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Trucking accidents are serious events that can result in life-changing injuries. Victims of trucking accidents may not be fully aware of what to do or what rights they have following such an accident. This article will discuss several important topics related to interstate trucking accidents, including how to file a claim, what parties may be held liable, and what forms of compensation may be available to a victim following a trucking accident.
If you are interested in filing a claim, or if you would like to learn more about your rights following a trucking accident, call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 to receive a free case evaluation with one of our trucking accident lawyers.
INTERSTATE TRUCK ACCIDENT STATISTICS
- In 2015, there were over 400,000 police-reported crashes involving large trucks
- Approximately 87,000 large trucks were involved in crashes resulting in injury
- Approximately 25% of all fatal crashes involving large trucks occurred on rural or interstate highways
- Some of the leading causes of interstate truck accidents include prescription drugs, speeding, and fatigue
INTERSTATE VS. INTRASTATE TRUCK ACCIDENTS
Interstate trucking involves transporting goods across state lines or transporting cargo from one point to another within a state’s boundaries, but the ultimate destination of the cargo is out of state.
In contrast, intrastate trucking involves transporting goods only within a single state, and the goods’ destination is within the state from which it originated.
The important difference between interstate and intrastate trucking is the laws and regulations that apply to each industry. Whereas the interstate trucking industry must adhere to the rules and regulations of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA), the intrastate trucking industry is subject to the rules and regulations of the individual state.
Because different sets of laws apply to each industry, interstate and intrastate truckers have to meet different requirements. For instance, the maximum number of consecutive hours that a truck driver can drive may differ depending on whether the driver is engaged in interstate or intrastate trucking. The amount of insurance that a trucking company is required to carry also depends on whether the company is engaged in interstate or intrastate trucking.
Determining whether you were involved in a car accident with an interstate or intrastate trucking company can make a difference in your legal options and remedies. Consider consulting with an experienced trucking accident attorney to learn more about how these types of industries may affect your legal rights.
HOW TO FILE A CLAIM
Filing a trucking accident claim may seem intimidating, but a helpful attorney may be able to do most of the heaving lifting for you. Listed below are the key phases that comprise a trucking accident claim.
1. Call a Truck Accident Lawyer
If you have been injured in a trucking accident and would like to file a claim, your first step should be to contact a trucking accident attorney. After contacting an attorney, the attorney may ask to meet with you in person or speak to you over the phone.
The purpose of this meeting is to learn as much about your case as possible. For instance, the attorney may ask you important questions, such as when the accident occurred, how the accident occurred, and what injuries you sustained. If necessary, the attorney may then initiate the formal process of filing a personal injury lawsuit.
Learn More: Why Hiring a Lawyer Will Help Your Case
The next phase in the claim filing process is the investigation phase. Investigation is critical to building the strength and viability of your claim. During this phase, your attorney may conduct interviews with relevant parties, review accident reports, comb through company records, and search for other forms of helpful evidence. Investigation may also involve accounting for each of your damages, such as medical bills, lost wages, and property damage.
3. Negotiation and Case Settlement
Before your claim goes to trial, settlement discussions may occur. A settlement is an agreement between the parties whereby the at-fault party agrees to pay the victim a certain amount of money in exchange for a release of liability.
The settlement process involves back-and-forth negotiations between your attorney and the trucking company or the insurance company that covers the trucking company. During this phase, your attorney may protect your interests by fiercely negotiating on your behalf. If the opposing side refuses to pay an amount that is fair or satisfactory, it may be necessary to litigate your claim in court.
Learn more: How to File a Personal Injury Claim
TRUCKING ACCIDENTS ARE NOT LIKE CAR ACCIDENTS
Commercial motor vehicle accidents are unlike regular car accidents in several important ways. Listed below are a few ways in which trucking accidents are unlike car accidents.
State and Federal Regulations
Non-commercial drivers must typically obey only traffic laws. On the other hand, truck drivers and trucking companies must also adhere to certain state and federal regulations. Failure to properly follow these regulations may lead to penalties or subject the trucking company to liability.
Nature of the Collision
Given the size of semi-trucks and 18-wheelers, it should come as no surprise that injuries resulting from trucking accidents are often more severe than those in non-trucking accidents.
Another aspect unique to trucking accidents is the concept of vicarious liability. Vicarious liability is a legal theory which states that an employer may be subject to liability for the negligent or harmful actions of its employees. Thus, in trucking accident cases, a trucking company may be held responsible for the negligent acts or omissions of its drivers.
Because trucking accidents are not like everyday car accidents, it may be in your best interest to discuss your case with an experienced trucking accident attorney before making any important decisions.
Learn more about how Zinda Law Group may be able to help you negotiate with insurance companies.
COMMON TRUCKING ACCIDENT INJURIES
Trucking accident injuries can vary in form and severity. Some trucking accidents may result in no physical harm. However, the majority of trucking accidents involve some kind of injury. Listed below are several common injuries that may occur as a result of a trucking accident.
Head, Neck, and Brain Injuries
Head, neck, and brain injuries are some of the most prevalent forms of trucking accident injuries. For example, the victim of a trucking accident may suffer whiplash, a type of neck injury which occurs when a person’s head is quickly and suddenly forced backward. If the impact is forceful enough, brain injuries such as concussions may occur.
Spinal Injuries and Paralysis
Spinal injuries are closely related to head and neck injuries. These types of injuries are also common in trucking accident cases. Because trucking accidents are often high-speed collisions, the forceful impact of the wreck may be sufficient to injure the spine.
Cuts, Scarring, and Permanent Disfigurement
Many trucking accidents end up with one or more passengers sustaining some form of laceration or bruise. For instance, a person may suffer chest scars as a result of a seatbelt-related injury. In extreme cases, particularly those in which seatbelts are not worn, a collision may lead to a passenger being ejected from their vehicle, which may cause permanent disfigurement or death.
Given the high-speed, high-impact nature of trucking accidents, a fair number of these cases unfortunately result in death. This may be especially so for accidents involving elderly persons, small children, or passengers who are not wearing a seatbelt.
A trucking accident victim wishing to assert a claim or pursue legal action against a trucking company must establish fault in order to succeed. In trucking accident cases, establishing fault requires proving four essential elements.
The first element that must be established is that the trucking company or truck driver owed a duty to the victim. In trucking accident cases, this element may be established by asserting that the driver or trucking company owed a duty to adhere to the safety standards of professional truck drivers by safely operating and maintaining the vehicles.
2. Breach of Duty
The second element that must be established is that the trucking company or truck driver breached the duty owed to the victim. This element can be established in several ways. In the simplest cases, a breach of duty may be established by showing that the driver was intoxicated, distracted, or violated a traffic law. Alternatively, the trucking company may have breached its duty by negligently hiring or supervising the truck driver who caused the wreck, or by failing to meet certain safety standards.
The third element that must be established is that the trucking company’s or truck driver’s breach caused harm to the victim. This element may be established simply by showing that the collision resulted in physical injuries to the victim’s person or damage to the victim’s vehicle.
The fourth element that must be established is that the trucking company or truck driver damaged the victim in some way. In trucking accident cases, damages are often established by medical records, photographs, and testimony.
WHO CAN I SUE?
One party that may be liable following a trucking accident is the truck driver himself. For instance, if the truck driver was driving while intoxicated or texting while driving, the victim may be able to pursue legal action against him or her.
The Trucking Company
A more likely party to sue is the trucking company. Unlike most truck drivers, trucking companies have sufficient funds to compensate trucking accident victims. If a trucking company was negligent in its hiring, supervision, or retention of one of its employees, the trucking company may be held liable for a victim’s injuries.
A Third Party
Sometimes legal action may be pursued against a third party such as an automobile parts manufacturer. For instance, if a tire manufacturer supplied a trucking company with a defective wheel, and the accident and injuries were caused by a blowout, the manufacturer who made or sold the defective wheel may be subject to liability.
In lawsuits involving trucking accidents, the trucking company, the driver, or an insurance company may face the possibility of having to compensate the victim for harm suffered. This compensation, referred to as “damages,” comes in three forms: economic damages, non-economic damages, and punitive damages.
Economic damages generally refer to damages that can be accounted for and easily calculated. In trucking accident cases, compensation in the form of economic damages may include:
- Medical and pharmacy bills
- Rehabilitation costs
- Lost income (present and future)
- Loss of earning capacity
- Property damage
On the other hand, non-economic damages are intangible losses that cannot be easily quantified. Instead, non-economic damages are often calculated by a jury. In trucking accident cases, compensation in the form of non-economic damages may include:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of consortium
Punitive damages may also be available in a trucking accident case, depending on jurisdiction. In contrast to economic damages and non-economic damages, punitive damages are not awarded in order to compensate the victim for harm suffered. Rather, punitive damages may be awarded as a means of punishing the at-fault party for particularly reckless or intentional conduct. Punitive damages may also be available if the accident resulted in a wrongful death.
Learn More: How to Calculate the Value of Case
STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS
A “statute of limitations” is a legal time-limit imposed on potential claimants. If an injured party wishing to pursue legal action neglects or otherwise fails to file a claim within the applicable statute of limitations, that party is effectively barred from litigating the claim in court.
Statutes of limitations vary from state to state. Most states have either a two or three-year statute of limitations for motor vehicle accident claims. This includes claims against trucking companies. In trucking accident cases involving injury to a child, the statute of limitations may be “tolled,” or extended, until the child reaches the age of majority, typically 18 years old. After reaching the age of majority, the child then has two or three years to file a lawsuit.
Because a statute of limitations is a critical component of a trucking accident case, and because special rules such as tolling may apply, it is important that you consider discussing your case with a personal injury attorney. Consulting with an attorney may help you file your claim in a timely fashion.
GET HELP FROM ZINDA LAW GROUP TODAY
If you or a loved one has been injured in an interstate trucking accident, the truck accident lawyers at Zinda Law Group may be able to help. We don’t believe that accident victims should need to worry about being able to afford representation, which is why we use a no-win, no-fee policy—you don’t pay us anything unless we win your case. Call (800) 863-5312 for a free case evaluation with a truck accident lawyer today.
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