On May 7, 2010, the Donaldsonville community was saddened when 20 year-old Ryan Johnson was killed in a car accident when his car flipped after he collided with a semi-truck on LA 70. While this loss is tragic, it is also a reminder that accidents involving semi trucks should be treated differently that regular car accidents and usually require assistance from an attorney who has experience resolving these cases.
In a typical fender bender with another car, an attorney may not be required. After the collision, both drivers make sure they don’t have any injuries, call the paramedics if needed, exchange contact and insurance information, have the police make a report if necessary, and they settle the cost of damages through their insurance companies. Often in these situations, especially in small communities, the drivers know each other and can easily call the other if they need any additional information that they didn’t get immediately after the accident. It is a fairly straight-forward process.
Accidents between a car and a semi truck are different and require the driver of the car to be informed and consult an attorney soon after the accident. Truck drivers haul cargo across the country for a living. When they are involved in an accident, you are not just dealing with the other driver, but the company they work for. Trucking companies have similar liability insurance as the average driver; however, these companies are better equipped to handle accidents because they have already prepared for this situation. Trucking companies also have attorneys working to protect their assets that may only work on these types of cases. Trucking companies and their insurance providers are both business and have the goal of giving you the least amount of money for your settlement. It is important that you have someone fighting equally as hard on your side.
Since truck driving is an occupation, truck driving companies are required to ensure that their drivers meet specific obligations. First, professional truck drivers are required to have a specialized truck driving license and have the training, knowledge, and experience to safely drive their massive vehicles. Second, there are laws that limit the number of hours a driver can be on the road each day. These laws attempt to prevent the number of accidents that are caused by fatigue. Your attorney will request a copy of the driver’s log book to see if they were complying with this law. Third, trucking companies are required to properly maintain their vehicles and maintain a record of when their trucks are services. Your attorney will request a copy of the service records for the truck involved in the accident to see if the trucking company contributed to the accident by not performing the required maintenance. Semi trucks are also equipped with Electronic Control Module (ECM) devices similar to “black boxes” on airplanes. The ECM device can provide information like how fast the truck was traveling when the accident occurred. It is imperative to have this information preserved; therefore your attorney needs to request it soon after the accident. The sooner you hire an attorney, the sooner they can request these records, and the less likely it is that these records will be lost or misplaced.
Given that a semi truck is as much as 25 times bigger than the average car and can weigh over 80,000 pounds, it is imperative that your collision be closely inspected by a legal expert. In doing so, an individual can have claims of negligence, traffic violations, comparative fault and a wide variety of other avenues examined. By limiting the amount of time between the accident and an investigation, evidence is more readily available. What’s more, an attorney will often employ an expert of these types of accidents who can help testify and explain what happened in the unfortunate event. In having a lawyer set to all of these various legal mechanisms, the victim of an accident can focus on other issues and allow their legal representative to do all the legwork for them. Whether by pursuing a more fair settlement than the extremely low one offered by the insurer or taking the trucking company to court, hiring an attorney is the best option when facing the daunting task of achieving justice for such an accident.