Why you need to know your legal rights after a trucking accident
SPONSORED — You’ve been involved in an accident with a semi-truck. As a result, you’re facing mounting medical bills and a lengthy recovery period. The future seems uncertain, and you’re unsure of the next steps.
Trucking and insurance companies know victims in these situations are confused, and they use it to their advantage. Seattle attorney Chris Davis at Davis Law Group routinely finds that people who are injured in trucking accidents are not aware of their legal rights and are pressured to accept settlements for far less than what they may legally deserve.
The reality is that commercial vehicle accidents are very different than your average car crash. Semi-trucks by nature are at a physical advantage on roadways – trucks can be upwards of 70 feet long and 20,000 pounds without cargo – and the injuries and other damages that result from a semi-truck collision are naturally more likely to be significant and life-altering. While truck drivers are much less likely to be injured in collisions with passenger vehicles, those in a smaller car face higher medical bills, larger amounts of lost income and greater need for compensation to cover past and future losses.
According to a report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 3,903 people killed in the United States in 2014 in crashes involving semi-trucks/big-rigs/large trucks. Trucking companies often carry insurance policies with 50 times more liability coverage than the minimum insurance policy for a passenger vehicle. With that in mind, it’s easy to see how different semi-truck accidents are from your run-of-the-mill car accident.
Semi-trucks, and most all commercial trucks for that matter, must abide by different regulations than passenger vehicles. Truckers must pay close attention to truck maintenance, carry a special license, undergo routine inspections and pass frequent drug and alcohol tests. For example, truck drivers are subject to a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) limit of just 0.04%, which is much lower than the legal BAC limit of 0.08% that applies to all non-commercial drivers of passenger vehicles. Because of the damage they can cause, no safety measure is too much for truckers.
Why Insurance Companies Are So Aggressive
High potential damages mean high risk for trucking companies. That means most if not all trucking companies have a team of people – including collision experts and lawyers – standing by in the event of a semi-truck accident. If they don’t have an incident response team in-house, chances are good that they have a retainer agreement with a law firm dedicated to defending trucking companies.
After a crash, these teams will typically arrive at a collision scene within the first few hours after a crash. The faster they arrive, the more successful they are in collecting evidence and defending their case, or at the very least minimizing their responsibility.
“I’ve seen cases where a trucking company will send representatives to the accident scene or the hospital on the day of the collision,” Davis says. “When there’s potentially millions of dollars on the line, trucking companies and their lawyers are motivated to find ways to limit their liability and place blame on the victim. That’s why it’s usually a good idea to get a legal team of your own to advocate for your best interests and make sure that the right people are held responsible for negligence.”
Trucking companies have a large playbook of tactics they use to skirt these potential million-dollar lawsuits. Davis says he once spoke with an accident victim who accepted a $5,000 check from a trucking company just days after an accident, money the man thought was a good-faith show of support after a semi-truck caused him life-altering injuries. By cashing the check, it meant the man had effectively taken a $5,000 settlement for the entire claim.
“Lying in the hospital bed in pain and worrying about the future, insurance companies sometimes view people in these situations as an easy target,” Davis says. “If only he’d he had a better understanding of how the legal system worked and what his legal rights were, he would have experienced a much different outcome.”
Many personal injury law firms, including Davis Law Group, will offer a free initial consultation over the phone and in person to sift through the details of your case and help you determine the right course of action. A qualified personal injury attorney with experience in trucking cases will visit or analyze the collision scene, contact witnesses, request law enforcement records, send out preservation of evidence letters, investigate the trucking company and its driver, and retain experts if necessary. Cases such as these take time, and securing the best possible result oftentimes means being patient.
Chris Davis is the author of “Long Haul To Justice: The Accident Victim’s Guide To Semi-Truck Injury Claims,” a hard-copy book about semi-truck accidents designed to educate people about their legal rights and how the insurance claims process works. The book includes relevant information about these types of accidents, as well as an “accident details worksheet” to keep handy in the event of a collision with a semi-truck.
You can order your free copy of Long Haul To Justice, or any of the other books in the Washington Accident Books series, by visiting WashingtonAccidentBooks.com or calling Davis Law Group’s office in Seattle at (206) 727-4000.
Davis Law Group is an award-winning, civil litigation law firm seeking justice for those who have suffered serious or life-changing personal injury as the result of carelessness or negligence and for families that grieve over the wrongful death of a loved one.