31 May, 2024

How to Sue a Trucking Company For Negligence

Author Todd A. Strong

Knowing how to sue a trucking company for negligence can mean the difference between a desirable and undesirable outcome from your claim or lawsuit. You must get medical assistance, report the accident, document the accident scene, and contact your insurance company before initiating a lawsuit against a trucking company in Peoria and Chicago, Illinois. You must also determine liability, engage in settlement negotiations, and move your lawsuit to trial if necessary.

Any mistake in suing a trucking company for negligence can lower your chances of success. As such, you should let a reputable truck accident lawyer handle the process as you focus on your treatment.

At Strong Law Offices, we have the experience and resources to hold a trucking company liable for your injuries and recover maximum compensation. Call us at 309-688-5297 for a free initial consultation with a skilled truck accident lawyer.

Damaged cars after a car accident crash involving a big rig semi truck with semi trailer at a city street crossroad intersection with traffic light and rescue services to help the injured. how to sue a trucking company
Damaged cars after a car accident crash involving a big rig semi truck with semi trailer at a city street crossroad intersection with traffic light and rescue services to help the injured. how to sue a trucking company

Understanding Trucking Company Liability

Illinois reported 11,922 truck accidents in 2022. These accidents accounted for 4% of the 298,347 motor vehicle accidents in the state in the same year. Injuries resulting from truck accidents contributed to 3.1% of all injuries recorded. Fatalities caused by truck crashes were 31.4% higher in 2022 than in 2021.

Multiple parties may be liable for injuries, losses, and damages from a truck accident. Besides the truck driver, the trucking company is a common liable party in truck crashes. The trucking company may be liable for a truck accident in the following ways:

Negligent Hiring, Supervision, and Training Methods

A trucking company’s liability for truck accidents often stems from its hiring and training approaches. A company that does not subject prospective drivers to rigorous background screenings and interviews may hire people with careless driving conduct, substance abuse problems, and multiple traffic citations in their driver’s licenses.

Poor or insufficient training programs can lead to incompetent drivers and increase the risk of truck accidents. The odds of accidents also increase if the trucking company fails to supervise and keep track of their drivers’ conduct.

A lawyer with a proven history of winning truck accident cases knows how to sue a trucking company for negligence and the types of evidence required to prove negligent hiring and training approaches. The evidence may include:

  • The truck driver’s employment records
  • The truck driver’s testimony
  • Relevant prior investigation reports
  • Alcohol screen records.

Failing to Adhere to the Hours of Service (HOS) Rules

The HOS rules set a limit on how long truck drivers can operate vehicles without rest. These rules seek to avoid truck accidents caused by exhausted drivers. A trucking company that allows its drivers to ignore HOS rules to make more deliveries or meet delivery deadliness may be responsible for fatigue-related accidents.

Your lawyer will investigate the accident to prove that the truck driver operated the vehicle longer than permitted. This investigation may involve reviewing driver logbooks, vehicle event data recorder (EDR) information, cell phone records, driver receipts, and maintenance records.

Failing to Perform Regular Inspections and Maintenance

Illinois requires trucking companies to have their trucks inspected and maintained to keep them in good working condition. The trucking company will be responsible for covering damages resulting from accidents caused by faulty parts if it fails to have inspections performed and detected issues repaired.

A truck accident lawyer will gather evidence to prove the trucking company should have discovered maintenance issues through routine inspections. The lawyer will also show that fixing those issues could have eliminated the risk of a crash. This may involve questioning the truck driver, examining vehicle black box data, and reviewing inspection and maintenance records.

Vicarious Liability

This legal doctrine states that an employer should be legally liable for the actions of its workers when they are completing work-related tasks. So, a trucking company can be vicariously responsible for an accident caused by a truck driver’s negligence during the driver’s employment.

Similarly, a public transportation company can be held vicariously liable for a common carrier accident caused by a negligent driver. These companies will be financially accountable for damages or losses arising from their employee’s negligence, even if the company did not contribute to the accident directly.

Incorrect Cargo Loading

Exceeding the recommended weight limits or incorrect cargo loading can reduce the truck’s stability and agility. Such a vehicle will be highly likely to get into an accident.

Trucking companies must comply with the set weight limits and ensure the cargo is loaded and secured properly. These companies are often liable for accidents caused by overloaded or incorrect cargo loading.

A thorough investigation and careful evidence analysis conducted by your truck accident lawyer are necessary to determine and prove the trucking company’s liability. Your lawyer may also review truck vs. car accident statistics to identify facts that can help support your negligence claim against the trucking company.

Filing a Lawsuit Against a Trucking Company

You must complete several steps before you are ready to file a lawsuit against a trucking company. The first step is to get medical help soon after the accident, especially if you have sustained serious injuries. Otherwise, you can schedule a same- or next-day appointment with a doctor if you are not too hurt.

Seeking immediate medical assistance helps protect your health and safety. It also ensures documentation of your injuries, which is instrumental in proving that your injuries directly stemmed from the accident.

The next step is to call the police to report the crash. The responding officer will record the account of the accident as narrated by eyewitnesses, document the crash scene, collect any relevant details, and prepare a report. A copy of this report will be crucial evidence in your lawsuit.

Just like the responding police officer, you should document the truck accident scene. You can do that by taking pictures of all the involved vehicles, road hazards, skid marks, scratches or dents to your vehicle, and any noticeable injuries. Be sure to exchange information with the truck driver and record details of witnesses.

Hiring a lawyer with a success rate in truck accident cases at this stage of the lawsuit preparation process is a wise decision. Your lawyer will take the time to review your case to ascertain if you have valid grounds to sue a trucking company for negligence. If so, the lawyer will guide you on how to report the accident to your insurance company.

Determining the monetary compensation amount enough to pay all your damages and losses is another crucial step in a truck accident lawsuit process. Your lawyer will add up all economic and non-economic losses related to your injury. The lawyer will also consult various professionals, including medical practitioners, vocational experts, and life care planning experts, to accurately determine your compensation and obtain evidence to support this figure.

Filing Complaint and Summons With an Appropriate Court

The actual lawsuit process commences when your truck accident lawyer submits a well-prepared complaint to the appropriate court. Generally, the court in the same district where the accident happened will be responsible for hearing your lawsuit.

Serving the Trucking Company With the Complaint and Summons

You must complete the process service after filing the complaint and summons. This process will involve hiring a process server to deliver the filed paperwork (complaint and summons) to the trucking company in person.

The process service informs the defendant of the lawsuit and provides the defendant with as many details as possible to file a response. Your lawyer will handle this process to ensure it is well done. The lawyer will know how to deal with potential setbacks in serving the defendant.

Filing an Answer

The trucking company will respond to your complaint by filing an answer. The answer will contain the company’s account of how the accident happened and what may have contributed to it. It may also outline details in the complaint that the trucking company or its legal team thinks are inaccurate or false.

Discovery Phase

Both parties will enter the discovery phase after the relevant paperwork has been submitted to the court, served on the defendant, and an answer filed. Discovery is a period in the lawsuit process whereby both sides get information and evidence to build their cases.

Discovery allows both parties to enter the trial with sufficient evidence and information. It also bars the parties from concealing the information from each other. Each party will use different tools to obtain information during discovery.

Depositions, requests for the production of documents, requests for admissions, and written interrogatories are common tools used in the discovery phase. Both parties may also call in expert witnesses to corroborate arguments and testify in support of their claims.

Reaching a settlement agreement during or immediately after the discovery phase is possible. The trucking company or its insurance carrier may be likelier to give you an acceptable settlement offer if your lawyer has discovered valuable evidence to help you develop a strong lawsuit.

Trial

Your truck accident lawsuit will proceed to trial if the discovery phase ends without you and the other party reaching a settlement agreement. Your lawyer and the defendant’s lawyer will file a brief before the trial commences.

A brief contains evidence and arguments to be presented during trial proceedings. Your lawyer and defense lawyer will argue their cases before a judge or a jury. Trials heard and determined by a judge without a jury are known as bench trials. Those heard and determined by jurors are called jury trials.

The judge (in a bench trial) will take the time to consider the evidence and arguments presented by both parties before reaching a verdict or decision. The jury (in a jury trial) will also take the time to deliberate before reaching a verdict.

The verdict will specify whether the trucking company’s negligence contributed to the accident and, if so, the percentage of liability the company holds. It will also state whether you were partially liable for the accident and, if so, how much compensation you should receive.

Common Challenges When Suing a Trucking Company

Suing a trucking company presents several challenges you would not otherwise encounter in a car accident lawsuit. These challenges include:

Determining Fault

Identifying the liable party is not easy in most truck accident cases. The reason is that a single truck accident may involve multiple potentially liable parties, including trucking companies, truck drivers, automakers, vehicle or parts manufacturers, and local government agencies.

Trucking Regulations Can Be Confusing

Trucking companies and their drivers must comply with certain industry-specific regulations to avoid accidents. These regulations specify weight limits for different types of trucks, how long drivers can operate a vehicle without resting, training programs for truck drivers, and inspection and maintenance requirements. Understanding these regulations can be difficult for a person with limited legal knowledge.

Handling Multiple Insurance Policies

The insurance process can be confusing if your lawsuit involves multiple defendants. The language used in different liability policies held by all potentially liable parties can be foreign to someone without legal experience. Additionally, trucking companies and their insurance providers have a robust financial muscle to hire established law firms, insurance adjusters, and investigators to fight liability claims.

An accomplished truck accident lawyer has the experience, financial resources, and staff members to level the playing field when pursuing compensation from trucking companies. Knowing the questions to ask when hiring a truck accident lawyer can help you identify the best lawyer for your lawsuit.

Quick Investigations Performed by Trucking Companies

Trucking companies may send a team to the crash scene immediately after getting notified of the crash. This fast response may seem advantageous at first glance. However, in most cases, the investigation team searches for evidence to help the driver or trucking company lower its liability or avoid it altogether.

Truck accident lawyers at Strong Law Offices have over 25 years of experience helping accident victims across Illinois recover maximum and fair compensation. Contact us today to request a free case review.

About The Author

author-bio-image
Personal Injury Lawyer Todd A. Strong Illinois workers’ compensation and personal injury lawyer Todd A. Strong is the founder of Strong Law Offices in Peoria, Illinois. Todd brings considerable legal knowledge, experience, and skill to the table to ensure injured victims throughout the state are treated with respect, dignity, and fairness.
Years of Experience: More than 20 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: Illinois State, 1994
U.S. District Court, Central District of Illinois, 1994
U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, 2022
U.S. District Court, Southern District of Illinois, 2023
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About The Author

author-bio-image
Personal Injury Lawyer Todd A. Strong Illinois workers’ compensation and personal injury lawyer Todd A. Strong is the founder of Strong Law Offices in Peoria, Illinois. Todd brings considerable legal knowledge, experience, and skill to the table to ensure injured victims throughout the state are treated with respect, dignity, and fairness.
Years of Experience: More than 20 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: Illinois State, 1994
U.S. District Court, Central District of Illinois, 1994
U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, 2022
U.S. District Court, Southern District of Illinois, 2023