If I Was Driving a Car When Hit by a Truck, What Type of Lawyer Should I Use?
Your typical auto accident and commercial truck accident involve different players and different challenges.
A big rig accident is many driver’s worst nightmare.
Semi-truck accidents almost always result in more severe injuries and property damage than regular accidents.
Commercial trucks make up a significant part of the U.S. economy, with nearly 70 percent of all freight in the United States riding on trucks.
The trucking industry alone moves more than 9 billion tons of freight every year.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the trucking industry alone employed more than 1.7 million Americans in 2012.
That number is projected to increase 11 percent by 2022.
If involved in an auto accident or a truck accident, and you’ve sustained injuries, contact an attorney before you talk to your insurance company.
But, what kind of personal injury lawyer in Atlanta should you contact?
Most people just look up an accident attorney and go from there.
But, because of the differences between truck accidents and regular car accidents, you should always contact a personal injury attorney who specializes in truck accidents.
In the article below, we will discuss the differences between car accidents and truck accidents, and why you should contact an experienced truck accident lawyer.
Do I Need To Hire A Truck Accident Lawyer?
Before we talk about the differences between auto accidents and truck accidents, let’s talk about why you need to hire a truck accident lawyer.
Insurance companies may tell you that you don’t need to hire a lawyer.
The last thing that an insurance company, or the large commercial trucking company involved, wants you to do after an accident is to hire a lawyer.
These truck and insurance companies are experienced in dealing with people injured by their drivers or employees.
The goal of the insurance company is to get you to settle before you have someone on your side to help you.
What often happens after a truck accident is a claims adjuster or insurance company representative will offer you a small cash settlement soon after the accident, often before you know what your medical bills are going to be.
The insurance companies might even add pressure by putting a very short time limit on the offer.
This is an attempt to keep you from consulting with friends, medical services, and especially legal counsel.
Not sure about injuries you can get from a truck accident? Read our blog post, “What Are Common Truck Accident Injuries?”
You Must Consult a Lawyer
You should consult with a lawyer before you talk to your insurance company.
After an accident, the people who contact you from your insurance company are trying to get any evidence they can to imply that you are at fault for the accident.
Even if the employees or claims adjusters sound friendly, keep in mind that they are trying to pay you the smallest amount possible. This is regardless of whether or not the amount offered pays your damages and medical expenses.
The insurance companies business hopes to make a profit, whether you get your medical bills paid or not.
When you’re involved in a car accident, your accident attorney is accustomed to collecting evidence after the crash.
They collect things like witness statements, photographs of the accident scene, any available security camera footage, police reports, and more.
But when a commercial truck is involved, there is much more evidence that must be collected.
The evidence that’s involved in a commercial truck accident can be divided into three distinct categories:
- Driver evidence including the driver’s qualifications file, the driver’s training file, the hours of service documentation, the driver inspection records, and post-collision drug and alcohol screening results
- Vehicle evidence including downloads of the onboard systems, maintenance history documentation, inspection history, and data GPS tracking systems
- Cargo evidence, including weight tickets, trip envelopes, dispatch instructions, delivery documents, and bills of lading
Another critical difference in truck accident cases that your attorney will have to know about is the timeline involved.
You must preserve evidence more quickly in a semi-truck accident case.
That’s because the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations only require documents to be kept for a certain amount of time.
So, suppose you wait too long to consult an attorney.
If you wait too long, it could be too late to preserve certain documents, so you won’t be able to utilize them in your personal injury claim or lawsuit.
In your typical accident case, the only people involved are the driver of the vehicles.
There is a chance that the employer of a driver or a non-involved owner of a vehicle could be involved.
But in a commercial truck accident, more parties become involved, and their relationships make things complicated.
The parties in a semi-truck accident depend on who employs the driver, who owns the truck itself, and the relationship between the driver and the trucking company.
Whether the driver is driving under dispatch with a loaded trailer, driving with an empty container, or driving without a trailer also impacts the parties that could be involved.
You should also keep in mind that under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, the tractor and the trailer are separate commercial vehicles.
There are instances where the owner of just the trailer will be liable, but other times only the owner of the tractor itself will be responsible.
In addition to the driver and the trucking company, those who deal with the truck’s cargo could also be found liable.
Shippers, loaders, brokers, freight forwarders, and consignees could be responsible if the cargo causes an accident.
For example, an improperly secured load or a load that is too heavy to transport safely could cause an accident.
Third-party maintenance and repair companies could also be found liable if the accident was caused by a failure to maintain the commercial truck properly.
The definition of a car is pretty cut and dry.
It’s not so simple for a commercial truck, however.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, a commercial vehicle must meet at least one of the following requirements:
- A gross combination weight of 26,001 or more pounds, including a towed unit with a total vehicle weight rating of more than 10,001 pounds
- An overall vehicle weight rating of 26,001 or more pounds
- Designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver
- It transports hazardous materials, no matter the size of the vehicle
Under these regulations, a wide range of vehicles could fall under the commercial vehicle umbrella.
Vehicles like semi-trucks, tractor-trailers, cargo vans, dump trucks, garbage trucks, landscaping trucks, moving vans, water trucks, food trucks, crane trucks, and other specialized equipment could all be considered commercial vehicles.
The complexity of driving these heavy machines is a significant consideration in semi-truck accident cases.
As a rule of thumb, commercial trucks need more time to stop, accelerate slower, need more space to maneuver, and require special handling when making turns and backing up.
Also, the science of truck collision is much different from that of a typical auto accident.
Because of this, a truck accident attorney must look at the accident from the truck driver’s perspective instead of the driver of the other vehicle.
Rules and Regulations
The evidence that we discussed above will play a crucial role in your personal injury case.
There are industry-specific rules and regulations requiring truck drivers to record certain information that can help demonstrate whether the driver and the trucking company followed safety regulations in the minutes and hours leading up to a crash.
In a typical accident, attorneys and insurance adjusters try to piece together the moments leading up to the crash to determine the accident’s proximate cause.
Once they determine the cause, they will compare the driver’s conduct to see who acted negligently.
However, in the case of a truck accident, the rules and regulations go beyond the road’s laws.
Commercial truck operators are held to higher legal standards, and they must follow more stringent driving rules.
Truck drivers must follow hours of service regulations, like not driving more than a certain number of hours in a row without rest, and specific rules for certain driving situations.
What Should I Do After A Truck Accident?
Your actions after a truck accident will affect your chances of obtaining maximum compensation tremendously.
The first thing you need to do after your accident is to have a doctor examine you.
Even if you feel fine following a crash, it’s vital to seek medical treatment.
Some injuries typical in accidents, such as whiplash, can go undetected for hours or days.
Also, failing to see a doctor prevents you from properly documenting your injuries, making it difficult to prove the accident caused them.
You should also contact law enforcement as quickly as you can.
Once you reach out to them, police will arrive at the scene of the accident and complete an accident report to help preserve the evidence.
If you are physically able, you also need to take photos at the accident scene.
Take them from multiple angles and include shots of your vehicle, the truck, and your injuries.
The police who respond to an accident should also take photos, but you can never have too many.
After you took the necessary photos, you must gather as much information as possible.
This includes the names, addresses, driver’s license number, name, and insurance information, of the truck driver and any other people who were at the scene and can serve as eyewitnesses to the accident.
After you leave the scene, it can become nearly impossible to track down everyone who was involved.
Hence, it is crucial to get the information you need to contact them at the scene.
You should gather the vehicle DOT license number for the truck and trailer.
Finally, despite the level of damage, you must not have it repaired until an expert can appraise it.
The repair estimate can become part of your claim, and experts may determine that a defect was involved.
Contact The Angell Law Firm
The most important thing to do after your accident is to receive medical attention. After your visit to a medical professional, you must contact a truck accident attorney. It is vital to speak to a lawyer, even before you speak to the insurance company.
If you’ve been looking for a reliable truck accident attorney, look no further.
The accident lawyers of the Angell Law Firm are proud to represent the injured throughout Georgia and South Carolina. Not sure if you have a case? Take advantage of a free consultation for first-time clients.
We continually commit ourselves to the highest standards of excellence in personal injury litigation.
If you or a loved one became injured in a commercial truck accident, contact us today. Together, we will discuss your legal options.
Bryce is considered a highly esteemed trial lawyer and a passionate client advocate amongst his peers in the Atlanta legal community. Never afraid to go the extra mile for his clients, Bryce Angell works tirelessly to ensure that each client’s personal injury case gets the attention that it deserves.