Truck Accident Attorney in Opelika
The state of Alabama imports and exports many products that are crucial for its economy, and the comfort and wellbeing of its residents. From the exportation of coal and soybeans to the importation of transportation equipment and food products, the state of Alabama depends on its ability to send and receive various goods.
Large trucks carrying thousands of pounds worth of products, traverse the state’s highways, making this luxury possible for us. While these trucks no doubt play an integral role in the state’s need to send, receive, and distribute various goods, driving around them on interstate 65 can be dangerous.
Indeed, over a 10-year period in the state of Alabama, there were more than 77,000 large trucks involved in collisions, more than 1,100 fatalities, and thousands more injuries reported. If you have been in a trucking accident in Alabama, our experienced truck accident attorneys at the offices of the Alsobrook Law Group want to meet with you. We understand how severe these accidents can be, and are committed to working hard on your behalf to get you the compensation you deserve.
Serious Truck Accidents – Your Losses and Why You Need an Attorney
A large truck can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, which is 20 times more than the average passenger car. The sheer weight alone that is involved in a truck accident often spells disaster for the drivers and passengers of smaller vehicles, even when the accident occurs at low speeds. In the event the crash occurs when either vehicle is traveling at a high speed, the force involved in the crash is intensified, and the damages are simply catastrophic.
When a passenger car and a large truck collide, it is not uncommon for the passenger car to be completely totaled, often being crushed under the truck. For those within the smaller vehicle, this may mean unthinkable injuries. Common injuries that drivers and passengers occur in a truck accident include:
- Spinal cord injuries. When a person’s spine is impacted with force–which is very possible in a truck accident–the spinal cord may be severed, or the vertebrae may be fractured or dislocated severely enough to impact the spinal cord. The results of a spinal cord injury are devastating – the affected person will suffer permanent partial or complete paralysis from the site of the injury in the spinal cord downwards.
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). A person’s brain is likely to be impacted in a crash, whether as a result of being shaken violently, being penetrated with an object, or being impacted with force (i.e. slamming into the car frame). All TBIs can be dangerous and need to be taken seriously, although some are much more severe than others, resulting in coma or death.
- Amputation and loss of use of limb injuries. When a vehicle is crushed or totaled in a truck accident, those within the vehicle often also suffer crush injuries, often to the extremities. Sometimes, a limb is amputated during the crash, or an arm, hand, leg, foot, or finger suffers such severe injury that medical amputation is the only option.
- Internal injuries. Objects that puncture the chest or abdomen, severe amount of force, or broken bones (i.e. a broken rib) can also cause damage to the body’s internal organs, resulting in internal bleeding and the risk of death.
- Other injuries. In addition to the severe injuries listed above, a victim of a truck accident may suffer burn injuries, bone fracture injuries, facial injuries, soft tissue injuries, laceration injuries, and psychological injuries.
Physical injuries are not only painful and debilitating, but they may also prevent a person from earning an income or ever again doing the things that they love. High medical bills will also be a reality, and lifestyle changes may be permanent.
Because of the extreme amount of damages that a party typically suffers in a truck accident, working with an attorney who can evaluate your claim, prove damages, and negotiate on your behalf is essential.
Common Causes of Commercial Vehicle Accidents
Accidents involving commercial vehicles occur for a number of reasons. Some of the most common causes include:
- Driver inexperience. Big rigs are difficult to operate and require hours’ worth of training and experience. A newer driver may have a more difficult time controlling their vehicle, increasing the risk of an accident.
- Driver impairment. Drivers of commercial vehicles are often asked to work long hours, a task that can be extremely fatiguing. In addition to fatigue itself – which could be as dangerous as drunk driving – drivers may use supplements to help them stay awake, which could cause impairment. Of course, the use of illegal drugs and alcohol may also increase the risk of a crash, too.
- Overloading or improperly loading cargo. It is important that cargo is loaded and secured compliant to safety standards. If cargo is overloaded, improperly loaded, or improperly secured, it could shift or lead to an imbalance, which could, in turn, cause an accident.
- Vehicle defects and malfunctions. Even if drivers are operating their vehicle safely, a defect within the vehicle may lead to a malfunction and crash. For example, a commercial vehicle equipped with defective tires may experience a tire blowout while in operation, leading to a devastating accident type.
This list is not inclusive – weather conditions, road defects, the errors of other drivers on the road, and more may all cause or contribute to a commercial vehicle accident.
Liability for Trucking Accidents and Bringing Forth Your Claim
A truck accident may be caused by myriad different factors, and the cause of a truck accident may not always be obvious at first, which is why hiring an attorney who can investigate your case–and hire experts to reconstruct your accident–is essential. Parties who may be at fault for the crash include–
- A third party driver in another vehicle;
- The truck driver;
- The trucking company;
- A shipper or loader of cargo; or
- A vehicle part manufacturer or distributor.
It is important that the exact cause of your accident is determined so that a claim can be filed against the appropriate party. Your attorney will help you to prove that the at-fault party breached the duty of care owed to you, and that the breach was the direct cause of your injuries. An attorney can also help you to refute any claims from the liable party or insurance company that you were to blame for the accident.
Questions to Ask After an Accident with a Truck
- Have the police been called?
After a truck accident, the first priorities are to obtain immediate medical attention for anyone who was hurt, and to gather as much information as possible. Once you have made sure everyone who was injured receives treatment, it is important to notify the police. If a truck driver caused the accident, there is a chance they will not want to involve the police. There are several reasons this could be the case.
Truckers are required to comply with federal regulations regarding vehicle maintenance, how many hours they are allowed to be on the road, and many other rules. If they were driving while drowsy or fatigued or did not properly maintain the vehicle for example, they might not want a police report filed. This is exactly the reason law enforcement should be involved. If a truck driver caused an accident while in violation of federal regulations, this should be officially documented in a police report.
- Does the driver have the right commercial license to operate the vehicle?
Truckers are required to have a commercial license to operate a big rig truck. In addition, the driver may need special endorsements (that indicate they underwent the proper training and obtained the required certifications) when they are transporting various types of goods. Some trucking companies fail to perform their due diligence and allow drivers on the road who are not properly licensed.
- Is the driver the owner of the vehicle, or is he/she an employee or independent contractor of a trucking company?
In a trucking accident, there are several parties who could potentially be at-fault. These may include the truck driver, the trucking company, the owner of the truck, the transport company that loaded the truck, the vehicle or vehicle part designer, manufacturer, supplier, or distributor, or a combination of factors. One of the first steps in determining who is responsible is to figure out the relationship between the truck driver and other parties involved.
Common Injuries After a Truck Accident:
Head and Brain Injuries
Trucking accidents often cause a jolt or blow to the head, which can result in a condition known as traumatic brain injury (TBI). TBI is a unique injury because very often, it is not discovered until some time has passed after the accident, and it manifests itself differently in each individual.
More mild forms of TBI (commonly referred to as concussions) may result in temporary loss of consciousness or memory. Severe forms can last for months or years, resulting in a wide range of symptoms; such as dizziness, nausea and vomiting, extreme and lasting headaches, difficulty with concentration/focus, frequent agitation/irritation, fatigue, mood/behavioral changes, and many others.
Neck and Back Injuries
Because of the jarring force that affects occupants of passenger vehicles when they crash into a truck, neck and back injuries are common in truck accidents. Injuries can range in severity from minor aches and pains to debilitating conditions. Even relatively minor back and neck injuries can result in high medical costs and cause victims to miss work for an extended period of time.
Spinal Cord Injuries
The high impact of a crash with a truck also makes injuries to the spinal cord fairly commonplace after a trucking accident. Like traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries are not always detected right away, and often require a full medical exam that includes an MRI. Severe spinal cord injures can result in partial or full paralysis.
Burns are more common with truck accidents because of the size of the truck and the damage it can cause the other vehicle on impact. During a crash with a truck, there is a greater risk of rupturing the fuel tank and causing explosions and fires. Some burn injuries are minor and only penetrate the first layer of skin (epidermis). These are called first-degree burns. Second-degree burns penetrate the epidermis and the layer below (dermis). Third-degree burns are more severe, penetrating through both layers, charring skin, and often requiring multiple medical procedures and an extended recovery time.
Another injury that happens more because of the sheer force of the truck on the body of occupants of the other vehicle is an internal injury. Internal bleeding and damage to internal organs is not always known right away, again underscoring the need for those involved in a truck accident to seek immediate medical attention.
How Long Will it Take to Resolve My Truck Accident Case?
Theoretically, a truck accident case could be settled in a few weeks or a few months, assuming that the case is straightforward. However, this doesn’t always happen. What’s more, it can be impossible to predict how long a case will take without first knowing the answers to some very specific questions. For this reason, it’s strongly recommended that you request a free consultation from an Alabama truck accident injury lawyer as soon as possible to get a better understanding of how much time your case may require.
Factors that Make Truck Accident Claims More Complex
While it’s best to not speculate about how long your case may take to settle, there are some factors that can significantly influence the complexity of your case and, therefore, how long it may take to resolve. These factors include:
- Number of potentially liable parties. If there is just one party against whom you are filing a claim (i.e. a trucking company) and the liability of this party is agreed upon by all those involved, then your claim may be relatively simple. However, the average truck accident involves multiple parties, including the truck driver, the trucking company, a shipper or loader of cargo, a truck part manufacturer, a third-party driver, and the injured party – this means that fault may be disputed, or multiple claims may need to be filed against multiple parties. As such, you may be facing more than one settlement and settlement timeline.
- Degree of damages. Another thing that can complicate your claim is the degree of damages that you’ve suffered. If you are demanding hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars in compensation, there will likely be more pushback from the insurance company, which will likely result in a longer process.
- Experienced lawyers. Keep in mind that in truck accident cases, trucking companies usually have experienced, top-notch lawyers who are committed to protecting the companies and shielding them from liability. This could make your claim more complex and more difficult to settle.
Theories of Liability in Truck Accidents:
When pursing a truck accident injury claim, your attorney will explore several legal avenues to determine the party or parties who are liable. Some potential theories of liability may include:
One of the most common legal theories in a trucking accident is negligence on the part of the driver. There are several ways a driver may be negligent. Examples may include speeding, reckless driving, distracted driving (e.g., texting while driving), disregarding traffic signals, and many others. A truck driver may also be liable because of a “per se” legal violation, such as driving while intoxicated, driving with an expired commercial driver’s license (CDL) or a violation of the federal hours of service guidelines.
If a driver is acting within the scope of employment when the accident occurs, the trucking company that employs them can be held liable for the driver’s negligent actions. This theory is commonly referred to as “vicarious liability”. The driver’s employer may be also be held directly liable if they encouraged the driver to violate regulatory requirements. For example, trucking companies sometimes impose unrealistic deadlines on drivers, prompting them to stay on the road longer than they are allowed to.
Negligent Hiring, Entrustment, or Retention
A trucking company has a clear duty to investigate the experience and qualifications drivers that they hire. Therefore, a company may be held liable for an accident if they did not properly vet the driver before hiring them, did not provide adequate training for the driver to operate the vehicle safely, or learned after hiring the driver that they were not qualified to be on the road.
A company that leases a vehicle to a driver as an “owner/operator” can still be held responsible for negligence caused by the driver that results in an accident. This may come into play if the truck continues to display the leasing company’s logo or placard even if the truck was not being driven on behalf of the leasing company. Your attorney will review copies of any lease agreement related to the vehicle to determine if lease liability exists.
Some truck accidents occur because of overloaded trucks or trucks that are unevenly loaded. This may cause the truck to roll over or turn over on its side when the driver encounters adverse conditions. A shipping company may be held liable for a trucking accident if the accident was the result of improperly loading the vehicle.
Negligent Truck Maintenance
Commercial trucks typically log thousands of miles over-the-road during in any given month. Federal regulations require that trucking companies properly inspect, maintain, and repair all vehicles that are under their possession and control. When an accident is the result of a mechanical failure, the company responsible for truck maintenance may be held liable.
Contact the Alsobrook Law Group Today
If you have been involved in a truck accident, your ability to recover the amount of damages to which you are entitled, and that you have suffered, can have a huge impact on your future. As you recover and make sense of the injuries you have suffered and what your life may look like moving forward, our experienced Alabama truck accident attorneys will be here to investigate and build your case, and provide you with the legal support you need. You focus on you – we’ll focus on aggressively representing you to get you the compensation you need.
Don’t wait any longer to call us if you’ve been hurt in a truck crash, or if you have lost a loved one in a tragic large truck collision. Please visit our law firm today – you can schedule your consultation with our experienced Alabama truck accident lawyer by sending us a message online, or by calling us directly at 334-737-3718. We are here for you.