18-wheeler wrecks are some of the most devastating out there today. While any type of motor vehicle accident can cause someone involved to get hurt, serious injuries are more common to arise when at least one vehicle involved is a big rig truck. Whether it’s the heavy weight, size, or force of impact, it is not uncommon for truck wreck victims to get hurt. If you or a loved one is going through the aftermath of one of these accidents, undoubtedly there is a lot going through your head. When can you get back to work? When will you get better? Who will take care of household responsibilities? Who will pay for medical bills?
While all of this is going through your head, you should first realize time is not always on your side. All states have strict statutes of limitation within which a lawsuit must be filed. Further, big trucking companies often begin investigating the accident almost immediately, which means they can start gathering evidence and building their defense. Why should you get a lawyer after an 18-wheeler accident? Consider the following ways in which an experienced attorney can help you.
Identify All Liable Parties
The first step in a personal injury case should be to analyze fault, or liability. In all states, the plaintiff (injured party) has the legal burden of proving negligence. A good place to start is the police report generated by the responding officer(s). When trucking companies are involved, attorneys will need to analyze federal data and look for Department of Transportation (DOT) numbers. Further review of the facts could suggest fault on another party, such as a third party broker or part manufacturers. Truck accident cases, like car accidents, are subject to the statute of limitation, and you must assert all claims against all liable parties within the statute of limitation, or you may forever lose your right to recover against those parties.
Preserve and Obtain Critical Evidence
No case for personal injuries can be won without proper evidence. Since the plaintiff bears the legal burden of proof in a truck accident case, an attorney will want to make sure all relevant evidence is properly preserved. Otherwise, it cannot be identified or used in the case. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) places strict requirements on interstate trucking companies and their drivers. For example, truck drivers must follow stringent rules on hours of service, which means there are limits in the number of consecutive hours in which he or she may be on duty (intended to reduce driver fatigue). Other rules concern drug and alcohol use, vehicle maintenance, and background checks.
In a trucking crash lawsuit, relevant evidence could include driver logs, GPS data, black box data, post-crash drug/alcohol test results, maintenance records, shipping records, driver personnel files, and video footage. In the immediate aftermath of an auto accident, the plaintiff may not know what information could be useful or relevant. Thus, an experienced attorney should take steps to prevent the spoliation of evidence. If critical evidence is then destroyed, the lawyer could seek sanctions against the party that destroyed the evidence.
Consult with Necessary Experts
In a trucking accident case, proving liability and damages often means consulting with experts. Following a wreck, it can be beneficial to begin consulting with experts as soon after the crash as follows. For example, an accident reconstruction expert can visit the scene of the wreck to take photographs and measurements, information which can be used to essentially re-create the accident and figure out exactly how it happened. This testimony can be useful if conflicting statements of the accident were given to the responding law enforcement agency.
Other trucking experts can be retained to analyze driver logs, physically inspect the 18-wheeler, download and examine black box/ECM data, and provide general consultation to the attorney. Trucking experts can provide value by helping the attorney identify FMCSA violations and providing testimony in support of those findings.
Experts can be effectively utilized to help prove damages. In a personal injury case against a negligent truck driver, injuries can be severe. Doctors will need to testify that the plaintiff’s injuries were caused by the accident, and that the medical treatment and bills he or she incurred were reasonable and necessary. If future treatment will be needed, an expert doctor will need to testify as well. In the case of traumatic injuries, the plaintiff may be unable to return to work at all, or may suffer a loss of earning capacity if he or she is unable to perform the type of work he or she is used to. Vocational economists can compile wage loss figures regarding the victim’s age, education, experience, industry, earning history, earning potential, and other relevant factors.
Injured? Let Our Attorneys Protect Your Legal Rights
To discuss your case with an experienced trucking accident lawyer, call Nahon, Saharovich & Trotz at 800-529-4004 or complete our online form. Our team has the resources to begin investigating your accident immediately and consulting with the necessary experts. NST Law serves victims of truck and car wrecks throughout the South, including Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, and Kentucky.