Trucking accidents are a common occurrence on America's roads, causing serious injuries, property damage, and loss of life. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 4,965 people were killed and approximately 146,930 people were injured in crashes involving large trucks in 2020.
If you have been involved in a trucking accident, it is important to understand your legal rights and protect your right to compensation. Trucking accidents are practically and legally more complicated than passenger car accidents, and they involve more types of evidence, any of which could be critical to determining liability for the accident. It is advisable to get the advice of an experienced attorney if you are dealing with a trucking accident. The trucking accident attorneys at Morris James have handled numerous trucking accident cases, and are available to answer your questions and give you the help you need. Contact us online or by calling 302.655.2599 today.
What evidence is relevant in a trucking accident case?
In a trucking accident case, evidence that may be relevant and should be collected by you, your attorney, or the police will include:
- Police accident report
- Truck driver’s logbook
- Truck maintenance logs
- Truck inspection report (certified)
- Truck black box
- Witness statements
- Photos and videos of the accident
- Traffic camera footage
- Forensic evidence such as tire and gouge marks in the road
- Information about the compliance record of the trucking or shipping company
The police accident report is the single most important document in a trucking accident case as it contains the details of the accident and can be used to determine who is at fault. The logbook is also important as it records the hours of service of the truck driver and can be evidence of driver fatigue at the time of the accident. The inspection report is important as it can be used to determine if the truck was properly maintained and if there were any mechanical defects that may have contributed to the accident. Witness statements provide first-hand accounts of what happened, and photos and videos are visual evidence of the scene, the traffic and weather conditions, the behavior of people at the scene, and other facts.
Your attorney may also gather evidence about the legal relationships between the parties such as the truck driver and the trucking company, the trucking company and the shipping company, or the shipping company and the cargo loading crew. Depending on the facts of the individual trucking accident, these relationships could affect who is legally liable or which party’s insurance company is financially responsible. For example, if the truck driver is an employee of the trucking company, the company may have additional legal responsibilities as an employer which can affect a victim’s right to compensation. You will need legal advice to ensure that all of these legal complexities are considered and you are properly compensated for your injuries and loss.
How is evidence used to determine fault in a trucking accident?
In any accident, evidence is key to understanding what happened, who is at fault, and who is legally and financially responsible. This evidence can come in many forms, and can relate to events before, during, and after the accident. Evidence from before the accident might relate to a driver exceeding his legal driving hours limit or a trucking company negligently hiring a driver with a history of reckless driving. Evidence from after the accident might include medical reports and bills, which prove the extent of injuries and the financial cost. Much of the relevant evidence will relate to conditions and actions during the accident such as evidence of veering into oncoming traffic or speeding, to show a failure to drive to a reasonable standard of care.
Once the evidence is gathered, it is used to determine who is at fault. In some cases, such as when there is clear evidence of negligence, a fault determination can be made quickly and easily. However, in other cases, such as when multiple parties are involved, where more than one person is at fault, or when the evidence is less clear-cut, this determination can be more difficult. In these cases, negotiation and/or arbitration may be necessary in order to reach a resolution. If negotiation and arbitration are unsuccessful, the case may then go to court. Ultimately, determining who is at fault in an accident comes down to evidence and facts, and it is important that you have a lawyer on your side to ensure that the right questions are asked, the relevant facts are uncovered, and your right to compensation is protected.
Damages that may be awarded in a trucking accident case
Once it has been determined who is at fault in a trucking accident case, the question turns to how much they should pay in damages. Trucking accidents can be devastating, often resulting in serious injuries or even death, and lead to justifiably high compensation awards for victims. An attorney cannot tell you how much compensation you will get after a trucking accident, but they can advise you on the types of injuries and losses that are relevant. Some of the types of damages that you may be awarded in a trucking accident case include:
- Medical bills: You may be able to recover the cost of medical treatment related to your injuries, including hospitalization, surgeries, and rehabilitative care, including future care.
- Lost wages: If your injuries and/or treatment have prevented you from working, you may be able to recover lost wages and future lost earnings.
- Pain and suffering: You may be entitled to damages for the physical pain and mental anguish caused by the accident and your injuries.
- Loss of companionship: If your spouse or partner is catastrophically injured or has died as a result of their injuries in a trucking accident, you may be entitled to compensation for the loss of their companionship.
The amount of compensation for each of these types of damages will depend on the individual circumstances of the accident and the victim. If you have suffered as a result of a trucking accident, it is important to speak with an experienced attorney about what exactly happened in your case, rather than rely on generalized information or, worse still, what an insurance company may be telling you.
An overview of the litigation process for trucking accident cases
The litigation process for trucking accident cases can be complex and time-consuming. It typically involves insurance companies, lawyers, and the trucking companies themselves. However, most trucking accident cases do not go through the entire litigation process. The majority of trucking accident cases are settled between the parties and their insurance companies before a legal claim is filed or before the case reaches trial. Any settlement will be set out in a legally binding settlement agreement signed by all the parties. You should have an attorney to advise you from the earliest stages of any negotiations surrounding a trucking accident. An attorney can represent you in the negotiations, put forward the strongest case for you based on the evidence and the law, and ensure that you do not accept a lowball settlement offer (which, unfortunately, many unrepresented victims do.)
If litigation is pursued, the first step is usually to file a lawsuit against the trucking company or other persons at fault in the accident. This is followed by a period of discovery, during which each side gathers evidence and prepares for trial. After discovery, there is usually a period of negotiation in which the parties attempt to reach a settlement. If they are unable to settle, the case will go to trial. Throughout the process, there will be extensive disclosure of evidence by both sides. The trial itself could last days or weeks, depending on the complexity of the case. In the end, the court/jury will render a decision and award damages accordingly. Economic damages such as medical bills and lost wages, along with noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering, are decided by the jury. Having an experienced trucking accident attorney on your side at trial is crucial. They not only have the advocacy skills and legal knowledge to argue your case in front of the court, but they also understand what a jury considers and values in the process of deciding the amount of your compensation.
If you have been injured in a trucking accident, the attorneys at Morris James are here to help. We have been standing up for personal injury victims for over three decades. If you would like to discuss your case with an experienced attorney or have other questions about trucking accidents, contact us online or call us today at 302.655.2599.