Due to the size and speed of large trucks, tractor-trailers, and other commercial vehicles, truck accidents in Utah can lead to life-changing injuries and fatalities.
You may feel overwhelmed if you’ve been injured in a truck accident. Injuries from semi-truck and big-rig accidents are often severe and involve long recovery times that can upend your entire life. As medical bills pile up, you may be unable to work, care for your children, and otherwise enjoy daily life.
Like other automobile accidents, collisions involving trucks can lead to litigation over who is responsible for paying an injured person’s bills and damages. Truck accident lawsuits can be particularly complicated, however. An experienced truck accident attorney can help you make sense of the process and recover everything you deserve for your injuries.
In Utah, many truck accidents occur on the scenic, high-speed byways that crisscross the state. Interstates like I-15, I-70, and I-80 act as major shipping channels across the state, while smaller scenic byways like S. Highway 6 and S. Highway 89 see truck traffic beyond their intended infrastructure limits.
Liability for Utah Truck Accidents
Truck accidents involve all kinds of commercial vehicles, including municipal vehicles, commercial and private delivery services, construction vehicles, and interstate shipping services. Liability for your damages depends, in part, on what kind of truck is involved in the collision.
Suppose a truck is owned by a private business or shipping service and used for commercial purposes. In that case, an injured person generally has claims against the company (which usually has insurance). If someone was using such a truck for a non-work purpose, or there is a question about whether it was used in the course of business, the injured may have to file suit against the driver directly.
If an accident involves a municipal vehicle (such as a dump truck, plow, street sweeper, etc.), a plaintiff may have to file claims against the town, city, county, or state. These claims often have many additional procedural requirements, and plaintiffs have a short time to file them correctly.
Litigation can be especially complicated if a truck is a tractor-trailer, 18-wheeler, or other large vehicle involved in interstate commerce. Interstate trucking is a
heavily regulated industry controlled by numerous federal and state laws. These laws regulate driver training, health, and behavior, along with truck maintenance schedules, inspection, and certification. An injured plaintiff may have claims against a driver, a shipping company, the owner of the truck itself, the owner of the shipment, a company that manufactured the vehicle or one of its parts, a maintenance company, or another third party.
Who Is At Fault in Utah Truck Accidents?
Truck crashes have many causes, including poor road or weather conditions, driver negligence or error, and mechanical equipment failure. Frequently, accidents are caused by several factors working together. Some of these factors are unavoidable (for example, a sudden rockslide obstructing the roadway). Others are caused by a driver, company, or entity failing to fulfill their legal responsibilities.
Truck Driver Negligence
Drivers have a duty of care to others on the road. They are required to complete regular safety certifications, undergo physical health examinations, and may only drive for a certain number of hours per day. They are responsible for using their experience and judgment to operate their vehicles safely.
Nonetheless, truck crashes are caused by driver mistakes or negligence. Safety risks include driving while tired, drunk, or impaired, failing to perform inspections or safety checks, and improperly securing cargo. Drivers who don’t use appropriate caution can be held accountable if their negligence causes an accident.
Negligent Trucking Companies
Trucking companies’ actions (or inaction) can also contribute to devastating accidents. The law requires truck owners and operators to perform routine inspections and maintenance and keep detailed records of both. Unfortunately, some companies cut corners, delaying, or avoiding regular maintenance and inspections to save money or reduce vehicle downtime. These shortcuts can lead to equipment failure or malfunction, causing a driver to lose control.
Another potential factor is when trucking companies set overly ambitious delivery deadlines. Aggressive scheduling increases the chances that drivers will take dangerous risks to meet their marks.
Dangerous Vehicles and Vehicle Parts
Headlines often expose stories of accidents involving tractor-trailers and other large trucks caused by mechanical or structural failure. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration pointed to brake failure as a factor in 30 percent of large-truck accidents. Other mechanical issues also contribute to many accidents, including power train failures, broken couplings, and tire separation.
Sometimes these issues are manufacturing or design flaws; other times, they are due to a maintenance failure. An injured person may have a product liability claim against the manufacturer of the truck, one of its components, or against someone who negligently maintained the vehicle.
Proving Fault in Complicated Cases
Many factors make truck accident litigation challenging. To recover damages after a truck accident, a victim must prove who was at fault and to what extent. This requires extensive investigation and a careful assessment of the evidence. It’s often necessary to consult experts to determine an accident’s cause, especially in cases that point to mechanical failure or structural issues.
An accident in one state can involve a driver, based thousands of miles away, transporting cargo from a carrier across the country to another recipient. Litigating cases like this can be expensive and time-consuming, although video-conferencing and virtual options have made the process much easier.
Unfortunately for plaintiffs, the trucking industry is heavily regulated, and commercial liability insurance policies can be highly complex. Since crashes often involve multiple vehicles and significant damage to property and individuals, they often involve numerous insurance companies. These companies use everything in their arsenals to delay claims and drag out litigation to discourage plaintiffs.
Recovering Damages in Truck Accident Cases
Large truck accidents often cause significant property damage and severe injuries. Victims sustain traumatic brain injuries (TBI), concussions, diffuse axonal injury (DAI), broken bones, spinal cord damage, lacerations, damage to internal organs, and other serious, permanent conditions. Many truck collisions are fatal for at least one person involved.
Determining appropriate compensation for multiple victims of serious injury can be complicated and take significant time.
Truck accident victims often have many different kinds of damages. “Compensatory” damages compensate you for direct losses related to an accident. These damages fall into two categories: “economic” and “non-economic.”
Economic damages are accident-related expenses and costs that are easy to quantify. These include:
- Medical bills, charges, and expenses.
- Lost wages.
- Short and long-term reduction in earning capacity.
- Vehicle repairs or replacement value.
- Rental of a vehicle or alternate transportation costs.
- Insurance deductible.
- Expected future expenses related to the accident (such as future medical treatment).
“Non-economic” damages try to compensate a driver or passenger in a truck accident for their non-monetary losses. These include pain and suffering, long-term disability, loss of companionship, disfigurement, emotional distress, and PTSD. Although it can be more challenging to put a price on non-economic damages, they can be significant. After an injured person testifies about how they have been affected, their treating physicians, medical experts, and occupational health experts often provide context for the value of their losses. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you fairly estimate and substantiate these damages as part of your claim. Because truck accidents’ frightening, long-term impacts can be so substantial, it is essential to retain an experienced personal injury attorney to prepare and present your case.
No-Fault Insurance in Utah Truck Accidents
Utah’s “no-fault” law requires all drivers to carry a minimum amount of personal injury protection (PIP) insurance. Before you file suit to recover compensation after a car accident, you must first claim your medical bills to your own PIP insurance provider. If your medical bills exceed the amount of PIP coverage, you can file a claim or lawsuit against an at-fault driver or another responsible party.
Accidents involving large trucks usually involve significant damage, entitling you to file a lawsuit for your injuries. Having to navigate the no-fault insurance coverage rules and coverage can complicate your claim. An attorney can help you properly submit the required documentation to your insurer and proceed with additional legal claims.
Don’t Wait to Contact an Attorney After a Truck Accident
You may be able to recover medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other compensation for your injuries after a truck accident or losing a loved one. However, there are time limitations for filing legal claims. Although you have four years after an accident to begin a lawsuit in most Utah personal injury suits, trucking claims can involve shorter statutes of limitation. Consult an attorney immediately to protect your rights.
An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you determine the value of your claim, identify all the parties who may be legally liable, and pursue large-scale litigation that may be necessary to recover the compensation you deserve.
If you’ve been injured in a truck accident, contact the attorneys at Injury Smart Law. Our compassionate, dedicated team can help you get back on the road. Schedule a free, no-obligation consultation today.