Semi-Truck Crashes – How We Help Injured Clients and the Families Who Have Lost a Loved One
If you or a family member has been injured, or if your family has lost a loved one, in a commercial truck accident involving a semi-truck, “big rig”, tractor-trailer, or similar vehicle, we would invite you to contact us to learn more about our Commercial Truck Litigation Practice and how we help clients in seeking full compensation from all those responsible.
Our firm is focused on helping those severely injured and who are likely to sustain ongoing significant damages, such as through lost wages, additional medical treatment, pain and suffering, and related costs and expenses.
We offer a free consultation and accept personal injury and wrongful death cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that we are only entitled to a fee if we are successful in recovering compensation. We also advance costs on behalf of our clients during the course of litigation, such as those necessary for experts, court fees, mediation, and deposition.
We accept truck crash cases throughout the state of Utah, including Salt Lake City, Provo, Sandy, and the surrounding communities.
How Commercial Truck Cases are Different from Non-Commercial Vehicle Crashes
Commercial semi-truck crash cases are different from non-commercial vehicle crash cases in a number of respects, including:
The damages that often result. Fully loaded semi-trucks can weigh tens of thousands of pounds, while a car or passenger truck may only way 4,000 or so pounds. Because of the significantly larger weight of semi-trucks, the damage that they cause when impacting cars or passenger trucks is significantly greater than when two vehicles of similar weight collide – even at low speeds. This imbalance in weight and the resulting damage is further compounded and magnified at increased speeds, particularly highway speeds.
The regulations applicable to truck drivers and trucking companies. Commercial truck drivers and trucking companies must comply with detailed regulations adopted under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA), and the regulations promulgated by such agency. Significant rules and regulations adopted by the FMCSA include:
Mandatory breaks and rest time for truck drivers so that they will not be driving while sleep deprived
Prohibitions against drinking in the immediate hours prior to driving
Regulations that truck drivers keep electronic logbooks that detail matters such as the amount of driving done every day
Prohibitions against taking energy or “pep” pills in order to stay awake
Mandatory drug and alcohol testing
Requirements that truck loads be inspected at specified intervals to make sure that loads are secure
Proving Your Case – Event Monitors, Experts, and Video
Black Boxes and Event Monitors
Today, almost all semi-trucks, tractor-trailers, and “big rigs” are equipped with “black boxes”, which are more accurately referred to as “heavy truck event recorders” (or simply “event recorders”).
Truck event recorders continuously track a series of truck driving, including trucking speeds, braking, engine load percentage, clutch status, malfunction lights, and other matters concerning the operation of a truck. In the event of a crash, it is imperative to take legal action to secure a truck so that the event recorder can be obtained, if possible, prior to the demolition of any vehicles. It is important, therefore, to seek experienced legal counsel who can get a court order protecting this very valuable evidence.
Hiring Accident Reconstructionists
As part of our representation, we will typically hire truck accident reconstructionists to visit and diagram an accident scene as soon as possible after an accident (preferably after the weather or the authorities have altered the accident scene).
With sophisticated computer technology and modeling, information from event recorders, and physical evidence at the scene (such as skid marks), accident reconstructionists are able to generate computer animated compelling video showing how a crash likely occurred. Such evidence can be extremely compelling for making an injury victim’s case.
Ongoing video is increasingly being used in all vehicles, including commercial trucks. If a vehicle involved in a crash was using video, we will want to additionally secure and preserve such video to help make the case of our client.
In addition to video that may have been taken within a crash vehicle, often other video may exist, such as security video taken from a nearby building. We will also want to secure any such other video that may exist.
Insurance Required for Trucking Companies
The amount of liability coverage required for noncommercial vehicles varies significantly from state to state, and can be as little as $10,000 or so. In cases involving significant injury or death resulting from a crash caused by the driver of a passenger vehicle, those injured often face a difficult or impossible task of attempting to collect full damages from drivers who choose to carry the minimum amount of insurance coverage, as typically these drivers do not have sufficient assets to make an injury victim whole.
Fortunately, federal law requires commercial truck drivers and trucking companies to carry significantly higher insurance than the insurance required by passenger drivers.
As a starting point, commercial truck drivers must carry insurance of at least $750,000, and this amount may be as high as $5,000,000 depending upon the nature of the load transported. Major truck carriers, however, will typically carry insurance in the millions of dollars in order to financially protect their company in the event of a potentially devastating crash.
While no amount of compensation can ever make up for severe physical injuries or the loss of a loved one, the insurance requirements mandated by law and the additional insurance often secured by trucking companies does mean that those injured and the families who have lost a loved one will typically have access to significant funds (unlike the case of many car accident victims).
Punitive Damages in Commercial Truck Crash Cases
There are two general types of damages that are available in injury cases – compensatory damages and punitive damages. Compensatory damages are damages designed to “compensate” an injury victim for the damages inflicted, which may include “economic” damages (such as lost wages, medical expenses, and damage to a vehicle) and “non-economic damages (such as pain and suffering).
Punitive damages, on the other hand, are different. They are designed solely to punish the wrongdoer for outrageous and egregious negligence, with the goal of deterring others in a similar position from engaging in that type of wrongful conduct.
Punitive damages are not allowed in cases involving “ordinary” negligence, such as driving too fast or going through a red light. Punitive damages may, however, be available in extreme cases, such as if a trucking company or truck driver knowingly drove on brakes that were worn out, or if a trucking company knowingly employed a driver that had a history of drunk driving and such driver causes a crash while drunk.
The amount of punitive damages, if any, is determined by a jury. Because punitive damages are designed to punish outrageous and wrongful conduct, the amount of the damages is typically based upon (i) how outrageous and egregious the wrongful conduct was, and (ii) the financial situation of the defendant. For example, a jury might award much higher punitive damages against a trucking company worth hundreds million dollars than against a trucking company worth only $5 million.
 Most passenger vehicles now also have event recorders.
 Experts and diagnostic equipment are necessary to obtain the information from an event recorder, as the raw information itself is not in a “readable” format.
 We pay for all costs of experts upfront, and this cost and other costs are then deducted from any settlement or trial verdict.