Alabama Laws about Truck Accidents
From the date of your accident in which you suffered your injuries, Alabama law gives you two years to file a lawsuit. You have six years if the claim is only for property damage. Insurance companies, however, aren’t going to wait 24 months for you to file a claim. They’ll want to hear from you immediately — or even within a few days — if you’re physically able to contact them.
Another aspect of Alabama law that could affect your claim is that Alabama is one of only a few states that uses a contributory standard of negligence. This means that, should the insurance company be able to show that you’re even slightly at fault, they won’t be required to honor your claim. They’ll try to show that you were speeding, driving distracted, or otherwise doing something that contributed to the accident.
The same standard will apply if you go to court to pursue compensation for medical expenses or lost income. The burden will be on you to prove the truck driver, trucking company, or another entity was fully at fault.
Assessing Liability for Truck Accidents
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, driver fatigue is behind 31% of all truck accidents. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration maintains that drivers are 10 times more likely to be the cause of a crash than other factors such as weather, road conditions, or a faulty vehicle. The FMCSA also regulates driving hours to prevent fatigue, but the standards are difficult to enforce.
Under the principle of vicarious liability, a truck driver involved in an accident can try to place the blame on the parent trucking company, arguing that poor maintenance, lack of training, or fatigue due to overwork caused the accident. As the victim, you also have the right to examine whether the trucking company was responsible.
Besides the vehicle operator and trucking company, other parties can contribute to a truck accident and be held vicariously liable, including the truck manufacturer, the personnel who loaded the cargo, or maintenance personnel. Tire defects, for instance, are the second-leading cause of truck accidents at 30%.
An overloaded truck can also increase the distance needed to come to a full stop. Depending on the weight of the truck and its load, it can take a truck up to 200 yards to completely stop.
Assessing the liability can be a complicated and tedious process that you don’t want to attempt on your own. Your best option is to retain an experienced attorney to handle this and every other aspect of the claim. At the end of your attorney’s investigation, there may be more than one party who is liable, so you may have the option of pursuing separate liability claims.
For your part, you are under no obligation to deal with insurance adjusters, whether yours or the negligent party’s. You don’t even have to answer the phone if they call, and if you do answer, you can just refer them to your attorney. Insurance companies also have a trick of asking you how you’re doing or how you’re feeling. If you answer “fine” or “good,” they will use that against you to claim your injuries weren’t as severe as you claim, or that you are just faking everything.
What to Do After the Accident
Immediately after your accident, you need to contact law enforcement and get them on the scene to investigate. You will also need to obtain the other driver’s contact information and insurance company details. If there are any witnesses, try to get them to tell you what they saw and obtain their contact information if they’re willing to cooperate.
Use your cell phone to take as many pictures of the scene as possible, including any traffic signs or signals that may have had an effect on the accident.
Most importantly, seek medical evaluation and assistance immediately. Some injuries don’t become obvious until well after the accident, so you want to be proactive in seeking help and showing that you took your injuries seriously. If you wait days to seek medical help, the negligent driver’s insurance company might use that to claim that your injuries were not significant.
It is important to document everything. When you get home, write down everything as you remember it. This will be useful for your attorney and your claim. Keep all medical records, including bills.
Why Skilled Attorneys are Important
Having experienced attorneys on your side to counsel you and tend to the details and negotiations of your claim is essential. The insurance company — yours or the other party’s — is out to protect their bottom line, so they’ll do what they can to reduce your compensation as much as possible, or even eliminate it under contributory negligence if their customer is being held responsible.