Truck Accident Lawsuits: Everything You Need To Know
If you are involved in an accident with a commercial truck, you know that your vehicle’s damage and injuries can be severe. The size, speed, and weight of a commercial truck usually overpower most passenger vehicles.
Unlike collisions with personal vehicles, commercial vehicle lawsuits can be extremely complicated, and you need a truck accident lawyer who is skilled and knowledgeable about navigating these complexities. Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C., has the expertise to help you fight for compensation for your accident.
Here are the top things you need to know when you pursue a truck accident case.
Causes of Truck Crashes
If you are involved in a truck accident, there are a variety of possible causes. Some of the most common include:
- Distracted driving
- Improper cargo loading
- Driver fatigue or impairment
- Equipment defects, failure, or improper maintenance
Most crashes occur during braking, wide-angle turning, or jackknifing.
When a large truck brakes, it takes longer to come to a complete stop due to the rig’s size and weight. If a truck was following you too closely or failed to brake in time, you may prove negligence.
Most trucks have signs on the back warning passenger vehicles to give plenty of space for wide-angle turns. However, on narrow roads or multi-lane intersections, if the truck takes a corner too tightly or swings too wide, it may collide with other vehicles.
Jackknifing occurs when a trailer swings toward the cab, creating a double-up, bent position. Jackknifing can occur in poor road conditions, improper braking procedures, and high-speed turning.
What is Negligence?
Negligence is a standard under the law that must be proven to assign liability. If a truck driver is negligent, they are breaching their duty of safety to those around them on the road.
However, if the driver is an employee or contractor of a commercial company, you may need to pursue a claim against it. Examples of negligence from the trucking company may include hiring an inexperienced driver, not providing proper training, failing to maintain equipment, or requiring drivers to maintain unsafe schedules.
In some cases, trucking companies may also be responsible for unbalanced cargo, overweight vehicles, overloading of trailers, and retaining problematic employees.
When filing a lawsuit, it is not uncommon for your attorney to name all potential defendants who played a role in your accident. In addition to the trucking company and driver, your lawyer may also cite:
- The truck and/or vehicle parts manufacturers if there was a defect in the equipment
- Insurance companies
- City or county governments
- Other drivers
After you file a claim, your lawyer has to prove negligence on the part of either the truck driver or the trucking company, which involves five steps.
- Proving Duty: First, your lawyer needs to show that the trucking company or driver owed you a duty of care. Usually, this duty involves the driver watching out for other drivers, controlling the truck’s movement and speed, and using reasonable care while operating the vehicle.
- Breach of Duty: Next, your lawyer must prove that the driver or company failed to fulfill their duty.
- Proof of Cause in Fact: Your lawyer argues that you would not have been injured if the negligent party hadn’t breached their duty.
- Proximate Cause: Your lawyer uses expert witnesses and your medical records to show exactly what caused your injuries. For example, a crash at high speeds can cause more severe injuries.
- Calculable Damages: To receive compensation, you need to have concrete, provable damages.
Common Truck Accident Injuries
The size and speed of a truck can be particularly devastating for injuries sustained during an accident. Common trucking accident injuries include:
- Loss of limbs
- Brain and spinal cord injuries
- Back and neck injuries
- First-, second-, and third-degree burns
- Internal hemorrhaging
- Traumatic brain injuries
Types of Damages
When you’re involved in a crash with a truck, your injuries may be extensive. You may also need a replacement vehicle or rental costs. While your insurance may cover many of these expenses, your pain and suffering matters.
In Michigan, you can pursue two types of damages: Economic and non-economic.
Economic damages are calculable, like medical bills, lost wages, rental vehicle costs, and doctor copays. In cases where deaths occurred because of the accident, this may also include funeral expenses. For severe injuries, this may involve the loss of future earnings and the cost of long-term care. These damages have a set dollar amount.
Non-economic damages are more ambiguous. They can include factors such as pain and suffering, loss of consortium, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment in life. Michigan does not allow for punitive damages meant to punish the trucking company, but if the defendant’s actions were particularly egregious, you might be eligible for exemplary damages.
Statute of Limitations in Michigan
In Michigan, you have three years from the accident date to file a personal injury claim. While you do have this time, it’s essential to file your truck accident claim sooner, rather than waiting. In the days following an accident, it is much easier to track down eyewitnesses and camera footage, helping to bolster your negligence claim in court.
It’s also crucial for your attorney to have plenty of time to investigate your claim. Your attorney may want access to GPS information, trip recorders, and other logistics technology the trucking company uses to keep track of drivers and deliveries.
If the company is not entirely transparent, this data may be deleted or lost in the three years following your accident. Your personal injury lawyer can file a motion to preserve this evidence immediately. This information may be crucial to solving your case and proving the driver is responsible for the crash.
What about Shared Fault?
In motor vehicle civil cases, you must prove that someone is more than 50% responsible for the accident. If you merged improperly, tailgated a truck, or were negligent in another way, your damages may be reduced by the percentage of responsibility you hold.
For example, if you are found to be 40% responsible for the accident, a $1 million settlement may be reduced to $600,000.
Contact Us Now
In Michigan, you may be involved in a crash with a major trucking company like Central Transport International based in Warren, Michigan. With a fleet of several thousand trucks servicing Canada and 45 US states, the likelihood of a CTI-related collision is higher than with out-of-state, smaller trucking companies.
Working with a lawyer can make the difference between success and failure. At Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C., we are knowledgeable about the Association of Plaintiff Interstate Trucking Lawyers of America, which is dedicated to getting justice for victims of trucking accidents through learning, litigation, and legislation. We do everything possible to ensure you receive compensation. Call our law firm at (866) 642-4529 to set up your free consultation.