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What Happens When a Truck Driver Has an Accident?

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When a truck driver has an accident, there are several things that typically happen. Depending on the severity of the accident and whether or not there are injuries involved, certain steps may need to be taken both by the driver and by those responding to the scene.

Attorneys at Schmidt & Clark have had many accident cases over the years where clients have asked for legal help. We were able to get them comprehensive claims thanks to our legal team who knew exactly what to look for.

Summary of the Key Findings

  • You can't guarantee that a wrongful death claim due to a fatal truck accident will result in the recovery of money
  • If you are in an accident, it is important to tell your insurance company. If you don't, they might stop your coverage
  • Suppose a truck accident happens, and it's because of a mechanical breakdown that could have been prevented with proper maintenance. In that case, the trucking company could be responsible for damages related to the accident

When Are Truck Drivers Liable for Damages from a Truck Accident?

A serious car accidentTruck drivers are liable for damages from a truck accident when they cause mechanical breakdowns, reckless or negligent driving, or were driving under the influence. 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration census of fatal crashes involving 18-wheelers reveals that common truck driver errors include dangerous lane drifting, driving distracted by in-vehicle technologies, fatigue, and prescription drug impairment [1].

If you are ever involved in a truck accident, be sure to contact an experienced truck accident attorney who can help you protect your rights and interests.

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Truck Driver Accident Procedure

In truck accidents, there are certain steps that are taken. These steps include:

  • Reporting The Accident Immediately
  • The Investigation
  • A Wrongful Death Claim
  • Recoverable Damages

Reporting The Accident Immediately

Someone with a clipboard in front of aFirst and foremost, you should report the accident to your insurance company immediately. Reporting is critical because they may stop covering your damages and liability claims if you fail to do so.

In addition, state and federal laws require drivers involved in a collision to exchange information and/or stop to aid [2].

You must also exchange information with all of the people who are at the accident scene and help any injured people.

Providing "render aid" does not mean that anyone must necessarily perform life-saving medical procedures on someone who has sustained serious injuries. Rendering aid means doing anything to help, even if it is just calling 911 and requesting an ambulance [3].

The Investigation

The police report will reflect the officers' initial assessment of who was at fault for the crash.

The determination of fault in a truck accident often depends on the police officer's assessment of the factors contributing to the accident.

These may include the following 5 causes:

1. Distracted Driving

There are three types of distractions for drivers: visual, manual, and cognitive.

Some examples of distractions for a truck driver include:

  • A man driving while on his phoneTexting or other cell phone use
  • Eating or drinking
  • Adjusting the truck or GPS 
  • Visiting with passengers in the truck
  • External distractions
  • Completing paperwork that drivers must submit to the trucking companies for them to get paid for delivering shipments

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2. Alcohol and Drug Impairment

Commercial truck drivers are regularly tested for alcohol and drugs by their trucking company, but some drivers still drive drunk or are impaired by drugs. This can be very dangerous because they might not be able to operate the truck safely. They might not be able to stay in their lane or keep track of other cars on the road, therefore leading to truck accidents [4].

Related Article: Drunk Driving Accident Case

3. Fatigued Driving

To avoid truck driving accidents, truck drivers cannot drive for more than 11 hours without a break based on the Hours of Service regulation [5]. They also have to take regular breaks. If they drive when they are tired, it is just as dangerous as driving drunk. Yet, some trucking companies tend to disregard this regulation due to the high demand for deliveries.

"That's one anecdote, but we know that NTSB has looked back at a sample of its major investigations across various modes of transportation and found that a full 20% of them identified fatigue as a major contributing factor to accidents." -Tom Malinowski, United States Representative.

4. Getting Lost

Truck drivers often have to transport cargo over unfamiliar roads. If they get lost, they might get distracted from driving and take risks when they need to change course, possibly leading to truck accidents. Operating without a commercial driver’s license is also one of the reasons for traffic accidents, especially those involving truck accident cases.

5. Improper Truck Maintenance

A truck accident in the middle of the roadIn the trucking industry, it's known that commercial trucks can travel a lot of miles without breaking down. But over time, things like the equipment or tires might wear down. That's why trucks need to have regular maintenance [6].

Even though the police report is important, it often doesn't give all of the information about what caused a truck accident. It can take a lot of time and effort to figure out what really happened. 

This includes forensic analysis and investigation of trucking companies by private investigators and public agencies.

A Wrongful Death Claim

If there is a fatal large truck accident, the family of those killed in the truck accident might file a lawsuit for wrongful death. This happens when you believe that someone else's negligence caused the accident, you may be entitled to compensation under a wrongful death claim.

We then tend to collect all of the necessary information. They will use a formula to evaluate your claim's value, the most common being the multiplier method and the per diem method. This will help them figure out how much your claim is worth.

Related Article: Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations

See the other personal injury and accident lawsuits our lawyers have taken on.

Recoverable Damages

A truck congesting traffic in the middle of the road

The damages that you can recover in a wrongful death claim depend on the circumstances of the accident and your relationship with the victim. 

Some common types of compensatory damages include:

  • Loss of future income
  • Medical expenses incurred before death
  • Funeral and burial costs
  • Punitive damages, if warranted by egregious circumstances or malice

As the truck driver's next of kin, you may be able to file a claim for damages. These might include:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of consortium
  • Loss of companionship
  • Loss of love and affection

You might also be able to get punitive damages, which are meant to punish the at-fault party for their reckless behavior. While no amount of money can ever truly make up for a tragic loss, you must seek the financial compensation you need to get through this difficult time.

We have a team of qualified attorneys who can help guide you through the process and ensure that your claim has the best chance of success.

We know how insurance companies and defendants in car accident cases try to reduce their liability. Insurance adjusters might try to get you to make a recorded statement that can be used against you.

Some people might try to offer you a low settlement before you know the full extent of your injuries. They could even look at your social media profiles for pictures that could be used to argue that your injuries are not as bad as you say they are.

The insurance company is not likely to be on your side when you file a claim against them, regardless of what the insurance adjuster says. 

You should never talk with an insurance firm or adjuster, and you should certainly not accept a personal injury settlement offer without consulting with an experienced personal injury lawyer or truck accident lawyer.

Related Article: How to Deal with Insurance Adjusters

Who Has the Right to a Wrongful Death Claim After a Truck Accident?

The surviving spouse or domestic partner, the surviving children, the putative spouse, the parents of a deceased childless adult, and other blood relatives who were financially dependent on the deceased person have the right to a wrongful death claim after a truck accident.

FAQs

Where Can You Get Financial Help After You Lose a Loved One in a Truck Accident?

You can get financial help after you lose a loved one in a truck accident from the government, your insurance company, and the person at fault for the accident.

Are Truck Accident Lawsuits Different Than Car Accident Lawsuits?

Truck accident lawsuits are different than car accident lawsuits because truck accidents often involve more parties, such as the truck driver, the truck driver's employer, the truck manufacturer, and the shipper of the cargo.

Can I Sue for Being Hit by a Semi-Truck?

Yes, you can sue for being hit by a semi-truck if the accident occurred when the truck driver was at fault for the semi-truck accident.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a traffic accident involving a truck or another commercial vehicle, or if you have lost a loved one in a truck accident, we can help. Schmidt & Clark has a team of experienced truck accident attorneys who can help you get the compensation you deserve. Schedule a free consultation with us today to get started on your claim.


References:

1. https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety/data-and-statistics/large-truck-and-bus-crash-facts-2019

2. https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/title49/section/390.5

3. https://www.legis.state.pa.us/WU01/LI/LI/CT/HTM/75/00.037.044.000..HTM

4. https://www.transportation.gov/odapc/part40

5. https://www.ecfr.gov/current/title-49/subtitle-B/chapter-III/subchapter-B/part-395

6. https://www.ecfr.gov/current/title-49/subtitle-B/chapter-III/subchapter-B/part-393

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