Truck accidents can occur almost anywhere a road has been built, from logging crews in mountain forests to supplying equipment to remote oil fields, crops from fields to processing plants, and even groceries to your local supermarket. Due to the size and weight of trucks, these accidents are often serious, if not fatal.
That’s why it’s important to have a truck accident lawyer on your side if you or a loved one has been involved in a truck accident.
Seek Medical Attention
In some cases, someone hit by a truck might not suffer serious injuries. However, some injuries don’t manifest until hours or even days later. Even if you think you are not severely injured, you should seek medical attention immediately. Let the medical professionals know you were in a truck accident and would like a complete check-up.
Seeking immediate medical attention starts the paperwork trail should injuries manifest later. Along with the police report, documentation that you saw a medical professional immediately after the wreck shows you are concerned about potential injuries. It makes it harder for the insurance company to use the excuse that you didn’t seek medical help to deny a claim.
Seek Legal Help
Truck accident cases are complex, especially when more than one defendant is responsible for your damage. A truck accident lawyer can help with settlement negotiations, which makes it harder for an insurance company to deny your claim or offer you a pittance. A firm can also investigate the case to find all those responsible for your damages, whether individuals or companies.
Other ways a truck accident lawyer can help include:
- Ensuring you don’t miss any deadlines. Missing deadlines, especially the statute of limitations, can jeopardize your case.
- Depose (question under oath) witnesses, the at-fault driver, and other defendants.
- Investigate the case, including the location of the wreck, the vehicles involved, and your medical records.
- Enter settlement negotiations with the insurance company. If more than one person or entity is responsible for your injuries and losses, the attorney can work on a settlement with more than one insurance company and/or defendant.
- File a lawsuit if the insurance company refuses a fair and reasonable settlement.
- Help put a case together for the best outcome at a trial.
The Elements of Negligence
You must be able to prove the defendants were negligent. An experienced truck accident lawyer can help you show the defendant was negligent by applying the four elements of negligence to the driver’s actions or inactions.
The four elements of negligence include:
- The defendant has a duty of care to drive safely and consider others’ safety while driving.
- The defendant breached the duty of care with certain actions (or inactions), such as speeding or driving under the influence.
- The defendant’s breach caused the accident, which caused your injuries (causation).
- You suffered damages because the defendant breached the duty of care.
Working With Insurance Companies
One of the first things you or a loved one does is notify the insurance company of the accident. If you have not yet done it, it’s better to let your attorney handle that phone call. Insurance companies are notorious for using tricks to deny claims or offer amounts so low that they don’t cover even minor medical expenses.
The best way to get around insurance company tricks is to document everything about your case and have a truck accident lawyer handle the insurance companies. That is also the best way to reduce the stress you will have dealing with them and work on recovering quicker.
Some of the tricks insurance companies use include:
- Twisting what you say to place the blame for the accident on you.
- Ignoring or putting off communicating with you until you miss the insurance company’s deadline or the statute of limitations.
- Delaying and stalling investigations.
- Admitting their client is at fault and offering you a pittance, then telling you that is the most they can pay. This is almost always a lie they hope you believe so they can get away with paying a pittance.
These are just some tricks insurance companies use when you don’t retain an attorney. They know that the average person doesn’t know the law and hope the average person doesn’t know how insurance claims work or will take the pittance they offer to settle faster.
Type of Injuries in a Truck Accident
Because of the size of a commercial truck, accident injuries are usually severe or catastrophic or result in death. However, that doesn’t mean that some people can’t get away with minor injuries.
The severity and type of injuries you sustain depend on the speed of the vehicles when they crash and how a truck hits you. For example, a sideswipe will most likely cause fewer and less severe injuries than a head-on collision with a truck.
Truck accident injuries include:
- Bumps, bruises, scratches, scrapes, cuts, and punctures.
- Strains and sprains.
- Pulled and torn muscles and other soft tissue injuries.
- Simple and compound fractures.
- Crushed bones and crush injuries.
- Internal injuries.
- Face and eye injuries.
- Ear injuries.
- Head, neck, and shoulder injuries.
- Traumatic brain injuries.
- Lung injuries from breathing in chemicals and smoke.
- Back and spinal cord injuries.
- Road rash.
- Chemical and thermal burns.
- Amputation of a digit or limb.
You could also suffer from secondary injuries, such as infections. Initial injuries you suffer in the accident cause additional injuries. Because you would not have otherwise suffered from these injuries if not for the accident injuries and the actions or inactions of the defendant(s), the responsibility for those injuries belongs to the defendant(s).
Additionally, if your accident injuries exacerbate existing illnesses or injuries, the defendant is responsible for the additional expense and pain. For example, you have diabetes, so the laceration you received on your leg takes weeks to heal, but you finally got it under control, and it is well on its way to healing.
A truck accident reopened the laceration. It will now take several more weeks to heal fully. The defendant is responsible for the medical expenses and extra pain and suffering you will go through to get the laceration to heal again.
Recovering Damages After a Truck Accident
You could recover compensatory damages in the form of economic damages and non-economic damages after a truck accident. Most people who can prove the defendant(s) were negligent recover economic damages. Many others, but not all recover non-economic damages.
Sometimes referred to as special damages, economic damages have a monetary value. Most people injured in truck accidents recover economic damages, including:
The medical expenses you incur after a truck accident include but are not limited to:
- Doctors’ appointments.
- Surgeries and follow-up appointments.
- Prescriptions and prescribed over-the-counter medications.
- Ambulatory aids.
- Medical equipment, such as oxygen tanks, and prescribed over-the-counter medical equipment, such as shower chairs.
- Physical therapy appointments.
- Occupational therapy appointments.
- Cognitive therapy appointments.
- Psychological therapy appointments.
- Home health care.
- Accessibility aids for vehicles, such as wheelchair lifts and ramps and hand controls.
- Accessibility aids for your home, including but not limited to wheelchair ramps, handrails, grab bars, and widened doorways.
- Nursing home and/or rehabilitative home care.
Income and Wages
Chances are, if you suffer injuries in a truck accident, you’ll be out of work. Whether it’s for a few days, months, or years, you could recover compensation to pay for that lost income.
Additionally, if you suffer long-term or permanent disabilities caused by truck accident injuries, you could recover loss of future earning capacity until you would normally retire.
If your disabilities allow you to work full-time but at a lower-paying job or part-time, you could recover the loss of partial future earning capacity.
After a truck accident, you could also recover compensation to cover repairing or replacing personal property damaged, including your vehicle. You can also claim items of value, such as cell phones and computers, that might have suffered damage when the truck hit your vehicle.
If you lost a loved one in a truck accident, you could recover funeral and burial expenses, cremation expenses, certain probate court fees, and probate attorney’s fees and costs.
Sometimes referred to as general damages, non-economic damages do not have a monetary value. Most people who recover from non-economic damage suffer catastrophic injuries or lose a loved one. These types of damages are for those whose truck accident injuries cause long-term or permanent disabilities.
While most insurance companies have their own definition of long-term and permanent disabilities, the Social Security Administration defines them as resulting in your death or lasting for longer than 12 months.
Non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering, including emotional distress.
- Loss of use of a digit or limb, such as an arm or a foot.
- Loss of use of a bodily function, such as your bladder or eyesight.
- Loss of consortium if you can no longer enjoy a physical relationship with your spouse.
- Loss of companionship if you can no longer enjoy time with your family or attend family activities and events.
- Inconvenience if you have to hire someone to do the chores you usually do, including but not limited to house cleaning, lawn maintenance, grocery shopping, and home repair and maintenance.
- Amputation of a digit or limb.
- Excessive scarring and/or disfigurement.
- Loss of quality of life if you have to make lifelong changes such as taking prescription medications or using ambulatory aids.
Things You Should Never Do After a Car Accident
Never post anything about the accident on social media. Insurance companies troll social media looking for reasons to deny claims. They’ll even use an innocent photo, such as you and your family going out for a quiet dinner, to deny your claim. Their “reasoning” is if you can go out to dinner, you’re not as hurt as you say you are.
Additionally, do not discuss the accident with any insurance company even your own. Refer all insurance companies to your truck accident lawyer. You could inadvertently say something the insurance company will use against you.
Finally, never admit fault, even if you think you might be partially at fault. Accident law denoting fault negligence—is complicated. Your attorney might find that you were not at fault, but if you admit being at fault, it makes it harder to fight for the compensation you deserve.
Contacting a Truck Accident Lawyer
In some cases, those injured in a truck accident are in the hospital. Some may be unconscious. If you are in the hospital and are able to communicate, our lawyers will come to you or schedule a phone or video conference.
A loved one can also contact a truck accident lawyer on behalf of someone who is unconscious, in a coma, or otherwise cannot communicate with a truck accident lawyer. Getting your loved one’s case started before the statute of limitations runs means you might not be able to wait until the person hit by a truck can communicate.
Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations is different for each state. Some states have different statutes of limitations for negligence claims. For example, if the statute of limitations is four years, wrongful death might be one or two years, and medical malpractice might be two or six years.
Your truck accident attorney can tell you how long the statute of limitations is for your specific case. The important thing to understand is that accident cases take longer than you might think. It could take months to investigate a case, then months to wait for a diagnosis, especially if the person hit by a truck has catastrophic injuries.
If you suffered injuries or lost a loved one in a truck accident, contact a personal injury attorney in San Diego as soon as possible for a free case evaluation.