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 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.
In 2015, Texas saw 48,608 reported truck and tractor-trailer crashes (not including pickup trucks). By 2018, the annual crash rate rose to 53,362.
Unfortunately, these numbers are likely to increase, 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.
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 making a mistake. To win a 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 prove each of these elements, you are not entitled to compensation in a personal injury claim.
To prove your case, you’ll need to work with a truck accident lawyer and provide evidence that documents your injuries, pinpoints the cause of the crash, and proves 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.
Who Pays for My Truck Wreck Injuries?
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, 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.
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, the State of Texas requires that most drivers 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). However, 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
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.
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 and Commercial Vehicles?
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, trucking companies decide to cut corners and violate the FMCSA’s rules.
Some of the most common violations 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.
- 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 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.
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.
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.
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
Insurance filing requirements. (2019, December 16). Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Retrieved from https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/registration/insurance-filing-requirements
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.