Remember, these questions and answers are general information, not legal advice. If you've been involved in a truck accident, we highly recommend that you contact us and schedule a free consultation with an experienced Fort Wayne truck accident attorney. We'll be happy to sit down with you and talk about your legal rights and options.
What is the "black box" and how does it affect truck accident cases?
You've probably heard of the "black box" in the context of airplane crashes, but many commercial trucks have a "black box" as well. This device contains the truck's GPS data, including speed and direction of travel. We can analyze this information to determine whether the trucker was speeding or driving the wrong way at the time of the crash. We can also cross-reference with the hours of service (HOS) log to determine whether the truck driver was actually taking legally-mandated rest breaks - if the truck was moving when the driver was ostensibly resting, that may mean the log was falsified.
The problem is the "black box" data legally belongs to the trucking company, and they'll have investigators on the scene immediately to collect it. That's why you need an attorney to intervene in order to protect and retrieve that data for your claim.
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Should I answer questions or give a statement to the trucking company or their insurance company?
Remember, the trucking company's goal is to protect its bottom line by minimizing your compensation, and anything you say to them can be used against you. We strongly recommend that you decline to speak with the trucking company or their insurance company directly. Instead, you should direct all questions to your attorney.
Likewise, if the trucking company asks you for a statement, decline to give a recorded statement. A recording can be taken out of context or even altered in order to harm your claim. Instead, we recommend that you come to our offices and sit down with your attorney to draft a written statement. That way, we can make sure that the information you give fairly represents your side of the story and protects your rights.
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Who is responsible for a trucking accident caused by the truck driver? Can I sue the trucking company?
There are two ways a trucking company can be held legally liable for a truck accident. The first is a legal doctrine called respondeat superior - literally, "let the master answer" - which means that an employer is responsible for its employees' negligence in the course and scope of their job duties. If the truck driver is a direct employee of the trucking company, this doctrine clearly applies. However, most truck drivers are independent contractors, and the trucking company will argue that respondeat superior does not apply. These arguments usually come down to the degree of training, supervision and oversight that the trucking company had over the driver.
In many cases, however, the trucking company can be held directly liable - that is, we can prove that the trucking company's own actions caused the accident. For example, we may argue that the trucking company held the driver to an unrealistic delivery schedule, which required him to break the speed limit or keep driving through mandatory rest breaks - which could in turn cause the driver to fall asleep at the wheel later. Another form of negligence is called negligent hiring or negligent retention - the trucking company failed to conduct a background check, hired a driver with a known history of reckless driving, or knowingly kept a trucker employed even after becoming aware of a history of reckless or unsafe driving.
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Should I accept a settlement offer after a truck accident?
You should never accept a settlement offer without consulting an attorney first. A settlement offer from an insurance company, especially one that is offered soon after an accident, is usually a "low-ball" offer intended to get you to go away before the full cost of the accident is known. This is particularly dangerous in truck accident cases because there is usually more than one insurance company involved, and accepting a settlement offer from one insurance company can also settle the other insurers' liability, depending on how the offer is worded.
If you've received a settlement offer after a truck accident, we recommend that you bring it straight to our offices for your attorney to review. In most cases, we are able to fight for you to get significantly more than the inadequate compensation the insurance company is offering.
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Why is it so important to hire an attorney after a truck accident?
Trucking companies go to great lengths to protect their assets after a crash for which they may be found responsible. Their insurance companies know the stakes are high, and they put their best attorneys, investigators and adjusters on the case. If you face them alone, you're very likely to be pressured into accepting a settlement that won't come close to covering the full cost of your injuries - if you get anything at all.
An attorney can thoroughly investigate, find out what really happened and hold the trucking company responsible. An attorney's intervention can protect evidence that the trucking company might otherwise destroy. And with an attorney on your side, you'll be able to build a strong case for the full amount of compensation you need for the entire impact of the accident on your life, not just your short-term medical expenses.
That's why it's important not only to hire an attorney, but to find an attorney who has experience handling truck accident cases and a proven track record of results. At Boughter Sinak, LLC, we have won multiple six- and seven-figure recoveries for people injured by commercial trucks. Put a fighter on your side to protect your rights. Contact us today.
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