Introduction and the Basics
Truck crashes happen frequently and can cause devastating personal injuries and significant property damage. A quick overview of the statistics will illustrate just how serious truck crashes are. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2018 there were 151,000 people injured in crashes involving large trucks and an estimated 531,000 large trucks were involved in police-reported traffic crashes. In 2018, truck crashes killed 4,591 people in the United States–almost a one-percent increase from 2017. That figure includes 129 people killed in Missouri and 166 people in Illinois. Of the people killed in large truck crashes in the US in 2018, seventy-one percent were occupants of the other vehicle, not the large truck. Large-truck drivers involved in fatal crashes had a higher percentage of previous crashes compared to drivers of other vehicle types, namely motorcycles, passenger cars, and light trucks. Moreover, large trucks made up 9.4 percent of all vehicles involved in fatal crashes, while only accounting for 4 percent of all registered vehicles. That’s twice as many deaths as cars, due to the size and force of over-the-road tractor trailers.
Drivers who violate safety rules which cause traffic crashes needlessly injure and kill people. There are many good truck drivers and trucking companies in America. Those professionals often are even more critical of bad drivers than us lawyers. Good drivers and their companies focus on safety, defensive driving, adherence to federal and state rules and regulations, and have robust training and programs to make sure they drive safely.
But those drivers who take shortcuts, value texting and social media while driving, drive too long and when tired, drive under the influence, try to rush to make a delivery, engage in road rage and who otherwise break the Rules of the Road, should be held responsible for the harm they cause. Even some experienced drivers, who have driven for years or decades sometimes forget about the importance of safety rules while driving or get complacent. We are all trained to follow the Rules of the Road and to operate motor vehicles safely – that’s the agreement we make to drive and the social contract we execute. The Rules of the Road are also the law. Rule violations that typically result in injury or death are excessive speed, failure to keep a careful lookout, failure to yield the right of way and violations of traffic signals (set out in Missouri Approved Instructions 17.01 et seq.). Under Missouri law, drivers must use the “highest degree of care” or what “a very careful person” would do under the same circumstances (MAI 11.01). Other states have similar laws. In Illinois, lawyers, judges and juries use section 72 of the Illinois Pattern Instructions. Visit this link for a full overview of traffic law in the United States.
Truck crash statistics in the United States are sobering – and the states with the largest percentages of truck crashes are in the middle of the country, including Missouri and Illinois. And compared to crashes involving other types of vehicles, truck crashes result in far greater injuries to people and property. This is why you need a good lawyer when you are seriously injured or have a family member killed in a truck crash. Truck crashes cause serious and permanent injuries, pain and suffering, and leave victims with mountains of medical bills. Oftentimes insurance companies act like bullies and try to settle your claim for as little as they can get away with paying. One of the main reasons I became a personal injury attorney is because I don’t like bullies and I like to stand up for those who are bullied. This includes standing up for truck crash victims when they have to deal with trucking insurance companies.
In my book “Ten Mistakes That Wreck Your Car Crash Case,” one of the chapters discusses how people can handle their car accident claims without hiring a lawyer. I suggested that in a car crash where an individual only has minor injuries and low medical bills, a lawyer cannot add much value. However, for the people seriously injured in a wreck, it is imperative to hire a skilled, competent lawyer who will fight to see you fully compensated for your medical costs and for your pain and suffering. For this reason, I wanted to write a book solely dedicated to providing information to individuals involved in serious truck crashes.
When you are in a trucking accident, you only have a claim for personal injuries if the truck driver was negligent, or caused injury to you. If the accident was your fault, no one else should pay you for your injuries, unless you had medical payment benefits or some other benefits through your insurance. If the truck driver broke the rules of the road, drove unsafely and carelessly and injured you or a passenger, you do have a claim. Those claims usually divide into property damage and personal injury claims. Usually, you should handle your property damage claim yourself as you never want a lawyer to take a fee out of the money recovered for your vehicle – you are already not going to get full value for your vehicle damage. Insurance companies pay wholesale or other reduced value to pay for property damage – but you can argue for a higher value.
Make sure you get all your medical care quickly and thoroughly after the truck crash. You will want to undergo treatment until you are at your maximum medical improvement. For a medical or personal injury claim, hire a lawyer for moderate and severe injuries and consider resolving small claims yourself. Be careful in dealing with insurance companies – some are fair but many cannot be trusted. They are incentivized to treat you unfairly – caveat vendor or seller beware – and you are selling your claim.
Review of this book will provide you with an overview of what to know about your truck crash case. Below I discuss why truck crashes are so dangerous, damages you can recover, legal claims you should bring, and laws and regulations truck drivers are required to follow, among other things. My goal is to give you a comprehensive understanding of what to expect in your truck crash case and why it is important to have a good truck crash lawyer
Special thanks to Michael Sheldon and Nishant Patel – two graduating third year law students who will be great lawyers – for their great help in writing this book.