Catastrophic injuries occur without warning, leaving those that suffer them and their families with the heartache and chaos that ensues. The last thing victims and their families need to consider at such a devastating time is how they will pay their bills. Even worse, they may feel pressure from insurance companies to settle their case as soon as possible.
If this situation applies to you or someone you love, consult a skilled truck accident lawyer before speaking to insurance companies. Determining a fair settlement this early after such a severe injury is nearly impossible. Instead, you need an attorney in your corner with experts who can help determine what your catastrophic injuries are worth.
What Makes Semi-Trucks Dangerous?
Those who survive semi-truck accidents often incur catastrophic injuries. Why are their injuries typically worse than those in a passenger vehicle collision? Semi-trucks have many characteristics that make them more dangerous on the road.
- Their size: When fully loaded, large trucks can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds, which is 20 to 30 times more than the average passenger vehicle. They are typically longer and taller than passenger cars as well.
- Braking capability: With so much weight, it takes more distance to stop semi-trucks than smaller motor vehicles. This fact makes it especially risky for other drivers who cut into the lane of travel directly in front of the truck or quickly come to a stop when a truck driver follows right behind them.
- Slow acceleration: A large truck's acceleration is also slower due to its weight. Accidents can happen if a truck driver tries to merge onto a highway or into a traffic lane and underestimates the speed of other vehicles, and other motorists don't adjust their speed accordingly to allow the truck to merge safely.
- Blind spots: Because of their length, semi-trucks have much larger blind spots than other vehicles. As such, directly in front, directly behind, and along both sides, especially the right side of a large truck, is a "no-zone." Drivers should learn to stay out of those areas, but the truck driver must also take proper steps to ensure no cars are in no-zones before they switch lanes or merge.
- Hazardous loads: Large truck cargo can become dangerous in several ways. When freight isn't adequately secured, it shifts, resulting in an unbalanced, harder-to-control semi-truck. If an accident occurs, the truck's cargo can spill out and become obstacles to other vehicles.
- Further, sometimes semi-trucks carry hazardous materials such as chemicals and fuel. These substances can make a fire more likely to ignite if a crash happens. Toxic spills can also occur on the roadway, requiring special cleaning care.
- High center of gravity: Tractor-trailers are built to be substantially taller than other motor vehicles and have larger ground clearance. This gives them a high center of gravity, making them more at risk of tipping over. Additionally, the large ground clearance allows space for a small vehicle to slide beneath if a crash occurs.
What Causes Truck Accidents?
A large truck's size and speed are deadly for smaller vehicles. Remember that a fully loaded tractor-trailer can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds compared to the 4,000 pounds of an average mid-size sedan. Incredible damage can still result even if a passenger vehicle and a large truck accident occur at slow speeds. Those who choose a truck driving career need extra training and diligence to keep everyone safe on the road.
Unfortunately, not all truck drivers receive the training they are supposed to. Some don't adhere to federal rules and restrictions. Many accidents result from their carelessness or negligence or that of their employer.
Numerous causes can lead to such an accident, including:
- Driver fatigue
- Driver distraction
- Substance abuse
- Improper loading
- Improper vehicle maintenance and inspection
When you can trace a truck accident back to the negligence or carelessness of a semi-truck driver, your truck accident lawyer can hold them liable for their actions. They work with experts in the industry to determine what caused a truck accident and who should be held accountable for the ensuing damages.
A truck accident lawyer can also determine if you can file a personal injury lawsuit against the truck driver, the trucking company, the vehicle or parts manufacturer, or other parties. If you can, your truck accident lawyer can estimate the compensation you deserve for your injuries.
What is a Catastrophic Injury?
Catastrophic injuries can include severe spine, spinal cord, and brain damage. Some catastrophic injuries also involve fractures of the skull or spine or losing a limb.
The most common types of catastrophic injuries and their possible effects include:
- Internal injuries - Ruptured organs such as the kidneys, spleen, liver, or bowels cause internal bleeding, which can be fatal in some circumstances
- Traumatic brain injury - Permanent cognitive problems, irregular speech and language, emotional issues, and a restricted ability to move the arms and legs
- Spinal cord injury - Partial or complete paralysis, chronic pain, respiratory and circulatory complications, frequent spasms, abnormal reflexes, and lack of bowel and bladder control
- Severe burn injuries - Serious infections, loss of limbs, disfigurement, scarring, and lasting disability for extreme burns on some regions of the body
- The loss of a limb, eyesight, or hearing
A hallmark of all catastrophic injuries is that they will likely cause tremendous physical and emotional challenges for the injured victim and their loved ones, sometimes for the rest of their lives. If you or someone you love suffer from a catastrophic injury because of another individual's negligence, a truck accident attorney can help.
Other serious injuries victims can sustain in a truck accident include:
- Internal bleeding
- Broken bones
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Back or neck injuries
While such injuries might not fall into the catastrophic category, they can still have severe symptoms and require extensive medical treatment. No matter what type of injuries you have from your crash, always discuss your options with a truck accident attorney.
The Costs of a Catastrophic Injury
A catastrophic injury can result in astronomical costs. Medical expenses and long-term care alone can add up to millions of dollars and will be ongoing. There is also past and future lost income and the incalculable value of the injured party's pain and suffering.
Many people who suffered an injury in an accident assume they will receive a fair settlement. However, a catastrophic injury is never an injury claim to try to settle alone with an insurance company.
No matter how extreme your situation, the insurance company wants to save money by paying you as little as possible. With catastrophic injuries, the costs are so high and difficult to calculate that your truck accident lawyer will typically request the assistance of financial experts and actuarial accountants to determine what your case is worth.
Catastrophic Injuries: Don't Settle Your Claim Right Away
You never want to settle a personal injury claim without speaking to an experienced attorney. However, this is especially true with claims involving catastrophic personal injuries. Understanding how these types of injuries will impact the rest of your life can take some time. If you settle too soon, you can settle your claim for much less than you need and deserve.
You reach maximum medical improvement (MMI) when medical providers don't expect further recovery from catastrophic injury, even with additional treatment. Only a licensed physician can determine when someone reaches this status. An insurance adjuster, injured party, attorney, or court can't make this decision.
Reaching maximum medical improvement significantly impacts personal injury claims. Understanding the long-term consequences of an injury helps determine how much a case is worth. Damages for future medical expenses, lost income, pain, and suffering depend on the victim's MMI.
An adequate damage assessment isn't possible until someone with severe injuries reaches this point. Waiting until maximum medical improvement to negotiate a settlement increases the chances of full and fair financial recovery. MMI determines fair compensation for a claim and whether or not the injured worker should settle.
Who Can You Hold Liable for Your Truck Accident?
To receive fair compensation for your injuries, you must determine who is liable or legally responsible for causing your injuries. A truck accident lawyer can investigate your accident to determine who should be held accountable. Truck accidents can be complicated as there can be one of the many or several parties who were negligent in causing your accident.
At-fault parties in a truck accident claim might include any or all of the following parties:
- The truck driver
- The trucking company
- Other motorists
- The manufacturer of the truck or its parts
- The workers who loaded the truck or their employer
- Government entities responsible for road conditions and maintenance
Your truck accident attorney will research and piece together all the critical facts of the accident to determine liability. Their investigation can include interviewing witnesses, video surveillance footage, pictures or videos, or even using an accident reconstructionist. Once they determine which parties caused the accident, they can pursue financial recovery from them on your behalf.
Skilled Truck Accident Attorneys Can Determine Liability
It's not always apparent at first who caused a truck accident. Often, they require a complete investigation to determine the cause. When you contact a truck accident lawyer, they can get the accident records.
They will also work to obtain:
- Black box or engine control module data (shows truck driver action immediately before a crash)
- The trucking company's inspection reports and compliance with regulations
- The driver's logbooks
- GPS data from the truck
- Dashcam footage if the truck had cameras facing the road or the driver
A truck accident lawyer also analyzes forensic evidence that can give clues as to the cause of the crash. This type of evidence includes skid marks on the road, points of impact, and the road's curvature.
Insurance companies will send their representatives directly to an accident scene to make their reports and determinations for the cause of the crash. However, insurance companies are usually only interested in decreasing their insured's negligence or claiming that they weren't negligent. When you hire a truck accident attorney, you'll have legal representation on your side and investigators who can perform a thorough and fair review of the collision.
Contact an Experienced Truck Accident Attorney Today
Learning that you have suffered an injury that may keep you from earning an income or enjoying the life you once knew is not what you anticipated. Now you must determine the best course of action for your life financially, physically, and emotionally.
Though no amount of money can ever change your life back to what it was before you suffered your injury, Personal injury attorney in San Antonio can help you receive the compensation you need to live as comfortably as possible moving forward.
Suffering injuries and damages in a truck accident wasn't in your plans; however, calling an experienced truck accident attorney should be. An attorney can stand up for your rights as a victim and get a full and fair settlement in your case, thereby avoiding a lengthy and stressful trial.
You and your family members deserve a compassionate advocate on your side after sustaining a catastrophic injury. You only have a limited time to pursue the compensation you deserve; reach out as soon as possible after your injury.