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How Trucking Companies Try to Avoid Liability After Accidents

January 5, 2021

trucking companies liability

According to the United States Department of Transportation (DOT), in 2018, 4,136 people died in truck accidents. Sixteen percent of these deaths were truck occupants, 67 percent were occupants of cars and other passenger vehicles, and 15 percent were pedestrians, bicyclists, or motorcyclists. Regarding accident injuries, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that in 2017, approximately 145,000 people were injured in truck collisions.

With trucks weighing so much more than vehicles and with their higher ground clearance, it is easy to understand why statistics for car-occupant deaths and injuries are so high. In addition, hazardous road conditions, faulty truck brakes, and long hours also contribute to truck-involved accidents.

Collecting Compensation After a Truck Accident

A driver or occupant who is injured in an accident involving a commercial truck has the right to receive compensation for the losses and damages they sustained. Recovering damages in a truck accident is generally more complex than in a car accident case because more parties are usually involved. An injured driver can try to collect from the truck driver, the driver’s employer, the company responsible for repairing and maintaining the truck, the company that hired the trucking company to transport their cargo, and the related insurance carriers.

As a rule, a trucking company generally carries more insurance and has more assets than a sole truck driver, but both can be named in a lawsuit, along with their insurance companies. It is not an easy process to recover damages from a truck accident. Trucking companies and insurance carriers are in business to make money. Both use various tactics to avoid liability after accidents. An accident victim should hire a lawyer immediately to help them navigate the process of recovering their damages and losses.

What Laws Govern Truck Accidents in Virginia?

In Virginia, liability for truck accidents is based on negligence. This means that the at-fault party, through their insurance company, is responsible for compensating accident victims. The injured party, most often through their insurer, will have to establish fault to receive any compensation. It is important to note that a plaintiff cannot collect damages if they are at fault in any way. For example, although a truck driver was clearly negligent in an accident, if it can be proven that the plaintiff was adjusting the car’s navigation system just before the crash, they have no right to collect damages.

Examples of negligence by a truck driver or a trucking company include:

  • Drowsy driving or working longer than the 11 hours allowed by law.
  • Speeding or other traffic violations. The truck driver’s negative history might be considered.
  • Inadequate driver rest between trips.
  • Trucks that are carrying more weight than allowed by law.
  • Faulty truck design.
  • Lack of or improper truck maintenance or maintenance schedule.
  • Drunk driving.
  • Inadequate driver training.

What Damages are Recoverable After a Truck Accident?

A driver or occupants who are injured in an accident involving a truck may be able to recover the following economic damages:

  • Current and future medical bills
  • Lost wages for missed work
  • Lost future earning power
  • Wrongful death

A victim who filed a personal injury claim may also seek damages for non-economic losses, including pain and suffering, permanent disability, and lost enjoyment of life.

What is the Timeframe for Suing for Damages?

In Virginia, a claim for damages must be filed within two years if anyone was injured or killed in the accident or within five years for property damage. If it is a wrongful death claim, the timeframe starts on the date of the accident.

Avoiding Liability

There are various tactics a trucking company may use to avoid liability in an accident, including the following:

Deny Employment

The law requires that the negligent party is an employee of the company and the worker caused the harm while on the job. The second condition is generally satisfied by the fact that the driver was working when the accident occurred. Some trucking companies will deny that the truck driver was an employee of their company by claiming the driver was an independent contractor.

Some drivers can also be classified as subcontractors, meaning they work for a smaller trucking company that owns the truck and employs the driver. This does not absolve the trucking company from responsibility if they cut corners on driver safety, requirements, deadlines, or other aspects.

Place Blame on Other Parties

There can be multiple parties involved in a truck accident. Perhaps the truck manufacturer had a faulty design, or the truck maintenance company failed in their duties. A cargo loader could also be blamed for overfilling the truck, or another driver could be accused of changing lanes abruptly.

A lawyer can help investigate the real cause of an accident and establish the negligence and liability of one or more parties.

Downplay Injuries

Some trucking companies will go to great lengths to try to prove that a victim’s claimed injuries were pre-existing or were otherwise not a result of the accident.

A truck accident victim must prove the truck driver and others were negligent under law by establishing the presence of four conditions:

  • A party had a duty of care regarding the victim.
  • The party breached the duty.
  • The breach of duty caused the victim’s injuries.
  • The victim suffered damages as a result.

Any victim of a truck accident or their loved one should consult with a lawyer as soon as possible.

Question the Damages

Even if a trucking company admits negligence, they often will question the amount of damages being requested by the victim. It is important to note that a victim’s damage requests must be in line with the actual expenses they incurred.

The trucking company may try to prove that the injuries are not serious, or they may question how expenses or future expenses were calculated. They may even try to negate a victim’s claim regarding time or lost wages.

Offer Low Settlement

When a victim is stressed by health concerns and medical bills, they may be tempted to accept any settlement from an insurance company. Insurance companies may even try to convince the victim to accept the offer by bringing up their past driving or criminal records, or they may even tell the victim that their offer is only good for a short time. A victim should consult with a lawyer before accepting any settlement offer.

How can a Lawyer Help in a Truck Accident Case?

Claiming damages in an accident involving a commercial truck and related parties is a complex and often daunting task. A lawyer and law firm can help in the following ways:

  • Ensure the victim is protected. Insurance companies might limit the amount and length of care that is needed. A lawyer can help ensure a victim gets adequate treatment now and in the future.
  • Investigate the accident. The law firm is experienced in analyzing medical and police records, witness statements and interviews, gathering new evidence, and other activities.
  • Investigate the drivers and all companies involved. A full investigation into the manufacture and maintenance of the truck, driver records, and other practices of the trucking company can help establish negligence.
  • Negotiate with insurance companies. An experienced lawyer can negotiate favorable compensation for injuries and other damages. The lawyer will build a strong case, signaling that they are willing to go to court if it is necessary.
  • File a lawsuit. If an insurance company will not negotiate a settlement that adequately covers losses and damages, a lawyer can fight it out in court on behalf of the victim.
  • Ensure all paperwork is completed correctly and on time. There is a lot of paperwork involved in a case, and an experienced lawyer can help.

Virginia Beach Truck Accident Lawyers Protect Injured Victims

If you were recently injured in a truck accident, contact one of our Virginia Beach truck accident lawyers. At East Coast Trial Lawyers, we have the skills and experience to go up against large trucking fleets and their operators. Call us at 757-352-2237 or complete our online form for a free consultation today. Located in Virginia Beach, Virginia, we serve clients throughout Chesapeake, Eastern Shore, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Suffolk, Virginia, as well as North Carolina and nationwide.

Areas We Serve

Our law firm proudly serves clients injured anywhere in Virginia or North Carolina on personal injury claims, including cases with traumatic brain injury, spinal and neck injury, wrongful death, and more serious injuries. As Virginia Beach personal injury attorneys with many years experience, our team of lawyers will be ready to fight for you. If you were injured on the job, our Virginia Beach Workers Compensation lawyers are ready to serve you.

Call 757-352-2237 or fill out the online contact form for a free consultation about your personal injury, workers compensation, or other attorney services. Our firm adopts a team approach to every case, so while one primary lawyer will be assigned to your case, you have the benefit of an experienced team of lawyers, all working on your side. We are located in Virginia Beach, VA, and serve clients who were injured anywhere in Virginia or North Carolina.

301 Bendix Road, Suite 460
Virginia Beach VA 23452
Ph: 757-352-2237 | Fax: 757-352-2220