Building A Successful Truck Accident Case
July 25, 2017 | Personal Injury
To obtain compensation for their injuries in large truck collisions, victim/plaintiffs must establish liability by a preponderance of the evidence.
To better understand what “more likely than not” really means, imagine two equally-full glasses of water that are side by side. If someone adds one drop of water to the glass on the right, it has more liquid than the glass on the left. That is the picture of preponderance of the evidence, which is the lowest standard of proof under the law.
What evidence do personal injury lawyers use to build a successful claim for damages?
According to Newton’s Second Law, mass multiplies the force in a collision between two objects. Given the mass differential between most cars and most commercial trucks, victims in these cases often sustain very serious injuries, including:
- Head Injuries: Even if the victims are properly restrained, the massive force in truck-car collisions is often overwhelming. Moreover, when a car stops suddenly, unsecured objects in the passenger compartment, like cell phones, continue travelling at the same speed and therefore effectively become high-speed projectiles.
- Burns: Many trucks carry up to 300 gallons of diesel fuel, and since this chemical burns at a different temperature than ordinary gasoline, many victims suffer serious third or fourth-degree burns.
- Blood Loss: Since victims are often pinned underneath the large truck, their wounds bleed much longer until emergency responders are able to reach them. So, many victims are already on the edge of hypovolemic shock before they even arrive at the hospital.
As discussed below, damages in truck crash cases usually include compensation for tangible losses, such as medical bills, and intangible losses, such as pain and suffering.
Making a Case
Truck driver fatigue is a significant problem in many cases, because many shipping companies pay their drivers by the load.
Beginning at the end of 2017, drowsy driving cases will be much easier to win, because in June 2016, the United States Supreme Court refused to hear the final appeal in the ongoing e-logging device controversy. A trucker-affiliated group had sued to block this rule, which requires truckers to replace paper driving logs with electronic logs that are linked to the truck’s ignition.
Whereas paper log books are relatively easy to fake, ELDs are essentially tamper proof, so they constitute almost unassailable evidence of whether or not the driver was dangerously fatigued at the time of the crash.
Most commercial trucks already have Event Data Recorders. EDRs capture and store vital data about the vehicle’s operation, such as velocity, brake application, and steering angle. Much like e-logs, EDRs are essentially like eyewitnesses to the crash who are almost never wrong and almost never make errors in judgment.
New York and most other states have very strict privacy laws concerning electronic vehicle devices, so in most cases, an attorney must obtain a court order to access and download the information they contain. Additionally, an attorney can take steps to ensure that the insurance company does not destroy this evidence before the victim/plaintiff can examine it, and if the evidence is unavailable, the insurance company or vehicle owner faces stiff penalties.
Because of the serious nature of the injuries in truck crash cases, New York’s no-fault insurance rule normally does not apply. So, most victims are automatically entitled to compensation for:
- Economic Damages: Most truck accident victims are out of work for several months and accumulate thousands of dollars in medical bills. In addition to compensation for these losses, victims also get money to replace lost property.
- Noneconomic Damages: Not all losses, such as pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment in life, and emotional distress, have price tags. Nonetheless, monetary compensation is available, because this is the only relief that a civil judge can order.
If there is clear and convincing evidence that the tortfeasor intentionally disregarded a known risk, additional punitive damages are available as well. Drowsy driving, which was mentioned above, is an example of a situation where punitive damages may apply. In some cases, these damages may be limited to a certain dollar amount or proportion of compensatory damages.
Time is of the essence in these cases, so if you or a loved one was hurt in a truck accident, reach out to a lawyer now to begin the claims process.
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