Frequently Asked Questions About Truck Accidents
Dealing with trucking companies isn't easy. We can help.
Truck accidents can cause serious and even fatal injuries. If you're dealing with the aftermath of one, you may feel lost, struggling to figure out what to do next. We understand. That's why we've put together this list of frequently asked questions about truck accidents, with answers based on attorney Richard E. Lewis' decades of experience handling these cases.
- What do I need to do right after I'm in a truck accident?
- I think the trucker who hit me was asleep at the wheel. Can you help me?
- Can I sue the trucking company for damages?
- Do I have a claim against the shipper of the cargo?
- The trucking company is located out of state. What should I do?
- Should I answer questions from the trucking company or their insurance?
- If the trucking company offers me a settlement, what should I do?
Because truck accidents are such complex cases, you may well have a question that isn't answered here. Contact us today to schedule your free case evaluation. At Richard Lewis Law P.S., we'll be happy to help you understand your legal options.
As with any accident, your first priority should be safety. Contact emergency services and follow their instructions. You may need to move your vehicle, if it's still drivable, in order to keep from blocking traffic.
Make sure you get the truck driver's name as well as the trucking company's name and contact information. You'll need to exchange information with the truck driver, the police officer responding and anyone else involved in the accident, but stick to the facts. Don't say anything that could be construed as admitting fault for the accident - and take note if the trucker does.
Take pictures of the accident scene right away, as well as the damage to your vehicle and any visible injuries. Trucking companies will send their own investigators to the scene right away, so you need to move quickly to collect evidence to use in a potential claim.
See a doctor right away. That's not only the best step for your health, but also to protect your legal rights. Make sure you tell your doctor that you were involved in an accident.
Finally, contact us as soon as possible. Retaining an attorney right away will help you deal with the trucking company and their insurance.
Truck driver fatigue is a common cause of accidents, and a preventable one. Truckers are required by law to take rest breaks at scheduled times and to document those breaks according to established protocol. Our investigation will review the log to make sure all necessary breaks were taken. We'll also interview witnesses for visual evidence that the driver was exhausted or sleeping and check the delivery schedule to see if the truck was behind schedule, which may show a motive for working through a mandatory break.
In most cases, you should have a case against the trucking company. The legal doctrine of respondeat superior means that an employer can be held accountable for the actions of an employee while on the job. If the driver is a direct employee of the trucking company, that means you can sue the trucking company even if the accident was caused purely by the driver's own negligence, not the company's. However, many truckers are independent contractors, which means this doctrine may not apply, depending on factors such as the amount of supervision exercised by the trucking company.
Other accidents involve liability on the part of the trucking company itself. For instance, the company may have put pressure on the driver to work through a mandatory break, causing fatigue, or to drive at an unsafe speed in order to keep an unrealistic delivery schedule. In still other cases, we may be able to show negligent hiring or negligent supervision on the part of the company - for instance, they may have hired a driver with a history of drunk driving after failing to conduct a thorough background check.
The shipper of the cargo is generally not liable for truck accidents unless they own the truck, but exceptions do exist. In particular, if the truck was carrying hazardous material that caused the accident, and if the shipper of the material failed to adequately warn the trucking company of the danger, you may have a product liability claim against the shipper.
It's quite common for out-of-state trucking companies to simply refuse to return calls, hoping that you won't be able to file your claim. You need an experienced attorney on your side with the resources needed to handle an out-of-state claim. Attorney Lewis has handled many truck accident cases, including several involving out-of-state companies. If necessary, we may retain a local attorney in the company's home jurisdiction. In those cases, we split the attorney's fee, so you don't end up paying an additional cost.
Absolutely not. Any information you give to a representative of the trucking company or their insurance company will be used against you. Contact us right away to discuss your case, then tell the insurance adjusters and trucking company representatives that you have retained an attorney. We will field any questions on your behalf.
Remember, the trucking company's priority is to reduce their own expenses. A settlement they've offered you, especially one offered soon after the accident, may be an unreasonably low offer intended to settle your case quickly before the true cost of the accident becomes apparent. Wait until you've completed your medical treatment before you even entertain an offer from the trucking company, and don't accept any of their money without speaking with us first. In many cases, the amount they offer is substantially less than the amount you can get by working with a knowledgeable attorney.