Bedford Truck Accident Attorney
Trucking is a trillion dollar-plus industry that accounts for roughly 8% of our nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This industry is vital for our economy, providing countless jobs and bringing millions of products to market on a daily basis. On the flip side, big-rig trucks weigh upwards of 80,000 pounds when they are fully loaded, and when they collide with other vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, or outside objects, it can produce deadly consequences. If you or someone close to you was injured or killed in a truck accident, you may have a right to compensation.
At the Pack Law Group, we have extensive experience representing individuals injured in trucking accidents in Virginia. Our lawyers have in-depth knowledge of this area of the law, and we are aggressive advocates on behalf of each client we serve. Truck accident cases tend to be far more complicated than typical auto accidents. This is because of the numerous governing laws and regulations within the trucking industry, and the multiple parties that may be at fault for the accident. We understand the complexities of these types of cases, and we explore every potential legal avenue to ensure that our clients obtain full and fair compensation, and that responsible parties are held fully accountable.
Your Options if Injured in an Accident with a Commercial Truck
If you are injured in an accident with a commercial truck, you have a few different options for recovering compensation for your losses, which will no doubt total into the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. These include:
- File a claim with your health insurance company. If you have medical bills, the clear option for having these medical bills paid is to file a health insurance claim (assuming that you have health insurance). Of course, you may still have a deductible that you have to pay out of pocket, as well as certain health-related costs that aren’t covered by your insurance. This doesn’t mean that you won’t be compensated for these costs eventually, though, by filing a claim against a liability insurance provider (more below). Note that if your health insurance provider pays for your medical bills and then you later receive a settlement from another party, your health insurance company maintains the right to repayment via subrogation rules.
- File a claim against the trucking company’s insurance. Another option, and typically the best option if the trucking company or truck driver was to blame for your crash, is to file a liability insurance claim against the trucking company’s insurance. This type of claim will mirror that of a standard automotive claim.
- File a claim against your own vehicle insurance policy. In the event that you carry certain insurance types and certain criteria are satisfied, filing a claim against your own car insurance company may be appropriate. For example, if you carry medical expense and loss of income benefits coverage insurance, this type of coverage will pay all reasonable and necessary medical and funeral expenses for you and others injured or killed in an automobile crash.
- File a lawsuit. Your last option for recovering compensation after a serious truck accident is to file a lawsuit directly against the at-fault party, such as the truck driver, the trucking company, or a third party, such as the truck manufacturer. Filing a lawsuit is typically an option reserved as a last resort in the event that insurance settlement negotiations fail. You should speak to your attorney about whether or not bringing forth litigation is appropriate.
Dealing with Insurance Adjusters Following a Truck Accident
Getting caught off-guard by an insurance adjuster is perhaps the worst way to start any conversation with an insurance company. If they get ahold of you before you’ve had time to think about what you want to say, you run a serious risk of damaging your case by giving them more information than you need to.
Be aware that the insurance adjuster will likely sound incredibly nice on the phone. You may wonder why you’ve read such horrible things about insurance adjusters when you’ve obviously been assigned such a helpful one. Don’t fall for it—it’s an act.
Possible Outcomes When You Talk to Insurance Adjusters
There are only a few possible outcomes if you insist on talking to the other party’s insurance adjuster. The best possible outcome is that you do not give them any information that can harm your case. However, this doesn’t help you at all. It simply leaves you in the same position that you were in before you talked to them.
What’s more likely is that you will inadvertently give them some information that they can use to decrease or deny your settlement. You may be surprised to find out that the “fair settlement” they offer you won’t even cover your medical bills, much less your lost income or pain and suffering. Even worse, you might find out that they are completely denying responsibility for the accident and are unwilling to offer you anything.
Know That Multiple Parties May Contact You
Truck accidents have far more parties involved than an accident involving two passenger vehicles. It is likely that the driver and the truck are covered by multiple insurance companies. Because of this, be ready to dodge calls from multiple insurance companies. Each of them wants to deny their own involvement, pass the buck, and pay you as little as possible. There is nothing to gain from talking to them.
Why Do So Many Truck Accidents Occur?
Trucking is a highly regulated industry, and there are numerous requirements those in the industry must follow to ensure their safety and the safety of others on the road. Unfortunately, these rules and regulations are frequently violated. Truckers are often under immense pressure to deliver their cargo ahead of unrealistic deadlines. Sometimes, they are confronted with the choice of ignoring regulations or being late with their deliveries. This causes drivers to take far too many risks.
There are several possible reasons trucking accidents occur, some of the most common causes include:
- Drowsy/Fatigued Driving: Truck drivers have a stressful job. They have to put in long hours over-the-road, and many of these hours are during the evening and overnight when it is dark outside. Too many hours on the road can cause drivers to become fatigued, drowsy, and even fall asleep at the wheel. This is why the federal government has Hours of Service regulations that limit the number of consecutive hours drivers are allowed to be on the road. When truckers fail to follow these regulations, they are more susceptible to accidents resulting from drowsiness and/or fatigue.
Why would truckers not follow guidelines? there is a tremendous amount of pressure on truck drivers to hit certain mileage goals and delivery dates. These goals are primarily set by the companies that employ drivers, and they may or may not be based in how much one driver can actually do. In trying to meet these goals, truckers may feel pressured to skip breaks, cut their sleep short, or drive through the night in violation of federal and state guidelines. This type of overwork creates the ideal situation for a drowsy driving accident.
Crashes caused by drowsy driving can be devastating to families and victims. Truck drivers may crash into a guardrail, blocking off an entire side of the highway. They may plow into the back of another vehicle, causing instant fatalities and severe injuries. Because there is often no attempt to brake in these types of accidents, due to the nature of drowsy driving collisions, the damage is often significantly higher than it is in other crashes.
- Speeding/Reckless Driving: When truck drivers are under pressure to meet a deadline, they tend to take more chances when they drive. In these types of situations, it is not uncommon for truckers to speed excessively, tailgate other vehicles, make turns without making sure there are no vehicles in their blind spot, and other poor driving decisions.
- Distracted Driving: Motorists are increasingly distracted these days. With most Americans wanting to stay connected with family and friends through electronic messages on their smartphones, accidents caused by distracted driving are on the rise. Texting while driving is especially dangerous, because it distracts drivers in three ways; manually, visually, and cognitively. When a trucker is engaged in this activity and an accident occurs, it can result in serious and catastrophic injuries.
- Impaired Driving: The stress of driving a commercial truck can cause drivers to turn to alcohol, prescription drugs, or illegal drugs to get through. Sometimes, these substances are used to help calm their nerves. Other times, they are used to help keep them awake during long hauls. Driving while chemically-impaired can result in slower reaction times and drivers making dangerous driving decisions.
- Overloaded/Unevenly Loaded Cargo: In the rush to fill the truck with cargo and help the driver reach the destination on time, the company responsible for loading the vehicle sometimes loads the truck unevenly. They may also try to squeeze more cargo than is safe to go into the truck in order to get it to the destination with less trips. Overloaded and/or unevenly loaded cargo makes the truck dangerous to drive, because it increases the likelihood of trucks falling off to the side or rolling over if there are heavy winds and other adverse weather conditions.
- Negligent Truck Maintenance: An 18-wheeler typically travels thousands of miles per month hauling cargo across the country. A vehicle that puts on this much wear and tear needs to be properly maintained. Otherwise, mechanical problems can cause breakdowns in the worst places, sometimes resulting in accidents.
- Defective Vehicle Parts: Some truck accidents occur because of faulty vehicles or vehicle parts that cause breakdowns on the road. Examples may include tire blowouts, brake line leaks, and computer dashboard malfunctions.
Who Can Be Held Liable in a Trucking Accident?
Truck accident cases often involve the convergence of multiple factors. This often makes it challenging to determine fault in these types of cases. Many times, there may be several parties that share fault, and a thorough investigation is required to get to the bottom of what happened.
Some of the potential parties that may be responsible for a trucking accident include:
- The driver of the truck;
- The truck owner;
- The company that leased the truck to the driver;
- The company that employs the truck driver;
- The party responsible for loading the cargo onto the truck;
- The party responsible for maintaining the truck;
- The designer, manufacturer, supplier, and/or distributor of a defective vehicle or vehicle part.
To determine who is liable for the accident, it is important to act quickly and ensure that all evidence is safely preserved. To accomplish this, you need to know what to look for and what it takes to recover critical pieces of evidence, even when various parties are not willing to cooperate.
How Virginia’s Contributory Negligence Laws Impact Truck Accident Cases
Virginia is one of a handful of states that applies the “contributory negligence” legal standard in personal injury cases. Under this standard, if an injury victim “contributes” in any way to the accident, they can be barred from recovering compensation – even if they are determined to be only 1% at fault. If the accident occurred in Virginia, you can be certain the insurance company for the other side will try to pin at least part of the blame on you to avoid compensating you for your injuries. This is why you need an experienced advocate by your side who knows how to successfully pursue these types of cases.
Speak with a Skilled Virginia Truck Accidents Lawyer
At the Pack Law Group, we understand the immense physical, emotional, and financial hardship accident injury victims and their families go through, and our goal is to make the legal process smooth and seamless. We work closely with our clients, providing strong legal guidance throughout each step of the process, and responding promptly to all questions and concerns along the way. We also take all personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis, so you only pay attorney fees if we win your case.
For a free consultation with one of our attorneys, contact us today at 540-586-7225. You may also send a secure and confidential message through our online contact form.
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