Picture of large semi-truck

Regardless of the type of personal vehicle you drive, being hit by something over ten times larger and heavier than your vehicle is disastrous, which is why semi-truck accidents are so dangerous and often so severe. First as an ER nurse and now as a personal injury lawyer, many of the worst injuries I’ve ever seen have been from semi-truck accidents. Even as relatively low speeds, the damage to you, your passengers, and your vehicle can be significant and have lasting effects. If you were harmed because someone else wasn’t careful, be it a truck driver or a trucking company, you can file a personal injury lawsuit against them.

These types of cases come up a lot in my law practice, so I’ve put together a complete guide to trucking accidents, so you can have the most information to make the best decisions for you and your family.

What should I do if I’ve been in a wreck with a semi-truck?

  1. Check to ensure you and everyone involved in the accident are okay
  2. Call 911 is someone is injured. If no one is injured, call the local police department’s non-emergency number, if you know or can find it. Do not assume someone else has called
  3. Take photos of all the vehicles involved, the damage to your vehicle, and as much of the scene of the accident as possible
  4. Ask the other driver(s) for their insurance information, and ask any witnesses who stopped to offer to help for their contact information
  5. Contact your insurance company to report the accident and open a claim. Many companies allow you to do this online or through their app, others require you to call
  6. When the police arrive, answer their questions as honestly and fully as you can.
  7. Ask the officer who took the police report how you can obtain a copy
  8. Arrange for a tow truck and a ride if your vehicle isn’t safe to drive. If it is drivable, when the police tell you that you are free to go, carefully drive to a safe location
  9. Follow the instructions of your insurance company regarding having the damage to your vehicle evaluated
  10. Make an appointment with your doctor to get checked out, even if you don’t feel hurt—some injuries don’t present themselves for 2-3 months after a wreck
  11. Write down everything you remember from the accident as well as what happened directly after
  12. Keep all bills and documentation related to your accident

Can I sue a trucking company?

Under the right circumstances, you can file a lawsuit against the trucking company that employed the person responsible for your accident. If a trailer’s axel cracks, a break line leaks, or a tire blows because it was retreaded too many times, the company that owns the truck or trailer was negligent in a way that directly resulted in the accident and can be sued for it. An unbalanced or improperly secured load can also lead to an accident. Drivers should check their loads before setting out, but the company that loaded the trailer could also be at fault for the way it was loaded, failing safety checks, or pressuring drivers to skip or rush through safety checks. I’ve also encountered situations where companies low on drivers knowingly hired drivers with the wrong type of license for the type of load they were driving. They can be sued for doing so, and the driver can be sued too.

Picture of large semi-truck

How do I document my accident?

  • Take pictures and video of the scene
  • Obtain a copy of the police report
  • Write down everything you remember about the accident
  • Visit a doctor or hospital
  • Gather your medical bills and all your medical information related to your injuries
  • Keep pay stubs showing any income you lost because of the accident, including shifts you missed because you were injured or didn’t have access to your vehicle
  • Keep copies of any correspondence with your boss or supervisor discussing missed shifts and how the accident has impacted your work, including text messages and emails

The insurance company already offered me a settlement, should I hire an attorney?

My number one piece of advice is to get a second opinion before you agree to a settlement. Whether it’s with me or another experienced semi-truck accident attorney, get a second opinion. If the insurance company tries to push you into accepting, tell them you need to think about it and hang up. Then call an attorney who has the experience and compassion to sit down with you, listen to your story, ask questions, and tell you if the settlement you’re being offered is fair. I do this with people all the time, and it’s why I offer free consultations. I want you to have the best legal counsel so you can make the best decisions for yourself and your family.

I understand why people are hesitant to contact lawyers, especially if they aren’t sure if negligence was involved in their accident. This can be especially true when medical bills are starting to come in and you need money to pay them. But I also know that most people have no idea what a fair settlement is.

When dealing with an insurance company, you have to remember that they don’t care about you. They don’t exist for your welfare. They exist to make money, and they will try to pay out as little as possible because that means they get to keep the rest for themselves. They do this by relying on a person’s lack of knowledge about insurance and semi-truck accidents. In hiring an attorney or even just consulting with one, you are looking out for yourself by bringing in an expert who will tell you the truth about how much is fair in your situation.

How do I know if a settlement offer is fair?

A fair settlement after a semi-truck accident should compensate you for the amount of money you lost or will lose and suffering you endured as a result of someone else’s negligence. We often discuss this amount as damages. Damages include all of the following:

  • Property damage
  • Current and future medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of future earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of support
  • Loss of enjoyment of life

Your medical bills are damages, but so is the money you expect you’ll have to spend in the future as a result of your injuries. If you will need surgery in the future or will need a specific medication for the rest of your life, these costs are included in damages. Costs necessary to adapt your home to fit a disability that resulted from the accident are also damages. The cost to repair or replace your vehicle counts, and so does the cost of your iPad if it was shattered or destroyed in the accident. If you weren’t able to go to work the day of the wreck and lost wages because of it, those are damages. This is also true if you haven’t been able to return to full duty or work full-time after the accident. If you injured your back and had to be put on light duty or can no longer do you job at all, those lost wages are damages. If you won’t be able to obtain an expected promotion after the wreck because of your injury, the future earnings you’re missing out on should also be included as damages.

The hardest aspects to calculate relate to your pain and suffering and the emotional and mental losses you endured as a result of the accident. How much is a severed finger worth? What if it means you can never go fly fishing again? How much compensation do you deserve for the half-dozen painful surgeries you endured in the first month after your accident? If you can no longer teach because of a traumatic brain injury, and won’t be able to collect a pension because you didn’t teach for enough years, how much is that loss of support worth? The truth is, every situation is unique, but I have nearly 30 years worth of experience to help you figure that out. Write down everything you can, talk to your doctors about your medical future, and make an appointment with me. Together, we’ll work out what would be fair for your situation.

I already accepted a settlement. Can I still sue?

Sometimes, you can sue even if you’ve accepted a settlement from an insurance company. These situations can be tricky, though. You often need evidence that the company or driver was egregiously negligent or engaged in fraud to withhold information with you that would have affected your settlement. It is possible, though, and I always recommend people seek a second opinion from an experienced trucking attorney.

How does the insurance company decide how much money to offer?

The insurance company relies heavily on the police report, and may also send out their own inspectors to examine the vehicles involved. They look at the photos and other documentation you submitted, then they will offer you as little money as they believe they can. That doesn’t necessarily mean what they offer isn’t fair. If it covers all your bills and missed wages and the cost of damage to your vehicle and other property, that might be fair. Just remember that no one involved in the investigation is working on your behalf. The police weren’t at the scene to protect your interests, they were there to clear the road so normal traffic can resume. They also recorded that an incident occurred, but after they file their report, they have nothing else to do with your accident and won’t investigate it further. The investigators from the insurance company certainly aren’t there to do what’s best for you. They’re there to do what’s best for the company, which is to pay as little money as possible.

As your attorney, though, I make you my priority. An injustice occurred that endangered your safety, caused damage to your property, and resulted in injuries that left you with medical bills, a loss of income, and other damages. I’m an RN, so I understand how outrageously healthcare billing can be, even if you have good health insurance. I also understand that even a relatively minor accident can cause a lifetime of expensive health problems. You shouldn’t suffer because of someone else’s negligence, and you shouldn’t be taken advantage of by insurance companies afterward.

How long after an accident should I call an attorney?

The statute of limitations on most semi-truck accidents is two years from the date of the accident. That may seem like a lot of time, but it really isn’t. My team and I need to be able to investigate your accident, the other driver, and the company they work for to discover the truth of who contributed to or caused your accident. Maybe the truck driver has a history of speeding or distracted driving. Maybe they’ve been doctoring their log books. Maybe the trucking company has a broken scale and has been overloading their trucks. I’m very familiar with semi-truck laws and regulations because I learned how to drive a semi-truck and regularly go to conferences to keep up with the latest requirements and technology. This gives me a great advantage, but my team and I still need time to gather evidence, document what occurred, negotiate with the insurance company, and ultimately put together the strongest possible case for you. You’ve already been made to suffer once. Don’t suffer further by waiting to get expert help with your case. Contact me today to set up a free consultation, and let’s get started.

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Tracey L. Dellacona

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