If you suffered injuries in a tractor trailer accident, a truck accident lawyer may help. You’re certainly not the only one facing the problems that can result. In one recent year, more than 4,600 truck drivers were in crashes that led to death—most often, the deaths of the occupants of passenger vehicles. Accidents with injuries included more than 125,000 big trucks.
For the average driver, the amount of truck accidents makes respecting big trucks on the road a critical part of everyday driving. You do not want to become a statistic: one of the 180,000 people injured in a truck accident during a single year. When truck accidents do happen, however, you deserve the quality legal representation at Gomez Trial Attorneys to help you file a claim and seek the financial compensation you deserve for your injuries.
Tractor Trailer Accidents: The Aftermath
Tractor trailers weigh around 35,000 pounds. On average, trailer loads max out around 40,000 pounds; however, tractor trailers can legally have a combined total weight of up to 80,000 pounds. Compare that to a traditional passenger vehicle, which weighs around 3,000 to 7,000 pounds depending on the size and type of vehicle, and when a tractor trailer causes an accident, it can cause significant injury to the occupants of those passenger vehicles. Many people find their lives permanently changed by the injuries suffered in tractor trailer accidents.
Victims can suffer a wide range of injuries in a tractor trailer accident. Some common injuries, however, alter the lives of the victims long-term, including:
Traumatic brain injury. Traumatic brain injury typically occurs when the brain hits the inside of the skull at a high rate of force, generally caused by accidents. Even a mild traumatic brain injury can leave victims with varying degrees of symptoms more than a year or even a lifetime after the accident. More serious traumatic brain injury, on the other hand, are more likely to cause symptoms that last for a lifetime, often permanently changing the course of the victim’s life. These symptoms may include:
- Personality changes
- Confusion and disorientation
- Difficulty comprehending either spoken or written language
- Sensory changes, including difficulty hearing or seeing
- Changes in perception of hot, cold, or touch
- Difficulty with cognitive processing
- Memory problems, including both short-term memory problems and issues calling up long-term memories
- Sleep disturbances: either sleeping too much as the brain tries to heal or suffering from insomnia
- Challenges in emotional regulation, including increased irritability
- Difficulty remembering social convention and adhering to those standards
Traumatic brain injury often requires long-term hospitalization for its victims, who may have to relearn how to communicate or how to take on daily tasks. Some victims of traumatic brain injury require ongoing care, while others may struggle to return to work in their former capacity due to cognitive processing difficulties.
Spinal cord damage. In its most severe form, spinal cord damage causes paralysis below the site of the injury. Victims may have no feeling at all below the site of the injury, or they may have ongoing pain in the affected areas. Not all spinal cord injuries, however, cause complete paralysis. Incomplete spinal cord injuries, in which the spinal cord suffers damage but does not sever completely, can lead to a wide range of symptoms that complicate daily life, including:
- Problems with bladder or bowel function
- Changed sensation below the site of the injury
- Changes in mobility and function
- Radiating pain
- Tingling and numbness in the arms and legs
Some victims with spinal cord damage go on to recover some sensation and function for as much as 18 months after the accident as swelling goes down and mobility increases. Others may live with those limitations for the rest of their lives. In addition to the high cost of medical treatment following a spinal cord injury, many victims must use wheelchairs or other mobility devices to help them get around.
Amputations. Because of the large size and weight of tractor trailers, they can cause severe damage to the limbs of accident victims during the accident. Sometimes, the accident severs the limb altogether. Other times, severe crushing damage causes doctors and victims to decide that removing the affected limb will create a better quality of life for the patient.
If a limb loses blood flow for too long after the accident, tissue may grow necrotic, necessitating amputation to save the patient’s life. Individuals who suffer amputation due to an accident may use prosthetics to help them get around after the accident. Those prosthetics, however, represent an ongoing expense in the victim’s life: a well-made prosthetic may last for an average of about three years. Prosthetic limbs may require regular replacement for the patient to maintain as much functionality as possible.
Seeking Compensation for Tractor Trailer Accident Injuries
After an accident with serious injuries, your medical expenses may add up fast. Worse, if you miss time from work during your recovery, you may have little income coming in. Fortunately, you can seek compensation for your injuries. You are also entitled to monetary compensation for your pain and suffering.
What damages can you claim after a tractor trailer accident?
After a tractor trailer accident, the funds you receive in compensation will depend on the extent of your injuries and the insurance policy carried by the driver. Some fleets provide insurance for all their drivers, while others, especially those who do not provide tractor trailers for their drivers, may require the driver to pay for his own insurance. However, tractor trailer drivers must carry higher insurance than drivers of passenger vehicles, which can make it easier to get the compensation you deserve for your injuries. As you file your claim, consider these factors:
- Medical expenses. The average cost of a high spinal cord injury, in the first year of treatment, can rise to more than $760,000. Amputations can cost up to $60,000 for the amputation alone, without considering the cost of hospitalization, physical therapy, and prosthetics. After your accident, keep careful track of all your medical expenses following a serious accident, from the ambulance transport and emergency room bill to ongoing hospitalization or physical therapy after the accident. You may also want to include alterations made to your home or vehicle to offer mobility and accessibility after your accident: wheelchair ramps, widened doorways, and accessible showers, for example.
- Pain and suffering. Often, pain and suffering represents the highest percentage of a settlement after a tractor trailer accident. Not only does your injury cause physical pain, you may experience considerable emotional distress as a result of your injuries and their limitations. For example, some injuries may prevent victims from participating in some of their favorite activities. Other times, victims may miss important events in the lives of loved ones during their recovery. Talking with a lawyer after your tractor trailer accident can help you better quantify your pain and suffering and what it will mean long-term.
- Lost wages. Often, victims of tractor trailer accidents miss significant time at work during the recovery process. Severe injuries may prevent a return to usual job tasks: broken limbs, for example, may make warehouse work impossible, while traumatic brain injury could prevent a patient from dealing with customers, handling high-stress situations, or making complex decisions. Some people can return to work on a limited basis due to ongoing pain. Others may continue to miss time at work due to therapy and appointments. Including those lost wages as part of your tractor trailer accident claim can make it easier to fill in some of the financial gaps left by the recovery process.
- Lost earning potential. Some tractor trailer accident injuries may prevent victims from returning to work altogether. Severe traumatic brain injury, for example, may permanently change a victim’s ability to deal with customers or prevent the victim from remembering how to take care of basic work tasks. Some victims of traumatic brain injury may need constant supervision, preventing them from ever returning to a normal position. In other cases, spinal cord damage or amputation may make it impossible for a victim to return to physically demanding jobs. Claiming lost earning potential can make it easier to train for a new profession, return to school, or have funds during the difficult recovery process.
Who pays for a tractor trailer accident claim?
In most cases, the company that owns the truck or the driver will carry auto insurance designed to provide financial protection for the driver, the company, and any victims of accidents involving those trucks. That does not necessarily mean, however, that only those entities carry responsibility for your injuries. Talking with an attorney can help you better identify other entities that may carry some responsibility for the accident.
Did a mechanical defect cause the accident? In a tractor trailer, mechanical defects, from tire blowouts to faulty parts, can quickly lead to serious problems. Most fleets use a system of checks and balances to inspect each truck and trailer every time it goes out, ensuring that mechanical problems get fixed quickly. When those problems do not get fixed properly, the mechanic may share blame for any injuries caused during the accident. A driver or mechanic who failed to identify a known problem with the vehicle may also share responsibility for the accident.
In the case of a defective part, the manufacturer of that part, as well as the distributor of the part, may share responsibility for the accident. Manufacturers must put out safe parts that allow the truck to reach its destination without posing an undue danger to other drivers on the road. When the manufacturer fails in that duty, especially if parts with known issues remain on the market, the manufacturer and distributor of those parts may face significant legal and financial repercussions.
Did the driver drink and drive? Truck drivers should not drink and drive, but 12.5 percent of American-based drivers tested positive for alcohol in a randomized test. Bars and restaurants must exercise a high duty of care when patrons, including truck drivers, come in to drink. If the bar or restaurant workers, including bartenders and servers, suspect that the patron will get behind the wheel of a car or truck when leaving, but continue to serve him anyway, the facility and the server may share responsibility for the accident.
Do you need an attorney to file a tractor trailer accident claim?
Many people assume they will not need an attorney to handle a basic accident claim. You do have the option of working directly with the insurance company to negotiate your claim. However, you should keep several things in mind before deciding you do not need an attorney.
- Insurance companies do not always offer the maximum funds you should receive after an accident. After an accident, you may need every dollar you can get to put toward medical bills and other expenses. Often, however, the insurance company will attempt to minimize the compensation offered. You may, for example, get a low settlement offer immediately after the accident. Once you sign, it may relieve the company of future financial responsibilities, even if you deserve more than you receive for your injuries.
- Negotiations can increase your stress. During your recovery, you have plenty of things on your plate already, including a wide range of stressors. When you turn your negotiations over to an attorney, on the other hand, it can decrease your stress levels and make it easier for you to focus on the other areas of your recovery.
- An attorney can help maximize your compensation. An experienced personal injury attorney who has dealt with California insurance companies in the past knows how the system works and what compensation you deserve for your injuries. By working with an attorney, you can get a better idea of how much compensation you deserve for your tractor trailer accident as well as how you may inadvertently minimize your compensation. Often, simply working with an attorney can cause the insurance company to raise its offer.
Finding a Tractor Trailer Attorney
If you suffered serious injuries in a tractor trailer accident, a truck accident lawyer can help answer your questions and decide whether to seek compensation.
Gomez Trial Attorneys
655 West Broadway
San Diego, CA 92101