Commercial Trucking Accidents in Birmingham, Alabama
Accident Injury Lawyer | Birmingham, Alabama
Commercial Trucks are among the largest and most dangerous vehicles on the road; weighing up to 80,000 pounds and stretching up to 100 feet in length, they can cause some very serious and life-altering damage in an accident. Commercial truck drivers are held to strict standards, because when such a driver acts negligently, the results can be catastrophic. The results of negligence on the part of a Commercial Truck driver can range from various collisions, to rollover accidents and jackknife accidents. Commecial Trucking Accident lawsuits behave differently than other types of auto accident cases.
What should injury victims do first after a Commercial Trucking Accident in Alabama?
- Check for injuries and Call 911 if necessary - the absolute first thing you should do is check to see if you or anyone else is seriously injured and call 911 to request immediate emergency assistance.
- Seek and obtain medical treatment - if you do not have insurance, you can contact me and I will attempt to get you in to see a doctor.
- Legal duties of drivers involved in motor vehicle accidents in Alabama, Ala. Code § 32-10-1
- Remove vehicle from roadway
- Give information and render aid
- Identify owners of damages property and leave contact information
- Immediatlely notify local law enforcement
How should injury victims preserve value in a Commercial Truck Accident claim?
It's safer to think of preserving settlement value instead of maximizing. There are several steps you can take to preserve your claim value.
- Take down witness names and phone numbers
- Document your activity, such as trips to the doctor, and how your life has changed as a result of your injury - if you keep a journal or diary, it's very likely you will have to show it to the defense during a lawsuit.
- Keep copies of everything - make a file folder for your records
- Avoid speaking with the adjuster if you intend to consult an attorney. If you do speak with an adjuster, be mindful that your conversation is possibly being recorded.
- Stay mindful of what you share on social media. It's not a good idea to start attempting to delete things, but you can limit your future acitivity. You should also stay aware that it's very possible that a private investigator is watching you.
- If you are engaged in long-term medical treatment, such as physical therapy or rehabilitation, it is best to wait until you have either completed treatment, or have reached a sustainable plateau of improvement. You only settle once, and cannot come back if you later realize your medical condition didn't improve as much as anticipated.
Commercial Trucking accident claims are more complex than other types of accident claims
Commercial Accident cases are controlled by a combination of both state law and federal law, and proving liability (or who's fault the accident was) is more complicated than other types of auto accidents. For example, there are more potential defendants:
- The Commercial Truck Driver
- The Commercial Trucking Company
- The Commercial Truck Manufacturer
- The Commercial Truck Repair or Service Mechanic
- Any other third party driver that may have contributed to the accident
In many cases, more than one potential defendant may be liable for your damages and injuries. You are invited to contact me to hear more about which defendants should be included in your Commercial lawsuit.
Federal Commercial Trucking Laws
Commercial trucking is regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Saftey Administration (FMCSA), which provides guidelines for Commercial truck drivers, companies, manufacturers, and other people or entities that may be involved in Commercial commercial trucking.
The FMCSA requires Commercial Drivers to:
- Be 21 years old
- Speak fluent English
- Posess a CDL driver license
- Pass a physical every two years
- Keep a log of miles and time driven each day
Commercial Trucking Companies are required to:
- Conduct background checks on potential drivers to ensure a safe driving history
- Adequately train and instruct Commercial Drivers
- Conduct regular mechanical maintenance and repairs
- Keep a record of maintenance and repairs
Commercial Truck Driver Hour Restrictions
Commercial Truck Driver fatigue is expressly regulated by the FMCSA. Fatigued drivers pose a serious safety threat to the public at large. There also exists the temptation of additional profit for the trucking companies to push their drivers beyond a safe amount of time behind the wheel on a daily basis. Because of the threat posed by tired or drowsy drivers, the FMCSA provides some regulations regarding the hours an Commercial Truck driver can work:
- Commercial Truck drivers cannot drive for more than 11 hours in a single day.
- Commercial Truck drivers are required to take off at least 10 hours between shifts.
- The full shift for an Commercial Truck driver cannot last longer than 14 hours.
- Commercial Truck drivers must maintain an accurate log book of time on duty, and time behind the wheel.
Because of the profit incentive that exists for companies to try and push their truck drivers to deliver goods on time, there are times where the FMCSA guidelines are broken. Some Commercial truck drivers may not be truthful in recording entries to their log books. In these situations, it comes to the attorney to prove the differences between the Commercial Truck driver's books, and other evidence that may tell a different story, such as:
- Toll Road Receipts
- Weigh Station Reports
- Delivery Receipts
- Mileage distance and time calculations
- Gas Station Receipts
How Commercial Truck Accidents Happen
Because of the extensive federal regulation controling how commercial Commercial Trucking activity is to be conducted, there is not much room left for an accident to occur without negligence on someone's part. Common causes of Commercial Truck accidents include:
- Negligent repairs or maintenance on the Commercial Truck
- Failure to adequately train or instruct the Commercial Truck driver
- Aggresive or negligent driving
- Fatigued drivers and unrealistic company deadlines
- Drug or alcohol intoxication
- Distracted driving such as texting
Commercial Truck Accident Injuries
Commercial Trucks are often much larger and heavier than the other vehicles involved in an accident, and this results in a much higher chance of serious injury or death. Approximate 3/4 of the serious injuries or fatalities that occur in Commercial Trucking accidents are suffered by the occupants of the other vehicle involved. These injuries include:
- Brain and head trauma
- Broken bones and internal organ damage
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How much money is a Commercial Truck Accident worth?
Settlement value depends on the particular facts and circumstances of each case. Damages are generally broken into two categories: Special Damages and General Damages. Special damages are things we can point to and add up. General damages are things that we cannot show a receipt for.
- Medical Bills - proven by gathering your medical records and billings, and then by having a doctor say under oath that your bills were reasonable and medically necessary to treat your injuries. If you have health insurance that pays for your medical care, you will have to reimburse them what they paid on your behalf - this is known as a "Subrogation" interest or lien, which means your insurance company expects to be paid back if we recover money from your lawsuit.
- Retail costs - what the hospital charged on their invoice
- Subrogation costs - what your healthcare insurance provider actually paid
- Property Damage - proven by gathering mechanic repair bills and estimates
- Lost past and future wages - proven with past employment records, both before and after your injury. We might also consult what is known as a "vocational expert", which is someone knowledgable in the general job market, and how permanent injuries can impact wages.
- Pain and Suffering - proven through your direct testimony, and then supported with your medical records and the testimony of your doctors, other treating medical professionals, and any friends or family members who have personally observed the impact your injury has made on your quality of life.
- Emotional Distress / Mental Anguish - proven in similar fashion to pain and suffering. It's impossible to jump inside someone's head and experience what they experience, but, it is possible to observe the outward signals that they present. Emotional distress and mental anguish claims are taken much more seriously when the injury victim can point evidence such as attending mental health counseling or psycho-therapy.
Mandatory Liability Insurance for Commercial Trucks
Commercial Motor Carriers U.S. Department of Transportation
- If carrying goods for interstate commerce either $750,000, $1,000,000 or $5,000,000 depending on the nature of the goods being transported
- If carrying people as passengers $1,500,000 for vehicles carrying 15 or fewer passengers, and $5,000,000 for vehicles carrying 16 passengers or more.
How long does a Commercial Trucking accident lawsuit last?
Each of us are different, and so are our injuries. A reasonable timeframe for your claim to resolve is in the 9-18 month range, however, settlement is a possiblity as soon as you reach Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI). You typically have to file a lawsuit within two years of the date of your injury.
Even after your lawsuit is filed, there are still several stages for the average Commercial Trucking Accident claim.
Your Medical Treatment - Maximum Medical Improvement
The first thing that needs to take place is your medical treatment. Maximum Medical Improvement, or "MMI", is a term that indicates that your medical situation has stabilized. It doesn't mean you are fully healed, it means that you have healed as much as you are going to heal. You have reached a plateau, and we can glean a clear picture of how your work-injury has permanently affected you. We know how much you healed, and how much you didn't. Only after you complete your medical treatment can we start to talk about how much money you are due in compensation for your permanent damages.
The Commercial Trucking accident lawsuit starts when we file a Complaint. It doesn't have to be after you reach MMI, but it does need to be within two years of your injury. Here's a rough outline of the Commercial Trucking Accident lawsuit process:
- Complaint: we start by filing a complaint in the appropriate court. Probably whatever county you were in when you suffered your injury, or in the appropriate Federal District Court.
- Answer: The defendants then have 30 days to file their response, which is called and answer. They are answering our complaint.
- Discovery: Each side has to swap evidence, and answer written questions about the lawsuit. Each side gets 30 days to do that.
- Subpeonas: If additional evidence is available, and neither party has it (like medical records) then we have to issue subpoenas for the records. Those take at least 30 days to complete.
- Depositions: Once the document evidence is gathered and reviewed, we start to schedule depositions. It typically takes a month or two after all of the evidence is gather for both parties to prepare for depositions. We will speak with available witnesses and your doctors.
- Mediation: At this point, many Commercial trucking accident lawsuits attempt a formal settlement procedure known as mediation.
- Informal negotiations: The lawyers for both sides continue to attempt to reach an agreement through email and phone conversations.
- Trial: if mediation and negotiation is unsuccessful we go to trial. Trials can last anywhere from 3 days to 3 weeks, depending on the complexity of your situation, such as how many defendants there are, and how many witnesses are required to testify.
Mediation. Commercial Trucking accident claims often settle through either negotiations of the parties or through a process known as Mediation. Mediation is a formal settlement meeting. It is usually done in an office. I will be in one conference room with you, and the defense lawyer and his or her client will be in another conference room. A third party known as a Mediator goes back-and-forth between the two conference rooms and communicates offers from one party to another.
Mediators are a paid service. We split the cost with the defense, although many times we can get them to agree to pay for the mediator if a settlement is reached. Mediators are knowledgeable about the state and federal Commercial trucking laws, and can help to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of both parties involved in the mediation.
- We tell the Mediator why we think our case is strong and the defense's case is weak
- The defense tells the Mediator why their case is strong and ours is weak.
- The Mediator goes back-and-forth between the two parties and tries to help us reach an agreement through this method.
Mediation is voluntary, even if participation is mandatory. We cannot force a defendant to pay anymore money than they are willing to pay at mediation. That is what trial is for. Mediation is an attempt to reach a voluntary agreement. Each party has a degree of control: The defendant controls how much money they are willing to offer; the plaintiff controls the "Yes" or "No."
Negotiation. At any point in the process your workers comp claim can settle. If you claim cannot settle prior to filing a lawsuit, then you typicall don't get full settlement value unless we proceed at least through the point of your deposition, and often times further. On average that is somewhere around 9-18 months. But, everyone's claim is different, many take longer than 18 months, and there are ways to make it go faster than 9 months if things work in our favor. Your claim certainly does not have to be average. To tell you more about your particular claim, I would have to know more about your case. You are invited to call me: (205) 335-4190 or complete one of my contact forms and I will reach out if I think I can help you.
Fees for Commercial Trukcing accident lawsuits are handled on contingency fee basis. The rate is set on a case-by-case basis. The good news is that you don't have to pay me anything out-of-pocket. The only way you pay me is out of your recovery.
In a Contingency Fee situation, I usually will pay case expenses on the front-end on the condition that you agree to pay me back out of any recovery from your claim. Expenses commonly include:
- Filing Fee: to file your claim into court
- Records Fee: copy fees to gather your records
- court reporter appearance fee
- transcript fees
- doctors typically charge between $1,000 and $1,500 for a one-hour deposition.
- Accident Experts: It is very common to require an expert to testify at your trial to help prove your case to the jury. In cases that require expert testimony, the costs associated with hiring and retaining experts can reach $50,000 to $100,000. Situations where and Commercial Trucking Accident lawsuit might require an expert:
- Expert witness engineers may be required to study the mechanics of what happened in your accident, and scientifically "reconstruct" the events of your accident to testify why it was a particular defendant's fault.
- Expert witness doctors may be required to review your medical records and give medical opinions on how the permanent damages of your injury are going to impact the rest of your life.
I try not to incur fees on your behalf unless they are necessary, but, you can see how Commercial Trucking accident claims that go to trial can incur tens of thousands of dollars in fees.
If you claim is denied, and we lose in court, then you do not owe me the expense money I spent on your claim. There is a certain amount of risk on my end involved in taking claims on a contingency fee structure, but, most of my clients are hurt and cannot work. They are in the worst position they could be in to hire a lawyer. Once I'm on your team, and standing in your corner, we either win together or we lose together.
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Free Initial Strategy Session
All Initial Strategy Sessions are Free. If you would like to discuss your options, you are invited to fill out one of the Contact Forms. I will attempt to contact you if I think I can help you.
During your Initial Strategy Session, I will asist you in creating a strategy on how to best pursue your claim, whether it be the result of a Car Accident Claim, 18 Wheeler Injury, or, Alabama Workers' Compensation Claim. At your Initial Strategy Session, you will receive the following:
- First - I will listen to your story. You will have a chance to tell everything to someone who wants to hear what happened to you.
- Based on the information that you provide, I will give you my best advice on both what claims you have, and the next steps you should consider to proceed with your claim(s).
- If your claim is something that I think I can help you with, I will explain the services that I can provide for you, and what the next steps are that we should take. We will start working immediately.
- If your matter is something that I do not think I can help you with, then I will attempt to put you in contact with another lawyer that might be able to help you.
- Either way, what should happen is we will put to rest some of the unkowns that you may be experiencing. We will start to shed some light on what you can expect, and how to best pursue the benefits you deserve.
Don't delay getting the recovery you deserve!
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