Large trucks, including tractor-trailers, 18-wheelers, and big rigs, weigh many tons and transport significant amounts of cargo daily. When truck drivers and the trucking companies that employ them act unreasonably, serious accidents can result, which leave drivers and their passengers injured. If you suffered injuries in a truck accident resulting from negligence, you have legal options. Understanding the truck accident claim process is important.
First, as soon as possible after your crash, you should seek professional medical treatment at a hospital emergency room or urgent care facility. Next, you should talk with an experienced truck accident lawyer in your area. Your lawyer can meet with you to discuss your accident, the circumstances, and how it occurred. Your lawyer can also undertake an investigation, if necessary, and determine your eligibility for filing a personal injury claim.
If you are eligible, your Edmonton truck accident lawyer can file the claim on your behalf by sending the necessary documents to the insurance company adjuster. If the adjuster accepts fault for the accident, settlement negotiations can begin, and the case may resolve. Otherwise, your lawyer can file a lawsuit and litigate your case to a conclusion in the court system.
Common Truck Accident Injuries
Truck accident victims often suffer severe injuries that leave them debilitated and needing ongoing medical treatment. That is because whenever a large truck strikes a smaller passenger vehicle, it is almost always the occupants of the smaller vehicle who suffer injuries. This is especially true when large trucks carry heavy cargo and operate at high speeds just before an accident happens.
The injuries that a truck accident victim suffers will depend upon various factors, including the speeds of the involved vehicles, the type of accident that happens, and the way the accident victim’s body moves in the vehicle at the time of impact. The force behind some collisions is so significant that it actually ejects the accident victim from their vehicle. At other times, the impact force may thrust the accident victim’s body from side to side—or forward and backward—causing soft tissue contusions, whiplash injuries, and neck and back pain.
At other times, the impact force may cause the accident victim’s body to strike something in their vehicle, like the steering wheel, headrest, dashboard, console, or door frame. As a result, they may suffer traumatic head and brain injuries, along with rib fractures or broken bones.
Other common injuries that truck accident victims suffer include internal organ damage, cuts, abrasions, spinal cord injuries, and paralysis. If the impact force causes one or more airbags in the vehicle to deploy, the accident victim may suffer bruises on their body. Bruising can also occur when a seatbelt forcibly restrains a driver or passenger during an accident.
If you suffered any of these injuries in a truck accident resulting from a truck driver’s or a trucking company’s negligence, you should seek medical treatment immediately. In fact, the sooner you seek treatment, the better off you will be. This is because the symptoms of many injuries, including soft tissue injuries and traumatic head injuries, do not always manifest right away. It may take days, weeks, or even months before these symptoms become fully apparent.
A medical provider at your local hospital emergency room can order the necessary imaging studies, including X-rays, CAT scans, and MRIs, for the provider to make an accurate medical diagnosis. If you require surgery or other medical procedure due to your injuries, the provider can schedule these appointments at your initial visit.
Finally, the responding medical provider can make recommendations for future medical care if you need it. For example, the doctor may instruct you to follow up with your primary care physician as soon as possible or consult with a neurologist or orthopedist if your symptoms worsen.
Seeking prompt medical intervention, and continuing your treatment for as long as recommended, is extremely important to your personal injury case. If the at-fault truck driver’s insurance company sees that you delayed your medical treatment—or that you prematurely discharged yourself from care—they will become skeptical about your injuries. They may not believe that your injuries are as severe as you claim, or they may feel that you did not make your medical treatment a priority after your accident.
While you focus on obtaining the medical care you need after your truck accident, your lawyer can begin investigating the circumstances of your accident and gathering the necessary documents to support your personal injury claim.
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Recoverable Damages in Truck Accident Cases
To recover monetary damages in a truck accident claim or lawsuit, the accident victim must prove that the truck driver or trucking company behaved negligently under the circumstances.
Common types of truck driver negligence include:
- Violating driving laws, such as by speeding or failing to yield the right-of-way at the appropriate time
- Violating motor carrier regulations, especially involving weight limits and securing cargo
- Exhibiting road rage
- Operating their vehicle while intoxicated
- Engaging in distracted driving
Moreover, they must show that the truck driver’s negligent act(s) caused the accident and that, as a result, they suffered one or more injuries.
Truck accident victims can recover various damages, depending on their accident circumstances, the types of injuries they suffered, and whether or not their injuries are permanent. If the accident victim missed time from work due to their injuries, they can pursue monetary compensation for their lost earnings, as well as for loss of earning capacity if they had to switch jobs and take a pay cut.
Truck accident victims can also recover damages for their inconvenience, pain and suffering, mental anguish, emotional distress, permanent disability, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of the ability to use a body part, and loss of spousal consortium.
Past pain and suffering damages compensate accident victims for the symptoms and pain they experienced from their accident date up through the present. On the other hand, future pain and suffering damages compensate victims for their anticipated symptoms if they suffer a permanent injury. Permanent injuries are those which are unlikely to improve with time—and which a qualified medical provider deems permanent.
An experienced truck accident lawyer in your area can determine your eligibility for each of these types of damages and fight for your right to recover the total compensation you deserve.
Filing a Truck Accident Claim
The claims-filing process in a truck accident case begins when the accident victim’s lawyer prepares a settlement demand letter, along with a demand package, and submits it to the insurance company adjuster handling the claim. In most instances, the accident victim’s lawyer will deal with the insurance company for the at-fault truck driver or trucking company. At other times, the accident victim’s lawyer may need to file an uninsured (UM) or underinsured motorist (UIM) claim with the accident victim’s own insurance company or with the Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Fund. However, this is rare in truck accident claims involving million-dollar-plus insurance policies.
The first step in a truck accident claim is for the accident victim’s lawyer to gather up all medical treatment records, lost-wage documents, photographs of injuries, pictures of property damage, and victim impact statements and then organize them into a settlement demand package. The lawyer will also craft a settlement demand letter which makes a monetary demand for compensation up to the maximum limits of available insurance coverage.
Once the settlement adjuster handling the claim reviews all of this information, they will decide whether to accept liability and become liable for the truck accident. If that happens, the adjuster may make an initial offer to resolve the case via settlement. However, you should always be wary of accepting initial offers from adjusters since they are usually far below the actual claim value.
Insurance company adjusters try to settle most cases quickly—and for as little money as possible. Therefore, it is to the adjuster’s advantage to try and settle the case quickly and cheaply.
However, a truck accident lawyer is always on your side and is not representing the insurance company’s legal or financial interests. Therefore, your lawyer will have an incentive to aggressively advocate for you during settlement negotiations with the adjuster. Settlement negotiations typically involve the accident victim’s lawyer gradually decreasing their settlement demand while the insurance company gradually increases its settlement offer, over and above its initial offer.
These negotiations continue until the parties either settle the case or reach an impasse. If the case settles, the accident victim will sign a release, which effectively ends the case and prevents it from moving forward to litigation or trial. However, if the parties reach an impasse, the accident victim’s lawyer may file a lawsuit in the court system.
Filing a lawsuit formally begins the litigation stage of a truck accident case. However, this does not mean that the case can no longer settle. In fact, most truck accident claims settle at some point after the accident victim’s lawyer files a lawsuit and the case is pending litigation. Very few cases proceed all the way to a civil jury trial.
During litigation, the parties will engage in discovery. The discovery process involves both written and oral discovery. During written discovery, the parties answer written questions, called interrogatories. At a deposition, the defense lawyer typically asks the accident victim various questions about how the accident occurred, the speeds of the vehicles, their injuries, their medical treatment, and the pain and suffering they endured after the accident.
Once discovery is complete, the insurance company may increase its pre-litigation offer. However, if the case does not settle after discovery ends, the parties may take their case to a trial in court—or to an out-of-court binding arbitration proceeding.
At a trial, the jury or judge decide all disputed issues in the case, including the amount of money to award the accident victim. However, as an alternative to a jury trial, the parties might decide to take their case to mediation or binding arbitration, both of which are types of alternative dispute resolution.
At a mediation hearing, a neutral mediator helps the parties through their settlement discussions and determines if the case can resolve. At a binding arbitration hearing, a neutral, third-party arbitrator—whom the parties handpick—listens to the evidence and decides the amount of monetary compensation to award the accident victim.
A knowledgeable truck accident lawyer in your area can assist you during settlement negotiations and work to pursue the maximum amount of compensation you are eligible to recover. Your lawyer can also help you decide whether you should accept a pending settlement offer or file a lawsuit and litigate your case in the court system. Finally, your lawyer can help you determine whether you should take your case to trial, accept a final settlement offer, or consider alternative dispute resolution mechanisms to resolve your case.
Deadline to File a Truck Accident Claim or Lawsuit
Taking prompt legal action following a truck accident is extremely important when obtaining the compensation you deserve. This is because truck accident victims only have two years from their accident date to file a claim or lawsuit seeking monetary damages. If the accident victim files their lawsuit even one day after the deadline expires, they cannot claim damages later. Therefore, they forfeit their right to monetary compensation for their injuries, inconvenience, suffering, and pain.
A knowledgeable truck accident lawyer near you can file a lawsuit immediately if the statutory period is running short in your case. Your lawyer can then negotiate with the insurance company adjuster and pursue a fair settlement offer on your behalf. If that offer is not forthcoming, your lawyer may continue litigating your case through the court system and pursue a favourable settlement on your behalf.
Speak with a Knowledgeable Truck Accident Lawyer in Your Area Today
If you suffered injuries in a recent truck accident, you must consult a knowledgeable Edmonton personal injury lawyer in your area as soon as possible. Your lawyer can determine your claim-filing eligibility and set you on course to recover the damages you need and deserve.