so they frequently cut corners on maintenance.
The result is that there are far too many mechanically unsafe trucks on the road. Your lawyer will need to investigate the truck’s maintenance records and have an expert inspect the truck as soon as possible after the crash to determine whether mechanical issues might have caused the accident that hurt you or made it worse than it should have been.
These are just a few examples of how complicated laws in the trucking industry can affect your truck wreck case. Your lawyer will also need to investigate things like:
- Whether driver fatigue or substance abuse played a role in your crash
- Whether the driver was speeding or driving too fast for conditions
- Whether the trucking company installed available safety technology like automated braking systems
Difference #4: The Trucking Company’s Resources
Even though most people will get into a car accident at some point in their lives, they don’t spend their time preparing for it and figuring out how they’ll get out of paying the other party. Trucking companies, on the other hand, do exactly this.
Trucking is a big business, and part of that business is being ready for potential liability issues. That’s why trucking companies and the businesses that insure them employ expensive legal teams, and it’s why they have procedures in place so they can spring into action and move to protect themselves the moment a crash happens.
Within hours of a crash — often while the victim is fighting for their life or in surgery — the trucking company will have investigators and lawyers at the scene looking through the evidence for anything they can use in their favor. Some trucking companies even break the law by covering up or destroying evidence that might hurt their defense.
To level the playing field, you need an attorney who has their own team of experts and who can get to work immediately investigating your crash and preserving all the relevant evidence. A lawyer who’s figuring out how to handle a truck accident case for the first time can easily end up a step behind the trucking company, and that’s a step you can’t afford to lose.
Contact Atkins & Markoff for Help if You’ve Been Injured in a Truck Accident in Oklahoma
After a serious truck accident, it’s important to contact an experienced trucking accident lawyer right away so they can begin investigating your case and preserving the evidence. At Atkins & Markoff, we have the resources and experience needed to handle complex truck crash cases. We’re ready to listen to your story and fight to get you justice and compensation.
If you have been seriously injured or even lost a loved one in a crash involving a tractor-trailer or other large truck, contact Atkins & Markoff today by calling 405-607-8757 or filling out our quick and simple online contact form. We’ll get back to you right away. Your initial consultation is free, and we handle all personal injury cases on a contingent fee basis, so you won’t pay attorney’s fees unless we get you a settlement or win your case in court.
Fatality facts: Large trucks, 2016. (2017, December). Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Retrieved from http://www.iihs.org/iihs/topics/t/large-trucks/fatalityfacts/large-trucks
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.