Getting into an auto accident can be scary, but when that accident involves a semi-truck, the consequences can be devastating. The North Carolina Department of Transportation reports that the state suffered 10,970 accidents involving large trucks in 2019, resulting in 2,806 injuries and 113 fatalities. Nationwide, the insurance tracking company PolicyAdvice reports a 52 percent increase in truck accidents since 2009, with a startling statistic that 74 percent of all passenger vehicle deaths involve collisions with trucks.
If you or someone you know has suffered an injury or lost their life due to an accident with a semi-truck in Raleigh or anywhere else across North Carolina, reach out to Life Law immediately. Our experienced personal injury attorneys will consult with you, investigate the details of your accident, assess liability, and work tirelessly to obtain the just compensation you deserve for your injuries.
In most traffic accidents, the first place to start is by reporting it to your insurance company and involving them in discussions with the other driver’s insurance company. However, when it comes to an incident involving a big rig, semi, or tractor-trailer, matters may not be all that simple. The driver of the truck may not be solely to blame. Under the standard of vicarious liability, the trucking company, the truck’s maintenance company, and the truck’s loading company can also be found liable for the accident.
With so many different parties to investigate, it is crucial to speak with an experienced North Carolina personal injury attorney who knows the trucking accident landscape. Your attorney can negotiate with the insurance adjusters, and under the right circumstances, can help you decide whether or not you need to escalate matters through one or more lawsuits.
It’s important to remember that the statute of limitations for personal injury claims in North Carolina is three years from the date of the accident. If a wrongful death claim is to be filed, the statute of limitations runs two years from the date of the death (not necessarily the accident itself). These legal time limitations are for lawsuits. No insurance company is going to wait two or three years to become involved. Claims with insurance companies are generally filed immediately.
Another thing to remember is that North Carolina is one of only a handful of states (five, in fact) that rely on what is called the pure contributory fault standard. This standard means if the party you’re holding responsible for the accident can show that you were even one percent at fault, they won’t have to pay you a dime. You will have to show that the other party is 100 percent liable and that you did nothing to contribute to the accident to receive compensation.
Can you imagine how hard the insurance adjusters and opposing attorneys will try to pin even the tiniest bit of liability on you, the claimant? One more reason you need an experienced accident attorney on your side.
The truck driver and his insurance company may seem to be the logical place to commence your claim, but as briefly mentioned above, other parties may share or own the blame entirely.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, truck driver fatigue is behind 31 percent of all accidents. If a trucking company ignores regulations and overworks a driver to the point of fatigue, the company itself may be liable.
Right behind driver fatigue is tire failure at 30 percent. If a tire blows out, causing the truck to swerve into another vehicle, the truck’s owner, maintenance company, and even the tire company may be partially or completely liable. Faulty brakes can also cause or contribute to trucking accidents, leaving maintenance crews and owners open to liability.
If the load the truck is carrying is not stable, this can result in two different types of accidents. First, if the load throws off the truck’s center of gravity, this can cause the vehicle to move unpredictably. Second, the load itself may go flying during an accident, slamming into other vehicles or leaving obstacles on the roadway leading to other accidents. In these scenarios, whoever loaded the cargo may be the negligent party open to a claim.
Also, in assessing blame, it’s important to remember that there are three categories of truck drivers:
Owner-operators - Independent contractors who own or lease their vehicles and contract with shippers for their work.
Company drivers - Those who work for a trucking company and take orders from that company.
Independent owner-operators - Those who own their own trucks and operate their own independent companies.
Filing a claim against this set of drivers can involve different assessments of responsibility. For instance, a company driver whose parent company works him more hours than allowed by state or federal law, and thus becomes fatigued, the driver can charge the parent company with negligence, and so can the injured claimant. Again, this is one more reason why you need the guidance and help of an experienced truck accident attorney.
If you have been the victim of a trucking accident that leaves you injured, on the scene you must — if physically able — call the police to get them involved. In addition, if you are able to, you need to document everything down to the smallest detail. Take cell phone pictures from as many angles as possible, including shots of any relevant road signs or highway obstacles. If there are witnesses, try to get their statements and contact information. Obtain the driver’s name, license number, and insurance information. And, most importantly, seek immediate medical evaluation and attention — and be sure to retain all of your medical records.
You will need to report the accident to your insurance company. From there, you should begin searching for a knowledgeable and committed personal injury attorney who can handle everything for you, including negotiations with the insurance adjusters.
In the worst-case scenario, if the accident results in the death of a loved one, you can file a wrongful death claim, but North Carolina places some restrictions on this. In addition to a two-year statute of limitations, the state requires the personal representative of the deceased’s estate to file the claim. This representative, if not named in a will penned by the deceased, will generally be appointed by the court from among surviving spouses, parents, or adult children.
If you have been injured in a trucking accident due to the negligent actions of another, you are entitled by law to compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and even pain and suffering. Unfortunately, the path to obtaining that compensation can be filled with challenges, obstacles, and potential pitfalls.
If you try to negotiate with the driver’s insurance adjusters yourself, they will use every trick in the book to pin all or part of the blame on you. Remember, they only need to show that you were a mere one percent responsible under the pure contributory fault standard and they’re off the hook.
You also may have claims against more than just the truck driver. An experienced attorney can investigate and assess all possibilities for you. In the end, if the insurance negotiation process reaches a standstill, you may need to consider a personal injury lawsuit against one or all parties deemed negligent and thereby potentially liable.
Life Law handles truck accident and personal injury cases in Raleigh, Wake County, Johnston County, Franklin County, Durham County, and all of North Carolina. Call us today and allow us to get started on pursuing the compensation you need to recover from your injuries and get your life back.
Recovering from a truck accident may feel like an overwhelming challenge, especially if you feel like you’re doing so on your own. The good news is, if your accident was caused by the negligent actions of someone else, you could be entitled to compensation that can fully cover all of your medical expenses and any additional pain and suffering. Don’t face this challenge alone. Reach out to the experienced truck accident attorneys at Life Law today to learn how we can help you fight for the justice you deserve.