Truck Accident Attorneys in Manassas, Virginia
Every 16 minutes someone in this country is seriously injured or killed in a truck accident. The frequency and severity of accidents involving tractor trailers, semi-trucks, and large commercial vehicles make having the best available legal representation paramount for victims of these tragic events.
At the law offices of Olmstead & Olmstead, P.C., we work hard to protect the rights of clients who have been involved in Virginia truck accidents and have suffered serious personal injury. Our experienced Virginia personal injury attorneys understand the complex legal issues involved in these cases and will work diligently to represent your interests.
Truck Accident Statistics
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 4,000 people were killed and 116,000 injured in large truck crashes in the U.S. in 2015 alone. This was a 4% increase over the prior year. Of those fatalities and injuries, 74% were occupants of other vehicles, not of the commercial trucks.
Because of its location on the east coast, Virginia has a large number of trucks bringing commerce into and through the state. In just the Commonwealth of Virginia, there are approximately 17,000 people injured and 150 people killed each year in truck accidents.
Types and Causes of Virginia Truck Accidents
Sharing the road with large commercial trucks is an inevitability for Virginia drivers. While many of these trucks are well-maintained and driven by conscientious drivers, this isn’t always the case. Because of the nature of these vehicles and the industry itself, trucks pose particular accident risks. Some of the common types of truck accidents include:
- Rollover Accidents happen when a truck tips over onto its side.
- Jack-knife Accidents are a common accident among trucks and occur when the truck loses traction and begins a sideways slide into other vehicles.
- Head-on Collisions can have devastating consequences due to the size and power of a large truck.
- Underride Accidents happen when a car becomes trapped underneath a tractor trailer.
- Blind Spot Accidents are also called “no zone” accidents and occur when a truck makes a maneuver without noticing vehicles in its blind spot.
The causes of these accidents vary, but a large majority are due to due driver negligence. This might be in the form of distracted driving, DUI, reckless driving, or speeding. Other causes are overloaded or improperly loaded freight and mechanical failure.
Common Causes of Virginia Truck Accidents
Despite the commercial trucking industry being tightly regulated, there are thousands of deaths attributed to truck accidents each year in this country. Some of the primary causes of these dangerous and deadly truck accidents include:
- Driver Fatigue. One of the most common causes of truck accidents is driver fatigue. Despite the rules in place that limit driving hours and mandate time off, drivers still spend too much time behind the wheel, which causes these tragic truck accidents.
- Impaired Driving. Impaired driving with truck drivers often involves drugs more than alcohol. Due to the demands of the position, many drivers turn to prescription and other illicit drugs to stay awake while driving. Unfortunately, these have side effects and can also lead to aggressive behavior.
- Speeding and Reckless Driving. Another leading cause of truck accidents is reckless operation due to excessive speed, unsafe lane changes, following too closely, and failing to compensate for road or weather conditions.
- Maintenance Issues. When a truck driver or their company skimps on maintenance, the results can be catastrophic. Some of the mechanical issues that can lead to a truck accident include blown tires and failed brakes. There can also be cases of defective parts that lead to crashes.
- Unsafe loading. Overloading a truck can increase a company’s bottom line, but it’s also unsafe and creates a hazard on the road. The way that the cargo is loaded also matters since improperly loaded or secured loads can come loose or create unstable conditions.
Serious Injuries and Damages From Truck Crashes
Commercial trucks can weigh up to 80,000 lbs., have massive blind spots, and limited maneuverability. If these machines sound like an accident waiting to happen, you’re right. When not handled with the utmost care and training, the results of a truck accident can be catastrophic.
Victims of truck accidents can suffer from extreme injuries and even death. Trucks are multi-ton vehicles that can cause much more damage than a standard motor vehicle. Serious injuries resulting from these accidents include broken bones, spinal cord injuries, internal injuries, severe burns, and traumatic brain injury. An accident victim may need a lifetime of medical care and could suffer permanent impairment from the crash.
In addition to the cost of medical care, trucking accidents can result in damages that include lost wages, pain and suffering, and rehabilitation expenses. A skilled Virginia personal injury attorney can help you and your family in pursuing the responsible party for these damages.
Who is Responsible for a Virginia Truck Accident?
The trucking industry is heavily regulated due to the inherent dangers of having these massive machines on the highway. Interstate commerce in this country may rely on 18 wheelers and semi-trucks, but these vehicles are proportionately larger than anything else in their path and pose a significant danger.
The U.S. Department of Transportation is largely responsible for regulating the commercial trucking industry. Other regulations might come from the Public Utilities Commission, the Department of Homeland Security, and other state and local agencies.
Not only are trucks that provide interstate commerce required to hold significant levels of insurance, but there are also regulations for trucking companies and drivers. Truckers must log the hours that they drive and take mandatory rest breaks. Loads that are carried must also be appropriate and properly secured. Many of the regulations that are in place today are a result of past personal injury cases resulting from deadly truck accidents.
While many of these trucking companies and their drivers do everything they can to stay safe on the road, the reality is that not everyone exercises the same degree of care, which can put innocent motorists and pedestrians in harm’s way. When a driver exceeds their hours of service restrictions, drives under the influence of alcohol or drugs, doesn’t properly maintain their vehicle, or doesn’t follow the rules of the road, the risk of a dangerous accident increases.
The issue of negligence in Virginia truck accidents can be complicated because of the nature of the industry. While the truck driver may be at fault in the accident, they may not be the only party to blame for a serious accident. Other potential defendants might include the trucking company, truck maintenance company, parts manufacturers, and freight loaders.
Proving liability in one of these accidents is complex because evidence of wrongdoing might quickly disappear for a variety of reasons. This is just one of the reasons why it’s so important to have an experienced and aggressive Virginia truck crash attorney on your side as quickly as possible.
Dealing With Insurance Adjusters Following a Truck Accident
Do Not Be Swayed by an Apology
Many insurers will use an apology program. These are a specific set of guidelines used to train adjusters to “apologize” to a crash victim as a method of avoiding claims or convincing the victim to settle for less than their claim is worth. It works in the following way:
You were in an accident with a commercial truck. In the course of that day, you get a call from the trucking company’s insurance provider. A pleasant-sounding adjuster tells you that they are sorry that you got hurt. They may also say that they are going to make you a “reasonable” settlement offer to avoid things getting messy by involving attorneys.
Do not give in to the temptation of the kind-sounding voice and a monetary offer. They aren’t calling you to be nice. Rather, they are calling as studies show that when an injured individual believes that they received an apology, they are more likely to settle the claim for less than they deserve. The success of these apology programs has prompted many hospitals to use them for medical malpractice situations.
How Truck Collision Insurance Works
The trucking company pays a premium to its insurance provider, similar to the way you do for your own vehicle. Like your insurance, the premiums rise when the trucking company is responsible for accidents.
The insurance company is liable for paying out the claims, irrespective of how much they collect in premiums. As trucking collisions are typically more devastating than accidents between passenger vehicles, these insurance claims can amount to substantial amounts of money.
Things to Remember
If you are confronted by the insurer, the following are a few things to bear in mind:
The Insurer Wants to Pay Out as Little as Possible
The insurance company’s goal is to pay out as little as possible to protect its bottom line. Why should they spend more of their money than absolutely required? Remember, you are not their customer, the trucking company is.
The Insurer is also a Business
The insurance company is a business, and it needs to pay out the least possible settlement to be able to remain profitable. Keeping their payouts low allows them to keep their premiums low. Low premium amounts keep their customers happy and allow them to remain in business.
The Adjuster Knows Things You Don’t
The insurance adjuster knows how much your injuries are actually worth. In addition, they have access to databases with comparable cases (which if the information regarding payout amounts for similar cases) and other information pertinent to the industry.
The Adjuster is Trained to Elicit Specific Responses From You
Adjusters are trained to elicit certain responses from victims, which can be as innocuous-sounding as “How are you?” and if you say “alright,” that could work against you in the future. Try to avoid small talk with insurance adjusters. If they ask anything about the incident, you should certainly decline to respond to those questions, even if they seem innocent. They want you to say something that puts more fault on you and takes it away from the trucking company.
Don’t Blame Yourself for Falling in this Trap
It is important to remember that it is not being uninformed or naïve if you fall into this type of trap. You have just been involved in a crash, and even if you feel alright, you’re likely at least a little shocked from the emotional distress and stress of the incident, and you might not be thinking rationally. Furthermore, remember that it is the adjuster’s job to ask these questions in a manner that influences your responses. In fact, they have scripts to follow and training that teaches them such tactics.
The Insurance Adjuster is Attempting to Work Within their Settlement Authority
The insurer has already determined what it thinks your claim is worth. The adjuster is authorized to settle for up to an amount that is potentially much lower than your claim’s actual value. The adjuster tries to settle far below the claim’s value as they can to show their value to their supervisors. However, you don’t and shouldn’t have to accept it.
Insurance Companies Sometimes Purposely Delay Claims
The insurance provider has made you a settlement offer, which you declined. Out of the blue, your phone calls are no longer being entertained. Your emails are not answered. There is documentation that never gets process. It’s unethical and at times unlawful, but an insurer might try to run out your statute of limitations.
The Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations refers to the amount of time you have to file a claim. It might differ based on the state where you reside. An insurance provider may stall for a time long enough that you are unable to file a legal recourse.
Benefits of Hiring a Skilled Virginia Truck Accident Attorney
If you or a loved one have been injured in a Virginia trucking accident, you may have grounds to pursue compensation for your losses. Our team of Virginia truck accident attorneys has years of experience in helping truck accident victims and holding responsible parties accountable. We will thoroughly investigate your case, obtain documentation from the other side, and work tirelessly to recover your losses. Our Virginia personal injury attorneys work with truck accident experts who specialize in securing evidence to support your claim for damages.
Time is not a luxury in these cases as you only have two years from the accident date to file your claim. We recommend reaching out to us about your case immediately. Contact the experienced Virginia truck accident attorneys at Olmstead & Olmstead at (703) 361-1555 or online to schedule a consultation today.