Due to West Virginia’s major roads and highways, as well as a heavy involvement in the logging and mining industries, there are a great deal of big trucks on the road. Whether it be a coal truck, an 18-wheeler, or a semi-truck, these vehicles can cause devastating losses when involved in a roadway accident. The trucking industry is held to specific safety standards because of this. If you have been injured as the result of a truck driver’s negligence or the negligence of another trucking industry party, you have a right to monetary compensation for your losses. The attorneys at Hewitt & Salvatore have nearly 50 years of combined legal experience in handling truck accident cases. They have the knowledge base and technical skills to effectively fight for the best interests of their clients.
Truck Accident Law
Trucks have the sheer size and weight to cause devastating damage in an accident. That is one of the major reasons there are a whole other set of regulations specifically for the trucking industry. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act (FMCSA) establishes safety rules for truck companies. For example, the FMCSA mandates:
- When tires and breaks should be replaced;
- Weight limits for truck loads;
- Time limitations for how long truckers can drive without rest; and
- Keeping a maintenance and driving log.
Because of these specific set of rules for the trucking industry, negligence can be shown in any truck accident claim by pointing to a rule violation. The trucking company may have wanted to save money and failed to replace tires and brakes when they should have. The driver may have driven too long without resting or sleeping leading to driver fatigue. A truck may have been overloaded with cargo making it difficult for them to brake. These are all against regulations and can underscore the negligence of the at-fault party.
The most common types of truck accidents can result from FMCSA rule violations. Trucks are most often involved in:
- Rear-end collisions: The risk of rear-end collisions drastically increases if a truck has been overloaded with cargo. Effective braking for a truck when beyond its intended weight capacity can be difficult or nearly impossible.
- Rollover crash: If a driver turns a corner too quickly or brakes too hard, the truck may rollover as a result. The damages to the truck driver and other drivers nearby can be devastating. Cars can easily be crushed under the weight of these large trucks resulting in death or serious injury for anyone in the vehicle.
- Blowouts: Failure to maintain truck tires often leads to tire blowouts on the road. A blowout would be difficult for any driver to handle, but, due to the size and weight of trucks, a truck driver can be faced with the seemingly impossible task of controlling the vehicle after a tire blowout. This type of accident can lead to several cars being involved in the crash with serious damages and injuries to all involved.
- Jackknife: When a truck trailer swings around to the point where it is folded back towards the cab of the truck, this is what is referred to as a “jackknife” accident. Other cars on the road can end up crushed between the truck trailer and cab.
The ability to prove that the truck driver or trucking company failed to maintain the requisite records, overloaded a truck, or failed to secure the truck cargo can help reinforce the strength of your injury claim by highlighting the negligence of the driver or truck company. Additionally, in some cases, it can be shown that falsified records were involved. This can sometimes support a punitive damage award.
In addition to FMCSA regulations, trucking companies will also have their own policies in place. It is important to hire a personal injury attorney that understands the federal trucking regulations as well as knowing about investigating things like trucking company policies. These make up unique features of a truck accident claim. A thorough understanding of these rules and regulations can be of great help to the success of your injury claim.
The Injury Claim Process
First, immediately following an accident, call the police. An official police report will be generated as a result and a permanent record of the accident is important to any future injury claim. Make sure you keep your statements to the police brief and factual. Do not speak as to fault or speculate about causes of the accident. You should also gather some evidence at the scene yourself. Take pictures if you can and get the names and contact information of any witnesses. If you have been seriously injured to the point where none of this is possible, make sure you let your attorney know. A skilled truck accident injury attorney will immediately work to preserve any evidence before it can be “lost” or “misplaced.”
No matter what, seek medical attention as soon as possible after the crash. You may pride yourself on a high pain tolerance or you may not feel as though you have been very injured. Go get checked out. Many serious injuries, such as concussions, have delayed symptoms. Being thoroughly examined by a physician can be helpful in identifying things like head injuries earlier on. Additionally, immediate medical attention will strengthen your personal injury claim. Insurance companies will use a delay in treatment to undermine the value and legitimacy of your claim.
Make sure you contact your insurance company to notify them of the accident. You are contractually obligated to speak to them, but keep your conversation as brief and to the point as possible. Do not speculate on anything, especially regarding your injuries. Let them know that you are currently seeking medical treatment. It is also important to note that you are under no legal obligation to speak to any other insurance company besides your own. The truck driver’s insurance company may call, please contact a qualified personal injury attorney before speaking with them. They will most likely try to get information from you that they will later use to devalue your claim or they will make a settlement offer way below the true value of your claim.
One of the most complicated and the most important element of an injury claim is who can be held liable for the accident and the resulting damages. In the usual car accident, the driver who caused the accident will be held liable. In a truck accident, however, there are more potentially liable parties involved than the truck driver. Other potentially responsible parties include:
- Trucking company
- Company owning the truck load
- Truck parts manufacturer
- Truck Maintenance and Repair Facilities
It is also important to note that West Virginia follows a modified comparative fault standard. This means that if you are found to be a contributing factor in causing the accident, your monetary recovery will be reduced by the percentage of fault you are assigned for the accident.
Unrivaled Client Support at a Time When You Need It Most
The effects of being involved in a truck accident can be life-altering. At this time in your life, you need to put all of your energy into getting back on track. The lawyers at Hewitt & Salvatore are here to help you. Our lawyers care. We take our cases home with us, constantly thinking of how we can fight to get our clients the compensation they need. The dedicated West Virginia injury attorneys at Hewitt & Salvatore are the trusted legal counsel you need by your side at what could be one of the most difficult times of your life. Contact us today.