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How Does Insurance Work with Commercial Truck Accident Liability?

Written by Tom Crosley
Dec 02, 2021 Personal Injury, Trucking Accidents, Vehicle Wrecks
  1. 1. Commercial Truck Wrecks Are on the Rise in Texas
  2. 2. Understanding Texas Truck Wreck Law
  3. 3. Who Pays for My Truck Wreck Injuries if a Commercial Vehicle Hit Me?
  4. 4. How Do I File a Truck Wreck Claim With an Insurance Company?
  5. 5. Truck Wreck Claim FAQs
  6. 6. Crosley Law: Fighting for Truck Wreck Victims and Their Families in San Antonio

How Does Insurance Work with Commercial Truck Accident Liability?

Many truck wreck victims have never been in a collision before and aren’t sure where to start. At Crosley Law, we know how overwhelming the aftermath of a truck crash can feel, especially if you or someone you loved suffered serious injuries.

Before you contact the insurance company or accept a quick settlement, you need to read this article. We’ll talk about the essentials of a truck wreck claim and explain how you may be able to strengthen your case.

Commercial Truck Wrecks Are on the Rise in Texas

Because of the rise of ecommerce sites like Amazon, our national economy relies on the big rig trucking industry now more than ever. In Texas, we see an especially high volume of large trucks because of our state’s size, population, and location.

However, this increase in semi-trucks, delivery vans, and box trucks has a harmful side effect: We’re seeing a significant increase in truck wrecks and related car accidents. In 2020 alone, Texas had 32,562 crashes involving commercial vehicles, with 513 of them being fatal.

Unfortunately, these numbers are likely to go up, especially as many of us become increasingly reliant on delivery drivers and online shopping, and as online retailers vie for our attention with lightning-quick delivery times.

However, this increase in semi-trucks, delivery vans, and box trucks has a harmful side effect: We’re seeing a significant increase in truck wrecks and related car accidents. In 2020 alone, Texas had 32,562 crashes involving commercial vehicles, with 513 of them being fatal.

Understanding Texas Truck Wreck Law

Most truck wreck injury claims involve negligence. While people commonly say someone was negligent if they acted carelessly, there’s more to the legal definition of negligence than simply making a mistake. To win a commercial vehicle negligence claim, you must prove:

  • The truck driver, trucking company, or other party owed you a duty of care, such as an obligation to drive safely and follow Texas’ rules of the road.
  • The at-fault party violated this duty of care and caused your injuries.
  • You suffered damages, like lost income and pain and suffering, due to your injuries.

Unless you can prove each of these elements, you are not entitled to compensation in a personal injury claim.

To prove your case, a truck accident lawyer can help you provide evidence that documents your injuries, pinpoints the cause of the crash, and etablishes your damages. Usually, this process will require medical records, proof of your lost income, police reports, and testimony from experts and eyewitnesses.

Compared to the average car crash, truck accident personal injury claims are notoriously complicated. Let’s explore some of the factors that may impact your legal claims after a truck wreck.

RELATED: I Was Injured By a UPS Driver. What Can I Expect?

Who Pays for My Truck Wreck Injuries if a Commercial Vehicle Hit Me?

After a car crash, most victims focus their attention on the at-fault driver. This makes sense because Texas uses a fault-based system, and the negligent party’s insurance company is typically responsible for the victims’ injuries. However, in a truck wreck claim, multiple parties may have contributed to your injuries, including:

  • Truck driver: If the driver caused your collision, they or their employer might be liable for your injuries.
  • Trucking company: Employers are typically responsible for their employees’ actions; they could also face claims involving negligent hiring, coercion (if they forced a driver to break the law), or improper truck maintenance.
  • Shippers: Companies that load trucks and trailers can cause collisions when they overload or improperly pack the cargo.
  • Truck and part manufacturers: If a defective or dangerous truck or part caused the crash, you might have product liability claims against the manufacturer, distributor, and/or retailer.
  • Bars and restaurants: When a bar or restaurant knowingly overserves a drunk driver, they may face dram shop liability.

Each of these parties has their own insurance policies, and you can bet they will hire their own defense lawyers and try to shift blame to someone else after they cause a wreck.

What If I Was a Passenger in a Commercial Vehicle During an Accident?

It’s entirely possible to be hurt in a commercial vehicle as a passenger, whether you’re in a work truck with a colleague or riding in an Uber or Lyft car.

Who pays for your injuries depends on your employment status and if you’re on the clock. Most likely it will be a workers’ compensation plan or auto insurance.

If you and the driver are co-workers and on the clock, you should be covered by the same workers’ compensation plan. If the accident was not your driver’s fault, you may also have a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance.

However, if you’re a passenger in an Uber car and either your driver or another driver causes a wreck, it’s likely the at-fault driver’s auto liability insurance will pay for your costs. (If the other driver caused the accident but was uninsured or underinsured, rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft have uninsured/underinsured motorist policies that would apply.)

How Do I File a Truck Wreck Claim With an Insurance Company?

Before you file an insurance claim, it’s a good idea to consult with an experienced truck accident attorney. Insurance companies aggressively defend truck wreck claims because many commercial policies have relatively high limits.

For example, while the State of Texas only requires drivers to carry 30/60/25 coverage ($30,000 for each person’s injuries, up to $60,000 total per crash, and $25,000 for property damage) for their personal vehicle, semi-trucks often must have a six-figure policy limit due to federal trucking laws. Some commercial vehicles, like buses and trucks that carry hazardous cargo, must carry multimillion-dollar policies.

So, when a truck wreck causes catastrophic injuries, there’s a larger pool of money that victims can use to demand compensation for injuries and losses. However, insurers will use every possible legal defense and argument to reduce the likelihood of a big payout.

While every claim is different, you can expect the following steps:

  • You or your injury lawyer notify the insurance company about your legal claim.
  • The insurance company asks you for information about the truck wreck and your injuries; they may ask you for a written or recorded statement (talk to a lawyer before you make a statement).
  • The insurance adjuster will investigate your claims, looking for reasons to deny your claim or reduce its value.
  • The insurance company may offer you a settlement or reject your request for compensation.

When you consult a lawyer early on, they can help you collect evidence and build your claims, which may give you a better chance of getting the compensation you deserve. A truck accident attorney can also protect your legal rights and help you avoid mistakes that may weaken your claim.

Truck Wreck Claim FAQs

When you’ve been in a commercial vehicle accident, you probably wonder about everything from a personal injury lawsuit to the power commercial trucks and their companies have. We’ve got answers to common questions about commercial truck accidents, from federal regulations to a fair settlement to how a personal injury lawyer can help.

What’s My Trucking Injury Worth?

Every truck accident case is different, and you deserve a personalized evaluation of your claim from an experienced attorney. However, we can provide some general guidelines. Lawyers consider a variety of factors when they evaluate a claim’s settlement value:

  • Current and future medical expenses
  • Lost income and wage-earning capacity
  • Whether you’ll make a full or partial recovery
  • The costs of making your home and vehicle accessible after an injury, such as installing wheelchair ramps
  • The at-fault party’s defenses
  • The amount of insurance coverage that applies to your claim

Your case’s settlement value will depend on these and many other factors, and value can vary dramatically from claim to claim.

For example, if you suffer a spinal cord injury in a truck wreck claim, you may need a lifetime of medical care, and you may never return to your job. In these cases, our team typically consults with life-planning and long-term care experts who can help us anticipate your future needs and expenses so we can include them in your settlement.

However, suppose a delivery van fails to yield and hits you at a four-way stop. The impact fractures your wrist. You need surgery, but you should be able to return to your pre-accident lifestyle and level of activity within a few months. In this case, while your damages could be significant, they will probably be much less than they would be for a victim with a spinal cord injury.

Money available from the insurance company will also depend on how many people were injured in the crash, as our client Joshua learned after his truck accident.

When you consult a lawyer early on, they can help you collect evidence and build your claims, which may give you a better chance of getting the compensation you deserve. A truck accident attorney can also protect your legal rights and help you avoid mistakes that may weaken your claim.

Should I Give the Insurance Company a Recorded Statement?

Insurance adjusters sometimes try to pressure accident survivors into making statements before they hire a lawyer. It’s not in your best interest to comply with this request. You could make mistakes during a recorded statement, especially because the adjuster may try to ask leading questions and trick you into making statements that weaken your truck accident claim.

For example, the insurance adjuster may ask you repetitive questions about the crash, hoping you’ll change your story or misstate the facts. Or, they may try to get you to minimize your injuries. Later on, the insurance company may use these statements against you, arguing that you’re not seriously injured or that you’re exaggerating your claims for financial gain.

To avoid these challenges, it’s best to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney before you talk to the insurance company. That way, your attorney can guide your claim from the very beginning and make sure the insurance adjuster doesn’t take advantage of you.

Do Special Laws Apply to Big Trucks, Commercial Vehicles, and Truck Drivers?

If a truck is involved in interstate commerce, like most semi-trucks are, they must follow strict rules set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

These rules, which restrict how many hours a driver can operate a truck, govern how frequently the vehicles undergo maintenance, and set safety standards for trucking companies, aim to keep us all safe. Unfortunately, many trucking companies decide to cut corners and violate the FMCSA’s rules.

Some of the most common violations by commercial drivers and their companies involve:

  • Hours of service: To prevent drowsy driving, truckers must track their time on the road and take legally mandated breaks. However, some companies and drivers break these rules to meet deadlines and increase profits, as we saw in J.T.’s case.
  • Truck inspections and maintenance: Trucking companies must regularly inspect their vehicles, perform scheduled maintenance, and make needed repairs. They must track these activities in detailed logbooks.
  • Drivers’ health and wellness: Most semi-truck drivers must pass a Department of Transportation (DOT) physical as part of their job. Drivers should not operate a truck if they have certain known health conditions. However, truckers sometimes ignore these rules and operate a truck when it’s unsafe to do so.

Trucking companies don’t have to keep their regulatory logs and records forever. However, if your lawyer acts quickly, they should be able to identify violations, preserve evidence, and strengthen your legal claims.

What Happens if the Insurance Company Denies or Undervalues My Truck Injury Claim?

You should never assume the insurance company’s settlement offer is fair. Insurance companies are more concerned about profitability than fairness, and they will try to pay the absolute minimum for your truck wreck claim, no matter your medical bills and lost wages.

If you receive a settlement offer, or if the insurance company denies your truck wreck claim, you may be able to negotiate a better deal or file a lawsuit demanding the compensation you deserve. However, in both of these situations, you should get help from an experienced truck accident lawyer.

Settlement negotiations and jury trials are complicated processes that require attention to detail, legal expertise, and well-built strategies. While you can handle your own claim, most victims want to focus on their healing and rehabilitation, not court hearings and medical records reviews.

At Crosley Law, we’re committed to our clients. We do our best to relieve the uncertainty and stress associated with a lawsuit by giving clients regular updates and the emotional support they need.

RELATED: How to Get a Fair Settlement In Your Truck Accident Claim

Crosley Law: Fighting for Truck Wreck Victims and Their Families in San Antonio

Crosley Law has a long history of successfully handling truck and commercial vehicle crash claims for victims in San Antonio, Texas. If you or someone you love has questions about their legal rights after a truck wreck, contact our office today. We’ll help you build a plan and provide a no-risk evaluation of your claims.

To schedule your free consultation, call us at 210-LAW-3000 | 210-529-3000 or complete our quick online contact form.

References

Count of vehicles in crashes by body style. (2016). Texas Department of Transportation. Retrieved from http://ftp.dot.state.tx.us/pub/txdot-info/trf/crash_statistics/2015/28.pdf

Injured passenger in a work truck accident — what are their legal options for recovery? (n.d.). HG.org. Retrieved from https://www.hg.org/legal-articles/injured-passenger-in-a-work-truck-accident-what-are-their-legal-options-for-recovery-49431

Insurance filing requirements. (2019, December 16). Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Retrieved from https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/registration/insurance-filing-requirements

Texas Department of Transportation. (2021, April 13). Commercial motor vehicle (CMV) involved crashes and injuries by county. Retrieved from https://ftp.txdot.gov/pub/txdot-info/trf/crash_statistics/2020/30.pdf

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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