Trucking cases are very different from car accident cases. Certainly, commercial trucks are larger than cars. To put it in perspective, an average passenger vehicle weighs around 4,000 pounds. Loaded tractor-trailers typically weigh 80,000 pounds—and sometimes more if a proper permit is secured. Aside from the obvious differences in size and weight, there are numerous federal laws that govern the trucking industry. Also, insurance carriers that represent trucking companies are typically far more sophisticated than most insurance carriers which handle car accidents. At HPS Law, our lawyers know how to navigate the complex web of laws, claims professionals, and facts surrounding trucking cases.
I was just involved in an accident with a big truck, can I wait before hiring a truck accident attorney?
No, and we cannot emphasize strongly enough the importance of not waiting. Oftentimes when an 18 wheeler is involved in a wreck, that sets off a chain reaction of events. Trucking companies have in place what is known as a rapid response team. On the team is the trucking company’s safety director, the company’s insurer, a defense attorney, an accident reconstructionist, and an investigator. Those folks receive word of an accident usually before the police have arrived at the scene. They immediately jump into action to take steps to protect their interests. That means that, even in the best of circumstances, the trucking company is several steps ahead of the injured party. Delaying retaining counsel only serves to further prejudice your rights. Do not wait. Please call a truck accident attorney at HPS immediately to begin the process of protecting you.
I have heard the term spoliation. What does it mean and how is it relevant to truck accidents?
Spoliation refers to the destruction of evidence. Most people do not know that federal law permits trucking companies to destroy (or purge) certain documents after the passage of a certain time period. If those documents would have been critical to your case, you are simply out of luck. After being hired to represent the victim of a truck accident, HPS Law will rush to preserve documents, videos, and other materials before they are destroyed, ruined, or lost. We do this by sending a preservation letter to the trucking company which demands that all materials relevant to your claim be preserved until your claim is resolved. Should the trucking company fail to preserve the materials, a judge can issue significant sanctions against the trucking company.
Most personal injury lawyers claim they are truck accident attorneys. How is HPS Law different?
It is true that almost all personal injury attorneys advertise they handle truck accidents. However, that does not mean they are truck accident attorneys or even that they know what they are doing. At HPS Law, our trucking lawyers were former defense attorneys who specialized representing truck drivers, trucking companies, and their insurers. For years it was our job to minimize (and in some occasions eliminate) the injured person’s recovery. We know the other side’s play book. It gives us a tremendous advantage in representing you after a trucking accident.
Do truck drivers have to be more skilled than regular motorists when operating commercial vehicles?
Yes. Most people realize that anyone driving an 18 wheeler must have a commercial driver’s license (CDL). But there is so much more to it than that. Under the Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.), virtually every aspect of truck driving is regulated. These regulations, known as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR), are numerous and they must be closely adhered to for a truck driver and the trucking company to “run legal.” When a client hires HPS Law, one of our primary goals is to determine whether a driver and company are running legal or whether their decision to forgo the regulations is what lead to your accident and injuries.
What are some of the laws and regulations that typically govern truck accident cases that are not typically associated with car accident cases?
There are too many to list here, but one of the most important applies to drug and alcohol testing. Federal law (49 C.F.R. § 382.303) provides a truck driver must be subjected to post-accident drug and alcohol testing when (1) the wreck involves a fatality, (2) the truck driver is cited and any of the vehicles involved in the crash are towed away, or (3) the truck driver is cited and someone receives medical attention away from the scene of the crash. Obtaining the drug and alcohol tests is often a key part of HPS Law’s work when investigating a truck accident.
I had a wreck with a commercial vehicle, but not an 18 wheeler. Is my accident more like a car accident or more like a truck accident?
Most likely, your accident is more like a truck accident. The reason being is that at least some of the federal regulations will apply to the driver and/or company which hit you. Vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) exceeding 10,001 pounds are subject to many of the same federal regulations for which drivers and companies of 18 wheelers must follow. For instance, the regulations are applicable to vehicles like a Ford F-350 truck when that vehicle is being used commercially.
I did not cause the accident with the truck but my driving record is not very good. Is that something of which I should be concerned in bringing a claim against a trucking company?
No. Unless you have a conviction for a driving offense which was punishable by death or imprisonment in excess of one year (i.e., a felony), driving related offenses are irrelevant and inadmissible as against the person bringing the claim.
If my driving record does not matter, does that mean the driving record of the truck driver does not matter?
No. A truck driver’s record is significant and something HPS Law will scrutinize. All companies which employ drivers of 18 wheelers are required by federal law to investigate a driver’s record before hiring him. This is done through a multi-layered process, including examining a truck driver’s motor vehicle report (MVR). And this process does not simply happen at the time the driver is hired, but rather trucking companies are required to annually review a driver’s driving record. Unsafe drivers having a pattern or policy of dangerous driving can lead to the injured person recovering punitive damages against the driver and/or company.
Do trucking accidents require the use of expert witnesses?
Sometimes. In some instances certain aspects of the wreck are so complicated that only someone with specialized training can resolve the complexity. At HPS Law, we have a rolodex of some of the best experts in the country ready to help us investigate your case should the circumstances warrant it.
What types of damages can my truck accident attorney recover due to the truck driver’s negligence?
Generally, you are entitled to pursue all damages that were caused by the truck accident. These damages include property damage (including vehicle repairs, transportation costs and diminished value of your vehicle), current medical bills, future medical bills, past lost wages, future lost wages, and past, present, and future pain and suffering. In addition, every trucking case brings with it a chance for the injured party to recover punitive damages. Punitive damages are virtually never recovered in a car accident case unless the defendant driver was under the influence or committed a hit-and-run. In a trucking case, the opportunity to recover punitive damages is much more common.