Accidents involving commercial trucks of the 18-wheel size are not only dangerous, they’re complicated to approach and resolve. That’s because there are several angles that may need to be pursued to receive damages justified by the harm done by the accident, whether it’s a physical injury, damage to the other vehicle, or even death. Following are some of the issues involved that anyone involved in an 18-wheeler accident should be aware of and why it can be valuable to bring in a personal injury attorney as soon as possible.
How Do Truck Accidents Happen?
Injuries from 18-wheelers can be devastating. These types of trucks are large and heavy. They take much longer to slow down than a car or pickup truck. There are several ways these accidents can–and do–frequently happen.
- Fatigue. Driving these types of vehicles long distances is tiring, both in terms of what it takes to brake and accelerate and the weariness that comes with several hours on the road. A tired driver is more apt to make dangerous mistakes and may even fall asleep at the wheel.
- Maintenance issues. Trucks that aren’t properly maintained are more likely to break down, especially if it comes to critical items such as brakes.
- Distractions. A driver may not be tired, but they may be distracted. Just as with drivers of passenger vehicles, texting and driving can have dire consequences.
Who Can Potentially Be Held Liable in an 18-Wheeler Accident?
Who is liable varies from case to case, depending on the evidence. There are several people or entities that may end up responsible.
Here are some of the most likely responsible parties:
- Driver. Particularly if the driver has been negligent in some way, such as not obeying the laws of the road or driving when too tired.
- Trucking company. The company isn’t usually directly involved, but behind the scenes may have some liability through things like not properly training drivers, not correctly maintaining the trucks, or using poor hiring practices.
- Truck manufacturer. Sometimes an accident is caused by a defect in the truck that’s not the trucking company’s responsibility. Then the liability may rest with the truck manufacturer.
- Freight shipper and loader. Various truckers and trucking companies contract to accept pre-arranged, sealed items for shipping. The shipper may have been negligent in preparing freight for shipment, which could have caused the accident.
What Kind of Evidence Do I Need to File a Truck Accident Claim?
Several pieces of evidence should be gathered when preparing to file a truck accident claim. Those include, but are not limited to, photos of the accident site, police reports, driver logs, and any eyewitness accounts. If the truck had tracking equipment that records what the driver is doing, those records could be valuable in proving the driver was potentially too tired while driving and negligently didn’t pull off the road. Suppose this evidence isn’t enough to establish liability fully. In that case, an accident reconstruction expert could be involved to examine the existing evidence and re-create the accident to determine more closely what happened.
It’s a good idea to have a personal injury attorney involved in gathering evidence, not just because they know what to look for from the truck’s side of the accident–they also understand what evidence the other side is probably gathering to claim that the other driver was at fault, not the truck.
What Kind of Damages Might Be Awarded?
Because these types of accidents can be catastrophic, there are several types of claims that can be made:
- Economic damages. This can involve repayment of things like lost wages due to extensive injuries causing someone to miss work and medical bills.
- Noneconomic damages. Serious accidents and injuries can be traumatic, and emotional distress or PSTD afterward is common. Damages can be awarded for these types of claims
Wrongful death. If someone died in the accident, wrongful death charges may be brought as well.
What Should I Do if I’m in an Accident with an 18-Wheeler?
First, call the police, as you’ll want a police report documenting everything as soon as possible. But while waiting for the police, don’t talk to the other driver. It’s easy to have things you say be construed to mean you admitted liability. Better to speak only with the police.
Similarly, if the trucker, trucking company or other entity such as its insurance company try to call and talk with you, don’t speak with them without a lawyer present. They may use misleading lines of questioning to get you to say something that would indicate you don’t hold the trucker or trucking company liable. An experienced lawyer will be aware of some of the subtleties of what questions they’d ask and can guide you as to what you should or shouldn’t answer, which is one reason it’s recommended that you bring a lawyer into the situation as soon as possible.
The same thing applies if an entity tries to negotiate a settlement with you. Their highest priority will be to pay out as little money as possible. An attorney will know what you can expect to receive for your damages and negotiate for it.
Where Can I Find Help Making a Claim for an 18-Wheeler Accident?
Call us at 509-638-1414 as soon as possible for a free consultation. Our team of personal injury attorneys will help you understand the ins and outs of making claims with truck drivers and their companies, as well as any insurance angles that may apply. The sooner we’re involved, the sooner we can help you.