According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA), large trucks are involved in nearly 4,000 fatal crashes and close to 80,000 injury crashes every year. Of those crashes, the driver of the truck is found to be primarily responsible over half the time. If you are involved in an accident with a large truck, however, don’t expect that it will be easy to prove truck driver fault or to take on the trucker or the trucking company in a lawsuit for damages. The truck company’s insurance company will pull out every defense in the book to avoid a big payout, even if their driver is to blame.
Insurance Adjusters Can Be Sneaky
Immediately following your truck accident, you must be very wary of speaking to insurance adjusters. Their ultimate goal is to save their company money and they will not hesitate to manipulate you into accepting less than what you deserve. Some of the tactics adjusters use to lower your settlement include:
- Asking you to make a statement. In the hopes that you are not thinking straight after an accident, an adjuster may ask you to make a statement about the crash. You should not give them a statement without first talking to your lawyer and you should definitely not allow them to record what you say.
- Trying to get you to admit some fault. The longer you talk to an adjuster, the more likely you are to concede that you may have done something wrong. It is the adjuster’s job to get you to admit fault, so not talking to him at all is your safest bet.
- Offering you money to sign a release. The offer of quick cash may be tempting, but it will likely come with you signing an agreement to release the trucker and trucking company from any liability for the accident. This means that, although you may walk away with some money, you will not be able to pursue a claim later for more.
- Convincing you that you don’t need an attorney. The last thing the adjuster wants you to do is hire an attorney to represent you in your personal injury claim. They may even tell you that an attorney will just take part of your settlement, leaving you with less. The fact is, victims who use an attorney for their truck crash claim end up with larger settlements than those who don’t use an attorney, even after paying the firm.
If the insurance adjuster fails to get you to settle quickly without an attorney, the next tactic will be to shift blame from the trucker on to you.
Truckers Attempt to Shift or Share Blame After a Semi-Truck Crash
Unfortunately, many trucking companies can avoid liability for accidents—even in cases where a smaller vehicle has been totaled in the crash. Commercial shippers have armies of lawyers who will do their best to prove that the trucker was not to blame or was not completely liable for the collision. Here are some of the most common defenses trucking companies use to avoid liability after a crash:
- Shifting blame. The most common defense in trucking accident cases is simply blaming the crash on the actions of the driver. If there are no witnesses to the crash, it is often your word against the trucker’s, making it more likely that the trucking company will win its claim.
- Comparative fault. Both Kansas and Missouri have comparative fault insurance laws that limit the amount one party can be compensated following a crash. If they are unable to shift the blame to you, truck company lawyers will do everything they can to at least share the blame. Under Missouri’s pure comparative fault law, compensation to the driver is reduced by the percentage of fault they are assigned. For example, if the driver of the car is found to be 40 percent at fault, he or she can only be awarded compensation for 60 percent of their damages. Kansas follows a modified comparative fault law that blocks a driver from receiving any compensation if they are found to be 50 percent or more at fault. Insurance agents or attorneys for the trucker will pull out all the stops to assign at least a portion of the blame to your actions.
- Pre-existing injuries. Even in cases where the accident was clearly caused by the trucker, the company’s lawyers may attempt to claim that your injuries weren't actually caused in the crash. If you previously suffered a back injury or had surgery on the part of your body that was injured, an insurance adjuster could try to convince the jury that these injuries had been caused before the accident occurred.
Investigation Is Critical to Your Truck Crash Injury Case
The key to proving negligence in your truck accident case is evidence. The trucking company knows this and will immediately send investigators to the scene of a crash in order to avoid liability. The only way to protect your case is to investigate the accident yourself, or to have an attorney investigate the scene on your behalf. Our experienced truck accident attorneys can order the trucking company to provide driver logs and other evidence, gather witnesses, and hire accident reconstruction experts to prove that you were not in the wrong. Contact us online or call us directly at 816.471.5111 to schedule your free consultation.