Truck Accident FAQ’s
Frequently Asked Questions About a Truck Accidents
What do I do after I have been hit by a truck
In the aftermath of an accident, there can be general confusion and shock. You have just been through a harrowing and frightening experience. It is important that you remain calm. While your first priority is your health, well-being, and that of your passengers, you should consider what you can do to preserve a possible injury claim:
- Call 911 or have someone else call. Do not move or try to move anyone else if you or they are seriously hurt unless there is a fire danger or other immediate emergency
- Do not discuss the accident with anyone at the scene other than police.
- If you are able, obtain the truck driver’s license, insurance and vehicle information including VIN, license plate and make, model and year of the truck.
- If possible, take cell phone photographs, unless you have a regular camera, of the truck, all involved vehicles, markings on the truck, and of the accident scene.
- Obtain names and contact information of any witnesses.
- Take pictures of the vehicles, the position of the vehicles, the road, the lighting, the debris, and the people at the scene. Take more pictures. They will be invaluable.
- Do not refuse medical treatment at the scene. Your and the trucking company’s insurer will interpret this as meaning you were either not injured or were not seriously injured.
- Never give a recorded statement to anyone, even your own insurance company without prior advice of counsel. You need to talk with a trucking or truck changing lanes attorney.
- Do not try to handle your injury claim alone even if you think liability is clear. Insurance companies will claim you were comparatively negligent in some way and even a seemingly innocuous statement from you could seriously jeopardize your case. In addition, medical and insurance issues required the services of a competent attorney in these matters.
- Retain the services of Burns & Jain, a Massachusetts truck accident lawyers.
A truck accident demands the experience and knowledge of an attorney who has successfully handled truck accident injury claims. A thorough knowledge of trucking regulations and the dynamics of a truck accident is essential if you want the maximum compensation for your injury claim.
Should I Give a Statements to an Insurance Company and What Happens to it Later?
Most victims of motor vehicle collisions are contacted by their insurance company, or the insurance company of the other driver for a statement. Most folks feel obligated to give the statement: they are telling the truth, right? It’s often over the phone and may not “feel” like a statement, but simply answering some questions. Be forewarned, however, these seemingly innocuous statements can come back to haunt you later on. Especially if your case goes into suit and an insurance defense trial attorney has your statement…and you don’t.
Rules for Victims of Motor Vehicle Collisions
First, you do not have to give a statement to the other driver’s insurance company. They are looking for ways to avoid responsibility. They will absolutely use what you say against you.
Your own insurance company is a different story. You may be obligated under your policy to give a statement. You are obligated to give a statement if you want Personal Injury Protection coverage. Most of the time, however, the questions for those statements are not too extensive; while we would recommend having your attorney at such a statement, clients often give these statements and do not lose significant rights.
What about bad faith statements? When the insurance company has you pegged for bad faith, or fraud, their insurance company’s special investigation unit will ask for a statement under oath. If you are the target, you are not likely to be offered a settlement no matter what the circumstances are. We would highly recommend an attorney.
What Happens to Statements Given With No Attorney Present?
The law says that you are entitled to a copy of your statement prior to testifying about your motor vehicle, or any personal injury case. However, the law, Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 233, Section 23A, is not enforced, as rigorously as experienced personal attorneys would like. In fact there are certain loopholes in the law. And the 1992 appellate decision on the matter, Mazzoleni v. Cotton, 33 Mass. App. Ct 147, give no bite to the law. You need an experienced attorney to make the request and follow up rigorously.
The law actually says that the party only has to give you your prior statement in the event they intend to use it against you….and, only if you make a written request. While insurance defense trial attorneys would generally love to use your prior statement against you – in the event there is a nominal change in your testimony, they will closely follow the law. Further, they may often not do a diligent search at the insurance company requesting such a statement. Or it may be another insurance company that took the statement that subsequently gets subpoenaed to give up the statement.
What Should You Do Before You Give a Statement to An Insurance Company?
Get an experienced injury attorney before you give a statement! Personal injury attorneys usually charge a contingent fee, or a percentage of the recovery. They don’t charge extra to participate in a statement. Your case becomes more valuable to you, and the attorney, if they participate. An experienced attorney will help you prepare for your statement, will make a copy him or herself, and will demand a copy from the insurance company.
A truck accident lawyer with a thorough knowledge of applicable rules and regulations governing truck drivers and trucking companies can more readily find evidence that can hold truckers liable in an accident. For example, if you retain an attorney soon after the accident, your lawyer can request that the trucking company retain certain documents and that the truck be available for inspection by an expert chosen by your attorney.
Other documents include the driver’s log and the company’s personnel records on the truck driver, which can reveal a dubious driving record and lack of drug or alcohol testing. An on-board electronic monitor, similar to an airplane’s black box, can provide data that may contradict the driver’s statement of how the accident happened or that the driver exceeded federally mandated driving restrictions.
Damages in a Trucking Accident
In many cases, a trucking accident causes catastrophic injuries such as traumatic brain injury (TBI), paralysis, burns, broken limbs, internal organ damage and crush injuries. A high percentage of truck accidents result in fatal injuries to passenger car occupants. If you are injured in a truck accident, you may be entitled to the following compensation:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Past and future wage loss
- Lost earning capacity
- Rehabilitation costs
- Emotional trauma
- Pain and suffering
Along with proficiency in finding trucking companies and drivers liable by careful investigation and by knowing what documents and other information to review, your attorney should know how to maximize your compensation. Damages need to be proved within evidentiary rules and your truck accident lawyer will know what a medical report should contain to support your claims.
If you have a loved one who was killed, you and other immediate family members can bring a wrongful death action, and the decedent’s estate may bring a survival action to collect damages such as medical expenses; lost earnings; loss of love, support and companionship; and pain and suffering if the decedent survived for a time before succumbing. There are strict rules on how such actions proceed that your attorney can explain.
Licensing For Truck Drivers and Proving Negligence
We have represented many victims of negligent truck drivers who have caused accidents in Massachusetts. What is required for securing, and maintaining, a license to drive a truck in Massachusetts? Once involved in a collision, what information do we need to prove negligence?
Massachusetts Department of Transportation Requirements
The Mass DOT requires a Commercial Drivers License for all drivers who transport 16 or more people in a single vehicle, for all drivers who operate a vehicle that weights more than 26,001 pounds when loaded, or whenever transporting hazardous materials. Furthermore, there is a CDL class for drivers who tow another vehicle that weighs more than 10,000 pounds.
There are age requirements as well. You must be 21 in order to get a CDL license to drive across state lines.
Background Checks for Commercial Drivers Licenses
The Mass DOT requires your license to be in good standing before taking the CDL test. However, while criminal background checks are not required by the Mass DOT for taking the CDL test, many employers require the same.
In fact, at depositions involving commercial truck drivers, we always ask an owner of a truck about the driver’s criminal record; and we ask the driver about his or her record. If there is a criminal record, we look to the specific crimes. Were they related to driving safety? While a criminal record for violence may not be allowed into evidence in a trial for negligent driving, a criminal record for leaving the scene of an accident, or drunk driving, should certainly be allowed into evidence against a company hiring a driver who is subsequently involved in a motor vehicle accident.
CDL Driving Records
What about the Department of Motor Vehicle driving records? These records are obtainable for all drivers, including Mass CDL drivers. We obtain those records in cases involving collisions with trucks.
We scrutinize those records. The driver’s history is critical. Failure to stay within marked lanes, for example, in a case where the truck was illegally attempting to pass, could be presented into evidence. Remember, we are often trying to prove that both the driver was negligence, and the fact that the employer, or truck owner, was negligent in hiring or retaining the driver knowing of their propensity to drive negligently.
CDL, Experience and Training
What other “evidence” are we examining when investigating a negligent truck driver? We look at the experience and training of the driver. How long have they been driving trucks? What kind of trucks? Where were they trained? How were they trained? Are they consistently driving the same type of truck? The same truck?
In a deposition regarding a collision on Route 2 in Lincoln, Massachusetts, the truck driver admitted that the truck he was driving in the accident he caused was similar to the trucks he drove all the time, however, this particular truck he had never driven and the brakes were “different.”
Causes of Truck Accidents
In the United States, there are approximately five thousand people killed each year in truck accidents. For the victims of truck accidents, trying to understand and prove who is responsible and what actually caused the truck accident can be very complicated. When large trucking companies are involved, it is a safe bet that they will have their own truck accident attorney on hand to try and shift any blame away from their driver or their poorly maintained truck. This would prevent the victims from receiving the damages that they deserve, or compensation for their injuries. For this reason, it is very important for anyone who has been involved in a truck accident to follow a few simple steps in order to protect themselves.
- As in any accident, call 911 or emergency services first so that they can be en route in case you or someone else has been injured.
- Gather as much information as possible from any witnesses at the scene of the accident.
- Be sure to have the name of the truck driver, the name of his or her company, and any other information concerning the truck that may be useful.
- Take photographs of the area and the vehicles.
- Call experienced truck accident lawyers Burns & Jain to help protect your rights.
What Causes Truck Accidents?
There are many factors which can contribute to trucking accidents. If we can understand the causes of most trucking accidents, then we can go a lot further with a goal to prevent them. With this in mind, the United States Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration conducted a study of the causes of commercial trucking crashes. The National Traffic Safety Administration was also involved in the study. After carefully investigating almost one thousand truck crashes they determined some of the following key causes of the collisions. The first set is a list of driver errors:
Driver Errors Which Cause Trucking Accidents
- The driver panicking in dangerous situations, freezing or overcompensating in driving.
- Drivers who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Truck drivers following too closely.
- Truck drivers who are going too fast for conditions, or misjudging the speed of others.
- Truck driver fatigue or falling asleep at the wheel.
- Crossing into the wrong lane or driving off the road.
- Distracted driving, such as texting while driving, answering a cell phone, reading a computer screen or GPS, adjusting the radio or truck citizen band radio.
- Failure to maintain all of the components of the truck’s braking system.
- Driver overloading of the truck with cargo.
Tire and Breaks Causing Truck Accidents
- Manufacturing defects in the tires or brakes.
- Using two different kinds of tires on the same axle.
- Driving on substandard tires that do not meet the United States Department of Transportation guidelines.
- Using worn tires.
Truck Accident Evidence
Trucking accidents are very unlike other motor vehicle accidents in that they can cause much more serious injuries and leave the victims with more severe damages. Accidents involving commercial trucks are also much different because of the fact that at least one of the vehicles involved is usually owned by a large company. When a truck accident occurs with a truck that is owned by a trucking business, they will often send out their own investigator to collect the truck accident evidence. All too often, these investigators will gather only the evidence which makes the driver of their company truck look not responsible.
Many times, a truck insurance investigator collecting evidence at a truck accident will arrive while the police are still working the scene. They may talk with witnesses, take pictures, and more to try to protect their company from liability. This is because the trucking company knows that it is their responsibility to pay for any damages a victim may incur during a trucking accident if their driver is found liable or negligent. This is also true if the accident was caused by defects in the truck, or lack of maintenance.
Truck accident lawyers Neil Burns and Roshan Jain can help fight for the victim and protect their rights.
What Evidence is Collected After a Trucking Accident?
Because of the seriousness of trucking accidents, there is much more to collecting the evidence from one than from other types of vehicle crashes. Trucking companies have to comply with a host of safety regulations and standards that most people on the road never know of. The following are some of the various types of evidence which can be collected at the scene of a trucking accident:
Trucking Accident Evidence About the Driver
- As far as his or her qualifications, does he or she have their CDL license?
- What was his experience? Other qualifications?
- Has the driver been properly trained? Is there evidence of this?
- How many hours of service has the driver docked? Are his or her logs up to date and properly maintained?
- Are the driver’s inspection records as they should be?
- Did he or she take and pass drug and alcohol screening taken immediately after the accident?
Trucking Accident Evidence About the Truck
Evidence about the truck is also collected after a trucking accident, such as:
- Data from the GPS system and communications systems
- Maintenance history and proof of upkeep
- Downloads of the systems on board, such as engine control module
- History of the inspections performed and their results
Of course, other factors, such as whether or not the truck was overloaded, the road conditions, the condition of other drivers, and more will be taken into account when any trucking accident is being investigated.
Someone injured me, but I don’t want to ruin that person’s life. Should I file a claim or sue?
If you’ve been injured, do not feel bad about filing a claim. Most claims are resolved without filing a lawsuit, or suing. The purpose of the insurance industry – and the legal system – is to make people in your position whole again. This is why people invented insurance more than 700 years ago. We all pay premiums to insurance companies so that if something goes wrong for one of us, the insurance company has the resources to make that person whole again. People in the insurance industry call this “spreading the risk.”
In almost all personal injury cases, the defendant is covered by insurance. Odds are that whomever you sue won’t be paying out-of-pocket. And because a personal injury lawsuit is a civil case, not a criminal case, it’s there are no criminal ramifications for the actions we take in a civil case.
The lawsuit will probably be defended by an insurance company lawyer. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Neil Burns are very experienced in dealing with insurance company lawyers. Any money that the court awards you as compensation for your injuries will probably be paid by the insurance company. Accidents happen – but that doesn’t mean you need to get stuck with the bill for your pain and suffering. You’ve been through enough already. We can help.
How can I pick the best lawyer for my personal injury case?
Finding the right lawyer can be tough! Your lawyer should have experience with your type of case. Your lawyer should have a track record of success. Your lawyer should have the respect of his or her peers. Your lawyer should be willing and able to fight vigorously for your interests while acting with solid ethics and professionalism. Your lawyer should speak clearly with you, respond to your questions in a timely manner, and put you at ease.
If that sounds like the lawyer you want, we encourage you to meet with the lawyers at The Law Office of Neil Burns.
- We’ve handled thousands of personal injury cases since 1985, and have had a great deal of success for our clients. For some examples of cases we’ve handled, see our personal injury case results.
- We’re proud to have our peers’ respect – Neil Burns was named a Massachusetts Super Lawyer in 2009 and 2010 – because we’ve earned it.
- If you’ve been injured, you’ve got enough to deal with. Focus on healing – not on wrangling with insurance companies and their lawyers. We’ll do the fighting for you. Feel confident that we will always behave ethically and professionally. Feel just as confident that we will fight for your rights intelligently and aggressively.
- We’re lawyers, but we know the legal and insurance world can be filled with jargon. If you call or come in for a consultation, we’ll speak to you with respect and will take the time to explain things with a minimum of jargon. We’ll let you know whether we think you have a strong case, or whether there might be a better solution. And we will always return your calls as soon as possible.
I’d like to come in and meet with a Personal Injury lawyer. What will it cost?
At The Law Office of Neil Burns, your initial consultation is always free. It will cost you nothing to speak with us regarding your potential claim. If you hire us, the fee is contingent on our successfully resolving your case. That is, for a typical case we charge one third (33%) of the settlement or judgment. You will not have to pay any fee or bills until the end of the case; at that time we will take our fee from the insurance company proceeds.
What is “negligence?”
Negligence basically means carelessness. Many personal injury lawsuits are based on the defendant’s negligence. If someone injured you because he or she wasn’t as careful as a reasonable person should have been in that situation, that person was negligent, and may be liable for your injuries. For example, an automobile driver has a duty to drive carefully. Let’s say you were crossing the street at an intersection, and a driver hit you with his car because he wasn’t paying enough attention and didn’t notice the crosswalk. That driver probably wasn’t as careful as a reasonable driver should be – in other words, he was negligent – and may be liable for your injuries.
What if my injuries are partly my fault?
How much you are compensated for your injuries may depend on whether your injury was caused in part by your own negligence. In the crosswalk example we described, if a court finds that you were 25 percent to blame for the car hitting you because you were crossing outside of a crosswalk, your compensatory damages award would be reduced by 25 percent, leaving you with a 75 percent recovery. It’s actually a little more complicated than this in Massachusetts, because if the court finds that you are more than 50 percent responsible for your injuries, the court won’t award you any compensation. You can only win a damages award if you weren’t the main cause of your own injuries.
What does “liable” mean?
Liable means responsible. If the court finds someone liable for your injuries, that means that the person is responsible for them, and usually his insurance company has to compensate you for them. (Liable is not the same as guilty. A defendant can only be found guilty in a criminal case.)
OUR PLEDGE TO YOU.
When you hire The Law Office of Neil Burns, you can depend on a few things:
- Our best efforts – We will work our hardest and use all our experience and available resources to get you the best possible result.
- Aggressive representation – We will fight for your rights with zealous force and tireless persistence.
- Honest representation – We know how important your good name is to you – so we will always work on your behalf ethically and honestly.
- Negotiating from strength – We’ll prepare your case as though it’s going to trial. Most cases settle. But the only way to get the best settlement is to be fully ready for battle.
- No “legalese” – We will speak clearly with you, use a minimum of jargon, and make sure you understand your case.
- Responsiveness – We will return your phone calls or emails within one day, unless there’s an emergency – and always as soon as possible.