When Should You Get a Lawyer for a Truck Accident?

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When you sustain injuries in a truck accident, your wisest course of action consists of contacting an experienced local truck accident lawyer as soon as possible. The reasons are two-fold: 1) Your injuries likely will be more serious than those you would typically receive in a passenger vehicle accident; and 2) Determining who to sue for compensation to cover your medical and other costs is more complicated in a truck accident case.

You need an experienced attorney in your corner, fighting for your right to obtain the maximum amount of compensation allowable.

National Truck Statistics

There are well over 1 million trucks traveling the nation’s roads and highways. In terms of ownership, the U.S. Department of Transportation classifies them as follows:

  • For-hire carriers: 996,894
  • Private carriers: 813,440
  • Other interstate motor carriers: 83,235

Trucks are further classified in terms of their gross vehicle weight rating, that is, the number of pounds they can safely carry, including passengers and cargo. The three main classifications consist of the following:

  1. Light-duty
  2. Medium-duty
  3. Heavy-duty

These three are further broken down into eight subclasses.

Light-duty Trucks

These trucks have the following four subclasses:

  1. Class 1: GVWR 0–6,000 pounds (think Ford Ranger)
  2. Class 2A:GVWR 6,001–8,500 pounds (think Ram 1500)
  3. Class 2B: GVWR 8,501–8,501–10,000 pounds (think Chevy Silverado 2500)
  4. Class 3: GVWR 10,001–14,000 pounds (think Ford F-450)

Medium-duty Trucks

These trucks have the following three subclasses:

  1. Class 4: GVWR 14,001–16,000 pounds (think Ram 4500)
  2. Class 5: GVWR 16,001–19,500 pounds (think Ford-550)
  3. Class 6: 19,501–26,000 pounds (think Ford F-650)

Heavy-duty Trucks

These trucks have the following two subclasses:

  1. Class 7: GVWR 26,001–33,000 pounds (think Ford F-750)
  2. Class 8: GVWR over 33,000 pounds (think tractor-trailers)

Truck Accident Statistics

The National Safety Council reports that, nationwide, large trucks accounted for 4,842 fatal crashes in 2020 and 107,000 crashes that resulted in injuries. Other statistics include the following:

  • Between 2009 and 2020, large truck crashes increased by 52%.
  • Large trucks are involved in 74% of all crashes in which passenger vehicle occupants are killed.
  • Single-unit trucks account for 26% of fatal crashes, while tractor-trailers account for 74%.
  • When a truck collides with another vehicle, the result is one or more fatalities 75% of the time.

Truck Accident Liability

As mentioned earlier, determining who is liable for the injuries you receive in a truck accident can become very complicated very quickly. This is because the list of potential defendants in your personal injury lawsuit includes all of the following:

  • The driver of the truck
  • The company that employed him or her
  • The truck’s owner
  • The truck’s manufacturer
  • The cargo company that owned the truck’s load
  • The company that loaded the cargo onto the truck

Truck Driver

Under the following circumstances, the truck driver himself or herself can be held liable for your injuries:

  • He or she was an independent contractor.
  • He or she violated a federal or state law while driving.
  • He or she drove on a suspended or revoked commercial driver’s license.
  • He or she drove when overly fatigued, distracted or while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Trucking Company

If a trucking company employed the driver, this company may well be held liable for your injuries, assuming that the driver was “on the clock” and performing one of his or her employment duties when the accident occurred.

Truck Owner

Truck companies and owner-operators often lease their vehicles rather than buy them. If such was the case in your accident, you may have a cause of action against the truck’s actual owner.

Truck Manufacturer

You may likewise have a cause of action against the truck’s manufacturer if a design flaw or defective part caused or contributed to the accident.

Cargo Company

The cargo company is another potential defendant in your lawsuit, especially if your attorney can prove that it failed to exercise reasonable care in choosing the company to load its goods and/or the owner-operator or trucking company to carry them.

Cargo Loader

If a load shift or other cargo problem caused or contributed to the accident, you could have a legitimate claim against the company or people responsible for proper loading.

Damages

Whoever you ultimately sue, you will be asking for several different types of damages, i.e., compensation, including the following:

  • Economic
  • Noneconomic
  • Property

Economic Damages

The actual losses you sustain as a result of your truck accident injuries, plus your future reasonable losses, make up your economic damages, which consist of your medical expenses and your loss of income.

Medical Expenses

In terms of your current medical expenses, these include the following:

  • Transport to the hospital following your accident
  • Emergency department treatment
  • Diagnostic tests
  • Hospital treatment if your injuries are severe enough to warrant hospitalization
  • Prescription drugs

In terms of your future medical expenses, these could include such things as the following:

  • Ongoing doctor appointments
  • Ongoing rehabilitation or physical therapy expenses
  • Any needed medical equipment you must purchase
  • Any home remodeling you need to do to accommodate your injuries

Income Loss

Your loss of income includes not only the amount you have already lost while in the hospital, but also the amount you can expect to lose in the future if your injuries prevent you from returning to your job or, in a worst-case scenario, prevent you from obtaining comparable employment anywhere else.

Noneconomic Damages

While your economic damages compensate you for your actual dollar losses, your noneconomic damages compensate you for the intangible, but no less real, results of your injuries. Examples include the following:

  • The physical pain you suffer
  • The emotional and mental anguish you suffer
  • The loss of identity or self-worth you experience if you now must use a wheelchair, one or more prostheses or a white cane in order to navigate your new normal world
  • Your distress over being seen in public with disfiguring scars

Property Damage

As the name implies, your property damages cover the losses sustained by your vehicle in the accident, plus the loss of personal property, such as your cell phone, laptop or custom stereo system inside the vehicle.

Punitive Damages

If any action or failure to act on the part of one of more defendants in your lawsuit was egregious in nature or constituted a reckless disregard for life, the jury may award you punitive damages in addition to your economic and noneconomic damages. While the purpose of the latter two is to compensate you, the purpose of punitive damages is to punish the defendant or defendants.

Keep in mind that personal injury lawsuits are civil in nature, meaning that the judge and jury cannot send a defendant to prison. They can only punish him or her financially, which is why the amount of punitive damages, when granted, so often far exceeds the amount of compensatory damages.

Bottom Line

Bottom line, the amount of damages you can recover after a truck accident depends not only on the severity of your injuries, but also on the skill of your attorney. This is why, if your accident occurred in Michigan, it’s a good idea to contact the Mike Morse Law Firm as soon as possible.

We have been helping injured clients, including truck accident victims, get the compensation they deserve for nearly 30 years, and our team of experienced, empathetic, and approachable attorneys stands ready, willing and able to help you, too. Please contact us today.

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