A Tractor-Trailer Hit Me. Do I Need an Attorney?
The answer is that while you are not required to hire an attorney, having an experienced lawyer on your side is absolutely the best approach for truck accident victims. Our firm has handled a large number of tractor-trailer accident claims and for the vast majority of these cases, the trucking company and their insurance carrier h ire their own lawyer immediately after the accident claim is reported. That lawyer and the trucking company’s insurance adjuster are working solely to oppose and minimize all victims’ injury claims.
Tractor-trailer accidents are different and more complex than passenger car accidents because several individuals or entities may be responsible for your damages. In addition, many federal regulations are specific to tractor-trailer operations that could impact your case. You must show a clear understanding of NC state law and United States federal laws, and be prepared to show every violation of these safety laws. This is the only way to command respect from the defense, convince them that you will sue if necessary to collect the true, full value of your injury claims, and motivate the highest and best settlement offers. Also, the insurance policies for truck drivers carry high coverage limits, often $1 million or more, and truck accidents often result in severe injury.
With significant money involved, the parties responsible for the victim’s losses will take careful steps to minimize their financial exposure. Hiring an attorney to handle all legal communications on your behalf, to establish all legal violations that resulted in the collision, and to build and present the strongest medical evidence will make a vast difference in the payment you receive at the end of your case. Your attorney also handles all communications and legwork on your behalf, making the insurance claim process and legal process much easier for you.
Tractor Trailer Accidents Are Complex
In a typical passenger car accident, the only responsible parties are the drivers of the vehicles. However, this is not true in a tractor-trailer accident.
In an accident involving a tractor-trailer, all of the following parties may be held responsible for your damages:
- The driver
- The driver’s employer
- The owner
- The trucking company
- The shipper and/or loader of all cargo
- Manufacturers of the truck and all components
- Maintenance personnel who mishandled truck repairs
- Insurance carriers for all parties listed above
These accidents involve state and federal laws, and you must be prepared to prove driver errors and legal violations under both sets of laws. For example, under federal law, truck drivers are only allowed to drive a certain number of hours before rest is required. Delivery deadlines and profit motives often compel drivers to remain behind the wheel or to speed intentionally. Your lawyer will assess the driver’s conduct, analyze the trip, review the driver’s trip logs (drive time), maintenance records, and written records of pre-trip safety inspections to identify violations of safety laws. Determining all liable parties is critical to your case and requires a detailed review of all available evidence and records. An experienced tractor-trailer accident attorney can ensure that you identify all responsible parties and hold them accountable.
Special Federal Regulations Apply to Commercial Truck Drivers
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates commercial truck operations. These regulations apply to the driver, the truck, and the trucking companies. These regulations include all of the following:
- Time a driver may be on the road
- Insurance coverage required (including higher limits for certain types of cargo)
- Inspection requirements and record-keeping requirement
- Identification, qualification, and training of drivers
- Cargo handling and securing – shifting cargo causes many truck accidents
- Drug and alcohol testing of drivers
These regulations maximize the safety of everyone on the road. Beyond these federal laws, all North Carolina traffic laws (speeding, failure to yield, lane change rules, following too closely, etc.) also apply and govern all truck drivers. An experienced North Carolina personal injury lawyer will know if the driver, truck, or trucking company failed to comply with federal regulations and state traffic laws. Showing each violation will add strength and value to your truck accident injury case.
Tractor Trailer Accidents Can Cause More Severe Injuries
Tractor-trailer accidents have the potential to cause severe injuries. A loaded tractor-trailer weighs 80,000 pounds, and the average car weighs approximately 4,000 pounds. With the truck weighing 20 times the weight of a car, even a modest impact produces tremendous collision force for the occupants of the car. Unfortunately, severe injuries including fractures, internal injuries, and traumatic brain injuries are rather common following collisions involving large trucks. In these cases, it is critical to provide focused medical evidence so the opposition will understand the true nature of all injuries, and the past and future medical care costs and pain and suffering that they owe for.
Due to the common results of truck accidents, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has imposed much higher minimum mandatory coverage requirements for all commercial vehicles governed by their federal regulations. Under current law, our federal government requires the following minimum insurance requirements:
- $300,000 under 10,000 gross vehicle weight
- $750,000 for 10,000 pounds or more gross vehicle weight
- $1,000,000/$5,000,000 for oil or hazardous material
With the increased potential for injuries and the increased insurance available, the trucking company will have a team of experienced lawyers and adjusters working to minimize their financial exposure. Former adjuster Carl Nagle knows that insurance adjusters are trained to be friendly, to appear helpful, and to try to earn the victim’s trust and confidence. Be cautious in all dealings with insurance adjusters. They are only working to avoid or minimize your injury claims.
With a lawyer on your side, you show the trucking company’s insurance adjusters that you are prepared to exercise your right to sue. Your lawyer can collect medical evidence, show how the injuries affect your life and collect full and fair payment for past and future medical needs, lost wages and loss of future earning capacity, costs of home modifications and medical equipment, and generous payment for pain, suffering, scarring, disfigurement, loss of physical ability and reduced quality-of-life.
North Carolina Applies Contributory Negligence
Contributory negligence means that if a jury finds you were partially responsible for the accident, even just 1% responsible, you likely have no claims and no payment rights. In severe injury cases, insurance companies always seek to place slight blame on the victim, which allows them to deny all claims. Their lawyers and the insurance carrier will retain crash reconstruction experts and collision investigators immediately, and they will work hard to establish evidence to defend your case.
Truck accident lawyers work on a contingency fee basis – meaning you pay nothing until the lawyer collects money for you at the end of the case. You can retain an experienced North Carolina tractor-trailer accident lawyer with no legal fees or up-front costs, and your lawyer will start working today to investigate the crash on YOUR behalf. Your lawyer will immediately collect and preserve vital evidence, secure truck inspections, and black box downloads, research the truck driver’s and trucking company’s accident/safety history, and show the other side that you are prepared to win your trial. This strong approach actually increases the chance that you will not have to go to court because insurance companies that believe you can and will bring them to trial make much higher settlement offers to avoid litigation.
Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney in North Carolina
It is critical to have an experienced personal injury lawyer on your side. Carl Nagle worked as a claims adjuster for a national insurance carrier and, during his years working as an adjuster in Atlanta, he was an on-call adjuster for the insurer’s commercial lines division. In this role, he handled insurance claims against truckers. After law school, Carl worked as an insurance defense lawyer. During his years working as an insurance defense lawyer, he was retained by insurance companies to defend truck drivers and trucking companies in court.
With his years of insurance industry experience, Carl understands the tactics insurance carriers use to oppose victims’ claims, and he stands ready to help you avoid those pitfalls and to present a strong, thorough, and valuable personal injury case. With 30 years of experience only handling roadway accident claims throughout North Carolina, our law firm can easily protect your rights and ensure that you collect maximum value for your commercial vehicle accident claims.
Nagle & Associates only handles serious injury cases. Because we handle complex, high-value legal claims, we feel that a reduced fee percentage is appropriate for our clients. If we accept your case, we offer a legal fee of 25% of the settlement (most firms charge 33.3% of any settlement). Most cases settle, with no suit filings or court involvement. If a suit is filed, our litigation fee is 33% (most firms charge 40-44%). Our lower fee percentage leaves more money in our clients’ hands when the case closes.
Whether you hire our firm or another, if you were injured in an accident caused by a truck driver or other commercial/business driver, you truly will benefit from legal representation. An experienced attorney handles all insurance filings for you, takes control of the case, adds legal and financial leverage, and works to collect the true value of all legal claims arising from your accident.
If you have questions about a truck accident, please contact us at (800) 411-1583 for a free consultation. We can typically answer all of your questions and provide a safe plan of action during a free, confidential telephone call.