Topic: Filing a Commercial Truck Accident Injury Claim
If You’ve Been Injured in an 18 Wheeler or Commercial Truck Accident Our Attorneys Can Help You Pick Up the Pieces and Hold the Driver and Company Accountable
In these injury cases, the stakes are usually very high. Our Dallas truck accident lawyers have the knowledge, skills, and financial stability necessary to take on the insurance and trucking companies. We have fought for the rights of accident victims for over 30 years. We can make sure the at-fault driver, and the trucking company they work for, are held responsible for your injuries.
(Jennifer Foster’s contact information is available upon request.)
The decision you make right now can greatly impact your potential recovery if you have suffered injuries in a trucking accident.
Remember: Big insurance companies know they have increased exposure when a commercial truck or 18-wheeler has been involved in a collision. The minimum liability insurance policy on most tractor trailers is $1,000,000.00. Many insurance companies have stand-alone departments just to deal with commercial truck accident claims. These units often hire private investigators to film you in the days, weeks, and even months following the accident.
Below you will find detailed information on the typical progression of a truck accident case, and specifically how we can help in each area. Click the links to jump right to each section.
Q: How serious do insurance companies take 18-wheeler or trucking accident cases?
A: Very. Most insurance companies have private investigators to investigate trucking and 18-wheeler claims. In addition, most have special departments that handle only those types of cases.
How We Can Help You: Our Dallas law firm’s private investigator will quickly request a copy of the Texas Peace Officer’s Crash Report generated as a result of your truck accident (if available). We will take photos and video footage of the vehicles involved in the accident, as well as the area where the collision occurred. Our Dallas truck accident attorneys will interview and obtain fact witness affidavits from those who witnessed the wreck. We also run various public records database searches and utilize the FIA (Freedom of Information Act) to request various records associated with the accident, the driver of the commercial truck or 18-wheeler, and the company that employs the driver.
Remember: A private investigator hired by a trucking company could try and film you as you go about your day. Be mindful of the situations you place yourself in as you recover from your injuries, as they will use anything they can against you.
Q: An 18-wheeler collided with me. What should I do first?
A: Make sure you and any passengers are safe. Exit your vehicle if it is safe to do so and then verify if anyone else involved was injured. If anyone sustained injuries you should immediately contact 911 and law enforcement.
Q: Should I move my vehicle away from the scene of the truck wreck?
A: Before moving your car or allowing the truck driver to move their tractor trailer, you should take a substantial number of photographs of all of vehicles involved in the accident.
Important: Try to keep any vehicles involved from being moved until after law enforcement has arrived at the scene. If that is not possible, make sure you take photographs of the placement of the automobiles involved before they are moved!
Q: Should I talk to the truck driver?
A: Yes. You should ask the truck driver if they are injured and if so contact 911. If the truck driver admits he or she made a mistake at the scene of the accident, consider recording their statement with your cell phone recorder function.
Q: Should I call Police to the Scene of the truck accident?
A: Absolutely. The results of the law enforcement officer’s investigation of the trucking collision will be documented in a Texas Peace Officer’s Crash Report. This report can greatly aid in establishing liability against the truck driver and trucking company.
Remember: If law enforcement officials refuse to investigate the truck wreck, be sure to secure the following information from the at-fault driver: full legal name, home address, CDL license number, and date of birth. In addition, take a photograph of his or her insurance card if possible, as the company the driver worked for at the time of the collision could be critical in the future.
Q: What information should I get from witnesses of the truck accident?
A: Do not just get the name and phone number of a potential witness. That is a huge mistake, especially if the witness has a fairly common name. Also, remember that phone numbers change. It is critical that you get any witnesses to the truck accident to provide their date of birth and/or driver’s license number, so you can track them down later if necessary. If a witness is favorable to your position, you should ask them to make a statement at the scene and record it.
How We Can Help You: Our Dallas truck accident law firm has an in-house private investigator who will attempt to locate any witnesses to the wreck. Even if witnesses are not identified in the police report. Our investigator has been trained to canvas the scene of these trucking accidents for any and all potential witnesses.
Q: I’m just a little bit sore. Should I tell the police officer or emergency responders that I’m injured?
A: Yes. If you have any amount of pain or discomfort, you should let the investigating officer and any medical personnel at the scene, know that you have been injured. If you don’t report pain and discomfort at the scene, the trucking company and their insurance carrier will suggest you were not really injured.
Remember: The trucking company or their insurance carrier will likely attempt to argue that you were not really injured, if you tell the responding officer you were not hurt.
Important: It is imperative you seek medical treatment as soon as you begin experiencing any symptoms whatsoever from the truck accident. If you previously reported you were not injured to police or any insurance company, it is even more important that you not delay seeking medical attention.
Q: I was rear-ended by an 18-wheeler so we don’t need to have police come to the scene, right?
A: Wrong. Insurance carriers and trucking companies consistently deny claims where people have been rear-ended by a truck. The truck driver may claim you stopped your vehicle suddenly or that they were faced with a “sudden emergency”.
Remember: Always call police to the scene of an 18 wheeler accident if possible.
Q: If the police officer is unable to determine who is at fault, does that mean I can’t win my truck acccident case?
A: No. A jury is always free to judge the credibility of witnesses. It is possible to win a “swearing match” case, but your odds of success will likely increase if an independent witness is in your favor, or a retained expert, such as an accident reconstructionist, is utilized.
How We Can Help You: Our Dallas law firm employs a private investigator for this very reason. Known witnesses can be interviewed as well as potential witnesses at nearby apartment complexes, homes, or businesses can be questioned in order to locate witnesses. In addition, in discovery any and all records kept by the truck’s on-board recording electronic control module, or motor vehicle event data recorder, would likely be discoverable. In short, many trucks have a “black box” similar to an airplane. Finally, our Dallas truck accident lawyers have advanced client’s money in the past to retain an accident reconstruction expert to help establish liability on the at-fault truck driver.
Q: What organizations might have records related to my truck accident, the truck driver, or the trucking company?
A: Depending on the facts and circumstances of your 18-wheeler accident, the following agencies may have documents that could assist your case: Texas Department of Public Safety, United States Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, Federal Office of Motor Carrier and Highway Safety, National Driver Register, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, National Transportation Safety Board, Office of Motor Carrier Safety, Texas Department of Transportation, and Texas Transportation Commission.
How We Can Help You: Our Dallas truck accident lawyers routinely request documents from various government entities. Upon hire we will quickly and efficiently secure any and all available documents that could be helpful to your case.
Q: What rules and regulations are truck drivers and trucking companies subject to?
A: Truck drivers and trucking companies are generally subject to a substantial number of rules and regulations. Depending on the circumstances of your case, the following could be applicable: Federal Hazardous Materials Regulations, State of Texas Hazardous Materials Regulations, State of Texas Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, and Texas Transportation Code.
How We Can Help You: The Dallas truck accident attorneys at our firm are knowledgeable in regards to various rules and regulations applicable to truck drivers, and we will identify any possible violations by the trucking company or its driver.
Q: When should you file claims for damages as a result of an 18-wheeler wreck?
A: You should set up various insurance claims as soon as you are able to after a trucking accident.
Remember: Do not think that just because the truck driver said he or she was “sorry” at the scene of the wreck, that liability will be accepted by the trucking company or its insurance carrier. Truck drivers operate on a point system and can lose their commercial driver’s license if they accumulate too many points. As a result, the truck driver will often have a strong motivation not to be truthful.
Q: What claims should be established with the trucking company or your insurance company?
A: You might have several insurance claims to establish following a truck wreck. Below you will find just a few of the potential insurance claims you may need to establish.
- Liability claim against the truck driver (property damage as well as injury damages);
- Liability claim against the company the truck driver was working for at the time of the accident (property damage as well as injury damages);
- PIP monies through your own automobile insurance policy to reimburse your for medical expenses and/or money you have lost if you are unable to work; and
- MedPay monies through your vehicle insurance or the at-fault party’s vehicle insurance (Offset allowed if you obtain a recovery).
Q: What are the typical liability limits in an 18-wheeler accident?
The vast majority of truck policies and/or commercial vehicle policies will have insurance coverage in place of at least $250,000 per person / $500,000 per accident. Many times they will have coverage limits of $1,000,000 per person / $2,000,000 per accident.
Example: If three persons are injured in the same truck accident, and the at-fault driver’s policy limits are $250,000 per person / $500,000 per accident, the most any single person could get under the insurance policy is $250,000, and the most the liability carrier would have to pay out in total is $500,000.00, even if combined damages were well in excess of that amount.
How We Can Help You: It is very important to explore all potential sources of insurance coverage if you have suffered traumatic or life-altering injuries in an 18 wheeler wreck. Our Dallas truck accident lawyers are adept at verifying whether the truck and its trailer may be covered under separate insurance policies, thus maximizing your potential recovery.
Q: Does it matter if the truck driver was an independent contractor?
A: Yes. Employers are generally not liable for the negligent actions of an independent contractor. Texas follows the doctrine of Respondeat Superior, however, and companies are liable for the negligent actions (or omissions) of an employee, while said employee is in the course and scope of his or her employment for the company. For example, if you were injured in an 18-wheeler crash with a Swift Transportation truck, the driver operating the truck and Swift Transportation would both be proper Defendants in a lawsuit.
How We Can Help You: The amount of available insurance proceeds could depend on whether the truck driver was an independent contractor (no coverage) or employee (coverage) of the trucking company. Our Dallas truck accident attorneys are familiar with the factors used to determine the status of the driver and can make legal arguments to establish the driver was an employee.
Remember: The company’s policy limits don’t matter if they have significant assets. For example, if you suffered devastating injuries due to a JB Hunt truck, you wouldn’t need to be concerned with the insurance limits since JB Hunt has millions and millions of dollars that could be seized in a judgment.
Q: Should I take my car to the repair shop the trucking company’s insurance carrier recommended to me?
A: No way. The body shops recommended by the trucking company’s liability carrier are recommended for an easy to guess reason, i.e. they charge less for repairs. The trucking company and its carrier want your automobile damage to be very low so they can argue you were involved in a “minor” collision. Have an estimate performed by the auto dealership or body repair shop of your own choosing.
Q: Do you get a rental vehicle if you are involved in a wreck with an 18-wheeler or commercial truck?
A: Yes. But usually only if your automobile can be repaired and isn’t totaled. If your vehicle is fixable and drivable, you can generally get a like and similar rental car for the amount of time it would take to fix your car. If it’s a total loss, then you may likely only recover the fair market value of your automobile and insurance companies generally do not generally reimburse you for the cost of a rental car.
Q: Can your law firm assist me in obtaining a rental car?
A: Yes, our Dallas truck accident attorneys can help you secure a rental vehicle while your automobile is being repaired, or while the liability carrier for the trucking company is determining whether your automobile is a “total loss”.
Q: Can I recover damages for the diminished value of my automobile?
A: Yes, generally. Establishing diminished value often requires an Expert Report. On 18 wheeler accident cases, our Dallas law firm is happy to advance the money on your behalf to obtain an expert report, if the damage to your car warrants it.
Q: What can I recover if my automobile is a “total loss”.
A: If your car is totaled following a trucking accident, then you can recover only the fair market value of your vehicle. The fair market value is measured by what similar vehicles are being sold for on the open market. Fair market value is not measured by Kelly Blue Book or NADA Book Value.
Q: Do companies exist that loan money based on securing an interest in your settlement?
A: Yes. Many of these law loan companies, however, charge a ridiculous interest rate.
How We Can Help You: Most law loan companies require you to be represented in order to qualify for a loan. Our Dallas truck accident attorneys routinely help clients secure loans that charge a flat fee, as opposed to a continuously compounding loan. This sometimes saves our clients thousands of dollars.
Q: Should I go to the hospital if I have pain and discomfort after a truck accident?
A: Absolutely. If you experience pain and discomfort following an 18-wheeler accident, you should be safe and get examined. Large trucks and tractor trailers weigh thousands and thousands of pounds. It is better to be cautious and get examined, since the insurance carrier for the trucking company will use the fact that you didn’t go to the hospital against you, in an attempt to suggest you weren’t hurt bad enough to go.
Q: What are some of the typical injuries people sustain in trucking accidents?
A: We have noticed that spinal injuries are very common in truck wreck cases. These spine injuries can be sprain/strain in nature or more objective, such as herniated discs or annular tears. Truck accident victims often need extensive physical therapy and pain management to make a full recovery from their injuries.
Truck wrecks obviously can also lead to broken bones, fractures, muscle tears, and the necessity of spinal surgery. In fact, we have assisted a significant number of clients who were injured in truck wrecks and needed surgical procedures performed, usually spinal fusions or discectomies. Through our relationships with providers, the clients were able to have the necessary surgical proedures performed at no up-front cost to them.
Q: What happens if my health insurance carrier pays some of my medical bills following a truck accident?
A: If your health insurance carrier or Medicare or Medicaid makes payments on your behalf for injuries related to your trucking accident, the carrier or agency is generally entitled to be reimbursed out of your settlement proceeds, a right known as subrogation.
How We Can Help You: The amount the carrier or agency is entitled to be reimbursed can differ, but we are almost always able to secure a reduction of health insurance liens or workers’ compensation liens.
Q: Do medical providers exist that have experience in treating victims of commercial truck wrecks?
A: Yes. Many doctors refuse to treat patients who have been injured in a truck accident because they fear getting deposed or otherwise drawn into a legal dispute. But some providers do exist that are willing to provide services for truck injury victims.
How We Can Help You: Our Dallas truck accident lawyers will assist you in securing any and all medical attention you require following the collision. Our law firm has been in business over 30 years and we have strong relationships with various healthcare providers who primarily assist people that have been injured in accidents.
Upon your request, we can help you locate a doctor in Dallas, Plano, Fort Worth or anywhere in the DFW metroplex, that will delay billing you for his or her medical services until the conclusion of your truck accident case. In fact, our law firm even works with surgeons, hospitals, surgical facilities, and even anesthesiologists, who are willing to forego payment until the settlement of your trucking accident claimn, if you require surgery.
Q: Can you recover the wages you have lost because of the 18-wheeler accident?
A: Yes. The trucking company or insurance company, however, will want your loss of earnings to be well documented. In the past we have helped clients establish a legal right to these damages, by utilizing fact witness affidavits, company correspondence, and certified tax and earnings documents.
An Example: We represented a young female whose job was classified as “Light” according to exertional demands. She underwent a Physical Performance Examination that indicated she did not have the capacity to perform at the “Light” exertional level. She was held out of work until she was capable of performing her job duties without the risk of aggravating her injuries.
Q: Can you recover damages for loss of earning capacity due to a truck accident injury?
A: Yes. Loss of earning capacity is the total amount of wages you will lose over the course of your lifetime due to your injuries adjusted to net present value.
How We Can Help You: Our Dallas truck accident attorneys utilize both Economists and Vocational Rehabilitation Consultants when needed to prove-up past lost wages or loss of earning capacity.
Q: What other monetary damages are available in a trucking accident claim?
A: If you have been involved in a collision with an 18-wheeler or commercial truck, you might be entitled to the following monetary damages in addition to those described above:
- Past reasonable and necessary medical expenses;
- Future reasonable and necessary medical expenses;
How We Can Help You: Our Dallas injury law firm has utilized a Life Care Planner on trucking accident cases in the past. We front the cost of this expert’s report if you have sustained life-altering injuries and will need life-long accommodations due to the nature of your injuries.
- Automobile repair costs;
- Replacement car cost; and
- Diminished value.
Q: What non-economic damages are available in the context of a trucking or 18-wheeler accident claim?
A: If you have been involved in truck collision you may be entitled to damages for:
- Pain and suffering – both past and future;
- Mental anguish – both past and future;
- Physical impairment – both past and future; and
- Loss of consortium.
Remember: Non-economic damages, unlike economic damages, are generally not ascertainable to a fixed degree. For example, if you made $5,000 a month and were injured in a trucking accident that caused you to miss four months of work, your loss of earnings economic damages are clearly $20,000. Your individual pain, suffering, and mental anguish however cannot be quantified, and a jury would have complete discretion in computing these damages.
How We Can Help You: On truck accident cases, we often oversee preparation of a “day in the life” video. A video demonstrating a typical day in “your shoes” can often be the difference between a good settlement and a great settlement. Our Dallas 18 wheeler accident attorneys have the experience to allow you to answer questions that detail your unique story, and illustrate the devastating impact of your accident.
Q: What are punitive damages?
A: Punitive damages are designed to punish wrongdoers for reckless or grossly negligent conduct. In Texas these damages are generally difficult to obtain and must be examined on a case-by-case basis.
Q: What are some situations that may warrant an award of punitive damages in a truck wreck claim or case?
A: The potential for punitive damages should be explored on every case involving an 18-wheeler or commercial vehicle. Some situations where a finding of recklessness or gross negligence might be warranted include:
- If the truck driver was found to driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol;
- If the truck driver was found to be driving while intoxicated;
- If the truck driver had violated his or her requirements to stop and rest for a minimum number of hours;
- If the truck driver failed to properly secure his or her load; and
- If the truck driver was operating his or her truck at a reckless speed.
Our Promise to You: Our Dallas truck accident attorneys will argue passionately on your behalf in attempting to obtain the best possible settlement for you and your family. We’re good at it. After all, we’ve been fighting for victims of commercial truck and 18-wheeler wrecks for over 30 years.
Q: What is the value of your truck accident case?
A: Most attorneys will only say what you want to hear, even though they realize your case value is directly tied to the extent of the injuries you sustained and other factors that could influence a jury, such as if the truck driver was texting when the collision occurred. We offer guidance on expected case settlement value, only after we have reviewed all case documents and evaluated the arguments raised by the insurance adjuster. Would you want a surgeon to offer an opinion without reviewing medical records?
Q: Are there some guiding principles in valuing a truck accident claim?
A: You bet. If you have suffered a measurable or easily observed injury, as opposed to a sprain or strain type of whiplash injury, your injury claim will certainly have enhanced value. Measureable or easily observed injuries might include fractured bones, broken limbs, herniated discs, extruded discs and other spinal injuries, leading directly to the necessity of surgery such as a fusion or discectomy.
Q: The trucking company is arguing you were also negligent in the accident. What does that mean?
A: The trucking company is suggesting you were also to blame for the accident. In short, they are arguing you were comparatively negligent and that your act(s) or omission(s) contributed to the collision.
Remember: If you are found to be negligent the percentage of fault assigned to you by the jury is deducted from the total verdict. For example, if the jurors awarded $50,000.00 in damages but determined you were 20% at fault, the final verdict would be adjusted to $40,000.00.
Q: If you were partly negligent, are you barred from obtaining a recovery in a truck wreck claim?
A: No, except if the jury determines you are more than 50% at fault for the wreck. Recovery is possible even if the jury determines liability for the accident should be apportioned 50/50, although the total settlement would be reduced by 50%.
Q: What are “reasonable and necessary” medical bills?
A: Under Texas accident law, you are allowed to seek recovery of the amount of monies you paid or incurred to doctors and other medical professionals. The medical bills must be both reasonable and necessary. Trucking companies almost always argue that at least some of the accident victim’s treatment was unreasonable or unnecessary. They usually retain a medical doctor to perform a “peer review”.
Q: What is a pre-existing condition?
A: Truck companies love to suggest that injury victims suffered from a pre-existing condition. The difference between a good settlement and a great settlement can often come down to whether or not medical records and other documentation clearly demonstrate an aggravation of a pre-existing condition.
How We Can Help You: Our Dallas truck accident attorneys often request that a treating medical provider review a client’s pre-accident medical records so that the “Eggshell Plaintiff” doctrine can be argued if applicable. In addition, securing past medical records often leads to the best evidence of pain, suffering, mental anguish, and impairment.
Q: What happens if you decline the trucking company’s last offer?
A: You have the right to initiate litigation against the truck driver and the company he or she was working for.
Q: Should you settle or initiate litigation in a truck accident case?
A: Cases need to be evaluated on an individual basis. Sometimes a $50,000.00 offer before initiating litigation ends up being more money to you than a $70,000.00 offer following the filing of a lawsuit. Consider these factors:
- Attorney fees almost always increase after litigation is initiated.
- Case expenses – especially on trucking cases – usually dramatically increase in litigation.
- Litigation is very time-consuming and often lasts 9-12 months.
- Your health insurance company or a workers’ compensation company might be more receptive to reducing a lien they hold prior to the commencement of litigation.
Our Promise to You: There’s a reason we’ve been in business for over 30 years. Our Dallas trucking accident attorneys give clients the same advice they would give friends or family members. Our only concern is that you get the most money possible for your case.
Q: What is the importance of requesting records relating to the truck’s daily log monitoring device and driver management system?
A: Truck drivers are only allowed to drive a certain amount of consecutive hours before the law requires them to stop and rest. The truck’s daily log monitoring device would potentially demonstrate how many miles the truck driver drove that day or his or her hours of service in a given timeframe. The driver management system should indicate geographical position, hours in service, load balance, and stability data, among other things.
Q: What is the importance of obtaining the truck driver’s qualification file?
A: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations are found in Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations. Documents generated or maintained pursuant to Part 382, 383, and 391 constitute the Driver Qualification File and can be exceedingly useful in determining whether the at-fault truck driver was qualified to be operating an 18-wheeler safely. These records are especially useful in conjunction with the truck driver’s investigative history file and personnel file.
Q: Can the 18-wheeler’s GPS system be utilized to strengthen my case?
A: Yes, if GPS data is available, it would likely be discoverable in litigation through a Request for Production of documents. GPS data can be utilized in a number of ways – including to pinpoint the truck’s location at various times or to confirm the truck’s route of travel.
Contact Our Dallas Truck Accident Lawyers Now
Contact us today for a free consultation in Dallas, Plano or Fort Worth. Our in-house investigator will come to you if need be, and we service the entire DFW metroplex. There is never a fee unless we obtain a settlement. If you mention this ad, we will give you a discounted 28% contingency fee on cases that settle without requiring the filing of a lawsuit, which is something only you can authorize. The standard personal injury contingency fee is 33%, so our special offer could potentially put thousands more in your pocket instead of a law firm’s. We don’t believe your lawyer should be compensated more than you for your injuries.