It’s no secret that an 80,000 pound tractor-trailer can do a lot of damage to a 4,000 pound car and its occupants in a truck accident. That's why federal law requires trucking companies and truck drivers to carry large liability insurance policies.
In Missouri, the minimum liability insurance coverage on an average car policy is $25,000 for bodily injury ($50,000 for more than one victim); large trucks are required to carry $750,000 in liability coverage, and many companies carry even more than this.
When you're injured or a loved one is killed by a negligent trucker or defective truck, you have a right to recover the limit of their liability policy. We discuss commercial truck liability insurance here.
Employee Truckers vs. Independent Contractors
When the truck driver who caused your accident is an employee of a trucking company, both the driver and his employer are liable for your damages in most cases. Often, a truck accident attorney targets the company over the driver, as this can be a more effective strategy with a jury. After all, the driver is only human, and a jury may feel sympathy towards him, whereas a corporate trucking company is less likely to garner leniency from a jury.
In either case, it's the truck that is insured, so a skilled attorney will negotiate for the full value of the policy. While federal law requires that commercial trucks carry $750,000 in liability insurance, most trucking companies carry at least $1 million.
Many drivers today aren't employees of trucking companies but are independent contractors. This means they must carry individual insurance and are solely liable for any injuries or property damage they cause. When you're injured by an independent contractor, you'll file a claim against his commercial insurance policy.
Other drivers are owner/operators: this means they're self-employed and own the truck(s) they drive. In this case, you would also work with the driver’s insurance company. Both independent contractors and owner/operators are required to carry liability insurance.
What Makes a Claim Worth Policy Limits?
Just because a trucker or his employer carries a million-dollar plus insurance policy doesn’t mean you're automatically entitled to the full amount when you're injured. These are hefty policies with big potential payouts, and no insurance company representative is going to hand over the policy limit as compensation without a fight. When you work with a truck accident attorney, she'll know how to negotiate for the maximum possible amount.
Some factors that will increase the value of your claim and may entitle you to the limits of the policy include the following:
The reason for filing a claim is to recover what you have lost because of the crash. If you suffer catastrophic injuries such as paralysis, traumatic brain injury, or loss of limb, you'll require expensive medical treatment and ongoing care. Presenting medical records that prove the extent of your injuries will help increase your settlement, but you'll also have to present evidence of the potential continuing cost of your recovery, lost wages, lost earning potential, and life-long care.
If the truck driver intentionally caused the crash that left you injured—or was impaired by drugs or alcohol at the time of the crash—this could increase the value of the claim. In these situations, judges sometimes order the at-fault trucker to pay punitive damages—meaning an amount above documented expenses—with the intent of punishing the trucker.
If it's determined the driver or trucking company violated traffic laws or trucking regulations repeatedly, they may also be ordered to pay punitive damages to the victim as a form of punishment.
Have You Been Injured In A Truck Accident?
If you've been injured in a tractor trailer accident you need to speak with an experienced truck accident attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Kansas City office directly at 816.471.5111 to schedule your free consultation.