18 Wheeler Truck accidents have become a leading cause of fatalities caused by motor vehicle crashes in the United States. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that in 2019, around 538,000 trucks were involved in police-reported traffic crashes.
Truck accidents can be brutal. The victim may suffer serious and life-altering injuries and in the unfortunate event of a death, the survivors may have to fight a tough legal battle against trucking companies and their insurers.
This article explains and simplifies some of the most common questions people have about truck accidents in the United States.
Why are 18-Wheelers So Dangerous?
A collision with an 18-wheeler implies getting hit by a vehicle that can weigh up to 25 times the weight of a car. Moreover, due to the enormous size and weight of 18-wheelers, they require longer times and more space to stop. The force with which these vehicles hit smaller ones can cause devastating and life-altering injuries to the victims of the accident.
Truck drivers often drive long hours and driver fatigue is a leading cause of poor attention on the road. Trucks are prone to rolling over and jackknifing. Improper or unsecured cargo loading, specifically if the truck is transporting some hazardous substances, also causes great damage.
18-wheelers have four large blind spots and it may be difficult to spot smaller vehicles when they are in such spots. They also require more regular maintenance and routine check-ups and failure to get them done may lead to defects in the vehicle.
These factors make a truck collision inherently dangerous. This is why even the law requires trucking companies and truck drivers to adhere to stricter and special traffic rules and regulations.
What are Common Causes of 18 Wheeler Accidents?
Some common causes of 18-wheeler accidents include:
Driver fatigue due to prolonged work hours, inexperienced driving, over-speeding, distracted driving, and drunk driving are some of the major driver-related causes of truck accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that driver-related errors are the leading causes of truck crashes.
Poorly Maintained Vehicle
Poor maintenance can cause inefficient brakes, defective fuel systems, broken or poor lights, and flat tires. These factors contribute greatly to unexpected crashes.
Weather conditions such as fog, rains, wind, and snow can also increase the chances of a truck accident. They impact visibility and often lead to multi-truck pileups.
Poor lighting on the road at night, ongoing construction, or wet and slippery roads also enhance the probability of truck accidents.
Improper Cargo Loading
When the cargo is overloaded or not properly secured, it can impact the balance of the vehicle. It can also lead to tire blowouts, road obstructions, and swerving.
Violation of Traffic Rules
Truck drivers and trucking companies frequently violated the special rules applicable to them. They may break the law related to hours of service, cargo loading, or even driver training and experience.
How Many Different Types of 18 Wheeler Truck Accidents Are There?
The most frequent types of truck accidents are:
Rollovers can be the most dangerous and catastrophic kind of crash. Due to a greater center of gravity, trucks are more prone to flip and roll onto one side while making sharp turns or swerving.
When an 18-wheeler crashes into another vehicle moving towards it, it causes a head-on collision. Not stopping at red lights, stop signs, and intersections; recklessly drifting out of the driving lane; and loss of control over the truck often lead to head-on crashes.
When a truck crashes into the back of the vehicle in front of it, it is called a rear-ended collision. If the vehicle in front is smaller in size, the collision may cause serious injuries and damage.
Sudden braking can cause the trailer to swing out at a ninety-degree angle and strike or carry along with them the nearby vehicles.
Sideswipe and T-Bone Accidents
When trucks crash into other vehicles at a perpendicular point creating a T-shape, they crash into the side of the other vehicle. In sideswipe accidents, the vehicles are moving in the same direction side by side at the time of the accident.
Trucks have four blind spots and sometimes, the truck driver may have a hard time seeing the vehicles traveling in such blind spots.
Which Steps Should I Take After an 18 Wheeler Accident?
Taking the proper steps after a truck crash is important to ensure that the victim recovers from the injuries properly and also receives the maximum compensation possible.
Contact the Police
If possible, the victim should immediately contact the local law enforcement and file a police report. This helps at the time of filing a claim and a police report is also an important piece of evidence.
Seek Medical Attention Immediately
The victim should immediately get medical treatment after the accident. These costs are generally recoverable from the compensation claim. Even if there are no visible injuries, the victim should get medical tests done to identify if any internal injuries have occurred.
If feasible, the victim should try to take photos and videos of the accident scene and collect witness information. He or she should preserve all medical bills and take note of all injuries and bodily changes that occur after the accident.
Refrain from Signing Anything
Soon after the accident, the victim will get to hear from insurance companies. These companies will try to offer a lump sum amount that will be way lesser than what the victim deserves. Accepting and signing such settlements bars them from filing further claims.
Also, the victim should not make any statements to the insurance companies as these might be used later against the victim only.
Contact a Truck Accident Attorney
Getting fair compensation after a truck accident is a difficult task. One must take help from a truck accident attorney who will help with collecting the evidence, dealing with insurance companies, and then negotiating for the maximum settlement possible.
How Much Is The Average 18 Wheeler Settlement?
The consequences of an 18-wheeler accident are devastating and often worse than the injuries and damages resulting from other motor vehicle accidents. The vehicle may be a total loss and the injuries may be life-altering. For this reason alone, the damages awarded after an 18-wheeler crash are way greater than the compensation awarded after other types of accidents.
Each truck accident claim is different and it is not possible to state an “average” 18-wheeler settlement amount. However, depending upon the circumstances of each case, it may range from a few thousand dollars to even millions of dollars.
What Factors Are Considered While Determining The Settlement Amount?
The negotiations for the settlement amount (if settled out of court) or the award made by the court in a personal injury lawsuit, will consider the following factors:
The intensity of the Injuries
The victim should suffer actual damages in terms of physical, emotional, or property loss. The extent to which the injuries have impacted or will impact the victim’s life plays a key role while determining the settlement amount. For example, if the injuries result in partial or total disablement, the compensation is likely to be much higher than it would be in the case of fully recoverable injuries.
Age and Occupation of the Victim
The age and occupation of the victim also impact the settlement amount. The victim may receive more compensation depending upon the number of years they could have worked had the injury not happened. Further, the relationship between the physical injuries and the occupation of the victim will have an impact on the damages for loss of future income.
To claim damages in an 18-wheeler crash case, the victim needs to prove negligence on part of the truck driver or the trucking company. Sometimes, other defendants such as the truck manufacturer or cargo loading company may also be liable. It must be satisfactorily proven that the other party breached their duty of care to operate the truck safely and in accordance with the law. There should be adequate evidence to support the claim of negligence.
If the victim was also partly responsible for the accident, the compensation amount may get impacted depending on the state laws. For example, if the victim was driving above the permissible speed limit, the settlement amount may be reduced.
Insurance Policy Limits
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) requires most trucks to carry commercial auto liability insurance. The mandatory policy coverage may vary between $ 750,000 and $ 5,000,000 depending upon certain factors. However, in many cases, this amount is not enough to cover the costs and damages resulting from the accident.
A recent report released by the FMSCA and the U.S. Department of Transportation states that the costs of catastrophic injuries and damages resulting from truck and bus crashes “significantly exceed” the minimum requirements set under the law.
Often, the potentially responsible parties will carry other individual insurance policies to protect themselves. The victim may be able to recover compensation from such insurers as well. Further, some states may have additional insurance requirements.
In some cases of vicarious liability, the trucking company may be required to pay compensation from its own bank accounts.
What Will The Settlement Amount Cover?
The settlement amount covers both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages include compensation for:
- Medical bills and costs
- Costs for ongoing medical care
- Costs for future medical care
- Home modification costs, if required
- Lost wages
- Disability, disfigurement, or paralysis
- Loss of future income
- Property damage
- Funeral and burial expenses (in cases of wrongful death)
The non-economic damages that may be awarded after an 18-wheeler accident include:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental and emotional distress
- Diminished quality of life
- Loss of companionship and support (in cases of loss of a family member)
Lastly, the court may also award punitive damages in rare cases of extreme reckless behavior.
How Does Shared Comparative Fault Impact The Settlement Amount?
Some states, such as Texas, follow the modified comparative negligence rule. If the injured person’s fault was 50% or more, he or she will not be able to recover any compensation. If their fault was less than 50%, the compensation they receive decreases as per their share of the fault.
Other states including Florida, New York, and California follow the pure comparative negligence rule. This means that even if the injured person’s share of fault was more than the truck driver’s fault, he or she can still recover some damages. For example, Jamie (the injured person) was 80% at fault and she suffered damages worth $ 100,000. The truck driver was only 20% at fault. In this case, Jamie will receive only $ 20,000 as damages.
At Which Stage Truck Accident Settlements Happen?
Truck accident settlements can happen anytime between immediately after the accident and just before the jury delivers its verdict. Victims may start getting offers from insurance companies within a few days or weeks after the accident.
Sometimes, the settlements happen soon after an attorney is hired by the victim or after a court case is filed. At this point, the insurance companies realize that the victim is aware of his or her rights and it would be better to make an out-of-court settlement.
Should I Accept The Settlement Offer Made By Insurance Companies?
The initial offers made by insurance companies are often meager. They are way lesser than the fair compensation a victim could achieve through a formal compensation claim.
Once accepted, they absolve these insurance companies of all further liabilities and payments. Hence, the victim should never rush into accepting such offers without first consulting a lawyer.
What Should I Do To Protect My Rights To A Fair Settlement?
Although the settlement amount depends upon several factors, here are a few things the victim must keep in mind after a truck accident:
- They should not accept the immediate offers made by the insurance companies.
- The victim should restrain from making any statements to the insurance companies without first consulting a lawyer.
- The victim should also try to document the injuries and how they are impacting his or her routine activities. This could be done through photos, videos, and notes.
- All the evidence relating to the accident and the expenses should be preserved.
How is Fault and Liability Determined Establishing Liability After a Truck Accident?
Determination of fault in a truck accident case is not a black and white situation. Unlike other motor vehicle accidents that involve two private motorists, assigning liability in a truck accident claim is a multi-step process.
The following questions are generally considered while ascertaining liability in an 18-wheeler crash:
- Did the other party/ parties act negligently?
- Who are the potential defendants?
- Was the victim also at fault?
- What evidence is available?
Proving Negligence In A Truck Accident Claim
To attribute fault to the other side, the injured person must show that the injuries were a result of the other side’s negligence. To prove negligence, the victim must show that:
- The other side owed a duty of care to them.
- The duty of care was breached by the other side.
- The injuries were a result of such a breach. The victim must be able to show that had the breach not happened, he or she would not have suffered injuries.
For example, all drivers on the road have a duty of care towards other fellow passengers on the road. Now, when a truck driver indulges in over-speeding or drunk driving, such duty of care is breached. If the accident is a result of such over-speeding or drunk driving, then the truck driver will be liable for negligence.
However, in another scenario, if the victim did not stop at the red light and as a result, rammed into the truck, the truck driver may not be held liable for compensation even if it is found out that he was drunk.
Who May Be Held Liable For The Truck Accident?
A truck accident may have single or multiple liable parties. All the facts and circumstances must be thoroughly investigated to attribute fault. Often, these parties try to shift blame and negate their share of fault.
The truck driver may be at-fault for various reasons. Over speeding, fatigued driving, distracted driving, drunk driving, violating trucking laws, or not having enough training as required under the law are some examples of situations where the driver may be responsible for causing the accident.
If the driver was an employee of the company, then it may be held vicariously liable for the driver’s actions. Other examples where it may be the at-fault party are:
- Failing to properly maintain the vehicle
- Failing to employ properly trained or qualified drivers
- Forcing drivers to violate hours of service rules
A Third Party
If a third driver on the road was reckless and caused the truck driver to collide with the injured person, then such a third driver may be held liable. If the accident was a result of poorly maintained roads, the responsible government entity may be held liable.
Often, the loading and unloading are done by a company other than the trucking company itself. If the cargo was overloaded, not properly tied, or carried hazardous materials without proper packaging, the cargo company may be held liable.
Truck or Truck Parts Manufacturer
Components of the truck and its design must comply with industry standards. If the accident results due to a defect in the truck, its design, or its parts, then the manufacturer or engineering company may be held liable.
Maintenance Company or The Mechanic
If the trucking company outsourced the maintenance to another company, then such a company may be held liable for accidents resulting from poor maintenance.
Who Will Be Held Liable If The Injured Person Was Partially At Fault?
Though it may seem obvious, truck drivers aren’t the only parties responsible for causing an accident. The injured person may also have been negligent and contributed to the crash in some manner. The share of the victim’s fault also plays an important role in determining who will be held liable for the accident. Different states have different laws regarding the contribution of the victim’s fault.
Some states including Virginia and North Carolina follow the rule of contributory negligence. This means that if the victim contributed to the accident in any manner, then he or she will not receive any compensation.
Pure Comparative Negligence
New York and California follow the pure comparative negligence rule. Under this rule, the injured person’s compensation will be reduced in proportion to his or her share of fault. For example, if the injured person was at 60% percent fault, the compensation he or she will receive will only be 40% of the actual damages from the accident.
Modified Comparative Negligence
Under this rule, the other side will not be liable to pay anything if the injured person was more than 50% at fault for the accident. If the victim’s fault was less than 50%, the compensation amount will be reduced proportionately.
What Kind of Evidence is Considered While Determining Liability?
Because multiple parties are involved, a thorough analysis of the evidence is crucial while determining liability. Police reports, video footage, witness statements, hours of service records, driver’s phone records, maintenance books, qualifications of the driver, and black box data are some examples of the evidence used to establish liability in a truck accident claim.
If there’s clear evidence of a breach of traffic rules and trucking laws, then it may help in establishing liability on part of the party violating such laws.
How Are Damages Determined After a Truck Accident?
After a truck accident, damages are determined considering several factors:
- Duration, severity, and kind of injuries
- Amount of property damage
- Victim’s age and occupation
- Pre-existing medical conditions
- Available Evidence
- Share of fault/ negligence between parties
A victim may recover damages for:
The victim may get compensation for all past, present, and future costs of medical treatment related to the accident. These include doctor and hospital bills, medicine costs, therapy costs, and money spent on medical tests.
The victim may receive damages for the loss of income incurred due to non-attendance at work after the accident
Loss of Future Income
If the injuries impact the victim’s ability to work in the future, he or she may be able to receive compensation for the same.
The victim may be compensated for the damage to property including damage to the vehicle and any valuables inside the vehicle.
Pain and Suffering
Non-economic damages may be awarded for the pain and suffering resulting from the accident. These may include compensation for emotional and mental distress, depression, loss of companionship, and anxiety.
What are Injuries that Result from 18-Wheeler Accidents?
Some of the common types of injuries people suffer after a truck accident are:
Truck Accidents often cause Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI). Considerable damage to the brain can lead to loss of memory, seizures, cognitive impairments, or even death.
Back and Neck Injuries
When there is whiplash, back and neck injuries may occur. These are painful and often take a long time to heal. They impact a victim’s ability to work and enjoy routine activities.
This may happen directly after the accident or due to the severity of the injuries.
Spinal Cord Injury
Damage to the spinal cord may not always be apparent, therefore, one must get a thorough medical checkup done. These injuries may even lead to paralysis.
The sheer force involved in an 18-wheeler accident may cause fractures or broken bones. The accident may damage hands, legs, ribs, wrists, arms, ribs, and even facial bones.
Soft Tissue Injuries
Soft tissue injuries involve tears of ligaments, muscles, and tendons. When a person is thrown about or jostled during the accident, he or she suffers sprains and strains.
Burns, Cuts, and Lacerations
Burns from fire after the accident or hazardous cargo material may also occur. Further, lacerations, cuts, and bruises resulting from the accident can be quite painful.
Sometimes, a catastrophic crash may lead to the victim’s death on the spot. In other cases, he or she may succumb to severe injuries.
For example, in a recent 18-wheeler crash in Texas, a 2016-international 18-wheeler collided with two already stopped cars in broad daylight at around 3:20 pm on I-45 at the 157-mile post. The accident killed the driver of one of the passenger cars on the spot and seriously injured two Centerville volunteer firefighters that were already present at the scene.
Increased Trucking Accidents in Texas
Texas is home to some of the deadliest roads in the United States including the Interstate-45 (I-45). I-45, which runs through Houston, is termed as one of the most dangerous roads worldwide. On an average, it recorded 56.5 fatal accidents per 100 miles of the roadway.
Texas witnesses the most number of fatal large truck accidents when compared to any other state in the country. The NHTSA reported that Texas tops the list when it comes to the largest number of fatalities among truck occupants, occupants of other vehicles, and non-occupants killed in truck crashes.  At 5,208, it also witnessed the largest number of vehicles involved in a truck accident.
For the past 21 years, more than one person has died every day in a truck accident in Texas. From 2019 to 2021, it saw a 19% increase in the number of commercial vehicle crashes. The Texas trucking industry also faces a shortage of drivers, forcing the trucking companies and drivers to work longer hours and beyond what is permitted under law. For example, a company in Texas even offered to pay $14,000 per week to experienced drivers. 
Liability in Texas 18-Wheeler Accidents
Determining liability in Texas 18-Wheeler accidents involves answering multiple layers of questions. It may involve identifying the parties liable and determining their share of fault. Sometimes, a sole party may be responsible for the accident and, other times, multiple parties may be held liable.
For example, some instances where a driver may be solely held liable for the accident:
- If he was involved in drunk driving or using his cell phone while driving.
- If he was overspeeding or violating other traffic laws.
Other instances where the liability is shared among more than one party:
- Where the trucking company and the driver were aware that the truck needs repair.
- Where the victim ran a red light and the truck driver was drunk driving.
- Where the truck took more time to slow down because the cargo was not properly distributed and the brakes were also defective. In this case, both the cargo company and the truck parts manufacturer may be held liable.
Liability in 18-wheeler accidents in Texas is determined according to the comparative negligence rule.
Comparative Fault in Texas 18-Wheeler Accidents
Texas follows the modified comparative fault system for determining damages in 18-wheeler accidents. Under this system, if the victim is also at fault for the crash, then his damages will get reduced in proportion to his share of fault. However, if the victim is responsible for more than 50% of the fault, then he or she will not be able to recover any damages.
Thus, if the claimant’s actions contributed majorly to causing the accident, generally no compensation is awarded. For example, if the victim did not wear a seat belt or was over-speeding, he or she may be held responsible for causing most of the injuries. The defendant may argue that the impact of the injuries was enhanced because of not wearing the seat belt or that the accident could have been avoided if there was no over-speeding.
This rule is different from the pure comparative fault rule that allows a victim to still recover damages even if he was 90% at fault. Under this rule, the other side still has to pay damages for their share of 10%.
Seeking Compensation in Texas 18-Wheeler Accidents
In Texas, the law entitles a person to receive compensation for the injuries and damages they sustained due to another party’s negligence. In Truck accident claims, the victim can claim damages for:
Past, Present, and Future Medical Costs
The victim can claim compensation for all expenses that were incurred due to the accident. This includes the amount spent before the claim was filed, the money spent during the claim settlement process, and the estimated cost of future medical treatment.
When the victim is unable to attend work due to the injuries sustained in the accident, he or she is entitled to receive compensation for the same.
Loss of Future Income
If the victim’s future earning capacity is impacted in any manner, he or she can recover damages for the same.
Temporary or Permanent Disablement
If the victim sustains any temporary or permanent disablement due to the accident, compensation is awarded for the same.
These damages include compensation for pain and suffering, mental and emotional distress, loss of companionship, scarring, and disfigurement.
Costs are also awarded for the damage to the vehicle and the valuables inside it. Damages are also awarded for other types of property damage including damages to a building, store, or house due to the accident.
How 18 Wheeler Accidents Are Different From Car Accidents?
18-wheelers weigh 20-30 times more than a passenger vehicle. A collision with them is inherently more dangerous and complicated than a car accident. The National Safety Council (NSC) reports that 71% of the people who died in large truck accidents were car and passenger vehicle occupants, while 17% of them were truck occupants.
Factors such as driver fatigue, mechanical defects, greater height requiring more ground clearance, greater weight requiring more distance to stop, and cargo overloading are some of the major reasons why these vehicles are riskier and cause greater damage than a car crash.
Filing a compensation claim after an 18-wheeler accident is very different and more complicated than a car accident claim.
Special Laws Are Applicable To Commercial Truck Drivers And Trucking Companies
Truck drivers are subject to stricter driving regulations as compared to passenger vehicle drivers. They must hold a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). Further, there are strict federal and state laws that require them to:
- Comply with the maximum hours they can spend behind the wheel in a day or week.
- Maintain daily hours-of-service logs.
- Adhere to the lower BAC (blood alcohol content) limits.
- Avoid using mobile phones and electronic devices while driving.
- Produce a daily examination report after inspecting the vehicle before and after every shift.
In addition to the requirement of having a CDL, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires them to pass additional skills and knowledge tests to get the following endorsements:
- T- For operating double/ triple trailers
- P- For driving vehicles that seat 16 or more passengers including the driver
- S- For driving a school bus (it also requires background and criminal records check)
- H-For operating trucks carrying hazardous materials.
- N- For operating tanks vehicles carrying liquid or gaseous materials.
It is common for truck drivers to violate these rules. For example, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports that drivers regularly work longer than the permitted hours. Driver fatigue is a leading cause of truck crashes.
Multiple Defendants May Be Involved In an 18 Wheeler Accident
Unlike a car accident, multiple parties may be held responsible for negligence in an 18-wheeler crash:
- Trucking company (vicarious liability)
- Truck owner of independent contractor
- Truck driver
- Truck retailer
- Truck manufacturer
- Manufacturer of truck parts
- Cargo loading and unloading facility
- Government entity for poorly maintained roads
The involvement of multiple parties makes it complicated to determine liability. Sometimes, more than one party may be held liable. Moreover, these parties will always try to put the blame on the other party or defend the share of their fault.
18 Wheeler Truck Accidents Cause More Damage
Due to the sheer size and weight of these vehicles, they are more likely to cause catastrophic injuries and severe property damage. These injuries can be life-altering, cause temporary or permanent disablement, and impact or restrict a person’s ability to work. Some common injuries resulting from truck accidents include:
- Brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Loss of limb
- Broken bones
- Burns and lacerations
- Neck and back injuries
- Internal organ injuries
- Wrongful death, if the collision is fatal
Whether through a settlement or personal injury lawsuit, victims of 18-wheeler crashes must claim greater compensation than they would claim in other injury cases. They must ensure that they demand fair compensation that will cover the costs of their expensive medical treatments and loss of present and future work. Generally, the following economic and non-economic damages are awarded to the victims of a truck wreck:
- Present and future medical costs, including costs for medical equipment
- Loss of wages for absence from work
- Loss of future earnings
- Car and property repair or replacement costs
- Compensation for
Trucking Companies Are Experienced In Denying Liability
Trucking corporations and their insurance companies regularly handle accident claims. Thus, they are experienced in vigorously defending the claim for compensation made against them. They have powerful lawyers by their side who know the exact arguments a victim may make and how they can skillfully tackle them.
Even while negotiating a settlement, they maneuver victims into accepting a less than fair lump sum amount. However, the victim should not give in to such tactics. With the help of a skilled attorney, he or she can make a strong case of negligence against them.
18 Wheelers Have Greater Policy Limits
As these accidents cause more damage, trucking companies obtain more expensive and comprehensive insurance coverage than passenger vehicle owners. In addition to the mandatory public liability insurance, trucking companies have additional insurance such as general liability insurance (to cover costs of a lawsuit.)
With huge amounts of money at stake, trucking companies and their insurers will try their best to deny or reduce their liability for the accident. During negotiations, they will try to make the victim believe that they are partially at fault and thus entitled to lesser compensation.
Investigation and Analysis of Evidence is Complicated in Truck Crashes
In a car accident claim, the evidence is generally limited to photos and videos of the accident, the police report, and witness testimony. But in an 18 wheeler crash, additional evidence needs to be investigated to prove negligence. Such evidence includes:
- Black box data
- Maintenance reports
- Road and weather conditions
- Hours-of service logs
- Data from electronic logging devices (ELDs)
- Hiring records of the trucking company
- Cargo loading records
- Dispatch instructions
Collecting and preserving such evidence at the right time is crucial for establishing liability and claiming compensation.
Important Evidence In a Truck Accident Claim
The success of a truck accident claim largely depends on the kind and quality of evidence available. The common types of evidence used in a truck accident claim include:
The police report contains information about the facts of the case, vehicle number, name and address of the people involved, and the officer’s determination. It is an important piece of evidence after a truck accident.
Photographs and Videos
Pictures and videos of the damaged vehicle, injuries, truck driver, accident spot, and other related information can be helpful while proving negligence on part of the other side. A nearby store’s security camera may also have recorded the accident.
Drug and Alcohol Tests
These reports can help in establishing their liability by proving that their attention on the road was impaired due to drunk driving.
The FMCSA requires most trucks to install an Electronic Logging Device in the truck. It automatically records hours of service and these records must be preserved for a minimum of 180 days.
Truck drivers are commercial drivers and they need special training, certifications, and licenses to drive legally. These can show if the driver is inexperienced or does not have the required training.
If there were people on the spot who witnessed the accident, their testimony may also be considered in an 18-wheeler accident claim.
Other important truck accident evidence includes vehicle maintenance records, cargo loading records, black box data, truck inspection reports, and expert testimony.
Why Truck Accidents Are More Complicated
When compared to a car accident claim, investigating and proving liability in a truck accident claim is more complicated. This is due to several factors:
Extensive Evidence is Involved
To prove liability in a truck accident, a different set of evidence needs to be analyzed. Collecting, documenting, and preserving these pieces of evidence is a challenging task.
Multiple Parties Are Involved
In a truck crash claim, several defendants may be involved. These include the truck driver, trucking company, truck manufacturer, cargo loading company, maintenance or repair shop, and spare parts manufacturer.
Insurance Companies Are Experienced Players
Trucking companies’ insurance companies are experienced at denying responsibility. Dealing with them can be difficult as they offer lesser settlement amounts and have top-notch negotiation skills.
A Different Set of Laws Apply To Truckers
Truck drivers and trucking companies are subject to special rules and regulations. While filing a claim after an 18-wheeler crash, an investigation into the violation of such laws becomes important.
Apart from these reasons, the severity of the injuries to the victim and the significant property damage involved make truck accident claims inherently complicated.
How Does Insurance Handle an 18-wheeler Accident Claim?
Soon after the truck accident, adjusters from insurance companies will call the victim and render an “apology.” However, this apology is what they have been trained to render under the “apology program” used by the insurance companies. When the victim receives a call from a pleasant-sounding adjuster who says “We feel sorry that you got hurt”, there’s a high chance that they intend to make a settlement offer.
However, this settlement offer is way lesser than what the victim might actually receive after filing a compensation claim. They will try to convince the victim that hiring an attorney will make things messier.
Further, because the amount of compensation claimed in truck accidents is way greater than what is claimed after other types of accidents, insurance companies will try their best to reduce the amount of compensation they have to pay. After analyzing the details of the accident and looking at the police report, the adjuster will make a settlement offer that will bar the victim from taking any other legal action against them in the future.
How an 18-Wheeler Accident Insurance Claim Works
The claims process involved after a truck accident is different. In most cases, formal legal action is needed to recover the rightful compensation from the other side. While the initial settlement offer may come quickly from the other side’s insurance company, it is generally not in the best interests of the victim to accept such an offer.
If the amount of damages claimed is significant, the insurance company will closely evaluate the claim. Sometimes, an entire team may work solely on the claim to minutely investigate and find out if the victim also contributed to the accident.
The victim also needs to report the accident to his or her insurance provider. This should be done within the strict deadlines set under the law. But the victim must be wary about what he or she is saying. The victim should disclose the facts, but never admit fault or explain why the accident happened.
Texas Statute of Limitations on Truck Accident Lawsuits
Just like other personal injury claims, truck accident claims are also subject to a two-year deadline. This means that the victim has a time period of two years from the date of the accident causing injuries or resulting in death to make a claim. Subject to exceptions, a court may not entertain a lawsuit after this time period has expired.
When a government authority or employee is involved in a truck accident, the victim should file a claim with the government within six months. Without doing so, a lawsuit cannot be filed against the government. Some towns and cities in Texas may have an even shorter time limit.
However, the victim should never wait until the last moment to file the claim. One should initiate legal action as soon as possible. This is because the evidence is reasonably fresh and can be made readily available when a claim is filed soon. For example, the witness may not remember the accident scene after a few months have passed away.
What Should I Do When Injured in an Accident?
After suffering injuries in a truck accident, the victim deserves to be fairly compensated for the negligence of someone else. The steps one takes after sustaining such injuries have a great impact on the compensation amount and the settlement. Here are some do’s and don’ts one must consider after getting injured in an 18-wheeler accident:
- Obtain the police report of the accident.
- Get the property damage valuation report from your insurer.
- Take photos and keep a record of all injuries that occurred at the time of the accident. Keep recording the changes in the injuries and how they are impacting your daily activities.
- If there are no visible injuries, note down the bodily pain you are experiencing.
- Preserve all medical bills. Also, keep a record of all out-of-pocket expenses incurred due to the accident like cab expenses to visit the doctor.
- Note down the number of days of missed work due to the accident or the impact on your working abilities due to the accident.
- Do not speak to or settle with the other party’s insurance companies without first speaking to a truck accident lawyer. A settlement with these companies may permanently bar you from taking any legal action against them.
You may notify your own insurance company. This will start the claim process. However, never admit fault and only inform the facts of the case.
How an 18 Wheeler Accident Attorney Can Help
After sustaining injuries in an 18 wheeler accident, the victim’s main focus should be on his or her health recovery. However, dealing with the legal aftermath of such accidents often takes away this much-needed focus. With the help of an 18 wheeler accident attorney, the victim can get rid of such worries. Here is how an attorney can help after the accident:
Collect and Analyze Evidence
Truck accidents involve a plethora of evidence. It is not easy to identify and collect the same. An attorney already knows what kind of evidence will help build a strong case and how to collect and preserve the same. The attorney will send notices to the involved parties to not tamper with the evidence.
Analyze the Fault
Determining fault and proving negligence in a truck accident claim can also be an uphill task that requires legal expertise. Multiple parties that are involved in the accident often try to shift blame. An attorney knows how to deal with such issues.
Deal with Insurance Companies
The trucking industry’s insurance companies are experienced in their game. They know how to convince the victim into accepting a less than fair settlement amount by making them believe that they were also at fault. A lawyer knows how to deal with such insurance companies.
Negotiate the Maximum Settlement Amount
A lawyer will try to negotiate the maximum settlement amount possible for his or her client. They know about all the damages that should be included in the compensation amount.
Do You Need a Lawyer after an 18-Wheeler Accident?
Often, many victims wonder if they need a lawyer after an 18-wheeler accident. Sometimes, the victim may believe that because no visible injuries were sustained, no compensation will be awarded. The victim may also assume that because he or she was also at fault, no claim can be filed. However, this is not always the case.
Before assuming and letting go of your legal rights, you should consider contacting an attorney to ensure that you are not jeopardizing your right to compensation under the law.
Some questions the victim may consider while deciding if an attorney is needed:
- Was there any property damage due to the accident? This includes damage to the vehicle, valuables inside the car, or any other kind of property damage.
- Were there any physical injuries? Do they require medical treatment?
- Is there any bodily pain? Is the pain impacting your daily life and routine activities?
- Has your work been impacted due to the injuries from the accident? Were you unable to go to work after the crash?
- Have you been left emotionally and mentally disturbed after the accident?
- Have you stopped doing the same activities you did before the accident?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, whether directly or indirectly, then one must consider consulting a lawyer.
What are Examples of 18 Wheeler Truck Accident Settlements
In 2021, the Texas jury awarded a total award of $730 million to the survivors of Toni Combest, a 73-year old great grandmother. She died in 2016, when her car was hit by an over-sized truck carrying a 197,000-pound submarine propeller on U.S. Highway 271 in Titus County, Texas. The award was one of the largest wrongful death verdicts and included $480 million is compensatory damages and $250 million in punitive damages.