It can be complicated to determine the fault, if any, of each party, especially when each party will vigorously deny liability. Also, truck crashes often involve multiple layers of insurance coverage that are not easy to untangle, but all together these sources could provide a truck accident victim with sufficient compensation for their losses.
The occupants of other vehicles involved in a truck accident tend to suffer far more severe injuries, which require more money and time to heal. With so much money on the line, you can count on the insurance companies and their lawyers to put up a strong fight. That’s why you need an attorney to stand up for your rights.
Who Can Be Held Liable for a Truck Accident?
In a truck accident, there may be multiple people and companies connected with the truck. Depending on the facts of the accident, one or more of these parties may have some share of liability.
Examples of liable parties include:
- The truck driver – The driver is liable for their own negligence.
- The trucking company – Employers are not only liable for their own negligence, but also the negligent acts of their employees. The trucking company may claim the driver is an independent contractor, but in reality the driver is an employee.
- The truck owner – The trucking company may not own the truck involved in the accident. Instead, it may be owned by the driver or leased from another company who owns the truck fleet.
- The cargo company – When a truck accident is caused by improperly loaded or secured cargo, the company responsible for the cargo may be liable.
- The truck maintenance company – Truck accidents caused by poor or negligent maintenance of the truck can impose liability on the company responsible for maintenance, if different from the trucking company or truck owner.
- The truck manufacturer – An accident caused by a design or manufacturing defect can impose liability on the truck manufacturer.
Evidence We May Use in a Truck Accident Claim
Given the complicated nature of tractor-trailers, the evidence that must be examined in a truck accident claim is often much more complicated – and there is usually much more of it – than in an accident between cars.
Some of the types of evidence may be important in truck accident cases include:
- Driver logs, which will show the hours the driver had driven before the accident. In some cases, driver logs are intentionally left blank, falsified, or destroyed. This could provide evidence that the driver was overly fatigued.
- The driver’s toxicology report, if the driver took an alcohol and drug test after the accident, this could show whether the driver was impaired by drugs or alcohol.
- The load manifest, which may show that the truck was improperly loaded or was transporting more than it should have.
- The truck’s computer and GPS recordings, which can reveal important details such as the truck’s speed, time of travel, braking, acceleration, and steering inputs.
- The truck’s maintenance record, which can show whether the truck was properly maintained.
In addition to these pieces of evidence unique to truck accident claims, we also look at evidence common to other kinds of motor vehicle accidents, such as accident scene photos and damage to the vehicles.
Damages in a Truck Accident Claim
When you are involved in a truck accident, you may be entitled to seek compensation for your personal injuries and damage to your property. Personal injury damages typically fall into one of two categories: economic damages and non-economic damages.
Economic damages are meant to compensate a claimant for their financial losses. Examples of economic damages include:
- Past and future medical expenses, such as hospital bills, doctor’s office visits, surgeries, physical therapy, prescription medication, or durable medical equipment
- Past and future lost income, including lost income from missed work and the difference between pre- and post-accident income if injuries reduce your capacity to work
Non-economic damages are intended to compensate a claimant for more subjective losses. Examples of non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering, which includes physical, mental, or emotional distress caused by your injuries
- Loss of consortium, which is compensation to your spouse or family for the loss of your companionship and your services to the family
In addition to compensation for personal injuries, you may also be entitled to claim compensation for any property damage you’ve suffered, such as the cost to repair or replace your damaged vehicle.
Time Limit for Filing a Truck Accident Claim in Maryland and D.C.
If you suffer injuries from a truck accident, under the law you have a limited time to file a lawsuit seeking compensation. This period is known as the statute of limitations. In Maryland and D.C., the statute of limitations for claims for personal injury or property damage arising from a truck accident is three years from the date of the accident.
In certain circumstances, a court may pause or extend, or “toll,” the statute of limitations. One reason courts toll the statute of limitations is when a claimant is a minor, or under the age of 18. In Maryland and D.C., a minor has three years from the day he or she turns 18 to file a claim.
Common Causes of Truck Accidents
Trucks and tractor-trailers are large, complicated machines that are more difficult to drive than the average passenger vehicle. In addition, truck drivers are frequently pushed to drive many hours at a time for multiple days. As a result, there are many potential causes of truck accidents.
Some of the more common causes include:
- Speeding – Truck drivers are often on tight deadlines to deliver loads. Unfortunately, drivers can quickly get behind schedule due to traffic jams, bad weather, or poor road conditions. To make up for delays, some drivers may drive over the speed limit. When a truck exceeds the speed limit, the driver has less time to react to emergencies. The driver may have insufficient time or space to safely brake or swerve, which can quickly lead to an accident.
- Distracted driving – When truck drivers are required to drive down the highway for hours on end, they may begin looking for other activities to keep occupied. Many drivers turn to their cell phones to provide distractions during long stretches on the road. Others may adjust their radio or change stations. But when drivers take their eyes off the road, even for a few seconds, they may find themselves in an emergency that they cannot avoid.
- Fatigue – Arguably, the most common cause of truck accidents is driver fatigue, which can happen when drivers are at or over the time limits imposed on commercial drivers. Drivers may get little sleep on the road due to the need to meet deadlines and having to sleep away from home. Fatigue can easily cause a driver to have reduced reaction times and impaired decision-making.
- Driving under the influence – Some drivers, to combat either fatigue or the emotional and mental pressures of long days on the road, turn to alcohol and drugs. When drivers consume alcohol or drugs, it can impair their reaction times and decision-making abilities.
- Negligent hiring and training of drivers – Before being allowed to drive tractor-trailers, truckers are required to complete training and meet other requirements. Unfortunately, not every driver complies with all the training requirements. As a result, an inexperienced driver behind the wheel of a truck increases the risk of an accident, especially when an emergency occurs on the road.
- Negligent truck maintenance – Some trucking companies cut costs by deferring or avoiding maintenance on their trucks. When trucks spend hours on the road for days on end, regular maintenance is critical to avoid mechanical failures that can cause accidents.
Catastrophic Injuries Caused by Truck Accidents
When a truck is involved in an accident with a smaller vehicle, the occupants of the smaller vehicle are often subjected to catastrophic injuries. Examples of these injuries include:
- Broken bones
- Soft-tissue injuries, or muscle, tendon, and ligament strains and tears, especially in the joints
- Burns and scarring
- Spinal cord injuries, including temporary or permanent paralysis caused by swelling or tearing to the spinal cord
- Internal organ injuries, such as internal bleeding or perforation or tears of internal organs
- Head and traumatic brain injuries, which can cause effects ranging from concussions to coma
In some unfortunate cases, injuries sustained in a truck accident can be fatal.
How Our Charles County Truck Accident Lawyer Can Help
After you have been involved in a truck accident, you may quickly feel overwhelmed by trying to seek compensation for your losses. Truck accident claims can be very complicated, and trucking companies and their insurers will fight vigorously to avoid paying.
Our Charles County truck accident lawyer, Matt Trollinger, can help you pursue compensation for your truck accident claim. He will begin collecting all the pieces of evidence in your case, carefully examining each to determine a cause for the accident and to identify the party or parties who are liable to you for your damages.
Once he identifies the responsible parties and calculates the full extent of your damages, he can begin negotiating with the insurers to seek a settlement that fully compensates you for your losses. If a settlement is not possible, he will be prepared to take your case to trial and aggressively present your case to a jury to pursue a verdict and judgment in your favor.
If you have been involved in a truck accident in Charles County or elsewhere in Maryland or Washington, D.C., you may be entitled to compensation to help you recover from your injuries and property damage.
Contact Trollinger Law now to learn more about your legal rights and options and the kinds of compensation you may be entitled to. Call us today to schedule a free consultation.