Accidents with commercial trucks can turn tragic in an instant. The size and weight of a commercial truck (a fully loaded tractor-trailer can weigh 80,000 pounds or more) and higher safety risks, such as the potential for cars to get stuck under a trailer and a truck’s wide turning radius, create a very dangerous situation. An accident that would be minor if between two cars can be deadly when a tractor-trailer or other commercial truck is involved.
Perhaps just as frightening as accidents with commercial trucks is finding out that holding a trucking company liable for one’s injuries and getting the compensation you need is often more difficult than doing so in an automobile-only accident. Despite the fact that commercial trucks, their drivers and the companies employing them are more highly regulated than passenger cars and required to carry more insurance, getting appropriate compensation for truck-accident injuries is challenging. This is largely due to the deceptive and dishonest practices that have become prevalent throughout the trucking industry in an effort to minimize their liability in accidents.
If you’ve been injured in an accident with a commercial truck or a family member has been killed in a truck accident, you need to know the following in regard to your case:
1. More is at stake in accidents with commercial trucks
Michigan and federal laws require commercial trucks to carry a minimum of $750,000 worth of insurance for liability in an accident. Additionally, not only are the insurance company and truck driver liable, but the company that owned the truck or hired the driver, the company whose cargo is being carried, the truck supplier and other companies connected to the truck and its cargo could be held liable as well. Since injuries caused by an accident with a commercial truck tend to be more catastrophic and involve higher claims, a lot of money involving a lot of liable parties is on the table.
2. Trucking companies and their lawyers are aggressive and ruthless
Because of the large amount of money at stake in accidents with commercial trucks, trucking companies hire teams of highly skilled attorneys to protect them and minimize their liability and losses when one of their trucks is involved in an accident. These attorneys don’t always play fair. It’s not unheard of for trucking industry attorneys to tell drivers to lie about facts to police, coach them to change their story, or even hide or alter evidence. Remember that potentially millions of dollars are at stake in each case. Trucking attorneys will conduct surveillance on accident victims and dig up their entire medical and legal history looking for anything that may cast a shadow of doubt on the victim’s case.
3. Michigan and federal laws regarding trucking and no-fault insurance are complex
Laws governing liability for injuries caused in accidents with commercial trucks are different than those for injuries caused by other automobiles. Additionally, commercial trucking is highly regulated and many laws apply that do not apply to non-commercial vehicles. Failure to understand these laws and how they can affect a case, whether it’s a no-fault insurance claim to cover medical costs and lost wages or a third-party claim against the trucking company for pain and suffering, can result in missing out on thousands of dollars of potential recovery.
4. The window of time for filing claims and lawsuits is shorter than most people expect
While the State of Michigan provides up to one year to file a first-party claim for injuries sustained in an accident and up to three years to file a lawsuit for recovery of pain and suffering damages, other factors can make waiting a dangerous proposition, especially for third-party lawsuits. Insurance companies can set their own deadlines for filing claims in their policies and those deadlines are subject to change. Failure to file a claim by the appropriate deadline can bar an accident victim from recovering sufficient damages. Additionally, much evidence can disappear when a claim or lawsuit is delayed. For example, after just six months trucking companies can legally destroy driver logs, which often play a critical role in determining a trucking company’s liability.
5. Truck accident victims should hire a lawyer experienced in truck accident injury cases as early as possible
Because of all the factors discussed above, anyone injured in accidents with commercial trucks or who has a family member killed in an accident with a commercial truck should hire a lawyer with extensive experience in trucking-related accidents and injuries. Only a lawyer who is familiar with the intricacies of trucking regulations and laws concerning truck accidents will be able to avoid the potential pitfalls and take advantage of those that favor accident victims. Hiring such a lawyer as early as possible is important so that the attorney can begin his or her investigation and secure important evidence before it is lost or destroyed.
In Michigan, the personal injury firm of Sachs Waldman, P.C., includes several attorneys who are highly experienced in injury cases involving accidents with commercial trucks and can assist in getting you the benefits you’re entitled to. Call our Detroit personal injury attorneys’ office at 1-800-638-6722 to schedule a free consultation.