Can I Sue for Being Hit by a Semi-Truck?
Forging a gameplan before you file a claim
on December 15, 2016
Updated on January 29, 2023
After experiencing a semi-truck accident, you might be shaken up and physically injured. A common question after this scary experience is whether you can sue the truck driver or another party for the truck wreck. The answer is often yes, but it will depend on the details of your semi-truck collision. You will need legal advice from an experienced truck driving attorney to determine whether you have a valid claim. But first, you should get the medical care that you need. Injuries from a semi-truck collision may not be evident initially. So, it’s wise to seek treatment after a truck accident to check for any underlying injuries.
What Should I Do If I Was in a Semi-Truck Accident?
All motor vehicle accidents are traumatizing, but accidents with 18-wheelers can be particularly frightening. Large commercial trucks can weigh tens of thousands of pounds. When they are moving at high speeds, they can cause severe damage to a passenger vehicle. If you have experienced an accident with a large truck, you may be in shock or suffering from serious injuries.
Unless you need emergency medical care, it’s important to stay at the accident scene until the authorities arrive. Many states have laws that prohibit leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident before help arrives.
Exchange Contact Information
You and the other individuals involved in the accident should all exchange contact information. Your lawyers and insurance companies will need to be able to contact all of the parties involved to gather evidence and work out payment arrangements.
In addition to contact information, you should collect:
- Driver’s license numbers
- Insurance information
- License plate numbers
Limit Communication and Contact an Attorney
You should avoid saying any more than necessary about your accident until you speak to an attorney. You will need to cooperate with the police and emergency medical personnel. But it would be best if you did not say any more than you have to. It’s common for traumatized truck accident victims to accidentally assume partial responsibility for an accident that wasn’t their fault.
Once you have an experienced truck driving attorney by your side, they can give you expert advice on who to speak to and when. To preserve your right to file a lawsuit, you should contact an attorney as soon as you can. Most attorneys offer a free case evaluation. During this case review, a truck accident attorney will advise you on who may be liable and whether your case is worth pursuing. If you have a strong claim, you may be able to recover for economic damages like medical expenses, lost earning capacity, and property damage. Payment for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment might be available to you, too, depending on the details of your accident. In rare cases of egregious misconduct, you may even be able to seek punitive damages. Your attorney can advise you on the damages you can ask for under your state’s laws.
Proving Liability in a Truck Wreck
To sue for a truck wreck, you will need to show that someone else was at fault for the accident. Semi-truck accidents are usually more complicated than most car accidents, in part because there are so many parties who may have caused your truck wreck. However, a skilled truck accident attorney can evaluate your case and determine who to sue. To do so, they will collect information from:
- Medical records
- Medical bills
- Police reports
- The truck driver’s logbook
- Eyewitness reports
- Video footage
After reviewing the evidence and interviewing you, your attorney will build a case. Most truck accident cases are based on a claim of negligence. To prove negligence, your attorney will show that the parties at fault violated a duty toward you, causing you harm. For instance, suppose the truck driver violated their duty to pay attention to traffic. This caused the driver to swerve into your lane and collide with your vehicle. Under these circumstances, you may be able to sue the truck driver or his employer for negligently causing your accident.
In many cases, simple truck driver negligence causes truck accidents. Like all drivers, semi-truckers have to follow the rules of the road and be attentive to traffic conditions. If a truck driver runs a red light, speeds, or fails to check their blind spot, they can cause accidents.
Truck accidents also happen due to trucker fatigue. To prevent this, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) enforces federal regulations that limit the consecutive number of hours truckers can drive. If trucker fatigue caused your accident, the truck driver might have exceeded these limits. If the truck driver in your case violated federal regulations, they could be responsible for your accident.
There are many other ways truck drivers can negligently cause accidents, including distracted driving and drunk driving. Your attorney’s investigation will help uncover whether the truck driver’s negligence caused your truck wreck.
One of the reasons truck accidents are so complex is because manufacturing defects can cause or contribute to collisions. A tractor-trailer’s brakes may fail, the steering system could be compromised, or other equipment failures could cause a crash. If equipment defects caused your accident, you might be able to sue the truck maker or parts manufacturer.
In the trucking industry, a truck driver will often transport cargo that a separate company owns. The company that owns the shipment is usually responsible for safely loading it onto the truck. The FMCSA enforces laws regarding how to secure and tie cargo. There are special regulations for certain types of cargo, such as concrete pipes or automobiles. These rules help guide cargo loaders to ensure shipments are stable. An improperly secured load can spill or shift, destabilizing the truck at high speeds. If loose cargo caused your accident, the company that loaded the truck might be responsible.
Trucking Company Negligence
A trucking company can be at fault for a truck crash in various ways. First of all, the trucking company that employs a trucker can be responsible for the truck driver’s negligence in some circumstances. If the trucker’s negligence occurred during the scope of their employment, the trucking company might be liable.
Further, trucking companies must follow federal laws during the truck driver hiring process. They should adequately train their truck drivers and conduct background checks. They should also verify that their truck drivers possess valid Commercial Driver’s Licenses (CDLs).
Under federal law, trucking companies have to monitor for substance abuse problems among their drivers. Additionally, the trucking company must not encourage a trucker to work too many consecutive hours in violation of the FMCSA’s hours of service rule.
There are many other ways a trucking company can be negligent for a truck wreck. An experienced attorney can evaluate your case to determine whether the trucking company is a liable party.
Why Hire an Attorney?
When truck wrecks occur at high speeds, they can cause catastrophic injuries. Unfortunately, semi-truck accidents can cause brain injuries, spinal cord damage, and even fatalities. If the devastating consequences of a commercial truck accident have affected you, you may be considering suing the parties who are at fault. The first step in the legal process is to hire an attorney.
Most personal injury attorneys offer a free consultation. During this first meeting, you can ask the attorney whether they think you have a strong case and whether they can give you an estimate for the value of your claim. It would be best to use this opportunity to make sure that the personal injury lawyer you are speaking to has experience with truck accident cases. Truck accidents involve specialized issues and multiple regulations. So, hiring an experienced truck accident attorney will help you achieve a positive outcome in your case.
Your attorney will collect evidence about your accident and interview the necessary parties. Further, they will evaluate settlement offers that you may receive from insurance companies. If needed, they will negotiate on your behalf. In most truck accident cases, the parties can reach a settlement that is acceptable to everyone. Settlements help to avoid the stress and uncertainty of a trial. An attorney’s expertise will significantly assist you in the negotiation process. The attorney will draw on their experience to assess any offers and counteroffers you receive. However, if you cannot reach a fair settlement, your attorney will need to prepare to take your case to trial.
There may be state time limits (statutes of limitation) on your ability to file a truck accident claim. So, it’s essential to contact an experienced truck accident lawyer as soon as you can. While your lawyer and their law firm staff gather evidence and build your case, you can care for injured loved ones and focus on your recovery.
For more information on this area of law, see our overview on trucking accidents.