Trucks may be effective and efficient at moving goods on roads, but they can also be dangerous. Their size, weight, and difficulty to control in some circumstances can make them particularly dangerous in an accident.
Being involved in a collision with a truck usually means serious injuries, substantial medical bills, and significant psychological impacts. While money, of course, can’t solve everything, a Virginia truck accident lawyer can help you get the compensation that you deserve for your injuries.
Virginia civil law makes it clear that those who caused a truck accident are responsible for the costs that the accident created. This will usually mean that an insurance company will be the one paying the compensation, and it can sometimes be challenging to ensure that they pay the entirety of what they owe.
At Whitlock Law, LLC, we have experience leveraging these laws to help victims of truck accidents seek what they are owed, whether by settlement or litigation.
Trucking operations are often complex processes with a lot of hands involved. While the truck driver may be the most likely liable party, there is also a chance that many of the other parties involved in the trucking industry could also be held liable.
One of the first tasks that we need to do for our clients is investigate the accident to understand what party or parties we should be pursuing restitution from. Some of the potentially liable parties in a truck accident include:
In most cases, the truck driver will have done something that makes them liable or partially liable for the accident. This will usually involve some kind of driving that is outside the bounds of what was expected of them, including some type of reckless, distracted, or drunk driving or other traffic violation.
Truck drivers are also subject to additional regulations regarding how much time they spend driving compared with how much rest they get, and violations of these regulations may make them liable as well.
A driver’s employer sets expectations regarding the driver’s delivery times and other company policies. There are some circumstances where these policies may make it more likely that the driver will take unnecessary risks and end up in an accident. If that’s the case, the employer could be held responsible.
Another driver may have violated traffic law and caused the accident. They may have caused the collision directly or were driving in a manner that led others to cause a collection, as they were trying to evade this driver’s erratic driving.
The company responsible for shipping the freight is not always the same as the truck driver’s employer. They may be responsible if there was some issue with the freight that made an accident either more likely or more harmful in the event that an accident occurred.
Sometimes, yet another provider may be responsible for loading the truck. It’s important that the freight in the truck be properly balanced, or there is an increased risk of a rollover and greater difficulty in driving and maintaining control of the trailer.
Trailer accidents can result from such practices. These often involve the trailer jackknifing or rolling the entire tractor-trailer rig over. Issues with how the freight is packed may result in the loader’s liability.
If the owner of the freight failed to disclose something important about the freight, such as whether it contains hazardous materials, and that made an accident more likely or dangerous, they may be partially liable.
There are times when an issue with the upkeep and management of roads, traffic signs, or traffic lights causes an accident. In these cases, it could be the government responsible for these roads that is held liable.
Sometimes, a defective part could trigger an issue with a vehicle and cause an accident. If that’s the case, the manufacturer could be liable, so long as the part has been properly installed and maintained.
A failure to provide the maintenance requested or install a part properly could lead to an accident. This would mean that the maintenance provider is liable.
The deadline for filing a claim in a truck accident case is set by the statute of limitations rules for personal injury claims. In most cases, this deadline will be two years.
However, there may be some exceptions or variations to this deadline. These depend on some of the factors involved in the case, including the ages of those injured, when the injuries are discovered, and who is being held liable. It’s important to talk to a lawyer as soon as possible after your accident so that they can help determine when your claim must be filed.
Proving liability in a truck accident claim follows the same general pattern and elements that are required to demonstrate liability in any personal injury claim. Your lawyer must prove these elements using the evidence that they gather regarding the accident, along with possible witness testimony.
They must show certain facts regarding the defendant to demonstrate their negligence and responsibility for the semi-truck accident.
The defendant must be shown to have what is known as a duty of care in the situation in which the accident occurred. This concept is generally simple to explain and prove in motor vehicle accidents.
It is the idea that the defendant had a responsibility to take reasonable precautions regarding their actions and the potential impact they could have on others. They were required not to create any excess risk for those around them.
For motor vehicles, the inherent danger and risk they pose make it reasonably obvious that anyone involved has a duty to be careful about the impact of their actions. This is all the more true for complex operations like trucking, where so many things need to be done correctly and up to standards to ensure safe operations.
A failure to meet the duty of care required of the defendant constitutes a breach of duty. While the exact nature of the breach will be specific to the case and the defendant, it is generally a failure to take the reasonable precautions that were required of them in the circumstances surrounding the accident.
To prove this breach generally requires demonstrating the precise actions and behavior of the defendant and how those actions failed to meet what was expected of them.
The breach may be simple and familiar, like a failure to follow a traffic law, or it could be complex and highly specific to the defendant’s role. In these cases, it may be necessary to bring in an expert witness who is a peer of the defendant or highly knowledgeable regarding the defendant’s job. They can clarify for the court exactly what the duty of care and the breach of duty are in these situations.
For instance, if there was an issue with how the truck was loaded, it could be helpful to bring in someone who can explain what the standard expectation is for loading a truck and how that was not done.
Lastly, your injuries must be the result of the breach that the defendant was shown to have made for them to be liable for the costs they created. Because the injuries were caused by the truck accident, this generally means that we need to prove two points of direct connection.
First, the actions constituting a breach must be shown to be the direct cause of the accident. Second, the injuries you sustained must be shown to have been directly caused by the accident.
While it may seem unnecessary to make these connections clear, it’s important to realize that there are counterexamples. For instance, consider the possibility of a truck driver who has exceeded the hours that they can drive in a day.
Technically, this is a violation, but if their truck is rear-ended while they are stopped at an intersection, then the breach of driving more than they were supposed to is not the cause of the accident.
Considering how many technical breaches occur on the roads every day without any issue resulting from them, it’s important that we establish which breach or breaches contributed to the accident.
The need to connect the injuries with the accident is largely due to people having been dishonest about their injuries in the past. Some people have exaggerated the true extent of their injuries. Others have attempted to pass off injuries that they sustained in another incident after the accident as being related to the accident.
Some have even tried to claim that pre-existing conditions were caused by it. To protect against these risks, the burden is on the plaintiff to show exactly how the accident caused their injuries.
The compensation that’s available in civil personal injury claims is designed to cover the costs that are directly caused by the injuries and, therefore, are a direct result of the breach. This connection must be shown and is often done through the use of evidence, like doctors’ notes and medical bills.
This is why keeping good documentation of your costs can be vital to seeing that you receive proper compensation for them. The compensation that is paid will come in different forms of damages.
These damages are meant to address those costs which have a monetary element to them. If it has a bill, receipt, or other clear financial accounting component, it will likely be compensated through these damages. One of the primary costs addressed in this way is medical expenses, like:
Any property damage that the plaintiff suffered is also addressed through economic damages. In a truck accident, this often means damage to a vehicle, so the costs to repair or replace that vehicle will be compensated.
In the case of serious injuries, which are common in a truck accident, it’s possible that the plaintiff has had to miss work and, as a result, lost out on wages that would have been earned otherwise. These, too, are addressed through economic damages.
Lastly, these damages are also forward-looking and meant to address costs that have not yet been incurred. When injuries are particularly significant, they may require ongoing medical care, which is addressed through these damages.
Additionally, the plaintiff’s injuries may prevent them from returning to work in the same way as they did prior to the injury or even altogether. This future lost earning capacity is also covered by economic damages.
Those who are injured in a truck accident suffer other significant impacts and costs that extend beyond those with an obvious financial component. Largely, these are the psychological and emotional impacts of the accident. Pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment in life, and loss of a body part are just a few of the psychological costs that can be addressed by non-economic damages.
Of course, given that there are no clear financial means of addressing these issues, there is no expectation that the money in these damages is meant to “solve” these concerns. Instead, they are a way of acknowledging the injustice of the injured having to suffer these impacts.
They also may make the issues more manageable by providing some relief from concerns in other aspects of life, allowing greater focus and attention on healing and managing these concerns.
There is a third set of damages that could be awarded in some cases, but these are not based on the costs that the plaintiff has suffered. Instead, these damages are based on an assessment of the actions of the defendant. Such punitive damages are designed to serve as a punishment for particular behavior and to act as a deterrent for future similar actions.
However, for punitive damages to be awarded, it must often be shown that there was some kind of ill-intent, maliciousness, or otherwise egregious behavior on the part of the defendant. Given that most truck accidents are the result of simple errors, mistakes, or poor choices, they aren’t likely to be awarded in most situations.
However, when assessing your case, your lawyer can give you a better idea of whether they may be relevant to your situation.
One of the important elements of a civil personal injury claim is contributory negligence. This is a set of rules that could significantly impact your ability to collect damages. They allow the defendant’s lawyers the opportunity to show that the plaintiff was at least partially at fault for the accident that they were involved in.
Most states operate under comparative negligence rules for this element of their personal injury claims. This means that, if the plaintiff is shown to be at fault for their injuries, their potential damages will be reduced proportionately to a percentage that they are given, which is meant to represent their share of fault. In some states, though, a percentage of 50% or greater could mean not being able to collect any damages.
Virginia, though, is one of only a few states that operates under contributory negligence rules. This means that, if the plaintiff is even just 1% at fault for the accident and their injuries, they could be barred from collecting any damages at all.
It’s the high stakes that contributory negligence creates that is one of the reasons why working with a Virginia truck accident lawyer is so important. One of the most critical components of our help with your case is ensuring that we are prepared to defend against claims of contributory negligence.
If the truck accident resulted in the victim’s death, then the surviving family may be eligible to file a wrongful death claim. This is very similar to a standard personal injury claim, but it does have some subtle differences that a lawyer can review for you. In particular, it also allows the ability to seek restitution for additional costs, such as funeral and burial costs.
Settling a claim instead of taking it to court is an option that most truck accident victims will need to consider. However, there is no universal rule or precise formula to tell you whether it is better to settle the claim or take it to court. The details of your situation, and your particular personal preference, will decide what’s the right choice for you and your situation.
While going to court may offer the strongest opportunity to maximize the payout that you receive, there are some advantages to settling a claim instead.
One significant advantage of settling a claim is the element of time. A court trial is often a long, drawn-out process, particularly if the courts happen to have a lot of cases when you take your case to trial. It’s not uncommon for plaintiffs who go to court to not receive their money for months or possibly years.
A settlement, however, can allow you to receive the funds much sooner. In most cases, they are delivered within thirty days or according to the agreement.
Just how important the element of time is to you will, of course, need to be weighed against how much you are receiving in a settlement offer. For some, though, it may be of tremendous importance to wrap the process up quickly, especially if they feel that they need to do so to move on to the next phase of their post-accident lives.
Time, though, isn’t the only benefit of a settlement, as it also carries risk benefits. Any time that a claim goes to court, there is always a possibility that the case may not end in your favor. In Virginia, in particular, this is a greater risk because of the doctrine of contributory negligence.
A settlement, though, offers a guarantee that you will receive whatever funds are decided upon in the final agreement. For those not wishing to expose themselves to the potential risk of a trial, a settlement might be a better option.
There are a few different tasks that you may be able to do in the aftermath of a truck accident. These can protect your case and help your ability to seek restitution for your injuries. If you have more serious injuries, you may not be able to do all of these but, broadly speaking, there are a few important ideas to keep in mind after a semi-truck accident.
To collect restitution, you will need good documentation of your injuries that shows how they connect to the accident. This process will often begin with paramedics at the scene of the incident.
In most cases, truck accidents are serious enough that paramedics will be called, and it’s important that you allow them to examine you, even if you don’t believe that you have major injuries. You may be in a state of shock, and they are trained to recognize traumatic injuries that even the injured person themselves may not be aware of yet.
If you are cleared by paramedics, it can still be valuable to get a full medical examination from your doctor soon after the accident. As the shock wears off, you and your doctor may be able to identify less traumatic injuries that the paramedics may not have recognized.
It’s important that you get this examination done relatively soon, as a delay could be used to argue either that the injuries were not particularly serious or that they were the result of another incident.
If your injuries allow, it can be helpful if you or someone with you is able to document the scene of the accident. Photos and videos of the damage, vehicles involved, injuries, skid marks, relevant signs, and any other evidence that you believe shows what occurred can be helpful in recreating the scene and demonstrating the situation for the jury.
Along with those pictures, any contact information from eyewitnesses and the other parties involved is important to gather.
The process of documentation should also continue beyond the initial accident. We must prove the costs that you suffer as a result of the accident. It’s important to keep good records of any bills that you incur, along with any related doctor’s notes. It may even be helpful to keep a journal or some other record of your psychological effects.
As a rule, it’s better to document more than you think is necessary and allow us to filter through everything to find what might be most helpful. That’s always better than having too little documentation.
In the aftermath of the accident, it’s important that you use caution when discussing the situation, particularly when speaking with anyone else involved in the incident or insurance agents. The defendant’s lawyers will look for anything that may sound like you are taking responsibility for the accident, and they could use that against you.
The importance of avoiding saying something that may be interpreted that way is especially important in Virginia, where contributory negligence could prevent you from collecting any damages.
It’s important that you get in contact with a truck accident lawyer, like the one at Whitlock Law, LLC, as soon as you can after an accident. We can help walk you through the next steps you need to take to ensure that your ability to seek restitution is secured.
Our firm can also perform a preliminary investigation of the accident to help understand where liability may lie. We can also give you an idea of what kind of statute of limitations may apply to your situation.
The primary objective of a Virginia truck accident lawyer is to maximize the restitution that their clients receive after an accident that was caused by someone else’s negligence. While there are several different tasks that they can do in service of this particular goal, there are two, and sometimes three, primary functions that they perform for their clients.
The foundation of being able to argue for restitution is a solid investigation. We take a close look at the accident to understand who the potentially liable parties are and how we may be able to demonstrate their liability. Collecting evidence is the central component of this process.
Often, this means looking at the police report, along with examining any pictures and videos of the scene and the damage that was done. We may talk to witnesses as well.
In addition to looking at the liability of others, we need to plan for the possibility that the defendant’s team may attempt to argue for your liability. We need to be prepared for the possibility of contributory negligence arguments and an attempt to bar you from collecting damages. We can gather evidence that may be helpful in defending against this risk.
Once we have a firm grasp of the particulars of the accident and the liability involved, we take on the role of negotiator. While a negotiated settlement may be desirable and advantageous to both sides, it’s important that it be on terms that make sense for you. We can use our experience in negotiating these kinds of settlements to find those terms.
Having us negotiate on your behalf can be helpful in a few different ways. One of these is that it can help you avoid saying something that has the potential to be used against you. The insurance companies that are often on the other side will be on guard for anything that sounds like you admitting fault for the accident, especially given the possibility of contributory negligence. With our experience, we can help protect against these kinds of errors.
Allowing us to negotiate for you also leads to more serious and substantial offers from the other party. When they recognize that they are negotiating with an experienced lawyer, they often realize that they must make a serious offer if they hope to make any progress toward an agreement.
Their sense of urgency may be increased as well, as the presence of a lawyer indicates that there is a very real chance of the claim going to court if needed. That may lead to a more willing negotiating partner.
Lastly, we may also take on the role of litigator if a fair settlement can’t be reached. We have extensive experience in litigating motor vehicle cases of all sorts, including truck accidents.
We understand the preparation necessary to make a strong case before the court, along with how to defend against claims that you were at fault for the accident. If taking the claim to court is what’s necessary to seek proper restitution for your accident, we have no issues with doing so.
The impact of a truck accident is often significant. The victims face significant injuries, and the costs are equivalent to their suffering. The medical bills can add up quickly, especially when the injuries are serious.
That’s often only the beginning of the problem, as there are also issues like the damage to a vehicle and lost wages that the victims of these accidents must manage. Of course, there are also psychological and emotional impacts that result from these incidents.
The victims of truck accidents deserve fair compensation for the costs that they’ve faced. As truck accident lawyers, we help these victims seek what they’re owed. We bring decades of experience with car accidents of all kinds to our clients’ cases as we aggressively pursue the compensation that they deserve.
At Whitlock Law, LLC, we’ve negotiated fair settlements for our clients and also won substantial damages packages for them in court. Either way, we are prepared to represent our clients and make the case for them. Contact us today to discuss your truck accident case.
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