Frequently asked questions about tractor trailer accidents.

Frequently Asked Questions About Tractor Trailer Accidents

November 29, 2023 in Articles, Personal Injury Articles | MARTIN WREN, P.C. | LEAVE A COMMENT

Frequently Asked Questions About Tractor-Trailer Accidents

Tractor-trailer accidents can be devastating, leaving victims with extensive physical and emotional injuries, and causing heavy financial burdens. When these crashes occur, numerous questions arise. Here are the most frequently asked questions about tractor-trailer accidents, offering clarity and guidance for those grappling with the aftermath of these complex events.

  1. How are tractor-trailer accidents different than regular car accidents?

Tractor-trailer accidents differ significantly from regular car accidents due to the sheer size and weight of commercial trucks. Large commercial motor vehicles require more space to operate, they need more time and distance to stop, and they handle differently than regular passenger vehicles.  These and other features that are unique to commercial trucks often results in more severe injuries and greater property damage when a crash occurs.

  1. What are common causes of tractor-trailer accidents?

Common causes include driver fatigue, distracted driving, speeding, improperly maintained trucks and equipment, equipment failure, drug and alcohol use, medical conditions by drivers, and adverse weather conditions. Understanding these factors and finding evidence that they occurred in a case helps establish liability to help reach a settlement or verdict.

  1. How is fault determined in tractor-trailer accidents?

Liability is a legal way of saying that a party was at fault and is responsible for the harms, damages, and losses they caused. Liability is determined by assessing various factors, including driver negligence, compliance with safety regulations, vehicle maintenance, and potential violations of traffic laws. A thorough investigation as soon after the collision occurs as possible is crucial to pinpointing the cause of the crash and the responsible party.

  1. What should I do immediately after a tractor-trailer accident?

The most critical thing to do after a crash is to make sure everyone involved in the crash is in a safe place and that they receive any required medical attention. Call emergency responders to ensure emergency responders and law enforcement are aware of the crash and will respond. Seek medical attention for any injuries you or your friends and family have sustained. If you are able to, collect information from the truck driver and any witnesses, take photos of the scene, and avoid discussing the case with any representatives of the trucking company, who oftentimes arrive at the scene shortly after a crash occurs.

  1. Why is it essential to contact law enforcement after a tractor-trailer accident?

Law enforcement involvement ensures an official report is generated, documenting key details of the accident. Police and other law enforcement personnel will interview witnesses to the crash, make observations and take measurements of the scene, evaluate the drivers, and generally preserve evidence from the crash scene. All of this information can become critical evidence in insurance claims and legal proceedings.

  1. Should I seek medical attention even if I don’t feel injured?

Yes, at the very least it is important to be evaluated by a medical professional even if it turns out that you have not sustained any injuries of note. It is oftentimes the case that some injuries may not manifest immediately. Traumatic brain injuries, for instance, are often missed by first responders and even emergency room physicians. People who have been in crashes are routinely in shock, are not thinking clearly after a crash, and the adrenaline from the event may mask certain injuries that do not have clear evidence from everyone to see. Prompt medical evaluation creates a record of injuries, linking them to the accident and supporting future claims.

  1. How do I deal with insurance companies after a tractor-trailer accident?

Think of insurance companies and their agents the same way that police present themselves to criminal suspects on TV: anything you say can and will be used against you.  If you speak with them immediately after a crash and tell them you are feeling ok, they will unfairly claim that you did not sustain any injuries from the crash.  For that reason, you should consult with an attorney before engaging with a trucking company’s insurance adjusters or agents. Avoid providing recorded statements without legal guidance, as insurers may use them to minimize or even avoid all responsibility for your claim. An experienced and knowledgeable truck crash attorney can help navigate complex obstacles in negotiations and ensure that you receive fair compensation.

  1. Can I sue the trucking company after a truck crash?

Yes, you can sue the trucking company if their negligence contributed to the accident. This may include factors like inadequate training, hiring practices, or failure to maintain their vehicles in proper working condition. In addition, trucking companies will be responsible for the acts of their employees or agents who were working as drivers for the company under a legal doctrine called “respondeat superior” or “vicarious liability” so long as certain conditions are met.

  1. What role does the truck driver’s hours of service logbook have in a tractor-trailer accident case?

Truck drivers engaged in interstate commerce are required to maintain hours of service logbooks that record their driving time. The logbook is a crucial piece of evidence, documenting the driver’s hours, rest breaks, and time spent performing non-driving work. Discrepancies or violations in the logbook can establish driver negligence and can show that the driver in question was on the road when he should not have been driving. Or, the logbook violation could show that the driver had been driving too long and was likely fatigued while driving.

  1. How can I obtain black box data from the tractor-trailer involved in the accident?

Much like the black box data recorders that are maintained in airplanes, virtually all modern tractor trailers have event data recorders (EDR) that capture information leading up to the accident. Obtaining this information can have some difficulties that an experienced truck collision lawyer can handle, such as finding a knowledgeable expert witness who has the equipment and abilities to locate, download, preserve, interpret, and explain the data about the crash.

  1. Does the tractor-trailer driver need to have been issued a ticket for me to have a claim?

While a citation against the driver may strengthen your case, you can still pursue legal action even if the driver was not cited. Think of a citation or traffic ticket as being a criminal case, where the burden of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt. The burden of proof in a civil case is lower, however, and is what is called a “preponderance of the evidence.” Based on this and other reasons, the outcome of a traffic citation is separate from establishing liability in a civil lawsuit.

  1. How long do I have to file a lawsuit after a tractor-trailer accident?

The statute of limitations varies by state, which is one reason why it is crucial to consult with an attorney as soon as possible after a crash. In addition to statutes of limitations for cases, certain types of cases, such as workers compensation claims or cases against government drivers, may also have notice periods where certain types of notice must be provided in a specific way to a specific person or else the claim against that party can be lost. Initiating legal proceedings promptly helps preserve evidence and ensures compliance with applicable deadlines.

  1. What types of compensation can I seek in a tractor-trailer accident lawsuit?

Generally speaking, victims of tractor trailer collisions may seek compensation for their physical and emotional injuries, for past and future medical expenses, for past and future lost wages and lost earning capacity, for property damage, for past and future pain and suffering, for past and future inconvenience, for humiliation due to physical disfigurement, and other damages. The specific damages depend on the circumstances of the case and the jurisdiction where the case is pending.

  1. Can I still file a lawsuit if the tractor-trailer driver claims that a sudden medical emergency caused the accident?

While the sudden medical emergency defense is a legal defense that many trucking companies raise to avoid liability, it requires rigorous proof. An experienced attorney can scrutinize the evidence and challenge the validity of such claims to protect your rights. For more information about this, please check out our articles on the sudden medical emergency defense.  We have faced and defeated this defense on numerous occasions.

  1. How can I find the right attorney for my tractor-trailer accident case?

Look for attorneys specializing in tractor-trailer accidents. Because of the complexity and difficulties involved in these claims, you should strongly consider hiring an attorney who is board certified in truck accident law.  Only a very small number of attorneys have taken and passed the board certification test for truck accident law, and passing that test demonstrates significant knowledge about federal regulations that pertain to the trucking industry, evidence law, and command of ethical standards. Robert E. Byrne, Jr. of MartinWren, P.C. has passed the board certification exam for truck accident law. Consider an attorney’s experience, success record at trial, their resources to take a case to trial, and their willingness to take your case to trial if necessary. Initial consultations are often free and can help you assess the attorney’s suitability.

Conclusion

Navigating the aftermath of a tractor-trailer accident involves addressing a myriad of questions and complexities. By understanding the intricacies of liability determination, legal proceedings, and the importance of seeking professional guidance, individuals can make informed decisions to protect their rights and pursue rightful compensation. Consulting with an experienced attorney is a crucial step toward obtaining justice for your family after a tractor-trailer accident.  Call experienced truck crash lawyer Robert Byrne at 434-817-3100 for more information about our services.

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Our Virginia personal injury lawyers at MartinWren, P.C. have a statewide practice and offer free consultations at a time and location that is convenient for you.  We will gladly meet with you at your home or at the hospital, even on nights and weekends.

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