If you hear that someone has been in a trucking accident, your first thought is probably that you hope that they are okay. That term, though, becomes a relative one very quickly. It’s very rare that someone is just “okay” after an accident with a truck. Even when injuries are healed or the adjustment process has begun, if someone experiences lifelong injuries, there is still so much left to manage in the aftermath of an accident. For so many, the medical bills start to pile up, and they don’t get any easier to pay considering the lost wages from missing work. Those things don’t even account for the stress, mental anguish, pain, and difficulty adjusting to life following a serious accident.
If the accident wasn’t your fault, you are owed compensation for all these things under the law. In most cases, it will be an insurance company for the liable party who is legally responsible for paying these claims out. However, they are for-profit companies, so they tend to try and avoid paying everything that they may actually owe. There is, though, the option of a civil claim to push them in the right direction. In many cases, even just the credible threat of a claim, like when you’ve hired a lawyer, can make a significant difference in their attitude. Getting what you deserve from the trucking accident might require a battle, but that’s a battle that we at the Tatum Law Firm are prepared to fight.
A truck accident is a subset of car accidents, and many of the same parties may be liable. There are, though, a couple of additional potentially liable parties because of the element of freight being involved. Truck accidents also, because of the commercial involvement that is involved in the trucking industry, can be some of the more complex liability circumstances. It’s not uncommon for there to be multiple parties who are potentially liable for an accident. Some of the more commonly liable parties include:
A truck accident civil claim is a type of personal injury claim. This means fault is proved according to the personal injury process. Fault must be proven before compensation can be awarded, and establishing fault in a trucking accident can be a complex process of attempting to recreate the scene and determine what parties involved did what. In general, though, to prove fault is dependent upon proving three elements.
When proving fault, the first component regards what is called a duty to care. This means a person has a responsibility to take reasonable precautions in their actions to protect those around them. With regards to anything vehicle-related, including truck driving, this is more or less a given. Vehicles carry an inherent danger that can cause a lot of damage and do a lot of harm to other drivers, pedestrians, and property. Anyone involved in operating a vehicle or preparing a vehicle for the road has a duty to make sure that they take necessary and reasonable action to ensure the vehicle is safe for others. In a trucking accident claim, this element is typically the easiest to prove.
Once a duty to care is proven, the next component of a trucking accident claim is a breach of duty. This means that the liable party, in some way, failed to live up to the duty of care. The form that this breach of duty takes will differ depending on who the liable party is.
In cases where a driver is at fault, the breach could be some form of driving error, a failure to follow the rules of the road, driving recklessly or distracted, or some other behavior that doesn’t live up to the standard of being reasonably careful when driving. Additionally, there are legal limits to how much a truck driver can drive without rest time, as well as the requisite amount of rest time they must have before driving again. Not following these regulations could also be considered a breach of duty.
For trucking companies, a breach of duty might be something like a policy of requiring deliveries at unreasonable times, which encourages a truck driver to drive recklessly and violate traffic rules. Anything by a shipper or owner of the freight that creates a greater risk for an accident could also be considered a breach. The job of the plaintiff’s lawyer is to show that the defendant acted in a way that fell short of their duty and created a greater risk of injury to those who could be subject to their actions.
The final component of proving fault is connecting the defendant’s breach of duty to the injuries suffered by the plaintiff. While this is usually thought of as one element on its own, in the case of an accident, like a truck accident, it could be thought of as proving two things because both are points that could be challenged by the defendant’s lawyers.
It needs to be demonstrated that the breach of duty caused the accident. This might seem like a given, but that’s not always the case. As an example, we could consider the movie National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. There’s a scene in the opening of the film where Chevy Chase’s character drives the family vehicle under the trailer of a semi-truck. If we were to imagine something like this happening in real life and leading to an accident, even if the truck driver had committed a breach like driving too many hours straight, there’s a case to be made that the breach would have had nothing to do with the accident. Therefore, the plaintiff’s lawyers will have to make clear that the breach is directly tied to the accident.
The plaintiff’s lawyers will then need to show that the injuries suffered were the direct result of the accident. This, again, might be the kind of thing you would think isn’t controversial, but there have been instances where injuries have been exaggerated, and people have even attempted to pass off injuries from some other incident as the product of an accident they were in. The defendant’s team could challenge the validity of the relationship between accident and injury. However, as long as there is good documentation and not too much time passes between the accident and a medical exam, your lawyer will have a strong foundation from which to build your case.
The compensation that is awarded in a successful trucking accident case is paid out through damages. The damages, though, must cover costs that are directly related to the injuries that the plaintiff suffered. There must be evidence, documentation, and testimony that affirms the cost would not have been incurred were it not for the accident. In most cases, these damages are paid out in two forms:
Another kind of damages that could be awarded is punitive damages. However, in most cases, these damages aren’t likely to apply. They are meant to punish particularly egregious behavior. If there was something malicious, fraudulent, or otherwise reprehensible about the actions of the defendant, then they might be awarded. In trucking accident cases, this is very rare, though.
A frequent concern is whether there is any way the damages awarded could be reduced or even capped. Georgia doesn’t have any cap on the damages awarded, but the state does operate under a contributory negligence rule, which could impact the damages awarded.
Under contributory negligence, the potential fault of the plaintiff is considered. The defendant’s attorney will likely try to argue that the plaintiff was negligent and that caused, or at least played a part in causing the accident. The burden of proof shifts to the defendant, and they will need to demonstrate the plaintiff had a duty to care, had a breach of that duty, and that breach played a direct role in causing the accident.
If the defendant is successful and proves that the plaintiff had some level of fault in the accident, then the court will assign a percentage of fault to the plaintiff. If that share of fault is 50% or greater, then the plaintiff will be barred from receiving damages. For damages to be awarded, the defendant must be at least mostly responsible for the accident and injuries. For percentages less than 50%, the damage award will be reduced by the same percentage. If a plaintiff is found to be 30% responsible in a case where the damages award is $2 million, for example, they will receive $1.4 million paid out.
If you’re in a trucking accident, there are some things you can do both in the immediate aftermath and over time that could help your case. Obviously, your ability to do anything will depend on the seriousness of your injuries. If your injuries are significant, then the most important thing is to get treatment and care. If, though, your injuries are minimal enough that you can do a few things at the scene of the accident and after, then you could help the chances of your case succeeding. After a trucking accident, there are some general ideas you should try to follow:
We understand how overwhelming things can be after a truck accident. Given the danger of anything involving a vehicle of that size, the possibility of an injury is significant. In some cases, you may be dealing with the kind of injuries that are permanently life-altering. The injuries can be so significant that they dwarf the concerns about the vehicle repair or replacement that you need. Still, those concerns are there, along with the medical bills piling up. Of course, on top of this, there’s pain and suffering and other mental anguish as a result of the situation. We understand that it can weigh on someone, but we hope we can help your situation improve.
When you’re injured because of someone else’s negligence, you’re owed compensation for what the injuries have cost you. In the case of a truck accident, that compensation should be paid out by an insurance company. A company, though, doesn’t want to give away potential profits easily, so to get what you’re owed is going to require a fight. While that might seem like another component you just can’t handle right now, the good news is that there is someone ready to step in and fight for you. At the Tatum Law Firm, we are ready to do battle with the insurance companies and aggressively fight for every dollar you are owed. If you have been in a trucking accident and need someone to help you go after the compensation you deserve, get in touch with us today.