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Trucking Lawsuits: It’s Not Simply You vs The Trucking Firm

Experienced trial attorneys garner more respect in the legal community, and the insurance companies know them all too well. They do not relish going to court against them.

When you are injured in a trucking accident and you end up suing, it’s not just you vs. the trucking company. Before the case even takes its first steps through the system, a third party will have entered the scene – the insurance company representing the trucking company.

In fact, the trucking company might even slide back to a secondary player in the lawsuit, because the main issue in the case – the money – comes from the insurance company when the case is settled.

But the list of players in this arena doesn’t stop there. Depending on the nature of the accident, the nature of your injuries and the coverage arrangements between any number of companies, you could end up with a multi-faceted case with a dozen or more codefendants or co-claimants.

Letter in the Mail

Your first indication that there are many pairs of eyes on your case could be the receipt of a letter from a third-party subrogation company. 

Subrogation is the assumption by a third party of another party’s legal right to collect a debt or damages. If your personal insurance company has already paid your medical bills (or a portion of them) and you file a suit against the trucking company’s insurance, your insurance company is entitled to be reimbursed for the money it has already spent.

This prevents you from “double-dipping.” If you thoroughly read your policy, you should see that your insurance company has the right to place a lien on any award you might receive due to a lawsuit against another company. Rather than take direct action against their own policy holders, insurance companies rely on subrogation companies like the Rawlings Company, Optum, Equian and others.

If you get a letter from one of these companies, don’t panic. They’re simply trying to determine if a lawsuit is pending against the at-fault party. You can expect questions about your injuries, how your injuries occurred, and they might try to determine fault in the accident. Your response – if required (check your insurance policy) – should be factual, very brief and to the point. Do not volunteer any information not expressly required!

You Should Already Have an Attorney

Ideally, you should contact an attorney immediately after you’ve been injured in a car accident with a truck. You must overcome your reluctance to sue. You can expect a filing cabinet full of reasons why you should forego a lawsuit and trust the insurance companies to do the right thing. Don’t cave in to the pressure.

Calling a trucking accident attorney early in the process changes the dynamics of your case immediately. If you file suit against the trucking company, you’re really suing the trucking company’s insurance company. 

Chances are, you will have already heard from them. They know the law, they’re pros at it, and if a red flag goes up warning them of the potential for a lawsuit, they will act quickly to head it off. They will swarm in with feigned concern for your medical recovery and then put an offer on the table that they will insist is in your best interest to accept. You can be sure it’s not in your best interests, but theirs. 

The third-party subrogation company won’t care (or shouldn’t) if you accept the offer from the trucking firm’s offer or take the case to court. They will get the money they are entitled to either way.

Plenty of Blame to Go Around

On average, close to half a million trucking accidents occur every year, with 50,000 resulting in injuries serious enough to require hospitalization. Roughly 4,000 people die every year in trucking accidents.

Driver Error

Three factors: inadequate surveillance, driver fatigue and work-related pressure account for 35 percent of all truck accidents. Of utmost concern in recent years is the increasing occurrence of driver fatigue, which could be related to the uptick in online ordering. During the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine periods, customers stopped going to brick and mortar stores and began ordering online in record numbers.

Semi Trucks; image courtesy of chrissharkman via Pixabay, www.pixabay.com

Driver Employer Also Liable

So, when an accident occurs, it may have been the truck driver’s fault, but was his employer as much to blame? Pressure to deliver on time can lead to speeding, risk-taking, working too many hours and in general failing to operate his rig safely. If work-related stress was a factor in the accident, the employer can be held liable.

Some trucking firms use independent management companies to schedule and supervise the drivers. In some cases, trucking companies attempt to deflect liability with an assertion that the drivers are independent contractors. The law considers such drivers employees of the company.

Truck/Equipment/Tire Manufacturers

One need only glimpse at the shoulder of a highway and see the tire debris everywhere to realize that truck tires often blow violently. If they blow because of a defect, and if that blown tire causes a truck accident that injuries someone, the tire manufacturer could be added to the lawsuit.

Defects in the manufacturing of truck bodies, engines and trailers can make the manufacturers or designers liable for a defective product if they lead to an accident.

Shippers

If a tractor trailer rig was carelessly loaded and the load shifted and caused an accident, the company that did the loading can be held liable in the lawsuit. The company can be another trucking firm, a distributor, staging warehouse or industrial loading dock.

Multiple Insurance Companies

Multiple defendants means multiple insurance companies. It can be a confusing mess. Part of the early “sign here” strategy employed by the primary insurance company is an appeal to the victim to avoid the confusion of multiple defendants and multiple insurance companies.

It may sound tempting, but again, they do not have your best interests in mind.

The Importance of Hiring an Experienced Trial Attorney

Personal injury attorneys dot the landscape in cities across America. Their billboards beam down from interstate rights-of-way and their TV ads leap out from the screen day and night. But when it comes to the complexities of a trucking accident claim, many attorneys will find they’re out of their league.

Experience in trucking accident claims is critical, especially trial experience. If your case involves multiple defendants, multiple claimants, multiple lien-holders and multiple insurance companies, it will most likely require a trial to sort everything out. The settlement will be meted out according to the degree of fault each defendant is assigned.

Many attorneys build a quick foothold in the legal business by taking on personal injury cases, working with the defendant’s insurance company to get a relatively impressive settlement offer, and then advising the claimant to settle with the new offer. Going to trial is not on their agenda. Getting a settlement that in some cases is scarcely better than the original offer is often the outcome.

Experienced trial attorneys garner more respect in the legal community, and the insurance companies know them all too well. They do not relish going to court against them.

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