Truck Accident Frequently Asked Questions
After a truck accident in or around Tulsa, you've got questions. We have answers.
Accidents involving large commercial trucks can be especially frightening because of the sheer size of the vehicles involved. Serious injuries and even death are common, and in the aftermath of such an accident, it can be difficult to get the compensation you need. At Lawter & Associates PLLC, we have extensive experience helping Tulsa residents deal with these complex and challenging legal cases. Here are some of the most important steps to take after being involved in a truck accident.
- If I was hit by a truck, what can I do to show that the trucker was at fault?
- What should I do at the scene of a truck accident?
- What damages can your law firm help me collect after an accident?
- Is the trucking company liable for damages? What about the shipper of the cargo?
- What arguments will the trucking company use against me? How can an attorney help?
- When should I take a financial offer from the trucking company or their insurance?
Most truck accidents are caused by some degree of negligence on the part of the trucker. For instance, because truckers spend their entire working day behind the wheel, they'll often cause accidents while texting, talking to a dispatcher, adjusting the radio, looking at a GPS screen or eating. Truck drivers work long hours, and while there are rest breaks mandated by law, some drivers and trucking companies ignore those laws, leading to asleep-at-the-wheel accidents. Speeding is another common issue because there's so much pressure on drivers to make their deliveries as quickly as possible. An eighteen-wheeler hurtling down I-244 is a recipe for disaster.
In order to collect damages, you'll need to prove that the trucker was negligent, and you'll need an attorney's help. We'll interview eyewitnesses and look for physical evidence at the accident scene that confirms the trucker's negligent behavior. For instance, a lack of skid marks may mean that the trucker was asleep at the wheel and did not step on the brakes before impact. We'll also investigate the trucking company and see if the trucker was under pressure to break traffic laws or work through mandatory break times.
Don't panic, and don't leave the scene. If you're a driver involved in an accident causing property damage or injury, you could be facing criminal charges.
Your two priorities are to make sure the scene is safe and collect all the information you'll need for a claim against the truck driver or trucking company. If anyone is injured, call an ambulance and be prepared to assist if you are qualified to do so. Call the police as well; their report will make it easier to establish the facts of the accident such as the location, time and parties involved.
You'll need the name of the trucker and the trucking company as well as contact information for any witnesses to the accident. If possible, take pictures of skid marks and other evidence that will help determine how the accident happened, as well as any property damage and visible injuries. Much of this evidence will disappear shortly after the accident, so it's important to record it as soon as you can.
Don't make any statements accepting fault for the accident to the truck driver, the police or a witness, either at the scene or afterward. Establishing legal fault for a truck accident is a complex process, and in the immediate aftermath, you aren't in a good position to make that judgment. Any sort of statement accepting fault could be used against you later by the trucker or trucking company. Tell them to talk to your lawyer instead.
The particular damages you will be able to recover after a truck accident depend on the circumstances. As a rule, the at-fault driver should be liable for your medical expenses, property damage, pain and suffering and lost wages. In addition, you may be able to recover damages for costs directly related to the accident, such as towing, storage and a temporary replacement vehicle.
Sadly, trucking companies and their insurers often pressure motorists to accept low-ball offers that don't come close to providing all the compensation they deserve. That's why you need an experienced and dedicated attorney to review all the details of your case and help you collect all of the damages you are owed. Lawter & Associates have been helping people just like you for years.
Whether liability falls on the trucker or the trucking company depends on whether there is an employment relationship between the two. The legal principle of "respondeat superior" allows you to hold the company legally liable for the accident if the trucker is a direct employee. If the trucker is an independent contractor, then liability depends on the amount of supervision the company exercises over the driver.
The shipper of the cargo is only liable for damages under certain narrowly defined circumstances. For instance, if an injury resulted from hazardous materials in the cargo and the company shipping those materials failed to inform the trucker or trucking company of the danger, you might have a liability case.
Determining liability in truck accidents is often a challenging task. At Lawter & Associates, we take care to explore every avenue and review all of the evidence to make sure you can collect your claim from every responsible party.
Truck accidents can cause huge amounts of damage because of the size disparity between a commercial truck and a passenger car. Because the stakes are so high, the trucking company and their insurance carrier will do everything in their power to minimize liability. They may argue that you caused the accident by driving in the truck's "No-Zone" or otherwise not taking appropriate steps to protect yourself. It's important to remember that commercial truckers are trained to operate their vehicles safely and that they're held to a higher legal standard. An experienced attorney at Lawter & Associates can counter those arguments and show the court that the trucker failed in his or her responsibilities.
The trucking company or its insurer will likely also press you for information after the accident, which they will use to reduce their own liability. Medical information is especially dangerous; if you give the trucking company or their insurer a general authorization, they may be able to get information unrelated to the accident and use it against you. Rather than fielding those questions directly, have the trucking company talk to your attorney. Contact us first. We will listen to you and help you decide the best course of action.
While it may be tempting to accept a settlement right away, you should be wary of any financial offer from the trucking company or their insurance company. Again, their goal is to reduce their own liability, and deliberately making a "low-ball" offer in the aftermath of the accident is one way to do just that. If you accept any money from the trucking company or insurance company, that may be construed as a settlement for their entire liability, meaning you won't be able to pursue further damages.
Wait until you have seen a doctor and completed any accident-related medical treatment before accepting a settlement; that way, you know you won't be stuck with any further medical bills. Moreover, we strongly recommend contacting an attorney at Lawter & Associates before accepting any settlement offer. We have extensive experience analyzing offers and helping clients know if they should accept or fight for more.
This information should give you a general idea of how to proceed if you are involved in a truck accident in or near Tulsa. For more information on your specific case, contact our Tulsa office at (866) 584-1028 for a free case evaluation.