Did you know that about 75 percent of our country’s resources are transported via a large truck at some point? In fact, over 5 percent of full-time jobs in the United States are trucking-related. We have goods that need to be moved across long distances, and a lot of people who are willing to hop behind the wheel of a truck to do it.
Put it this way: There are a lot of big trucks on the road. Unfortunately, in some circumstances, that means that other drivers face elevated risks when they’re behind the wheel nearby.
If you have experienced a truck accident, you likely have questions about your experiences and the claims process. We’ve put together this overview of some of the questions our clients frequently report having before working with a lawyer. Below, you can find out more about which questions you should have at the ready when you meet your own potential truck accident attorney.
Questions to Ask a Truck Accident Lawyer
You should preface your time with a truck accident attorney with some basic questions about his or her experience. Ask things like:
- How many truck accident cases have you settled?
- Do you generally have success with truck accident cases?
- Do you have the resources to review complex or new trucking laws?
What damages do you think you can help me recover?
Sometimes, it’s impossible to determine exactly how much compensation (or what type of it) you may be eligible for after a truck accident. It’s also difficult to predict how a jury or judge’s decision may go if you end up in court.
For these reasons, you cannot expect a truck accident lawyer to tell you the exact damages you will be eligible for. You can ask a lawyer what sort of damages he or she believes they can help you pursue.
Some of the most common include:
- Medical bills: This extends to include past, present, and even projected future medical bills associated with your accident. Many attorneys help their clients achieve compensation for specialized medical equipment and personalized care. Emergency transport from the scene of an accident also generally qualifies for compensation
- Emotional anguish: It’s important not to overlook the mental impact that many truck accidents have on survivors. If you’ve experienced exceptional mental or emotional anguish due to your experiences, your lawyer may suggest pursuing mental anguish damages. These damages are meant to help account for the emotional and mental pain a truck accident causes
- Pain and suffering: Any accident can cause someone to suffer physical pain; but in some cases, an accident survivor needs to grapple with much more pain than some might expect. Pain and suffering damages are awarded to accident survivors who experience exceptional physical pain following an accident
- Disfigurement and/or disability: If you suffered disfigurement or disability as a result of a truck accident, ask your attorney about disfigurement and disability damages. Courts often award additional compensation to account for the costs and experiences associated with these disabilities.
How will you help with my case?
Do not expect an ultra-personal deep-dive in response to this question. Remember: until a lawyer is very familiar with your case (usually not until you’ve officially partnered), they can’t tell you exactly what they will or should do to help you.
Most truck accident lawyers could help with your case in several ways:
- They could help you communicate with other important entities in the case (like insurance and trucking companies)
- They could work with experts from outside industries (like the auto sector or the medical sphere) to help prove certain facets of your case
- They could help you collect, document, and organize evidence in a way that’s conducive to use
What should I do about my occupation or ability to work in the future?
Truck accident attorneys have experience helping accident survivors grapple with the impact crashes have on their careers. Many people can’t work after truck accidents. In some cases, survivors’ ability to work any job long-term changes.
Truck accident lawyers can help you pursue compensation to account for lost wages and even diminished earning capacity. Ask the attorney you meet with for more information.
Questions You Might Have Before Meeting With Your Truck Accident Lawyer
How do I know I have a truck accident claim?
The best way to know is to partner with an attorney.
Nobody can tell you whether your truck accident claim is valid. That’s why you need a truck accident lawyer to determine the validity of your claim.
Never assume you don’t have a claim. Even if you can’t imagine how or why you’d receive compensation, you should reach out to an attorney. He or she may help you with a claim you didn’t even know you had.
- As long as you were involved in a truck accident, you meet the first requirement to file a truck accident claim
- Claims do not require exceptional damage or loss; even if you think your injuries are minor or you won’t recover a lot of money, it’s still worth pursuing justice
When is the right time to hire a truck accident attorney?
We believe that truck accident survivors should always consult with a lawyer, at the very least, to determine whether they may have a claim.
With that said, some circumstances create a case that would really benefit from an attorney.
Common advice dictates that you may want to put extra consideration into hiring a truck accident lawyer if:
- Your accident involved severe physical damage or injuries
- The more money is involved in your case—and the longer you take to return to health—the longer and more complex your case is likely to be
- Your accident involved a business vehicle
- Unfortunately, this is common in truck accidents. Cases that involve businesses can translate to complicated settlements. It is best to have an attorney in your corner to help you go up against a company.
Are truck accident lawsuits different from regular vehicle accident lawsuits?
Yes and no.
The basic framework of truck and vehicle accident lawsuits are the same. You can probably work with the same attorney regardless of which type of accident you got into (although some attorneys specialize in one or two areas of law).
One factor that might set a truck accident lawsuit apart from a vehicle accident lawsuit is the sheer scope of most truck accidents. Lots of truck accidents are more severe than standard vehicle accidents. That’s because trucks are large, heavy, and often loaded. They can cause a lot more damage than a small sedan.
More damages can translate to a longer case, higher compensation, etc.
Who can be held liable in truck accident lawsuits?
There are a variety of people and entities who may be held liable after a truck accident. Every case is unique, so it’s important to consult a qualified lawyer to determine who could be deemed responsible for a crash in your case.
Most truck accident cases place responsibility on:
- Truck drivers who disobey road rules, drive erratically, etc.
- Trucking companies and fleet managers who hire under-qualified drivers or force drivers to work past mandated limits
- Maintenance companies who are supposed to keep trucks functioning safely
- Another driver who caused the crash
What injuries can truck accident survivors suffer?
Many people who are involved in large truck accidents suffer severe injuries. That is because semi-trucks are so large. A simple crash can actually cause a lot of damage due to the sheer size of a truck involved.
If you were in a truck accident, you may be living with injuries such as:
- Head injuries
- Neck injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Back injuries
- Loss of limb
- Loss of a sense or senses
- Internal bleeding
What are some common causes of tractor-trailer accidents?
Unfortunately, tractor-trailer accidents can be caused by a myriad of factors. The accidents can all look different from one another.
Some of the most common causes of tractor-trailer accidents include:
- Driver error: Anyone driving any vehicle has the potential to make a mistake on the road—tractor-trailer drivers are no exception. Truck drivers can make the same errors that they could if they were driving smaller vehicles; and, because of large trucks’ size, the results are often worse. Distracted, aggressive, inebriated, and other forms of dangerous driving can all cause a large truck driver to get into an accident. Truck drivers also face a unique risk on the road: they’re often pushed to work beyond their physical limits. Exhaustion contributes to lots of large truck crashes
- Poor truck maintenance: If a massive tractor-trailer is going to be hurtling down the road, it really needs to be in good condition. The unfortunate truth is that many trucking companies do not properly maintain their vehicles. Some fleets include hundreds (or even thousands) of vehicles. This makes it tricky to track each vehicle’s exact maintenance status. These vehicles are driven thousands of miles every week and they need regular and effective maintenance to be safe
- Improper cargo loading: The entire purpose of tractor-trailers and other large trucks is to carry cargo that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to transport. When tractor-trailers are full, they’re loaded with tens of thousands of pounds’ worth of cargo. If the cargo is not properly loaded and secured, it may spill into the road or cause the truck to lose balance and tip over
Can truck accidents be caused by road conditions?
Yes. In some cases, no driver is responsible for a truck accident—not the truck driver, not the driver of the struck vehicle, and not other drivers nearby.
Road conditions can and do lead to thousands of accidents every year. This includes potholes, inadequate road markings, and other seemingly minor risks that are actually not so minor at all.
Signage along a road can also lead to accidents. Improper, missing, damaged, and unclear signage all present serious risks to drivers—whether they’re operating a large truck or a passenger sedan.
Do passenger vehicle drivers ever cause truck accidents?
Absolutely. There are lots of ways a passenger vehicle driver can cause a truck accident:
- Driving in truck drivers’ blind spots (also known as no-zones)
- Changing lanes in front of a truck too quickly
- Maneuvering to the right of a truck in an attempt to make a right turn
- Driving aggressively or under the influence
What laws are truck drivers supposed to follow when it comes to sleep and rest?
Many fleet managers force their drivers to work past physical and federal limits. There are federal laws in place to try to keep everyone safe on the road, but drivers do not always follow them and their employers don’t always enforce them.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Hours of Service Regulations state that drivers:
- Cannot drive more than 11 hours after taking a 10-hour break
- Cannot drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty (after being off duty for 10 hours)
- Can only drive if eight hours or less have passed since the end of their last sleeper-berth or off-duty period (min. 30 minutes)
- Cannot drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days
I was in a truck accident and keep hearing about tractor-trailers. Do they have other names? I was hit by an eighteen-wheeler
The American Trucking Association provides a clear definition of the term tractor-trailer.
- Tractor-trailers are tractor-semitrailer combinations
- Tractors are trucks designed with the primary intention of pulling a semi-trailer; they include a fifth wheel mounted over the rear axle to help support large loads
- Semi-trailers are truck trailers; their own wheels at the rear support them; they are also supported by the fifth wheel mounted to a tractor
Think of a tractor-trailer as a large truck broken up into two key components. The tractor at the front helps pull the trailer in the back; the tractor also provides somewhere for a driver to sit. The long trailer behind the tractor is responsible for holding goods.
Tractor-trailers are known by other names:
- Big rigs
- Semi-trailer trucks
If you have further questions about your specific case, a truck accident lawyer can answer them right now.
Michael T. Gibson, P.A., Auto Justice Attorney
2420 S. Lakemont Avenue
Orlando, FL 32814