Motor vehicle accident cases that involve a semi-truck or any other type of large commercial vehicle may be inherently different than the typical collision between normal passenger vehicles in a number of ways. First and foremost, the injuries and other damages that result from a semi-truck collision are naturally more likely to be significant and life-altering, especially if the collision involves a large semi-truck and a smaller passenger vehicle. The sheer size and weight of the average semi-truck (upwards of 70 feet long and 20,000 pounds without cargo) puts drivers of private passenger vehicles at a much more serious risk of severe injury or death in the event of a collision.
Not surprisingly, the damages and harms resulting from a semi-truck collision are usually much higher. This can result in much higher medical bills, larger amounts of lost income, and a greater need for compensation to cover past and future losses that are likely to be incurred. With higher damages at stake, it is much more likely that victims will have to hire an experienced attorney and/or litigate the claim.
Trucking companies and their insurers understand that their vehicles can often cause life-threatening injuries and death in an accident. They also understand that the damages can be much higher than in a typical auto collision between private passenger vehicles. For this reason, the trucking companies and their insurance carriers will often mount an immediate and aggressive investigation to help mitigate their exposure or liability to having to pay out large damage awards. In fact, it is not uncommon for a trucking company whose driver is involved in a serious collision to send representatives immediately to the accident scene on the same day as the collision. Sometimes the trucking company will also send its lawyers to the scene to look for witnesses, gather evidence, take photographs and obtain recorded statements from the other drivers involved. In these situations, the trucking company’s investigation team will have a couple of different goals in mind. First, the company will want the victims to make damaging statements about the accident and admit their own fault for the accident in one way or another. Second, the company may want the victim to accept a quick settlement before seeing a lawyer.
These factors, combined with the experience and pay grade of the attorneys who defend trucking companies from liability, mean that the average layperson has very little chance of a fair outcome if they choose to pursue a claim for damages on their own. Furthermore, the average general practice attorney is going to have a very limited understanding of the laws and responsibilities that relate to trucking companies and their drivers. This increases the importance to the injured victim of not only hiring an attorney, but choosing the right attorney for the victim’s case.
In meeting with semi-truck accident victims, I’ve heard all sorts of terrible stories about how terribly innocent victims have been treated by trucking companies and their lawyers during the investigation and negotiations processes. I have yet to come across an accident victim who personally employed a team of professional experts to show up to a crash scene and collect evidence on the victim’s behalf, but many have called my office because a trucking company sent a team of aggressive lawyers to interview them while they were waiting to go into surgery after being rear-ended by a 50,000-pound semi-truck.
In one particular case, I met with a man whose life was forever changed due to the injuries he suffered after being rear-ended by a tractor-trailer. I recall a specific moment during the initial consultation where he mentioned that one of the trucking companies’ lawyers asked him to sign off on a $5,000 check that the lawyer claimed would help him out while he was in the hospital, almost as if it was an act of good will on behalf of the trucking company. I began to grow concerned, and I asked him to show me the check. Sure enough, the man signed and cashed the check, which effectively meant that he had accepted a $5,000 settlement for the entire claim. Having already been victimized by the truck driver’s negligence, this man also fell victim to the trucking company’s high-pressure settlement tactics. Lying in the hospital bed in immense pain and worrying about the future, he was likely seen as an easy target. If only he’d had someone on his side, with his legal rights and financial future in mind, I can’t help but think he would have experienced a much different outcome.These are just a few examples of the many ways that large trucking companies enjoy a significant advantage over regular private citizens the moment that an accident occurs. Short of spending tens of thousands of dollars on retaining their own private investigation team, one of the best ways for truck accident victims to protect their legal rights and financial future is to consult with a qualified personal injury attorney. And since most reputable lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, the issue of having to spend tens of thousands of dollars upfront should no longer be a concern.