CHICAGO, IL – Semi-trucks, tractor-trailers, and other commercial trucks are frequent sights on America’s roadways. Injuries from a collision with a large truck can be serious, life-changing, and sometimes even deadly. The truck accident attorneys at Dinizulu Law Group know the physical and emotional impact a truck accident may have on victims. Below we have compiled FAQ for your review to understand what action you or a loved one should take after an accident.
What Should I Do if I’m Involved in an Accident with a Commercial Truck?
Upon making sure everyone at the scene of the accident is okay, you should immediately report the accident to the police and the insurance company and begin the process of hiring an Illinois truck accident lawyer.
The first thing you should do, if you’re able to, is report the accident to the police from the scene and obtain a police report. Given the size and weight of these trucks, it is more likely than not you have been injured.
If you are able to, make sure you document the scene of the accident. It’s important to take pictures of the scene and get contact information from all witnesses to the accident. If you’re unable to document the accident from the scene of an accident, try to contact an attorney from the scene to arrive at the scene and document the scene for you.
Next, you need to report the accident to your insurance company so they can start your claim. Your insurance will be informed of what happened in the case they are contacted by the truck driver’s insurance company. You will then need to think quickly about obtaining legal representation because any action you take in the aftermath of the accident may determine whether you are able to receive a settlement in your case.
Do I Need Legal Representation if I’m Injured in An Illinois Accident Involving a Large or Commercial Truck?
There is no legal requirement to hire an attorney; however, it’s not easy to represent yourself in a personal injury claim. Having an experienced truck accident attorney can help you present the strongest possible claim.
If you have been involved in an accident with a large or commercial truck, you should hire an Illinois trucking accident attorney. If you have been involved in this type of an accident, your injuries are likely to be severe which will present many different challenges and costs to you.
At the same time, you may be dealing with a company’s insurance which presents a challenge in and of itself. An insurance company will not likely write a large settlement check without making some effort to lower the amount of their obligation.
An Illinois truck accident attorney can not only deal with the insurance company, but can be a trusted advisor and counsellor as you deal with a difficult period. Attorney’s have experience addressing truck accidents and will have a better of idea what to expect.
Can I Sue the Company Where the Truck Driver is an Employee?
This depends on the truck driver’s employment status and what they were doing at the time of the accident.
The general rule is that an employer can be held liable for the acts of their employees if they are committed within the scope of employment. In other words, when an employee is on the job and they are negligent, anyone who is injured because of their negligence may sue the company for whom they work because everything the truck driver does is a representation of their company. While this may seem straightforward, if the case goes to trial it can become somewhat difficult because of the various factual questions that must be addressed.
An exception to this rule is that many companies try to designate their driver as independent contractors which means they are not employees of the company. As a result, there is no employer/employee relationship and this will usually get the company off the hook when it comes to liability. Although this may seem unfair, it has been a longstanding legal rule.
Employees must also have been engaged in job duties at the time of the accident. If they were taking the company truck on a personal errand or were driving to and from work, the employer may not be held liable since the accident wasn’t within the scope of their employment. There are many other factual questions that come into play and an Illinois truck accident attorney can help you establish and prove the facts of your case.
How is Fault Determined in a Truck Accident?
Investigating the accident scene, eyewitness testimony, and the police report are all tools that help determine fault in a truck accident. An experienced truck accident attorney will also investigate the driver and the company that employs them. Facts in assigning fault include:
- How the truck driver was hired and trained;
- How many hours they were working;
- And the condition of the truck
How Much Is My Truck Accident Case Worth?
The details of each accident are unique, so there is no standard amount that can be quoted. There are many factors that go into determining how much a truck accident case is valued at, including medical expenses, lost wages, and possibly funeral expenses – in addition to pain and suffering. Compensation for a truck accident can provide recovery in these areas:
- Payment of medical bills
- Treatment for injuries not covered by insurance
- Lost wages and loss of ability to generate income
- Loss of consortium
- Pain and suffering
- Vehicle damage
How Much Does it Cost to Hire a Truck Accident Attorney to Represent Me?
The Dinizulu Law Group works on a contingency basis, meaning you pay nothing upfront or out of pocket and our attorneys are only paid if you are. Instead, you sign a representation agreement that states payment in terms of the percentage of your recovery. If you do not receive a settlement or win the case that goes to trial, you do not need to pay the lawyer for their services. The representation agreement spells out whether you are responsible for certain other court costs in the even that you do not win your case.
An Illinois truck injury lawyer is usually paid about one third of your settlement amount as compensation for their services. Lawyers must tell you about their fees at the time you hire them to represent you and you will agree to their fees in writing. No oral fee agreements are allowed. In the event your case goes to trial, the lawyer may receive a slightly higher percentage of the jury award because trials require attorneys to expend their time and effort, and they take risk that they will lose the case. The lawyer’s fee comes straight from the settlement amount and they are paid from it.
Usually, attorney’s do not accept every case that is brought to them because they are paid on contingency. If they are not successful in helping you recover your injuries, they will not be paid; therefore, they want to minimize the risk that they are working uncompensated time because it hurts their ability to earn a living. While you may hesitate to hire a lawyer since they receive part of your settlement, not having legal representation can make the settlement process more difficult for you.
Should I Try to Settle my Truck Accident Case with the Insurance Company?
You should try to reach a settlement agreement with the insurance company, but must be prepared to take your case to trial if necessary. Most times, both parties want to avoid a trial if they can. Trials are expensive, extremely time consuming, and introduce an uncertainty for everyone.
Settlements are not reached overnight. They may be lengthy and protracted negotiations. The insurance company may not make you their best offer, and often, they will not make you a good offer at all. Oftentimes a lawsuit is needed to be filed because without it, the insurance company may never make you a fair offer. Sometimes, they don’t try to settle until the eve of the trial.
An overwhelming majority of truck accident cases result in settlement and very few cases go to trial. Unless your claim is totally without merit or you are very clearly at fault, the insurance company will likely make you a settlement offer; however, it’s often difficult for the average person to know the value of their claim. The insurance company does know what your claim is worth because of their statisticians, specialists, and lawyers. Properly valuing your claim is one reason why you would need an experienced Illinois truck accident attorney.
What Needs to be Proved in a Truck Accident Lawsuit Involving Personal Injury
In order to prevail in a lawsuit, you need to prove the driver of the truck was negligent by which means that:
- You were owed a duty of care
- The duty of care was breached
- You were injured
- The other driver caused your injury
You must prove a four-part test to show the defendant should be held liable for your injuries; however, each element may be disputed if your case goes to trial.
The first element of the test is that the other drive owed you the “duty of care.” This is the duty the driver owes to every other driver on the roadway, meaning the driver must follow some standard of behavior when driving to act as a reasonable driver would. Second, you must prove the driver breached this duty of care and acted unreasonably. What’s considered to be unreasonable must be proven at trial; however, other things such as speeding and otherwise driving dangerously would be considered to be unreasonable.
After you prove the truck driver has acted unreasonably, you must show you have suffered an injury. If you have proven your injury, you must demonstrate that it was the truck driver who was the proximate cause of your injury. You must prove all four of these elements, and if you fail at any one of them, there will be no finding of negligence and the case will not be ruled in your favor.
What Parties can be Responsible in a Trucking Accident Involving Injuries or a Fatality?
After a simple car accident, it can be quite easy to determine responsibility; however, trucking accidents trigger different legal and business issues. Some profiles of common parties held responsible in Illinois truck accidents include:
- The truck driver
- The truck driver’s employer
- The entity that owns the trailer
- Any vendor or party that worked on or for the truck or trailer including repair shops
- The maker or seller of the truck or trailer
Every new defendant opens up a new spring for recovery including insurance parties. If the truck accident caused a serious injury or death, your attorney will need to determine all possible defendants and categories of recovery before it is too late.
How Long Does It Take to Settle a Lawsuit?
It may take a few months to years to settle a truck accident case filed in Cook County Circuit Court. The process can be lengthy because of identifying the facts of the accident and party at fault can be quite cumbersome. Understanding the laws of Illinois that give right to recovery and what that recovery may be can test even the smartest lawyers.
Convincing the defendant of your ability to win at trial and by how much will prove tricky. If the matter goes to trial, it can last another year or two; therefore, truck accident victims in Illinois should move swiftly and consider contacting an attorney as soon as possible.
How Long Do I Have to File My Lawsuit in Illinois?
Plaintiff’s have two years to file a lawsuit after a truck accident in Illinois suing for negligence related to personal injury or wrongful death (735 ILCS 5/13-202). Most plaintiff’s sue for negligence which means the defendant acted unreasonably and caused the crash as well as the plaintiff’s damages. Plaintiff’s have two years as well to make a products liability claim following a truck crash (735 ILCS 5/13-213). Claimant’s must show that a defective product let to a crash and injury after being used reasonably and foreseeably.