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If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident with a commercial truck, you probably have a lot of questions. The law governing tractor-trailer accidents is complex, so it pays to have good advice as soon as possible after the accident.
The time limit for bringing a commercial truck accident lawsuit is three years for personal injury and three years for property damage (Maryland Courts & Judicial Procedure Code Annotated § 5-101). If you fail to file your claim within those time limits, your claim will be dismissed by the court. This limit is referred to as a “statute of limitations.”
The statute of limitations for lawsuits being brought against the government is different than in other types of cases. A formal claim must be filed with the government within one year of the accident and a lawsuit against the government must be filed within three years.
Being in an accident is always a traumatic experience. When you are involved in an accident with a commercial truck there is a whole new group of questions to consider. In most situations, the truck company is responsible for the harms and losses its truck driver causes under the theory of Respondeat Superior. In Maryland, commercial trucks must carry a mandatory minimum of $1 Million for bodily injury/liability coverage. It is extremely important to contact an experienced truck accident attorney to assist you with your accident.
If you are in an accident with a truck, there are a few steps you must take to ensure the safety of yourself and the other parties involved.
An accident is a stressful and traumatic experience, which is why it is best to take a deep breath and try to focus on your next steps. Always call 911 so that a police officer can help with documenting the accident and gathering information for a full police report. Regardless of the severity of the accident, it is important to let the authorities fill out a proper report of the accident.
Most people these days have a cell phone with a camera. Use your cell phone to take pictures of the accident so that you have evidence of the damage that was done. When contacting a lawyer, photos of the accident will help with smoothing out the details of your case.
If you are injured in a truck accident, you need to seek medical attention for your injuries. Even if you feel slight discomfort it could be a deeper medical issue. When involved in an accident or any experience of this magnitude, your body will release adrenaline and endorphins to help cope with the situation. A slight discomfort you may be feeling at the time of the accident could be a major medical issue. Make sure you go to the emergency room, your primary care doctor, or a walk-in clinic.
With a commercial truck accident there are more legal issues that can arise compared to a normal car accident. Not only could the driver of the truck be liable for the accident, the company that driver works for could also be held accountable in some situations. It is important you seek the advice from an experienced lawyer to help communicate with the insurance agencies. Your most important concern is your health. You should focus on getting better and let an attorney handle the details of the case.
Semi-truck accidents can take a number of forms:
Commercial truck accident statistics can be disheartening because of the sheer number of them. Each year, thousands of people struggle with deaths and serious injuries as a result of these accidents. Commercial trucks including large trucks often driven by a single driver are 20 to 30 times heavier, and they are significantly taller than passenger vehicles, creating a high risk of damage.
Some key statistics about commercial truck accidents include the following, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Highway Loss Data Institute.
These commercial truck accident statistics involve all types of trucks, driven for commercial related needs. They involved all sectors of commercial activity.
The percentage of accidents caused by trucks depends on a variety of factors. In 2016, a total of 3,986 people died in large truck-related crashes, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Highway Loss Data Institute. According to this information, which is the most recent information, the following percentages apply:
Another interesting fact is that these deaths are not dropping, but are, in fact, increasing. The same organization reports that the number of deaths caused by trucks was 27 percent higher than accidents caused by trucks in 2009. Additionally, the number of truck occupants of those trucks, such as drivers and passengers, was 47 percent higher than in 2009. The data also shows that, in 1975, the number of deaths of passengers in other vehicles was 2,757, which accounted for 64% of all truck deaths that year.
The agency attributes these high numbers as a result of trucks that are as much as 30 times heavier than the passenger vehicles they strike. They are additionally much taller than the vehicles. This puts trucks at a higher likelihood of causing not only accidents but more serious accidents. Large trucks include semis and other professionally driven vehicles.
“Comparative fault” rules govern cases where the person bringing the lawsuit relating to the accident (the “plaintiff”) was also at fault. Unfortunately, Maryland still employs a very harsh version of comparative fault, called “contributory negligence.” Under Maryland’s contributory negligence rule, a plaintiff cannot recover for his or her injuries if the plaintiff was at fault in any way for the accident. The truck driver must be totally at fault for the accident.
As an example, if the driver of a car is injured in an accident with a commercial truck and the driver of the car is 80 percent at fault in the accident, he or she will not be allowed to recover in the lawsuit. The same holds if the truck driver is 80 percent at fault and the other driver is only 20 percent at fault.
Maryland’s contributory negligence rules are very harsh. If your life has been impacted by a semi-truck accident, you should seek experienced counsel from an attorney familiar with the ins and outs of Maryland law.
Most semi-truck accident lawsuits settle out of court, and claims are typically paid by an insurance company. But the insurance company’s involvement doesn’t negate the law that applies in court. Insurance companies and their adjusters take Maryland law, including the contributory negligence rules, into consideration when deciding how much a truck accident claim is worth. Just because a case isn’t being argued before a court doesn’t mean you should handle the case on your own. Legal counsel is just as important when dealing with an insurance company as when dealing with the courts.
Commercial truck accidents can create long-term and significant loss to other drivers or property owners. For this reason, settlements can be large in some situations. However, every settlement is dependent on the individual factors contributing to the victim’s losses. A truck accident settlement for minor vehicle damage may amount to a few thousand dollars. If the victim suffers brain damage or loss of life, it can amount to millions of dollars.
Though every accident is different, common components defining how much of a settlement individuals will have included the following:
Because of the complexity of each case, it is important for those involved in commercial truck accidents to ensure all losses are accounted for including both current and long-term losses the driver will suffer as a result of the accident. A driver unable to work again could receive a settlement based on his or her expected earnings over their lifetime, for example.
Usually, the company that employs the driver is vicariously liable for the negligence of its employees under the legal theory respondeat superior. However, there can be several factors which dictate who is liable for your personal injuries and losses.
The main danger when there’s a large truck involved in a collision is just their size and weight. The average passenger vehicle weighs about 5,000 pounds. A loaded truck can weigh 80,000 pounds or more, and they’re anywhere from two to four times the length of a regular car. It’s just simple physics. When two vehicles who are unevenly matched collide, the smaller vehicle is going to get the worst of it. This force from the impact is then transferred to you, causing pain and bodily injury.
A commercial truck is first, and most obviously, a truck that is used for commercial purposes. They can vary in size from what are called “box trucks” up to full 18-wheel (or more) tractor-trailers.
Box trucks are bigger than a van but smaller than a tractor-trailer. The back of the truck resembles a large box, giving it its name. You often see them used by residential delivery services.
Tractor-trailers are made up of two parts, the actual truck, known as the tractor, and a large trailer that might be used to haul freight, livestock, liquids, chemicals, and many other things. They often weigh several tens of thousands of pounds when loaded.
In limited circumstances, the shipper of such hazardous materials can be held legally responsible if injuries resulted from the truck’s cargo, especially if the shipper failed to advise the driver or the trucking company of the hazardous nature of material contained in the freight. Essentially, it comes down to the shipper’s duty to inform.
The compensation you might receive will depend on the circumstances of your accident and your personal injury claim. To give you an idea though, you can include some or all of the following factors in your claim:
-Permanent full or partial disability
-Loss of the use of one or more limbs
-Pain and suffering
-Damage to your vehicle
-Prescription drug costs
-Physical therapy expenses
There may also be other items you can include in your claim. Our team will be able to tell you exactly what you could include in your truck accident claim after a consultation.
If you’ve been injured in an accident with a semi-truck, call DuBoff & Associates, Chartered in Silver Spring for a consultation with one of our aggressive, experienced truck accident attorneys. Your rights are at stake and these cases are extremely complex. Don’t fight it alone.