In 2020, more than 4,000 people died in trucking accidents. People in passenger vehicles make up an overwhelming majority of these fatalities. When people survive trucking accidents in Utah, injuries tend to be severe. These statistics can paint a picture of easy open-and-shut cases that make it unnecessary to hire an attorney. However, few people have the resources to battle recovery and personal injury law simultaneously. Even when they do, one of these priorities will likely suffer.
What Is a Trucking Accident?
Any accident involving a truck is known as a trucking accident. These are some examples of trucks involved in these accidents:
- Garbage trucks
- Tow trucks
- Construction vehicles
Trucking accidents differ from other car accidents in several ways. First, the size difference between large trucks and other road users creates a more significant risk for injury and death. Second, trucks often carry hazardous materials. When these materials are involved in an accident, they can create environmental hazards and health risks for everyone involved, such as first responders or passersby.
Finally, truck drivers can work as independent contractors or for large corporations. The presence of varying work arrangements can complicate the process of determining who to hold accountable.
It’s important to note that some accidents can fall into several categories. For example, an accident involving an 18-wheeler and a cyclist could also become classified as a bicycle accident. If the cyclist died, it could then become a wrongful death suit. When cases involve several victims, they could turn into class lawsuits.
What Are Some Common Causes of Trucking Accidents?
The sheer size of trucks and the skill needed to drive them can make these cases incredibly challenging to investigate. Several causes can work together to contribute to your trucking accident and some might never come to light. These are some of the most common causes your attorney might uncover.
Truckers must pass a special exam to get their commercial driver‘s license. However, many pass the test and do not get the necessary training before employers send them out onto the road. The current trucker shortage further increases the risk of inexperienced truckers towing heavy and hazardous loads on the road. Even experienced truckers can make mistakes. They are only human. Unfortunately, these mistakes can have catastrophic consequences.
In 2020, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that distracted driving caused more than 3,140 deaths in America. This figure likely does not include many distracted truck drivers because it can be hard to prove. Nevertheless, it is fair to conclude that, like all other drivers, truckers are more likely to be involved in accidents when distracted. Here are some common distractions:
- Eating and drinking
- Texting or talking on the phone
- Fiddling with the radio or climate control
- Adjusting GPS devices
Driving Under the Influence
Laws hold truckers to a higher standard regarding drinking and driving. They cannot have a blood alcohol concentration of .04 percent or higher while operating their vehicles. For comparison, the legal limit for drivers of passenger vehicles is .08 percent. Despite this, drunk truck driving accidents still happen. These accidents often involve truckers who:
- Work for smaller companies that do not have strict policies in place
- Drive long hours and become tired, depressed or bored
- Primarily drive on lonely roads with limited police presence
- Do not think they will get caught
Trucks are much larger and heavier than other vehicles on the road. This weight makes it difficult to stop trucks quickly, even under the best conditions. When speeding, it becomes even more challenging. Speeding is one of the most common causes of truck accidents. If speeding played a role in your accident, your attorney could use this to prove that the trucker was negligent.
These can include flammable liquids, corrosive chemicals, and other dangerous materials. If these materials are involved in an accident, they can cause fires, explosions, and toxic fumes. These materials can put first responders and those involved in the accident at risk of severe injuries or death.
Trucking companies must maintain their vehicles to ensure they operate safely on the road. Unfortunately, many do not follow the rules or keep up with maintenance schedules. Some might even tell their drivers to falsify inspection and maintenance records. This can put everyone on the road at risk. In some cases, drivers and trucking companies take maintenance seriously, but mechanics might perform shoddy work or use old parts instead of new ones to skim off the top.
Truckers often have to drive in bad weather conditions. Poor weather can result from strong winds, rain, snow, and ice. Poor visibility and slick roads make it more difficult for truck drivers to see other vehicles and brake in time. Ideally, these drivers pull over until conditions improve. However, sometimes conditions become unfavorable quickly. For example, some Southwest states can experience unexpected dust storms or haboobs during the spring and monsoon seasons. These storms can cause zero visibility in mere seconds.
What Are Some Common Injuries Caused by Trucking Accidents?
Trucking accidents often result in catastrophic injuries or death. These injuries can have a long-lasting impact on people’s lives. For example, injuries and disabilities can prevent them from working or enjoying time with their family and friends. Here are some common injuries caused by trucking accidents:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Broken bones
- Internal bleeding
More severe injuries tend to lead to higher compensation values. Multi-million-dollar cases often involve disabilities or death.
What Are the Damages Awarded After a Trucking Accident?
Despite the severity of trucking accidents and the potential of catastrophic injuries and loss of life, there is no guarantee you will receive a settlement. This is why hiring an experienced attorney is so essential. He or she can build a solid case to ensure you receive maximum compensation in all eligible areas. Note that cases do not always go to court. Your attorney might settle privately with the insurance company.
Economic damages reimburse you for financial losses. These can include the following:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Loss of earning capacity
- Property damage
Non-economic damages are more difficult to quantify. They account for the physical and emotional toll the accident took on you. Here are some examples:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of consortium
- Punitive Damages
Judges only award punitive damages in extreme cases, usually when the at-fault party’s actions were particularly egregious. That might seem obvious, but it can take an experienced attorney to prove that in court.
What Can a Utah Truck Accident Lawyer Do for You?
When you hire an attorney to handle your case, what exactly do they do? Like all professionals, attorneys approach each case differently and have developed strategies that work well for them. However, there are some typical roles that most personal injury lawyers share.
No two cases are the same, and an experienced trucking accident lawyer will know how to build a case tailored to your unique needs. The first step in this process is understanding what happened and identifying the parties who may be held liable. This complex task involves considering all potential factors and drawing tentative conclusions ahead of a thorough investigation.
For example, the truck driver may have been speeding or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The trucking company may not have properly maintained the vehicle or failed to provide the driver with adequate rest. The cargo itself might have issues. An experienced lawyer will know how to look at the preliminary evidence and make an educated guess.
Once your attorney establishes liability, he or she will need to prove that the liable party was at fault for the accident. This represents another challenging step because the defendants will prepare a case showing the opposite. An experienced lawyer will know how to investigate the accident and collect evidence to support your claim.
This evidence can include witness statements, photos of the accident scene, and the truck’s black box data. Your lawyer may also request the truck driver’s logs and maintenance and inspection records. He or she might also hire experts to reconstruct the accident and determine how it happened.
Proof of Damages
After your lawyer establishes liability and proves that the liable party was at fault, he or she will need to confirm the damages that you have suffered. This can include medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Your lawyer will need to collect evidence to support your claim for damages. This evidence can include medical records, pay stubs, and testimony from family and friends. He or she may also need to hire experts to testify about the long-term effects of your injuries.
Personal Injury Claims
Once your lawyer has gathered all of the evidence, he or she will need to file a personal injury claim with the trucking company’s insurance carrier. Attorneys might need to fill out special forms and abide by statutes of limitations.
Sometimes, the insurance company may try to lowball the settlement offer. An experienced lawyer will know how to negotiate with the insurance company to get you the compensation you deserve.
After your lawyer has gathered all the evidence, he or she will start negotiating with the liable party’s insurance company. The goal of these negotiations is to reach a fair settlement that covers all of your damages.
These negotiations can be complex, as the insurance company will likely try to lowball you. They may also try to deny your claim or blame you for the accident. An experienced lawyer will know how to negotiate with the insurance company and get you the compensation you deserve.
If your attorney cannot settle with the insurance company, he or she may file a lawsuit on your behalf. He or she will then take your case to trial and fight for a verdict in your favor.
Lawsuit and Trial
If the insurance company denies your claim or offers an inadequate settlement, the likelihood of a lawsuit increases. This can be a complex and time-consuming process, so it’s vital to have an experienced lawyer on your side. He or she will handle all aspects of the lawsuit, from filing the initial complaint to taking your case to trial.
Your attorney prepares your case carefully and might also prepare you for trial. Your lawyer presents your evidence and argument to a judge or jury in court. He or she will then fight for a verdict in your favor. If you win, your damages cover your proven losses.
Why Should You Hire an Experienced Utah Personal Injury Attorney?
Recovery is the first priority if you or a loved one experienced injuries in a trucking accident. When you hire an attorney, he or she often has connections with the best medical providers so that you know who to turn to for assistance.
Equally important, he or she knows the complex Utah laws involving trucking. Utah has adopted some sections of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, but truckers must also abide by state-specific laws.
Accidents involving commercial entities also introduce further complications and higher risks. For starters, trucking companies and their insurance companies often have the resources to hire large teams of attorneys that have one goal and one goal only: to pay you as little as possible or nothing at all. An experienced attorney has the resources, knowledge and professional insight to take on these teams and deliver results.
Why Should You Hire a Utah Accident Lawyer at Siegfried and Jensen?
Our team at Siegfried and Jensen has served Utah for over 30 years. During this time, we have recovered more than $1.2 billion for clients who suffered injuries due to the negligent actions of others. Compensation can never replace the lost life of a loved one or the reduced quality of life following a severe injury. Even so, it can reduce the risk of potential bankruptcy or an inability to provide for dependents.
Are you ready to get a free case evaluation for your personal injury claim? Contact us to get started.