All motor vehicle accidents have the potential to cause very serious harm and injuries. However, an accident between a commercial truck and a passenger vehicle or motorcycle typically leads to catastrophic harm.
The massive weight of commercial trucks is what makes truck accidents especially dangerous and injurious. The weight of most commercial trucks can easily crush a car or completely obliterate a motorcycle or pedestrian.
What are Truck Accident Claims?
Truck accident claims are legal claims resulting from a motor vehicle accident involving a commercial truck or tractor-trailer. While a truck accident has the potential to result in criminal charges (e.g. if the driver was intoxicated, reckless), the claims discussed in this article are civil claims. A civil claim is when one party sues another to prevent, or recover for injury, damages, or harm they have/may suffer(ed) as a result of the other party’s actions.
What Serious Injuries are Involved in Truck Accidents?
Truck accidents almost always result in more serious injuries than collisions between passenger cars.
Some common injuries from truck accidents include:
- Cuts, Bruises, Broken Bones, and Lacerations: While these are some of the most minor injuries suffered in a truck accident, they can still require costly medical treatment, and can cause permanent injury.
- Burns: Accidents involving commercial trucks or tractor-trailers present a high risk of ruptured fuel tanks. The resulting fire can engulf the truck, as well as surrounding passenger cars. Occupants in a car or motorcycle, or pedestrians and nearby drivers can suffer burns. Burns are especially painful and can result in permanent disfigurement.
- Neck and Back Injuries: This includes, but is not limited to, fractured vertebrae, whiplash, strains of the ligaments and tendons, and injury to the discs providing cushion between the vertebrae. It is very important to remember that such an injury might not be immediately apparent. You may experience pain and other symptoms hours or even days after a crash.
- Spinal Cord Injuries: Spinal cord injuries have the potential to cause partial, temporary, or complete paralysis of all movement and feeling in your body below the point of injury in the cord. A spinal cord injury almost inevitably calls for months/years of treatments, surgeries, physical therapy, or the need for adaptive devices. There is a real possibility that someone with a spinal cord injury might be permanently disabled.
- Head and Brain Injuries: There is a wide range of head injuries, ranging from a mild concussion (requiring about a week of resting and limiting activities to allow the brain to heal) to a traumatic brain injury, which will almost certainly have long-lasting effects, and can cause permanent damage that may even leave a person in a vegetative state indefinitely.
- Amputation and Disfigurement: This could happen because of the accident impact itself, or be deemed necessary as a result of another injury suffered in the accident. Amputations and disfigurements likely require continuing medical treatment, and possibly adaptive devices like prosthetics in order to allow the person to function in daily life.
Someone who has suffered an amputation or disfigurement may also be entitled to monetary damages to account for the need for caretakers to assist with daily needs for the rest of their lives.
- Internal Injuries: These may result from striking hard surfaces within the car, and even strong force from an airbag can cause blunt abdominal trauma resulting in injury to the underlying internal organs.
- Death: In the tragic event that a truck accident results in the death of someone involved, family members are still left with responsibility to pay the associated medical and funeral costs. Family members may also want to consider a wrongful death lawsuit if the person died prematurely as a result of another person’s negligence.
What are Common Causes of Truck Accidents?
Truck accidents are commonly the result of:
- Drivers who are overly tired because they violated laws limiting the number of hours they may work
- Truck drivers changing lanes or merging either without looking, or in such a way that they collide with another driver who is in their blind spot
- Truck drivers whose state of mind is altered by drugs or alcohol
- Cargo carried on the truck shifting because of an improperly secured load
- Mechanical issues resulting from skipped required maintenance
- Blown tires
- Failure in the brake system
- Issues with the road design or maintenance
Does the Fairfax Area Have Any Special Truck Accident Laws?
There are some laws in the Fairfax Area that are different from other jurisdictions. Perhaps the most important distinction for a truck accident victim to be aware of is that the time limit to bring a lawsuit based on the accident is two years. Many other jurisdictions, including nearby DC and Maryland, have longer statutes of limitations (three years).
Another thing to consider is that Virginia is an “anti-subrogation” state, meaning there is no right of subrogation (being paid back for costs they covered) for the health insurance company, except under certain circumstances. So, in Virginia, if a person uses their health insurance to pay for any medical costs associated with a truck accident, they do not have to pay the insurance company back.
Unlike a typical passenger car, commercial trucks and tractor trailers are subject to special traffic laws and regulations to minimize the risk posed to the public. This includes:
- The requirement to perform high-level, systematic maintenance to ensure the vehicle functions in a safe manner
- Rules that dictate the types of loads that may be carried and make clear how to secure these loads safely to the vehicle.
- Rules that limit the amount of hours truckers may work, so that even if they are under pressure to meet demanding deadlines, they will not be allowed on the road if they are in a fatigued unsafe condition.
A broader rule that is also worth mentioning is that the state of Virginia follows the rule of contributory negligence. Contributory negligence means that a plaintiff cannot recover any damages if they contributed at all to their injuries (even if they are found to be only 1% liable for the accident). Therefore, this can serve as a complete defense to a claim of negligence.
How Can I File a Truck Accident Lawsuit in Fairfax?
If you wish to file a truck accident lawsuit in Fairfax, or anywhere else, it is advisable to contact a truck accident attorney first.
In most cases where the truck driver acts negligently and causes an accident, he is usually not the only liable party. Instead, his employer can also be held liable for the employee’s actions based on the legal doctrine of vicarious liability, which is the idea that an employer is liable for their employee’s work-related actions. This will result in a larger payout, as the company almost certainly has a large liability insurance policy to cover such claims.
What Legal Remedies are Available in Truck Accident Lawsuits
Victims of a big rig crash are entitled to compensation to account for medical bills, getting the therapy and rehabilitation they need, repairing or replacing their vehicle, and to cover any other damages.
Victims are generally able to seek compensation for damages to cover the following as they relate to the accident:
- Medical treatment
- Rehabilitation and therapy
- Lost wages
- Property damages to your vehicle
- Ongoing and/or future care
- Funeral expenses
Should I Hire a Fairfax Lawyer for Help with a Truck Accident Lawsuit?
Many accident victims or their relatives are intimidated when they realize that they will need to take on a large corporation to get the compensation they need as a result of their Fairfax truck accident claim.
A truck accident lawyer or a personal injury lawyer will investigate the crash, identify all parties who may be liable, and file the insurance claim for you, so that you can recover the compensation you deserve.
Truck accident victims should never accept a settlement offer from insurance companies before consulting an attorney. This is because insurance companies aim to maximize their profits by paying accidents victims a settlement that is lower than what they may be entitled to.