Truck accidents pose serious risks to those who might be in their proximity. Trucks have large blind spots and take longer to stop, making the likelihood of a traffic accident more higher than normal. If you are involved in a truck accident in New Jersey, you deserve to know the legal options available to recover for your injuries.
Trucking accidents can be caused in a number of ways that impute liability to the truck driver and their employer. Fatigue, poor training and maintenance, or negligent driving practices are common culprits in truck accidents. When you are injured in a truck accident, having an attorney on your side can be critical in negotiating with the insurance companies and ensuring you receive compensation for your injuries.
Legal Care New Jersey can work with you to provide the legal assistance that puts you in the best position to recover the compensation you deserve. Our New Jersey truck accident attorneys know what it takes to protect our clients. We can do the same for you. For a free consultation on our services and your options, call (732) 838-9769 today.
What Process to Expect for a New Jersey Truck Accident Claim
When you are injured in a truck accident, you can expect the claim for damages to involve multiple steps.
No-Fault Insurance Claims
Our truck accident attorneys typically begin a claim by filing with your no-fault insurance. However, the coverage supplied by your insurance policy will likely cover only part of your damages for medical bills and lost wages, with no coverage for pain and suffering or any other “non-economic damages.”
Liability Insurance Claims
From there, we will seek to file a third-party claim against the trucker’s liability insurance. All commercial drivers are required to carry liability insurance in New Jersey, and most trucking companies carry additional liability insurance. This gives victims a policy to file against for additional damages – but you can only reach out and file this kind of claim if your injuries meet certain standards.
Proving “Serious Injuries”
We will likely need to supply medical records to prove that your injuries meet the “serious injury” threshold to allow a third-party claim or a lawsuit in your case. To meet this standard, you must show that you have permanent injuries, sufficiently serious scarring, or a dislocated fracture. Our truck accident attorneys can set you up with medical experts and help you collect the evidence needed to get your claim filed.
From there, if a third-party claim is successful, we may be able to settle for a fair value. If not, we can progress your case to court. At that point, there are multiple pre-trial stages your case will go through. One of the most important stages is discovery, where both sides will exchange evidence, ask each other questions about the facts, depose witnesses, and lay out all the information they have about what happened. From there, settlements are usually more likely, as the trucking company will be able to tell that the facts are against them.
If the case continues without settling, it will go to trial. The case can still settle if a good offer is made, and our lawyers will be able to present you with any “court-house steps” settlement offers we receive. Otherwise, at trial, we will present our case first. Then, we can cross-examine any witnesses and evidence the defendant produces. After that, the jury will hear closing arguments and decide the case. Even while the jury is out for deliberations, the case can be settled before the judgment is rendered. Otherwise, if you win your case, the defendants will be ordered to pay you the damages the jury decided.
Causes of Truck Accidents in New Jersey
Truck operators are tasked with substantially more responsibility while behind the wheel than your average passenger car driver. Not only are trucks larger and therefore more likely to cause more serious accidents, but they are also more difficult to operate safely. Truck driving is a highly regulated industry, and any failure to abide by these regulations could cause a truck accident. Below are some of the most common causes of truck accidents that create liability for the truck driver or company.
Trucking companies operate on deadlines. Meeting these deadlines can be made difficult due to extraneous circumstances. A driver facing a close deadline may choose to drive for longer consecutive stretches, even if they are tired to the point of losing focus or potentially falling asleep at the wheel. New Jersey imposes restrictions on the times that a truck driver can work, and if a driver or trucking company fails to abide by these restrictions, they would be liable in the event of an accident.
Poor Training or Hiring Practices
When a trucking company puts an employee behind the wheel, they are responsible for ensuring that they are as safe as possible for their fellow motorists. This means conducting background checks and providing thorough training to new employees, tasks that trucking companies sometimes fail to fulfill.
Trucks typically take much longer to fully stop than other automobiles. Therefore, a reasonable truck driver will leave a substantial amount of room between their cab and the car in front of them, in case traffic patterns shift suddenly. In almost every scenario, a truck that rear-ends the vehicle in front will shoulder the liability for the accident.
How Important is it to Visit the Doctor Immediately After a Truck Accident in NJ?
Seeing a doctor and getting medical treatment for your injuries after any truck accident is incredibly important. It is vital that you get first aid treatment at the scene from EMTs and that you follow their assessment. If you need additional emergency care and they want you to go to the ER, listen to their advice and follow through with all care. If they tell you to follow up with your personal doctor and go to the ER if you notice any new symptoms, you should also listen to that advice – but in that case, immediate treatment might not be necessary.
Avoiding Worsened Conditions
When immediate treatment is advised, you should go to the ER in the ambulance and get the care you need. Often, going to an urgent care center or some other clinic is not advised, as they might be able to turn you away from care based on your payment method. In NJ, your no-fault insurance might pay for your injuries, and those types of clinics often reject patients with that kind of payment and refer them to the hospital. Going to a hospital ensures that they cannot turn you away from care and that any delays between the accident and the care you need are reduced.
Reducing delays is vital, especially when it comes to bleeding, head injuries, broken bones, and other serious injuries. A delay in treatment will mean the injury gets worse – sometimes to a point where it can no longer be healed back to 100%.
Proving Injuries are From the Accident
Delays in care also create legal problems down the road. A delay in treatment makes it harder to prove that the injury was actually caused by the accident, especially if you wait a few days. In that case, the trucking company and their lawyers will likely try to claim that some other accident or injury happened between this truck accident and your treatment, and that you are lying to try to pin it all on the truck accident. If you get immediate medical care, your records will help our truck accident lawyers prove your claim that the truck crash caused your injuries.
Getting Follow-Up Care
If the EMTs advise you to talk to your primary care provider about your injuries in the following days, make sure to follow up as advised. Moreover, if you do get emergency medical care and they set you up with a care plan for follow-up appointments, physical therapy, and other medical care, you should follow those plans as well.
Failing to follow the care plan laid out for you can hurt your recovery by allowing the symptoms and injuries to get worse without the ongoing care you need. Additionally, it can hurt your case, as you might be held partially responsible for any worsened symptoms you caused by not complying with the treatment plan. Our truck accident lawyers can help you understand how following the treatment plan will help with your legal case.
Liability for Truck Accidents in New Jersey
Typically, the parties responsible for a trucking accident will be the truck driver and their employer. If the truck driver was negligent in causing the accident, the trucking company (or more specifically, the trucking company’s insurance provider) will be responsible for covering the damages. Even if the driver was not negligent in causing the accident, the trucking company may still be responsible due to negligent operating practices or procedures.
However, liability does not always fall on the trucking company. If the accident was caused by a faulty part, truck accident victims may have a case against the truck manufacturer. If the truck malfunctioned due to a defect that should have been discovered on inspection or routine maintenance, liability might extend to the company that was responsible for maintaining the truck.
Insurance Settlements after Truck Accidents in New Jersey
If you were injured in a truck accident, chances are that you will hear from the trucking company’s insurance provider soon after. Insurance representatives might try to get you to confirm the story that they have, offer your own version of events, or even have you agree to a settlement offer.
It is against your interest to agree to any of these requests. Insurance representatives are tasked with limiting their own liability. They are not on your side and will try to get you to make mistakes that will reduce or even eliminate the compensation that might be available to you.
Insurance companies want you to make statements that they can use against you in court if you decide to pursue your case. Anything that you say to an insurance representative about the events that occurred could potentially hurt your chances of recovery.
Settlement offers may be beneficial in that they keep both sides out of a courtroom. However, the first offer that you receive will almost always be extremely low in comparison to what you might stand to gain if you pursued your case. If you accept, you give up your opportunity to ever bring your case to court.
An experienced New Jersey truck accident attorney will help you gather evidence for your claim and can communicate with the insurance representatives on your behalf. If the insurance companies are not willing to negotiate and give you fair compensation, we can take your case to trial.
Differences Between Accident Cases Involving Delivery Vans and Semi Trucks in New Jersey
Accidents involving delivery trucks or vans and larger trucks like semi trucks or 18-wheelers are more or less the same, legally speaking. However, there are some practical differences that are important to understand when pursuing a truck accident injury claim.
First, these cases are usually the same when it comes to suing the driver and their employer for injuries. In both situations, the driver will likely share liability because they actually caused the crash. However, if they are an employee working for a delivery service or a trucking company, then the company they work for can be held liable for the employee’s negligence.
This means that you will typically file your case in the same way against similar parties whether your crash involved a small delivery car, a fleet van, a box truck, or a full 18-wheeler. In either case, there may also be multiple layers of employers. For example, Amazon delivery van and truck drivers often work for third-party companies rather than as Amazon employees, but there is still an employer to hold liable. In either case, the driver could also be an independent contractor or an owner-operator, which essentially means they are self-employed and there is no trucking company or delivery company to sue.
Second, both cases are similar in that there are usually additional regulations that apply to truckers and delivery drivers but not other drivers. There may be variations based on the specific vehicle or licensing requirements, but there should be regulations that require heightened standards for commercial drivers, such as a reduced “legal limit” for drunk driving and limitations on driving hours. Even if the driver was not violating a traffic law but was instead violating hours of service rules or some other commercial driving regulation, our truck accident lawyers can use that against them in court.
As mentioned, regulations often vary depending on the type of vehicle driven and the license required, potentially resulting in challenges for your truck accident lawyers.
Driver certification standards might be different for delivery van drivers and package handlers. Usually, large trucks require a special license to drive those vehicles as well as a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Some drivers are allowed to be hired without a CDL, and requirements might be different for their licensing and job-screening process. In cases where higher standards apply, the trucking company and driver can often be held liable for failing to meet those standards. When those requirements do not apply, you usually need to base your injury claim on other violations like you would in any other car accident case.
The same is true with equipment requirements and regulations. Inspection and equipment standards are much different between fleet vans and semi trucks, with larger, heavier vehicles typically having stricter standards.
Another difference is insurance requirements. While all commercial drivers must have commercial driver’s insurance and most delivery or trucking companies will have additional liability insurance to cover accidents, the actual insurance required under NJ law varies depending on the situation. Nonetheless, our truck accident lawyers might be able to help you file a lawsuit against the driver and their employer for serious injuries even if the law does not require higher insurance coverage.
Does the Victim in an NJ Truck Accident Case Gather Police Reports and Evidence or Does the Lawyer?
Often, you are in a good position to collect evidence of what happened at the scene of the crime or in the immediate aftermath of the accident. If you are able to, collect as much evidence after the accident as you can. After that, our lawyers will work to collect any remaining evidence and handle most of the evidence collection involving witness statements, camera footage, professional photos, and more.
As the victim, you have a lot of evidence to begin with, namely your testimony and recollection about what happened to you leading up to, during, and after the crash. That is invaluable, and it is evidence we cannot get from any other source. Do what you can to keep track of what happened, including taking notes or journaling about your recovery.
Evidence from the Accident Scene
While you are at the scene of the accident, collect as much evidence as you can. Often, injured drivers have phones they can use to take pictures of the accident scene, vehicle damage, injuries, and more. Collect information about who hit you – including their insurance information, address, name, and vehicle info. You are also in a good position to gather evidence about the weather, lighting, road conditions, and more.
If you are severely injured and need to leave the accident scene, see if someone you trust can collect this information for you. If you are unable to think clearly and handle these tasks after a crash, focus on your medical care and recovery first and foremost.
Calling 911 is vital after an accident, and the responding officers will be able to draw up a police report. This will contain much of the same information you can collect at the scene, but either the police report or your information might have gaps. That is part of why having both sources is important – especially since you saw the accident and the officer who drafted the report likely did not.
You can often get a copy of your police report yourself by contacting the police department or finding the report online. However, it can often be difficult to know whether you are looking at official web portals that the government uses or some third-party website trying to charge you for services you do not need. In any case, our truck accident lawyers can help you access and retrieve your police report.
That report will provide much of the evidence we need to make out the basic facts of your case and begin building your case. Even if we cannot use much of the report as evidence, having it is important for insurance companies as well, who will often require the crash report before paying compensation.
Video Evidence and Photos
As mentioned, you should take photos if you are able to. However, there might be other video and photographic evidence we can access.
Many stores and homes have security cameras that might have captured the crash on video. If the accident happened in front of a building, our lawyers can contact them and demand that they preserve any video of the street for review and use as evidence in court. We can also subpoena any video the truck driver has of the crash. If other witnesses came forward with dashcams or cell phone video, we can also use that.
Our lawyers can also send photographers to take pictures of the accident scene. If nothing else, this can help us build a picture of what happened and potentially present better visuals to the jury. In any case, your own photos of the cars and skid marks and damage in the aftermath of the crash will be more informative about the crash itself. Any photos we take will be taken days or weeks later, after the scene is cleared of most evidence.
Our lawyers will subpoena witnesses and take depositions. This usually is not something the victim will do themselves. However, if you heard anyone say anything about what happened or you heard the defendant admit fault, make sure to write those quotes down or get them on video after the accident.
Legal Care Can Recover for Your New Jersey Truck Accident Today
We want to help you attain future financial security so that you can recover from your truck accident injuries with peace of mind. To schedule your free consultation on your specific truck accident injury case in New Jersey today, call (732) 838-9769.