After you’ve been hit by an 18-wheeler or large commercial truck (like a garbage truck) and are now seriously injured, the last thing you want to think about is protecting your potential injury claim. You’re focused on recovering and moving forward with your life. However, an accident with a tractor-trailer, 18-wheeler, semi-truck, large truck—whatever words you want to use to describe a big, commercial truck—are very different than run-of-the-mill automobile accidents.
What is it that makes truck accidents so unique? Here are just three major reasons (and trust us, there are many more):
- Trucking companies have their own investigators. That’s right. After a serious crash with an 18-wheeler, the accident scene may be quickly visited by a team of investigators. What are they looking for? Any evidence that can be used to protect the trucking company. You see, companies know that lawsuits after a big crash can cost serious money. They will do whatever it takes to protect themselves.
- Trucking companies have their own attorneys. Just as important as having their own team of investigators, truck companies also retain law firms to protect them from expensive lawsuits. These lawyers are very experienced in defending their clients and know how to make sure that they pay out as little compensation as possible—if anything at all.
- There are many state and federal regulations for trucking companies and their drivers. There are a huge number of laws and regulations, at both the state and federal levels, covering what trucking companies and their drivers may or may not do when operating a tractor-trailer. It is very important that any lawyer you hire understand these laws, because a thorough investigation of your case cannot be done without this knowledge.
We can’t say it enough—trucking companies are willing to put serious money and effort into fighting accident cases, and they often approach these cases with a whole arsenal of scare tactics and tricks.
You Should Be Aware That the Trucking Company Might Not Be Playing Fair
The trucking company, its insurance company, and its lawyers are doing everything they can to minimize your injury claim. Why? Because, ultimately, they aren’t interested in you or your future. Their only job is to protect their bottom line. Paying you the compensation you are legally owed is the last thing they want to do. They will get to work protecting the trucking company immediately after an accident, and they will take advantage of what victims don’t know about their rights. In case after case, we see trucking companies, their insurance companies, and their lawyers use these same five tricks over and over again to try to avoid paying you a dime.
1. The Recorded Statement
You or your family will be contacted by the trucking company’s insurance adjuster after the accident. This person will act like he or she is helping you. The adjuster typically says something along the lines of, “we just need to do this so we can cut you a check and settle your case for you.” Beware. This is a trick.
The company actually has no interest in what you have to say, unless it helps their position. Their goal is to trick you into saying something that will harm your case. The adjuster contacts you as soon after the accident as possible, generally at a time when you probably have not had the opportunity to hire your own lawyer. The adjuster is trained to get you to talk about your accident in a way that hurts your case. They know you’re vulnerable at this point. It’s like a lion going after a wounded zebra—you’re easy prey.
Watch Vuk explain this tactic in more detail:
The bottom line is that, by law, you are not required to give a recorded statement. You have the right to tell the adjuster that you won’t give a statement.
2. The Lowball Settlement Offer
The insurance company will offer you a very low amount to settle your case (if they even offer you anything). This is another very common trick. They know you are most likely missing work, hurting for cash, and worried about the near future. Don’t take the money, however tempting it might be.
Insurance companies never offer to pay fair amounts on an injury claim if there is no lawsuit on file. Never. They are trying to take advantage of you. Their plan is to have you take the lowball offer.
3. Destroying or Altering Evidence
Companies do this often. The most recent major news story on this was the Halliburton employee who destroyed records and documentation from the post-accident investigation of the 2010 BP well explosion. We see companies attempt to destroy or alter evidence in many of our cases.
For example, shortly after a crash, the trucking company destroys or alters the driver’s logs to show that their driver was not driving while fatigued. Or they destroy the driver’s qualification file, which shows she or he was not qualified to be driving the 18-wheeler.
Another common practice is to destroy the post-crash alcohol and drug tests that show their driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This happened in one of our cases—the trucking company forgot that its driver gave one copy of his driver’s logs to the investigating DPS Trooper. After the horrific crash that caused a death and multiple injuries, the trucking company altered all of the truck driver’s logs (the original logs showed the truck driver had violated many regulations), and they tried to “fix” the logs so they would not show the violations. We were able to demonstrate the alteration of evidence by comparing the “fixed” logs to the real logs given to the Trooper.
4. Telling the Truck Driver to Not Get the Required Drug And Alcohol Test
Trucking companies will tell the truck driver not to go get the required drug and alcohol testing. Most of the time, the companies require drivers to be tested for drugs and alcohol after a crash. But we have found that the trucking company or the insurance company will tell the driver to not get tested if they think the driver was impaired at the time of the accident.
Why would they do this? Well, being sober behind the wheel is the law, and proving, by way of testing for drugs or alcohol, that the driver was sober at the time of the crash is part federal trucking regulations. If they violate the testing rule, they get a smaller fine than if the driver was found to be impaired at the time of the accident. So, if the truck driver was drinking, drugged, or otherwise impaired at the time of the accident, the trucking company may try to delay or prevent drug and alcohol testing or otherwise cover up evidence of the impairment.
5. Delay, Delay, Delay
The trucking companies and their lawyers know that justice delayed is justice denied. They will try every litigation trick in the book to push the trial of your case further and further down the road. They will say they need more time to get all the information they need for their case. They will say their lawyer is on vacation. They will say the expert witness they hired is not available for a month. Their list of excuses goes on and on. Whether you are speaking with the truck driver’s employer or the trucking company’s insurance agent, you may find that you’re running into a lot of delays, dead ends, “red tape,” and serious frustration—and it’s probably not a coincidence. Hopefully, you have a lawyer who knows how to battle the trucking companies and push for your case to be tried fairly in a reasonable amount of time.
Sadly, these are only five of many tricks the trucking companies use when they are sued. As personal injury attorneys, we’ve seen many, many examples of trucking companies taking advantage of vulnerable victims in order to pay them less for the injuries their drivers caused. This makes it extremely hard for injured truck accident victims to determine if what their rights actually are and if they’re being manipulated.
Getting Help After You’ve Been Hurt in a Truck Accident
If you’ve been hurt in a truck accident, you can’t count on the truck driver, the trucking company, or the insurance company to have your best interests in mind. However, an attorney who has a successful history with truck accident cases can act as an ally on your side, making sure that your rights are protected and that the trucking company’s representatives are playing fair. If you need help getting the compensation you deserve after a truck accident, please call us today at 1-877-724-7800 or complete our confidential online contact form.