Pretty much every product on a Minnesota store shelf spent at least some time on a large truck. So, today’s semi trucks are larger and heavier than ever. As a result, the large truck fatality rate has increased 30 percent since 2009. These large vehicles are basically impossible for even experienced drivers to operate in any sort of emergency.
The stakes are very high. These crashes normally cause catastrophic injuries, such as serious burns, brain injuries, and wrongful death. Damages usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, as well as noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages may also be available, in some cases.
However, stingy insurance companies do not simply give away this compensation. Instead, a Brainerd car accident lawyer must fight hard to obtain it. Many times, that fight involves the same basic steps.
Obtaining Medical Care for Victims
Immediate medical attention is one of the keys to a successful outcome. The settlement process cannot begin in earnest until medical treatment is at least substantially complete. Otherwise, your Brainerd car accident lawyer does not know the case’s full financial value, and your settlement may not cover all your losses. So, the sooner the medical treatment ball gets rolling, the sooner the case will be over.
Additionally, if the victim does not seek immediate medical treatment, the insurance company usually later claims that the victim’s injuries must not have been very severe.
The medical treatment needs to be more than quick. It also needs to be the right kind of treatment. Many car crash injuries, like whiplash, are difficult to diagnose and treat. So, victims need injury specialists.
A Brainerd car accident lawyer can typically connect truck crash victims with the medical help they need. As a bonus, these top-rated truck crash physicians usually charge no money upfront. Instead, they defer payment until the case is resolved, and they also often discount their fees.
Understanding the Legal Context
To obtain compensation, the victim/plaintiff must prove that the crash was not just a random incident. Instead, a Brainerd car accident lawyer must establish negligence by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). This showing is easier to make in truck crash cases. In Minnesota, commercial drivers are common carriers. They have a higher duty of care than non-commercial drivers.
Driving in the rain is a good example. Non-commercial drivers have a duty to slow down and drive more carefully when it is raining. Arguably, since the duty of care is higher, commercial drivers must pull over and wait for it to stop raining. That’s especially true if the common carrier is a bus, taxi, or other vehicle which carries passengers for a fare.
Truck crash cases are more complex than car crash cases, because of the respondeat superior doctrine. This rule states that employers, like transportation or shipping companies, are vicariously liable for damages. Respondeat superior applies if:
- Employee: Independent contractors and owner-operators are employees in this context. The employer controls these individuals in terms of things like hours worked and route traveled. That control is all that’s necessary.
- Scope of Employment: The law defines this prong very broadly as well. Delivery drivers working their normal routes operate within the scope of employment. But this designation also applies to any activity which benefits the employer in any way. That could include driving an empty truck back to the warehouse.
Third party liability theories like this one are important in truck crash cases. Because of the aforementioned catastrophic injuries, the individual tortfeasor (negligent driver) may not have enough insurance coverage to provide fair compensation. Respondeat superior gives a Brainerd car accident lawyer an additional source of compensation.
Using the SMS Score
Most truck drivers have licenses in several different states. So, it’s difficult to obtain complete driving records. Fortunately, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration maintains the Safety Management System database. The SMS keeps track of:
- Unsafe driving citations, such as speeding or distracted driving,
- Alcohol or substance abuse,
- Vehicle maintenance violations,
- HOS (Hours of Service) compliance,
- Driver physical fitness, and
- Crash history.
To access some of these records, most notably the critical crash history report, a Brainerd car accident lawyer usually needs a court order. Strict privacy laws protect much of the SMS data.
This data comes from law enforcement sources as opposed to judicial records, so it’s usually more accurate. For example, if a truck driver receives a citation for defective brakes and gets the brakes fixed, the citation probably will not show up in judicial records. But it will appear in law enforcement records.
Brainerd Car Accident Lawyers and Electronic Evidence
HOS compliance is especially important in the many drowsy driving-related truck crashes. To stem the tide of fatigue-induced collisions, the FMCSA rolled out the Electronic Logging Device mandate in the spring of 2018. The ELD is attached to the truck’s ignition, so it contains an almost foolproof record. Because of the ELD, a Brainerd car accident lawyer knows exactly when the truck driver was on the road and how much rest s/he had prior to the crash.
Downloading ELD information requires both legal and technical expertise. Because of the aforementioned privacy laws, a Brainerd car accident lawyer usually needs a court order to access the ELD. Furthermore, these devices are extremely sophisticated. It takes a lot more than a screwdriver and a laptop to download ELD information. This process requires special machinery, and a Brainerd car accident lawyer has access to the necessary technology.
Other electronic evidence in truck crash cases includes the vehicle’s Event Data Recorder, which is a little like a commercial jet’s black box, and any nearby surveillance camera footage.
Rely on Experienced Attorneys
Truck crashes usually involve complex legal issues and serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd car accident lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Crow Wing County and nearby jurisdictions.