Semi-trucks or tractor-trailers are so massive that crashes involving them often lead to serious injuries or even deaths.

If you or a loved one were hurt in a truck accident, you may file a lawsuit against the trucking company or truck driver. A truck accident lawyer can get compensation for your injuries, vehicle damage, and other losses.

This article will explain the basic steps involved in filing a truck accident lawsuit in simple terms. However, every accident case is unique. The best thing to do is speak to an experienced truck accident lawyer who can review your situation.

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Step 1: Get Medical Treatment

Seeking Medical Attention After a Truck AccidentThe first priority after any accident is to get medical care right away for any injuries, even if they seem minor. Seeing a doctor creates official records documenting your injuries from the accident. These medical records will be important evidence if you do end up filing a lawsuit later.

Sometimes, injuries like whiplash, back injuries, or internal bleeding don’t show serious symptoms initially. So, it’s best to get checked out by a professional as soon as possible after the crash occurs. Don’t try to tough it out, as that can allow injuries to worsen and become life-threatening.

Step 2: Collect Evidence

Try to gather any available evidence that could help prove the truck driver was at fault. Evidence examples include:

Photos/Videos of the Accident Scene

Having visual evidence from photos and videos can be extremely valuable in a truck accident case.

Try to take clear shots from multiple angles showing:

  • Damage to all vehicles involved
  • Skid marks, road debris, or hazards on the road surface
  • Weather/lighting/road conditions at the time
  • Any traffic signals, signs, or road markings
  • The truck’s license plate, DOT numbers, and company logos

If you were unable to take photos/videos yourself, see if any bystanders captured footage you can get from them. Your attorney can also seek access to any surveillance or traffic camera footage from the area.

Witness Testimony

Independent eyewitness accounts can help corroborate your version of how the accident sequence unfolded.

If people saw the crash happen, try to get their:

  • Full names and contact information
  • A brief statement of exactly what they witnessed
  • Photos/videos they may have recorded as well

Witness testimony that implicates the truck driver’s reckless actions, like speeding, running a red light, or distracted driving, can be evidence. But even simple witness statements about road conditions or vehicle locations can still prove useful.

The Official Police Report

Most truck accidents will result in a police response and an official accident report. This report contains factual details like date, time, and location.

These details allow your attorney to request:

  • Footage from any nearby traffic cameras or surveillance video
  • Pull weather data and sun/moon positioning for that date/time
  • Identify potential witnesses who may have been in the area
  • Obtain road/construction reports that could point to hazards

Even small differences in the listed time or location could become a point of contention. So, it’s important to ensure these basic facts are clear.

The police report should also list the full names and badge/payroll numbers of all officers who responded to the accident scene.

This allows your lawyer to:

  • Submit official statements or depositions from those officers
  • Request copies of their bodycam/dashcam footage
  • Check their background and training related to accident investigations
  • Identify them as potential witnesses if the case goes to trial

Having the responding officers’ firsthand perspective and documentation of the accident is often more credible than victim/witness accounts.

Vehicle Damage Descriptions

The official description of the damage and diagram can provide clues. They show the angle of impact and which driver failed to yield. They can also show the forces involved.

The report may note details like:

  • Location and extent of denting, scraping, or disabling damage
  • Which vehicle(s) left visible skid or brake marks
  • Whether any vehicles rolled over or jumped curbs/medians
  • If any vehicles’ airbags deployed or if there was a fire
  • Debris fields, spills of vehicle fluids/cargo, or any road hazards

Look for any discrepancies between these damage details and the truck driver’s stated version of what happened.

Citations/Violations Issued

If the police report indicates the truck driver was cited for any violations or issued a ticket, this can create a presumption of negligence on their part, such as:

  • Speeding or reckless driving citations
  • Running a red light or stop sign
  • Failure to yield or improper lane change/turning
  • Driving without a valid CDL or proper endorsements
  • Equipment violations like bald tires, brake issues, etc.
  • Logbook violations for exceeding maximum driving hours

Any admitted guilt by the driver for a citation related to the accident causes significant legal liability.

Impairment/Intoxication Factors

The responding officers should test for drug or alcohol impairment by the drivers. They should note those results.

For example:

  • Failed field sobriety tests with descriptions
  • Breathalyzer results showing blood alcohol levels
  • Physical signs of impairment like slurred speech or bloodshot eyes
  • Presence of drugs, prescription pills, or drug paraphernalia
  • If any chemical tests or blood draws were administered

Driving under the influence of any intoxicating substance could impair a truck driver’s judgment. This is a major act of negligence.

Witness Contacts and Statements

Having contact info for any independent third-party eyewitnesses is valuable.

This includes their brief initial statements to the police:

  • Names, phone numbers, and addresses
  • What their vantage point/location was
  • Any recorded photos, video, or audio statements
  • Verbatim quotes of what they saw happen
  • Notes if their account conflicted with the drivers’

Locking in witness testimonies right after the incident can greatly increase their credibility. This is when their memory is freshest.

Collision Diagramming and Documentation

Most police reports will have detailed diagrams and descriptions recreating the accident scene layout, such as:

  • Markings of the vehicles’ positions and direction of travel
  • Road configurations like lanes, medians, or shoulders
  • Any traffic signals, crosswalks, or signage present
  • Measured skid mark distances or debris trails
  • Grade/slope, curve angles, addresses, or milepost markers

Having official documentation of the accident environment and vehicle movements is valuable. It helps experts reconstruct the events for analysis.

While not considered concrete evidence itself, the official report can shed light on the investigating officer’s perception of fault and provide leads to recover other supporting evidence.

Truck/Driver Identification Information

To file a lawsuit, you’ll need to identify the specific truck driver involved as well as their employer’s trucking company.

Try to obtain:

  • The driver’s full name, driver’s license number, and home address
  • The name and location of the trucking company they drive for
  • The truck’s license plate number
  • The DOT (Department of Transportation) vehicle numbers
  • Any corporate logos, vehicle markings, or trailer numbers

This basic identification information is key for naming the correct defendants in your lawsuit filing. An experienced truck accident attorney will also be able to leverage this info to request additional evidence like driving logs, inspection records, and personnel files later on.

It’s also a good idea to write down everything you can remember about how the accident occurred while it’s still fresh in your mind. Even little details could turn out to be important later.

Step 3: Understand Negligence Laws

Most truck accident lawsuits are based on the legal concept of negligence. This means the truck driver had a responsibility or “duty” to operate their vehicle reasonably safely, but they failed to uphold this duty through careless or reckless behavior behind the wheel.

Examples of truck driver negligence include:

Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of truck accidents.

Some examples include a trucker:

  • Texting or using a hand-held cell phone
  • Adjusting the radio or infotainment system
  • Eating or drinking
  • Reaching for an object in the cab
  • Looking at maps or written directions
  • Engaging in personal grooming

Federal regulations prohibit truck drivers from texting or using hand-held phones while driving. Trucks also have strict “no driving” zones where idling is required. Evidence that a trucker was distracted could prove critical negligence.

Excessive Speeding

Speeding exponentially increases the stopping distance for a fully-loaded semi-truck weighing up to 80,000 lbs. Even going 5-10 mph over the limit is considered excessive for these large vehicles.

Factors like steep downhill grades or bad weather require truckers to further reduce speeds for safety. Any hard braking evidence or cited speeding violations can show that a truck driver was driving too fast for the conditions. This shows they were negligent.

Fatigue/Lack of Required Rest

Federal hours-of-service regulations restrict truck drivers to a limited window of weekly driving time to prevent fatigue. They are required to take regular rest breaks and keep strict logs of their on-duty and off-duty times.

If a truck driver was pushing past these limits due to scheduling pressures or falsifying logbooks, this could prove they were driving in an impaired, fatigued condition, which constitutes negligence.

Impaired Driving

Truck drivers are prohibited from operating vehicles under the influence of any alcohol, illegal drugs, or certain medications that could impair their abilities. Law enforcement can require truck drivers to submit to chemical tests if suspected of DUI.

Evidence of a truck driver’s intoxication, such as failed sobriety tests, open containers, or drug paraphernalia present, can prove serious negligence jeopardizing public safety.

Traffic Law Violations

Truck drivers are highly trained commercial operators who are held to stricter traffic law standards. Running red lights, Stop signs, speeding, improper passing, illegal turns, or other traffic violations by truckers can represent clear-cut negligence.

Police citations, camera footage, or witness evidence confirming a truck driver committed violations leading up to the accident strengthens the argument of negligence.

Inadequate Training/Qualifications

To obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL), truck drivers must meet minimum training standards and pass knowledge/skills tests for operating large vehicles. Trucking companies must also provide supplemental training.

A lack of proper safety training or failure to renew required endorsements on a CDL can prove negligence.

When a truck driver’s negligence directly causes injuries and damages in an accident, injury victims have grounds to file a lawsuit against the driver’s employer trucking company.

Step 4: File an Insurance Claim

Filing a truck accident insurance claimBefore you can actually file a lawsuit, you’ll first need to file an insurance claim with the trucking company’s insurer. This is required to try to reach an out-of-court settlement first.

In the insurance claim process, you’ll submit documentation of your economic damages, like medical bills, damaged property costs, lost wages, etc. You can also claim non-economic damages for pain and suffering.

Most trucking companies and their insurers will fight against paying out full damages. So, it’s best to have an attorney advocate for your rights during these settlement negotiations.

If the insurer refuses to pay out a satisfactory claim amount after some back-and-forth, then you would proceed to officially file a lawsuit in court.

Step 5: File the Lawsuit

If settlement talks break down, your truck accident attorney would then draft an official lawsuit complaint and file it with the appropriate state court. The complaint lays out the core negligent actions of the defendant truck driver/company that caused your injuries and damages.

The defendant’s legal team will respond with an answer to your complaint, possibly trying to shift some blame back onto you. Both sides then enter a pre-trial discovery process of sharing requested evidence and taking depositions.

Most truck accident cases reach a negotiated settlement during this discovery stage before ever going to trial. However, you may still need to go through mandatory arbitration or mediation hearings as a settlement is hashed out.

If no compromise agreement can be struck, then your case will proceed to an official civil court trial. Both sides would pick a jury. They would give opening/closing statements, question witnesses, and present evidence. Then, the jury would decide who was negligent and how much you should get in damages.

Trials are always a last resort since they are extremely costly and time-consuming, and the outcome is never guaranteed. But having an experienced litigator on your side gives you the best shot at a favorable verdict if your case does go that far.

Call a Truck Accident Lawyer Today

Ted Lorenz, Attorney for Truck Accident

Ted R. Lorenz, Truck Accident Lawyer

If you or a loved one was severely injured in a crash with a semi-truck, 18-wheeler, big rig, or other commercial truck, don’t hesitate to take legal action. The trucking company’s insurer will have a team of attorneys fighting aggressively to minimize what they pay out. That’s why you need a skilled personal injury lawyer on your side who can stand up for your rights.

Don’t take on the trucking companies alone. Protect yourself by reaching out for your free, no-obligation case review.

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