Below are 10 of the most frequently asked questions regarding an accident involving a commercial truck that results in personal injury or wrongful death.
1) What do I need to do to protect my legal rights after a semi truck accident?
The most important thing we can stress is not to talk to the trucking company or their insurance company, or to sign any papers until you have consulted with a lawyer.
In most cases, it is the insurance company who pays the money won in a settlement. This is why they may try to get you to sign a document before you hire a lawyer that gives you only a fraction of money you deserve.
After making sure the police report has been filed, gather all the information you have and contact a lawyer. Delaying this step can damage the quality of your case because evidence can be lost, damaged or destroyed. For example, trucking companies are allowed to destroy critical evidence after an accident if your lawyer does not send them a special document called a “spoliation letter”. Your lawyer should also inspect the body damage on all vehicles involved in a collision, this can be crucial in presenting a strong case.
2) Who do I sue if I am injured?
After a collision with a commercial rig where the driver of the rig is at fault, you may have the right to sue a number of different people and companies. One reason you need a good attorney is that they are responsible for sorting out who is legally responsible for your accident. Liable companies can include one or more of the following:
- the owner of the rig (waste management company, construction company)
- the owners of the tractor-trailer cab and trailer (trucking company)
- the owner of the freight (corporations like Walmart, Target, FedEx)
- the manufacturer of the cab, trailer or any vehicle part
- a third-party maintenance company
3) How do you prove that the accident was the commercial driver’s fault?
To prove fault, your lawyer and his or her team will gather and analyze evidence. They will interview witnesses, the commercial driver, trucking company management and others. They will get police or state patrol records and take legal steps to obtain relevant corporate documents. They will inspect the scene of the crash and all vehicles involved. Most of these cases require testimony by experts, including forensic engineers and other reconstruction specialists. Your lawyer is responsible for hiring these people and working with them to build you a winning case.
Below is an accident reconstruction animation we had done for clients whose car was hit from behind by a big truck.
Even if the accident is caused only in part by the commercial driver, you have the right to sue the driver, the trucking company and other associated parties for your medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering and other damages. The commercial driver may be at least partially at fault if he or she did any of the following things that contributed to the crash:
- drove too fast (including driving too fast for road conditions like rain, sleet, or snow)
- failed to yield the right-of-way
- drove aggressively
- failed to keep a lookout for other vehicles (this includes cars, SUVs, 18-wheelers, and bicycles)
- lost control of the cab, trailer, or cargo
- did not stop or slow down when there was a reasonable likelihood of a collision
- swerved into other lanes of traffic
- drove the big rig in excess of the hours allowed by Federal Motor Carrier Safety regulations
- drove when too tired to have good judgement
- operated the big rig without making sure the load was secure
4) What should I do if I get contacted by the trucking company’s insurance company?
Simply put, hang up on them and tell your attorney they called. If they approach you in person, direct them to your lawyer and say nothing more. Also it is important to remember to never sign anything without your attorney present. Everything you say or do, even in a seemingly friendly conversation, can be used to limit your compensation. It is your attorney’s job to speak to the insurance company on your behalf. An experienced attorney knows how to interact with an insurance adjusters.
5) What type of attorney do I need after a truck crash?
One thing that is easy to overlook when looking for the right law firm is to see if the firm has the experience and the resources necessary to hire the right expert witnesses, to use the most current technology, and to put in the time compiling all the relevant information.
After you talk to an attorney ask yourself this question. “Did he/she listen attentively, ask respectful questions, seem trustworthy, and show genuine concern for me and my family?” If you can’t answer with a confident yes to this question, we implore you to look elsewhere for legal representation. Only an attorney who is able to do all of the above will be able to provide you with the guidance and help you need after a serious accident.
6) Do I get money for medical expenses by filing a lawsuit?
Yes, filing a lawsuit against the commercial driver, the trucking company and other associated guilty parties is the way that you, the person injured in the collision, get monetary compensation. This compensation is meant to cover medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other crash related damages.
7) My car was hit by a drunk truck driver, what should I do?
Commercial drivers are not allowed to drive their big rigs if their blood alcohol content is 0.04% or greater. If you were injured in this crash, the trucker and the company that hired him are responsible for any physical and emotional injuries that you and your passengers have experienced. If you contact a lawyer they will be able to help you hold the driver, their employer and the bar that served the driver responsible. As attorneys, we see prosecuting these cases as our public responsibility. When companies, bars, and drivers are held accountable and have to pay large sums of money, they may be more careful in the future.
8) What if I was a passenger in the tractor that caused the crash?
If you were riding in the passenger seat of a tractor-trailer that is involved in an accident, you may have claims against several parties. These parties may be responsible for you medical bills, and any pain and suffering or other damages you might have. It is best to contact a lawyer who has experience with these kinds of accidents and has successfully dealt with cases similar to yours before.
9) Can I sue if my family member was killed by a semitrailer?
Yes, if there is evidence to support a wrongful death claim, you may have the right to sue to get answers, compensation and justice. You will have to contact one of our lawyers about your claim and your relationship to the family member who died.
We would like to express our sympathies to you and your loved ones. We see cases like this far too often in our firm and understand how hard of a time this is for you. It may be helpful to call and talk with Eric Hageman, our lead lawyer for these cases, and ask him any questions you may have. It is free.
Our best advice for you is to hire a lawyer you can trust, even if it is not Eric or another lawyer at our firm. You need an experienced attorney on your side.
10) Are there special laws that apply in these cases?
Yes, the trucking industry is regulated by both federal and state governments. This is significant legally. An accident caused, even in part, by a violation of a law or regulation may lead to higher compensation for anyone injured in the accident, including pedestrians and drivers and passengers of cars, motorcycles, vans, and other vehicles.
About Pritzker Hageman Law Firm
Our attorneys recently won $10 million for a client who suffered severe burns and $5.1 million for a client whose arm was amputated after being hit by a commercial semitrailer. Our main truck accident attorney Eric Hageman won over $16 for his clients in 2014 and 2015. We have a total of over 60 million in settlements and verdicts. We also believe our responsibility to promote justice extends beyond our law firm. We are strong supporters of community organizations and medical research institutions including Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the Angelman Syndrome Foundations , and The Highland Friendship Club.
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