Do I Need A Personal Injury Attorney?
Finding Regulation Violation Evidence. The critical element to winning a claim or lawsuit after a semi-truck or other commercial vehicle accident is proving negligence. Unfortunately, there are times when semi-truck and other professional drivers not only violate the law, but they do so recklessly, knowingly, and willfully. Such flagrant violations are sometimes downright criminal, not just regulatory. If you are able to support your claims with evidence of criminality, willfulness or recklessness, then you may also be entitled to an award of punitive damages, which are in addition to, and may exceed, any actual damages (property damages, injuries, loss of wages, medical care, etc.).
If the injuries you sustain from a truck or other commercial vehicle accident are minor, then you might feel that you are able to handle an insurance claim on your own. However, “pro se” or self-representation does carry significant risks and complications given the difficulty you might have in building your case – including getting access to the log book, drug test screenings, CDL test results, criminal background checks and other evidence related to the semi-truck driver involved in the accident. Additionally, proceeding without an attorney will leave you at a disadvantage to the insurance companies, their professional adjusters, and defense attorneys who routinely value a case based upon such factors as whether you are represented by an attorney, how experienced your attorney is in this area of the law and your attorney’s track record in being willing to take cases to trial if needed. Moreover, if you come to a point where you realize that you need an attorney, you may have permanently weakened or damaged your own case during the time that you tried to proceed on your own – such as by giving a recorded or sworn statement to the insurance company.
What Do I Do If I Am In An Accident With A Semi-Truck?
There are certain ways you can bolster your claim that involve gathering potential evidence of both proximate cause and negligence. If you are ever involved in a collision with semi-truck or other commercial vehicle, there are specific steps to take. You, or someone else if you are incapacitated, should:
- Call local law enforcement. The vast majority of collisions involving a semi-truck or other large commercial vehicle are going to either block traffic completely or at least seriously impact the flow of traffic. On top of this, there may be injuries to yourself or passengers. The eventual police report (usually titled short form or long form “Crash Report”) can prove a very critical piece of evidence in your case, as it should include the following information:
- The personal and contact information of the semi-truck or other commercial vehicle driver, although you should make sure the police also get contact information for any trucking company or other employer.
- The name and contact details of the driver and owner of each vehicle involved in the accident.
- The names of the insurance companies that cover the commercial vehicle driver and his employer.
- An accident scene diagram.
- Names and individual contact information of passengers and other witnesses.
- The weather conditions at the time.
- Notations of any applicable tickets or citations that the truck driver or others receive.
- Take photos and snap images. If you’re like most people, then you have a smartphone with a camera. Use it to capture images of:
- The scene of the accident.
- Both the car and the truck.
- The actual point of impact specifically.
- Look for skid marks.
- The truck driver.
- All injuries.
- Keep an eye out for signs that were damaged or any other collision evidence.
- Jot down notes. If you have a memo pad or paper, write things down. Alternatively, type what you can into your phone. Make observations of the scene. Note specific admissions the truck driver might state, such as “I did not see you” or “I’m sorry.” You also need to note witnesses that might have heard such admissions from the driver. Transfer any notations into a journal as soon as you can.
- Get statements and individual contact information from witnesses. The statements and presence of witnesses are among the most valuable information you can have in your case. Police might not get a chance to talk to all of them, or just neglect to do so. For the ones they do talk to, they may not write down much detail. Get all the contact information you can. You might need to get in touch with witnesses after the accident is cleared by road workers. Be certain you mark down specifics they saw, such as seeing the truck driver run a red light or fail to yield to something or someone, like you.
- Look around for surveillance cameras. Note the location of surveillance cameras that are close to the scene of the accident. Most of the time, you’ll see that they are attached to schools, businesses, or government-owned light poles where they can record intersections and railroad crossings. If you can identify and find the video owners, see if you can get a copy. If they are unwilling, let your attorney subpoena the records as part of building your case/lawsuit.
- Go back to the scene of the accident. If you are healthy enough to do it, go back to the scene the following day. If you are unable to do it, enlist the help of a family member or friend. You should take pictures and make measurements of skid marks and photograph signs or solid objects that might have been moved since the day the accident took place.
What Compensation Can I Expect From A Semi-Truck Accident?
Compensable Damages. If you follow all the suggestions listed above, then you are going to be in a great position to start negotiating on behalf of your personal injury claim and/or building a lawsuit. You will likely want compensation for any damages and injuries you suffer due to the negligence of the semi-truck or other commercial vehicle driver. If the injuries happen to be soft tissue, you may be able to negotiate a claim on your own. The following are examples of soft tissue injuries:
- Back strain or whiplash.
- Contusions, abrasions, and lacerations like cuts, scrapes, and bruises with no permanent disability or scarring.
- Minor burns with no permanent disability or scarring.
- Torn or sprained muscles, ligaments, or tendons with no permanent disability or scarring.
On the other hand, if your injuries are significant, then you should consult a seasoned personal injury lawyer as promptly as possible. More severe injuries include, but are not limited to:
- Broken bones or fractures
- Damage to internal organs
- Internal bleeding
- Second to third-degree burns
- Multiple disk hernias
- Brain or nervous system injuries
- Loss of limb(s)
In addition to injury compensation, you could receive money for:
- Lost wages
- Loss of financial support to survivors in cases involving death
- Consortium loss (the loss of intimacy with and companionship of a spouse)
- Out-of-pocket costs for items such as medical expenses (post and future), including hospitalization, ambulance or air lift transportation, etc.
- Fuel costs and parking fees associated with commuting to and from medical treatment
- Pain, suffering, and/or emotional distress
- Mentorship or companionship loss of loved ones such as children or grandchildren and related pain and suffering
The law firm of Urban Thier & Federer, P.A., has represented many personal injury, truck accident and car accident victims. We have the experience and resources to see your case through to trial and, if necessary, the appellate courts. We have seen the at-fault driver’s insurance companies go to extraordinary lengths to avoid paying out any claims or to attempt to pay out amounts far less than that to which a victim might otherwise be legally entitled. Before you sign anything or have any communication with the insurance companies, at-fault driver’s attorney, or anyone else, you should contact us or another experienced attorney to ensure that you protect your rights and your entitlement to full and fair compensation for your injuries or for the death of a loved one.
“This content is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or establish an attorney-client relationship.”