Why Tractor-Trailer or Other Large Trucks Collision Claims Require Special Expertise
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If you have been involved in a tractor-trailer collision or a collision with a dump truck or other large commercial vehicle, you need an attorney with expertise in this area. Truck collisions should be handled much differently than the typical auto accident.
While delaying retaining an attorney after a typical auto accident may not be harmful, it almost always is so in a truck collision. An attorney can force the truck driver and trucking company to preserve evidence, which can often later be used against them. (If a truck company destroys evidence after being placed on proper notice to retain the evidence, a jury may be allowed to infer that the evidence destroyed would have been harmful to the company).
Given their size, trucks, of course, are more likely to cause very serious injuries. While a client’s mental and physical pain and suffering, and medical expenses and lost income, must be presented thoroughly, the value of a truck case may be increased significantly by discovering bad conduct on the part of the trucker or trucking company.
Truck drivers and trucking companies are highly regulated by state and federal regulation. It is very rare to find that a truck driver and his company were not in violation of numerous safety regulations at the time of a collision. Often these regulations will subject the trucker and trucking company to punitive (punishment) damages.
For example, often truck drivers are involved in collisions due to fatigue, as they often drive in violation of “hours of service” regulations. The truck company often fails to monitor their drivers competently. For higher profits, they may want their drivers to drive in excess of the law.
Truck companies have a duty to monitor their drivers’ “driver’s logs.” They must monitor fuel receipts to ensure that their drivers’ stated miles driven are accurate. They must monitor their drivers’ health and hearing and eyesight.
The truck collision may have occurred because the truck was overloaded, or was not properly loaded. (A truck driver must inspect his cargo before a trip, and generally, during a trip. This requirement is often ignored).
A lack of brake maintenance may be the cause of the collision. Alcohol and/or drugs may have been the cause of the collision. In most situations the driver is required to submit to drug and alcohol testing following a collision.
A truck driver and a trucking company can be punished for a driver’s prior driving history, as well as for continued bad driving after a wreck in question.
Federal law only requires that trucking records be maintained for certain periods of time, sometimes only for six months. An attorney can take steps to ensure that these records be retained indefinitely. These records are extremely important, and can include driver’s logs, and on-board computer records which detail speed and miles driven, etc.
A competent truck personal injury attorney will determine whether the trucking company can be named as a party to a lawsuit. Trucking companies often make bogus contentions, through highly specialized defense counsel, that the driver was an “independent contractor,” and, therefore, they are not liable. These contentions are normally successfully challenged. (Having a corporate defendant as a party generally enhances the value of a claim).
A competent truck personal injury attorney is also needed to determine whether the trucking company’s insurer can also be named as a party. (Normally, in a personal injury action, only the individual who caused an injury or the company that employed the individual can be sued, and not their insurer. There are different standards in trucking cases). While having an insurer as a party in the lawsuit does not change the availability or amount of insurance coverage for the injury, it does have a positive effect with a jury.
In summary, if you have been injured in a large truck collision, you should consult immediately with a personal injury attorney with expertise in truck collisions. Normally, even with the injury being identical, the truck claim has a much higher value than the typical automobile collision claim. I believe this only to be the case if you have legal representation.
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