Should I Hire a Truck Accident Lawyer for a Minor Accident?

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Truck accidents are becoming increasingly more common and deadly. In 2019, 5,237 large trucks and buses were involved in fatal crashes, which was a 2% increase from 2018. Truck accident claims can be even more complicated than car accident claims, so if you’re involved in a truck accident and want to file a claim, you may want to know if you should hire a lawyer.

Should I Hire a Truck Accident Lawyer for a Minor Accident?

Because truck accident claims can quickly become complicated and time-consuming, it may help to hire a truck accident lawyer with the know-how to effectively navigate through the process. You’re also more likely to receive greater compensation with the help of an attorney than if you choose to go it alone as he or she will have the experience to negotiate efficiently with the insurance company or go to court, if necessary.

What are the Differences Between a Truck Accident and a Car Accident?

Because of the size and strength of trucks, accidents involving these vehicles tend to result in greater property damage and more severe injuries. Truck insurance companies also tend to have higher liability limits than car insurance companies. This means that insurance companies will work harder to protect their financial interests while negotiating your claim.

Truck accident claims typically take longer and are more complicated than car accident claims. Trucks are typically owned by employers and driven by their employees meaning more is at stake for the employer than what would normally be the case for a typical car accident claim.

How Does Fault Work in a Truck Accident Claim?

Determining who is at fault in a truck accident can be a bit tricky as it works differently from car accidents and may involve multiple parties.

Often, an insurance company will be liable. You will always negotiate through your own insurance company but this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re responsible for the accident. It might be the case that the other driver’s or their employer’s insurance company is accountable.

In some cases, the employer of the driver may be at fault if they allowed the driver to operate the truck when they knew he or she was impaired; for instance, if the driver had a known problem with alcohol and drove drunk.

If the other driver is an independent contractor, the employer may argue that the company isn’t responsible for the driver’s conduct. If the court determines a specific part on the truck is responsible for the accident, the part manufacturer may be liable.

What is Comparative Negligence and Does It Apply to Me?

Depending on which state the accident took place in, the claims process may be subject to comparative negligence laws. This essentially means that the court may consider you partially at fault for the accident and your compensation will reflect that. For example, if a court determines that you were 50% at fault for the accident, you will only receive 50% of the total damages.

Comparative negligence comes in four subtypes: pure comparative negligence, modified comparative negligence, slight/gross negligence, and pure contributory negligence.

  • Pure comparative negligence means that the court may decide you are entitled to some compensation even if it’s determined you were mostly at fault for the accident. For example, even if you’re 90% at fault, the court might still determine you are entitled to 10% of the total damages.
  • Modified comparative negligence means you may not be entitled to any compensation if your fault percentage goes over a certain amount. If, for instance, the court determines you are at least 51% at fault for the accident, then you might not be entitled to any compensation.
  • Slight/gross negligence is practiced only in South Dakota and is similar to modified comparative negligence. Instead of a percentage-based fault system, the terms “slight” and “gross” are used to describe fault. If you were grossly at fault, the court may decide that you’re not entitled to anything, but if you were only slightly at fault, you could be.
  • Pure contributory negligence would mean that if the court says you were at all at fault for the accident, you are not entitled to any compensation. In other words, if you were even 1% at fault for the accident, you would not be entitled to any damages.

What Should I Do If I’m Hit by a Truck?

No matter what, don’t try to flee the scene of an accident. If you do, the police may charge you with a hit and run. At best, if no one was injured, the police could charge you with a misdemeanor. At worst, if there were injuries, the charge might escalate into a felony with greater fines and longer jail time.

The first thing you should do after an accident is to call 911 and answer any questions they have. Try to move your vehicle to somewhere safe from the flow of traffic, if possible. While waiting for the police and an ambulance to arrive, assess your injuries. If any are visible, take photos of them. When medics arrive at the scene, let them assess your injuries. If they offer you a ride to the hospital, accept it. Shock and adrenaline may mask the symptoms of an injury, so you may be more injured than you realize.

If you decline a ride to the hospital, the insurance company may use this against you and use it to argue that your injuries aren’t as serious as you claim.

What If I’m Not Offered a Ride to the Hospital?

If you’re not offered a ride to the hospital, document the scene of the accident. Take photos of any property damage, street and traffic signs, skid marks, debris, license plates, and landmarks. Note the weather and street conditions as well as the time of day.

When an officer arrives, they will create a report. Ask them how you can obtain a copy and get his or her name and badge number. This report may be necessary when filing a claim with the insurance company.

Don’t inadvertently admit fault when speaking with the truck’s driver. This means refraining from apologizing for the accident as such a statement can be used by the insurance company as evidence against you.

What Is an Injury Demand Letter?

An injury demand letter is a communication you send to your insurance company that details all of your expenses and provides an argument why you believe you are entitled to them; i.e., why the other driver is at fault for the accident. This should be an all-inclusive letter that contains comprehensive documentation of your injuries, the costs of treatment for those injuries, and records that support your claim. At the end of the letter, provide an exact dollar amount that you’re demanding from the insurance company.

This letter initiates negotiations with the insurance company and you can expect them to write back with a counter-offer. They will make an argument why you’re owed less than what you claim. You can then write back with your counter-offer. This back-and-forth will continue until either you reach a settlement or negotiations break down in which case you will have the option of going to trial.

Because of the comparatively complex and high-stakes nature of truck accident claims, you may wish to hire an attorney to help represent you during the claims process. Contact us at Mike Morse Law Firm for a free consultation to find out what options are available to you.

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