Truck Accident Attorneys in Auburn
Accidents involving 18-wheelers and other large commercial trucks are among the deadliest that occur on the roadways. When a big rig truck collides with a passenger vehicle, motorcycle, bicycle, or pedestrian, those involved often sustain severe and catastrophic injuries. These vehicles typically carry more than 80,000 pounds when they are fully loaded, and their sheer weight and size can cause severe damage (to both persons and property) upon impact.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a trucking accident and it was the fault of another party, you deserve to be compensated. These types of cases are far more complicated than standard auto accidents, however. For this reason, it is important to have strong legal counsel in your corner advocating forcefully for your rights and interests.
At Haygood, Cleveland, Pierce, Thompson & Short, LLP, we have successfully represented individuals injured in truck accidents in Alabama for over six decades. Our lawyers have in-depth knowledge of the complexities of these types of cases, and we routinely go up against well-funded adversaries, such as large trucking companies and their insurers. We are skilled litigators and strong negotiators. Whenever possible, we look to negotiate a settlement that fully and fairly compensates our clients for their injuries. If the other side is not willing to negotiate in good faith, however, we are ready and able to pursue full damages through litigation.
What to Do in a Truck Accident
1. Identify Witnesses
One of the most important things that you should do is identify witnesses. Ideally, you will be able to do this while at the scene of the truck accident; however, your injuries may preclude this from happening. If you are unable to identify witnesses at the time that your crash occurs, review the police report from your crash and see whether or not any witnesses were named. If so, you should follow up with them as soon as possible in order to get each witness’s statement about what they saw.
2. Promptly Notify the Insurer
As soon as possible after your crash, you should contact your car insurance company and provide them with notice of the accident. Even though you’ll be speaking to your own insurer, you should be careful about what you say – do not admit fault, nor make claims that can’t be verified (like exactly how fast you were traveling at the time of the crash). Once you notify your insurer, your insurer will open an investigation into your accident. This should include connecting with the commercial vehicle driver’s insurer on your behalf. Ask your insurer if they will be doing this – otherwise, you need to provide the other party’s insurer with notice of the crash, too.
3. Send Spoliation of Evidence Letters
Evidence that is relevant to your crash won’t exist forever. But it’s important that you ensure that it exists for as long as possible, and certainly through the duration of your claim. Types of evidence that may be critical, but which could be destroyed, include vehicle maintenance logs, (truck) driver hours of service logs, vehicle “black box” data, and more. In order to guarantee that this evidence is not destroyed, you need to send spoliation of evidence letters to the appropriate companies (likely the commercial vehicle/trucking company).
4. Hire a Truck Accident Reconstruction Expert
Sometimes, fault in a commercial vehicle accident is very clear and straightforward. For example, if a police report indicates that the truck driver was intoxicated beyond the legal limit, and a witness testifies that the truck driver veered off of the road, causing the tractor to tip and cause a crash, it will be very difficult for the trucking company to escape liability or try to place blame for the accident on your shoulders. In many accidents, however, fault is much less clear, and may even by hotly disputed. If this is the case in your commercial vehicle accident claim, you’ll need to connect with a skilled accident reconstruction expert who can work on reconstructing how your accident occurred. This, like an eyewitness’s testimony, can be a valuable way to add clout to your claim and prove your side.
5. Contact an Alabama Personal Injury Attorney
If you haven’t already done so, if you are involved in a commercial vehicle accident, contacting an attorney should be a top priority.
Common Causes of Truck Accidents
Trucking is one of the largest industries in America, with annual revenues exceeding $1 trillion per year. In fact, the industry so large, it accounts for almost 8% of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). Trucking is certainly a major part of our economy, and with thousands a big rig trucks rolling through Alabama every day, there are bound to be accidents. Unfortunately, a large percentage of these accidents are preventable and caused by negligence on the part of drivers and others involved in the industry.
Some of the most common causes of truck accidents include:
- Fatigued or drowsy driving: In the trucking industry, drivers are under enormous pressure to deliver their cargo on schedule. Oftentimes, they are given unrealistic deadlines that force them to drive longer than they should. Even though federal regulations call for them to take a break after a certain number of hours on the road, many drivers violate these regulations to make their deliveries on time. Under these conditions, drivers tend to get fatigued, drowsy, or even fall asleep at the wheel, resulting in numerous accidents.
- Speeding or reckless driving: Another way that drivers sometimes deal with the pressure of tight deadlines is to drive aggressively. Speeding excessively, tailgating, going through stoplights and stop signs, and similar behaviors put everyone on the road in danger. Most commercial truck drivers are paid by the mile and not the hours they work. So, if they drive at a safe speed or are caught in a traffic jam, they will make less money each day. This prompts some to drive at unsafe speeds and still others to take to the roads when Federal rules say that they should be off duty or resting.
- Driving while intoxicated: Some truckers get behind the wheel after consuming alcohol, illegal drugs, or an excessive amount of prescription drugs. Sometimes, their consumption of these substances is meant to help relieve the stress of the job. Other times, they use these substances to try to stay awake so they can remain on the road longer.
- Distracted driving: Texting while driving and other types of electronic activity while behind the wheel is a major problem among drivers in all age groups and demographics, including truckers. Engaging with an electronic device while driving is especially dangerous, because it distracts the driver in three ways; visually, manually, and cognitively.
- Overloaded or unevenly loaded trucks: In a rush to get their trucks loaded on time, and to deliver more cargo per load, cargo companies sometimes load trucks beyond their acceptable weight limits, or they load them unevenly. In either case, this throws the truck off balance, increasing the chances of rollovers and other types of accidents, especially when drivers encounter adverse conditions on the road.
- Negligent truck maintenance: Big rig trucks log thousands of miles per month. With this much activity, it is critical that these vehicles be maintained properly. However, those in charge of maintenance are also frequently under pressure to get the trucks back out on the road. One way they might deal with this pressure is to cut corners, which could result in a mechanical failure.
- Vehicle part defects: Another issue that is closely related to poor maintenance is the potential for a defective vehicle or vehicle part to be placed in service. Examples may include faulty brake lines, defective tires, and defective fuel tanks. Under the wrong conditions, these defects can lead to breakdowns on the road with catastrophic results.
Damages Available for Truck Accident Victims
When someone is involved in a trucking accident, there are numerous potential parties that may be liable. These may include:
- The truck driver;
- The trucking company that employs the driver;
- The owner or lessor of the truck;
- The cargo company responsible for loading the truck;
- The party responsible for maintaining the truck;
- The vehicle or vehicle part designer, manufacturer, supplier, or distributor.
An extensive investigation is required to determine all the facts and evidence of the case. This may involve obtaining information from parties that are not willing to be cooperative. This is one of the reasons it is important for a seasoned attorney to get involved as early as possible in the process, so all of the critical evidence can be secured, and your legal rights can be preserved.
As mentioned earlier, injuries in truck accident cases are often more severe than with other types of accidents. Compensatory damages that may be available for these types of cases can be divided into two main categories:
- Economic damages: These are losses that are directly quantifiable. Examples include medical expenses (e.g., hospitalization costs, surgeries and other treatments, rehabilitation, costs for ongoing medical care), lost wages, loss of earning capacity, and property damage.
- Non-economic damages: These are losses that are more intangible and difficult to quantify. Examples include physical pain and suffering, emotional distress, diminished quality of life, and loss of consortium.
In rare cases in which the actions of the responsible party were especially egregious, punitive damages may be awarded to “punish” those responsible, and to deter them (and others) from similar behaviors in the future.
Alabama Personal Injury Laws
If your trucking accident occurred in Alabama, the case may be further complicated by the state’s “contributory negligence” legal doctrine. Under contributory negligence, if an injured party is found to be even 1% at fault for the underlying accident that caused the injury, they can be barred from recovering compensation. This is another reason it is very important to work with an attorney who understands these types of cases and has a successful track record pursuing compensation on behalf of their clients. Alabama also has a two-year statute of limitations for most personal injury cases, so it is best to get in touch with an attorney sooner rather than later.
Trucking accidents can turn your whole world upside down. Those involved often suffer severe and debilitating injuries, and it can take months or even years to recover or to reach maximum medical improvement. At Haygood, Cleveland, Pierce, Thompson & Short, we know that truck accidents can take a major physical, emotional, and financial toll on victims and their families, and we do everything possible to help ensure that the legal process is smooth and seamless. From the outside, we thoroughly investigate the case to determine which parties were at fault and to put together a strong legal strategy to recover full compensation. Throughout the process, we communicate regularly and provide ongoing updates for our clients, so they are always kept informed. If you were someone close to you was injured in a big rig accident in Alabama, call our office today at 334-821-3892 to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys. You may also send us a message through our online contact form or stop by our Auburn office at your convenience.