After a Chicago truck accident, you or a loved one may have many questions that pertain to the administrative side of the case, such as how long you have to file a claim. A Chicago truck accident lawyer can answer all your questions, ensure the at-fault driver and insurer do not violate your rights and recover the compensation you deserve.
Whether you are recovering from truck accident injuries or you lost a loved one in a truck accident, you shouldn't have the additional stress of dealing with insurance companies. That is where an experienced Chicago truck accident lawyer comes in—not only do they deal with the insurance companies, but they ensure you meet all deadlines so your case can move forward.
Common Truck Accident Causes
Accidents with semi trucks or even large commercial vehicles, such as school buses, ambulances, fire trucks, and garbage trucks, often cause catastrophic injuries because of the size and weight of the vehicles. A fully loaded tractor-trailer truck can weigh 80,000 pounds or even more if it's overloaded.
Common causes of truck accidents include:
- Driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, legal or illegal prescription drugs, or illicit substances.
- Driving while distracted.
- Aggressive or reckless driving.
- Tired or fatigued driving.
- Weather. Even the sun shining in a driver's eyes could cause an accident.
- Poorly maintained roads.
- Improperly balanced loads.
- Inspection error.
- A driver in another vehicle.
- Poorly maintained truck or trailer.
- A manufacturing defect in parts used to repair the truck or trailer.
- A manufacturing defect in the truck or trailer.
Truck Accident Injuries
Accident injuries caused by a truck accident have a higher risk of being more severe or catastrophic because of the size and weight of the truck. Depending on the circumstances, you could sustain anything from minor injuries and be back to work in a few days to catastrophic injuries that cause permanent disabilities—or even death.
Injuries that you might sustain include:
- Bumps, bruises, scrapes, cuts, and scratches.
- Strains and sprains.
- Pulled and torn muscles and other soft tissue injuries.
- Road rash.
- Chemical and thermal burns.
- Face and eye injuries.
- Ear injuries, including deafness, if the accident causes an explosion.
- Traumatic brain injuries.
- Head, neck, and shoulder injuries.
- Internal injuries.
- Back and spinal cord injuries.
- Amputation of a digit or limb.
What to Do Immediately After a Truck Accident
If you are awake and able to move without causing additional damage after a truck accident, you can take several steps to help document your case. However, wait for first responders to arrive after your accident to check you over and determine if you should go to the hospital.
It's not worth risking permanent disabilities to gather information and evidence.
- Call first responders and check on others involved in the accident.
- Take photos of the accident scene. Be sure to take pictures of the vehicles involved from all angles and the damage to the road or nearby property.
- Obtain contact information from witnesses, including passengers in the truck or other vehicles involved. Witnesses can provide important support for your claim.
- Obtain the following information from the truck driver:
- Regular driver's license.
- Contact information.
- CDL license information.
- Insurance information.
- Registration information.
- Trucking company's name and contact information.
- Give a statement to the police.
- Allow emergency medical technicians to check you over.
After the police release you from the scene, seek medical attention immediately. Let the medical professionals know that you were in a truck accident. Finally, contact a Chicago truck accident attorney, as you have a short time to file a claim.
Why You Should Seek Medical Attention Immediately
Some injuries may not manifest for hours or even days after the accident. A doctor can run tests to determine if you have or may develop injuries. Allowing emergency medical technicians to examine you and seeking medical attention also creates documentation of your case.
How a Lawyer Helps Immediately After a Truck Accident and Illinois Statute of Limitations
An experienced Chicago truck accident lawyer can help ensure you receive the proper medical care after an accident. They can also investigate your case, hiring forensic investigators and accident reconstructionists, if necessary. Finally, the attorney can make initial contact with the at-fault driver's insurance company, so you don't have to.
You should be more concerned with recovering after the accident and not worry about the insurance company's tactics to deny your claim or offer you a pittance. If you make the first contact with the insurance company, only give it your name, contact information, the date and location of the accident, and your attorney's contact information.
Additionally, there are important deadlines to meet once you start a case. The attorney ensures that you don't miss any deadlines, including the most important—statute of limitations for Illinois. You have just two years to file a claim.
Those two years fly by—so you should seek legal help as soon as possible. Before filing a claim against someone, you must have proof, including medical expenses, reports from investigators, medical records to prove your case, and time to negotiate.
Incorrect Police Report
An experienced Chicago truck accident attorney can also take action if the police report for your accident is incorrect. The police officer can only go by what you, the other driver, and witnesses say. Portions of the police report may be incorrect. A Chicago truck accident attorney will review the police report to determine if it has any mistakes and take steps to correct them.
When the Truck Driver Denies They Caused the Accident
If the truck driver denies causing the accident, contact an experienced Chicago truck accident attorney immediately. Trucking companies often play games after an accident and may make evidence disappear. A lawyer will start an investigation to obtain the evidence to build your case.
Collecting Evidence After a Truck Accident
In addition to what you can collect at the scene, investigators will collect certain evidence, including:
- The driver's employment file.
- The driver's driving record, including traffic violations.
- The driver's work history.
- The driver's training history.
- Driver logs from the truck, including hours worked, breaks the driver took, and miles driven.
- Drug tests the driver took in the past five years and any drug tests they took after the accident.
- The truck's maintenance and repair records.
- The truck's inspection reports.
- Dashboard video from the truck, police vehicles, and any passenger vehicles that may have had a dash cam.
- Black box data from the truck.
- Body camera footage from the responding or investigating officers.
- The vehicles involved in the wreck.
- Interviews and statements from the driver and witnesses.
- Accident reconstruction reports.
- Your medical reports, records, and expenses.
How to Pay Medical Bills
After an accident, you may wonder how to pay your medical expenses while waiting for your settlement or trial award. Some medical professionals and institutions will delay collecting debts until you receive your settlement. If necessary, a Chicago truck accident lawyer can refer you to doctors who will wait or request that your doctors wait until you receive a settlement or trial award before collecting medical expenses and reporting non-payment to your credit reports.
You can use your automobile insurance to cover medical expenses for medical professionals and institutions that do not wish to wait. Once you receive your settlement, you reimburse your vehicle insurance company for their covered costs.
How to Pay for a Chicago Truck Accident Lawyer
Usually, your initial case evaluation is free and without obligation when you work with a personal injury attorney. These attorneys also work on a contingency basis, meaning you only pay legal fees if the attorney wins your case. Once you retain a firm, they will review your contingency contract to ensure you understand it fully.
Recovering Damages After a Truck Accident
In addition to questions about timing and how long to file a truck accident case, people often ask how much their case is worth. No attorney can give you a precise answer—if one tries, that is a big red flag!
The value of your case depends on too many factors, including the severity of your injuries, the driver's actions and inactions, whether more than one driver shares responsibility, and if a third party, such as the driver's employer, is liable for the accident.
For example, if a company dispatcher “encouraged” a truck driver to deliver a load “on time, no matter what,” and the truck driver was speeding or violated the hours-of-service regulations, the company dispatcher may be more liable than the truck driver.
A Chicago truck accident lawyer reviews all of the evidence from the accident, including your medical records, to help determine a fair and reasonable amount. The attorney may work with expert witnesses, including doctors specializing in the type of injuries you have, to determine a fair settlement.
You can recover two types of damages in Illinois: Compensatory and punitive damages. The law further divides compensatory damages into two categories: Economic and non-economic damages.
Sometimes referred to as special damages, economic damages have a monetary value.
Most accident victims recover economic damages, including:
- Medical Expenses: Doctor's appointments, surgeries, follow-up appointments, prescriptions, prescribed over-the-counter medications, ambulatory aids, physical therapy, cognitive therapy, occupational therapy, psychological therapy, home health care, nursing home or rehabilitative care, hand controls for your vehicle, and updates to your home, including but not limited to wheelchair ramps, handrails, grab bars, and widened doorways.
- Wages: Even if you are out of work for a short time, you could recover lost wages. If your Chicago truck accident injuries cause long-term or permanent disabilities, you could recover compensation for loss of future earning capacity and lost wages.
- Personal Property: The at-fault driver's insurance must also cover personal property that suffered damage in the accident, including your vehicle, cell phones, computers, and other valuables in your vehicle.
- Death-Related Expenses: If you lost a loved one in a Chicago truck accident, you could recover funeral and burial expenses, cremation expenses, certain probate court fees, and probate attorneys' fees and costs.
Sometimes referred to as general damages, non-economic damages do not have a monetary value. While no amount of money can remove the injuries or disabilities you suffered because of the accident or bring back a loved one, the money goes a long way in reducing the financial stress you find yourself in because of the losses you face.
In most cases, only those whose injuries cause long-term or permanent disabilities and those who lost a loved one recover non-economic damages. While each insurance company has its own definition of long-term or permanent injuries, the Social Security Administration defines these as injuries or disabilities that result in your death or last longer than 12 months.
Non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering, including emotional distress.
- Loss of quality of life.
- Loss of companionship.
- Loss of consortium.
- Inconvenience, if you have to hire someone to do the chores you usually do.
- Disfigurement or excessive scarring.
- Amputation of a digit or limb.
- Loss of use of a body part or bodily function.
The court only orders punitive damages to punish the defendant's grossly negligent or intentional behavior. Instead of making you whole again, punitive damages punish the defendant.
You can only recover punitive damages if you recover compensatory damages. However, in certain cases, such as if you have permanent disabilities or lost a loved one because of gross negligence of the driver or his trucking company, it is worth pursuing additional damages.
If you suffered injuries or lost a loved one in a truck accident, contact a Chicago truck accident lawyer as soon as possible for a free case evaluation.