Truck accidents often cause accident victims to suffer serious bodily injury or death. Many factors make truck accidents different from car accidents. AFJ Law Firm is experienced in representing those who have been injured or killed in commercial motor vehicle collisions caused by the negligence of others. If you or a loved one have been injured during a truck accident in Montana, contact the AFJ Law Firm today to schedule a free consultation.
Multiple Parties Are Often Liable in Truck Accident Cases
Truck accidents often involve multiple defendants who may be liable for an accident victim’s injuries. A truck driver may be leasing a truck, an independent contractor, or employed by a truck company. Many entities are often involved in getting a product from order to delivery. The truck company may contract with a manufacturer, a broker, or a shipping company. The following parties may be liable in a truck accident case:
- Truck driver
- Truck company
- The broker
- Truck manufacturer
- Shipping company
- Truck mechanic
- A municipality or other governmental entity
This is not an exhaustive list of the possible defendants in a truck accident case. It is necessary to investigate the accident scene, any relevant traffic collision report, and the human resources of the truck company that employed the truck driver. Multiple parties may have contributed to the events that caused the truck accident in which you were injured.
The Types of Damages Injured Victims May Claim in Truck Accident Cases
Truck accident cases often cause catastrophic injuries. Victims may claim general damages, special damages, and punitive damages. However, punitive damages are not awarded often. To obtain punitive damages in Montana, and the injured party must prove that the defendant guilty of actual malice or actual fraud.
General damages refer to those losses that are less quantifiable and more abstract, such as pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life. The Montana Supreme Court has explained that general damages are damages the law would impute as the natural, necessary, and logical consequence of the wrong or breach. Special damages refer to losses that can be more easily quantified such as medical bills and lost earnings. The Montana Supreme Court has explained that special damages are the natural but not necessary result of the wrong or breach.
Punitive damages are intended to punish and deter defendant’s misconduct. Oftentimes, a party may be forced to pay punitive damages when their conduct damages a large group of people or society as a whole or when their conduct is particularly egregious.
The Most Common Injuries Victims Suffer During Truck Accidents
Accident victims may suffer permanent or temporary disability after being involved in a truck accident. Unfortunately, many drivers and passengers of cars and SUVs die during truck accidents. The following are some of the most common injuries victims suffer during truck accidents:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Third-degree burns
- Bone fractures
- Blunt force trauma
Many truck accident victims lose consciousness during the collision and do not wake up until days after the incident. Sometimes accident victims suffer memory loss and other neurological symptoms when they have concussions. All accident victims should seek immediate medical treatment after being involved in a truck accident.
Commercial Motor Vehicles Are Subject to More Laws and Regulations
There are a multitude of laws and agencies that regulate commercial motor vehicles. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) are often the most frequently violated regulations and laws that apply to truck drivers. These regulations provide standards and guidelines that apply to nearly all aspects of a trucking operation.
Trucking and commercial motor vehicle companies are also regulated by federal and state agencies, including the Unites States Department of Transportation, the National Transportation Safety Bureau, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and, in Montana, the Montana Department of Transportation Motor Carrier Safety Division.
Trucking Companies Treat Commercial Motor Vehicle Accidents Differently
Trucking companies often begin their defense process as soon as a collision occurs. Truckers often report the collision to their dispatch even before checking to see if the other driver is okay. The dispatch may then give the trucker instructions, like what to say to law enforcement, and instructions not to admit fault.
Trucking companies and commercial driving companies may then send someone to the scene to immediately begin collecting favorable evidence. Often, the individuals will be trained in accident investigation and may try to speak with and direct law enforcement personnel and investigators. They may then start telling the investigators and witnesses the narrative that the truck company wants to take hold – which may not be the truth of what happened. Law enforcement often are not trucking experts; they may find the information the trucking company expert points out to be helpful and may miss things the trucking company expert wants them to overlook.
At the same time, the trucking company may have already reached out to their in-house lawyers and local council to start to put their legal defense together. All this can happen within hours of the collision.
Key Witnesses are Different
In addition to the standard eyewitnesses, trucking witnesses may include the safety director for each of the defendant entities, the training instructor for each of the defendant entities, the person who hired the shipper or broker, and the dispatcher, among others.
Additional Experts Are Needed in Commercial Motor Vehicle Accident Cases
In addition to the standard experts who may be necessary in a car wreck case, trucking cases often require trucking driving standard of care experts, broker hiring experts, trucking mechanic experts, and specialized accident reconstructionists.
Venue Issues are Often Different and More Complex in Trucking Accident Cases
In car accident cases, the venue (place of the lawsuit, litigation, and trial) is almost always where the collision occurred. This may or may not be a place where a party injured or killed in a trucking collision can get a fair trial. In commercial trucking cases, even if the wreck occurred in a particular location in Montana, there may be a more fair and appropriate venue to file in, such as a Defendant’s principal place of business or registered state.
Discovery Issues are Different in Trucking Accident Cases
Discovery in trucking cases requires obtaining substantial amounts of information that does not exist in car accident lawsuits. Commercial motor vehicles have multitudes of onboard electronic data systems. These include systems that track hours of service, telemetric systems, entertainment control systems, and advanced GPS systems. Trucking companies are also required to have drug and alcohol tests for their drivers, physical fitness results, training records, medical files, and other information about each driver. Trucking companies also should have extensive records evidencing the maintenance of the truck and trailer, past hours of service logs, investigation documents, bills of lading, ownership documents, and multitudes of other documents and evidence. All this information must be requested and obtained – which will usually involve no small amount of fight and perseverance by your council.
Preservation of Evidence Issues Are Different in Trucking Accident Cases
Evidence can quickly be lost in trucking cases. The FMCSRs require certain documents and evidence to be collected and preserved following a collision. However, some of the information that must be collected has a limited amount of time for which it must be retained. This information may be lost if a request for preservation is not made to the trucking company in a timely manner.
Electronic information about the truck, driver, and the collision that was stored on the truck also may also be lost if not timely preserved. Because the trucks are so big and protected, can often be repaired or driven, even after severe collisions. Trucking companies often work to get the truck and trailer back into service as quickly as possible to continue making money off them and for other reasons. Information stored on the truck may be overridden after the truck is started or powered up a certain number of times, with the passage of time time, or with the truck being driven for a certain number of miles.
Evidence of mechanical defects may also be lost, particularly if the truck or trailer is returned to service. Once these mechanical issues are fixed, physical evidence of them being a problem may be gone forever.
There are Different Issues in Trucking Cases than in Car Accidents Cases
There are several insurance issues unique to trucking cases. There are mandatory insurance minimums of $750,000 that usually apply. Because of the severity of trucking collisions, this is often far too little to cover the carnage and damage that often result from the collisions. Depending on the policies, looking for ways to multiply the insurance coverages available may be necessary to obtain all available insurance. An injured person cannot rely on the insurance companies, or a firm that does not know what they are doing, to find and reveal these policies and obtain coverage under them. There may also be issues surrounding MCS 90 endorsements that must be navigated.
What is a Commercial Motor Vehicle?
Commercial motor vehicles are commonly known by several names, including semi-trucks, semi-trailers, tractor-trailers, straight trucks, 18-wheelers, and big rigs, among other names. Some of these vehicles are defined differently under the FMCSRs.
A vehicle that has a gross vehicle rating or gross combination weight rating, or gross vehicle weight or gross combination weight, of 4,536 kg (10,001 pounds) or more, whichever is greater, may be a commercial motor vehicle in certain circumstances.
Contact AFJ Law Firm Today to Schedule a Free Consultation
AFJ Law Firm PLLC has experience working with individuals and their loved ones who have been hurt or killed by the negligence of commercial motor vehicle drivers and their related co-defendants. AFJ Law Firm PLLC has seen how difficult it can be to get one’s life back together after suffering severe bodily injuries or losing a family member or loved one due to someone else’s negligence. People who have been injured may lose their jobs and accrue vast amounts in medical bills that have been forced upon them through no fault of their own. They may be forced to figure out how to move forward and survive without their loved one who may have been the “breadwinner” of the family. AFJ Law Firm PLLC has over a decade of experience representing clients in truck accident cases and obtaining real results for clients injured in truck accidents.
Contact us today to schedule a free consultation during which we can discuss the facts of your case. We can help you learn more about the legal options available to you. Contact us today to speak with a truck accident lawyer in Bozeman, Montana. Our frequently asked questions (FAQ) page may also answer your questions about Montana commercial trucking and semi-truck crash litigation and personal injury lawyers and lawsuits.