If you live in West Virginia, you are probably accustomed to seeing big rigs on our highways and interstates. While our state is small, nearly 300 million tons of freight pass through WV each year. Tractor trailers clog up I-70, I-79, I-64, I-77 and other highways that transverse our state as they move goods between states.
While these trucks serve an important purpose – and help to drive West Virginia’s economy – they also present a unique danger, particularly on our mountainous, winding roadways. If you are struck by a big rig, it can result in serious, life-altering injuries. A truck accident lawsuit may help you get financial compensation for your injuries, including property damage, lost wages, medical bills, pain and suffering, and more.
At Johnstone & Gabhart, we are dedicated to helping injury victims get the money that they deserve for their losses. We are fierce advocates for our clients, fighting to get them justice. To learn more or to schedule a free initial consultation with a West Virginia truck accident attorney, reach out to our law firm today.
Why Truck Accidents Are Different
Truck accidents, like car crashes, fall into the broad category of personal injury law. Yet truck collisions are unique among motor vehicle accidents. This is for two reasons: the nature of the vehicle and the laws that apply to the trucking industry.
As an initial matter, commercial trucks are simply a lot bigger than the average passenger vehicle. A semi truck pulling a trailer can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds. By contrast, even a large passenger vehicle like a SUV or a truck typically tops out at 3,500 to 8,000 pounds. If you are struck by a tractor trailer that weighs 10 or more times what your vehicle weighs, the potential for catastrophic injuries is much higher.
Because of their size, trucks often have large blind spots, which prevent the driver from seeing if another vehicle is present. This can put others at risk when a truck makes a lane change or a turn.
Big rigs also have a harder time stopping quickly due to their weight and size. Stopping a truck may require 20 to 40% more distance than what it would take to stop a car. This means that trucks may not be able to stop in time to prevent an accident – or may hit another vehicle at a higher rate of speed because they cannot slow down as quickly.
The height of an average tractor-trailer means that they are more prone to rollover accidents. These vehicles have a much higher center of gravity, so when they turn or swerve suddenly, they may be more likely to roll over. If another vehicle is nearby when this happens, they can be crushed by the semi.
Trucks also are known to jackknife because most of the weight of the vehicle is being pulled rather than steered. Jackknifing occurs when the trailer goes in a different direction than the truck itself. When this happens, the truck may trap passenger vehicles between the truck and the trailer, or it may cause multi-vehicle accidents as cars on the road try to avoid the jackknifed truck.
In addition to the unique features of trucks, there are also different regulations that apply to commercial motor vehicles. Drivers must carry a commercial driver’s license (CDL). They must also follow strict rules on everything from the number of hours they can be on the road without a break to the height and weight of the vehicle. A violation of these regulations may be important in a truck accident lawsuit, as it could be used as proof that the truck driver and/or trucking company was negligent in some way.
Our law firm has considerable experience handling truck accident claims. We are well-versed in federal and state trucking regulations and how they can be applied to these cases. We also have an in-depth understanding of the mechanics of truck accidents.
As West Virginia truck accident lawyers, we have handled cases involving:
- Rollover accidents
- Unsecured load accidents
- Tire blowout crashes
- Truck driver fatigue
- Distracted driving collisions
- Jackknifed truck accidents
- Overweight trucks
- Improper maintenance
- Defective equipment
- Drunk or drugged driving crashes
- Inadequate training
Each of our cases starts with a free initial consultation, where we will listen to your story before offering advice on your options for pursuing a claim. If you decide to hire our law offices, we will get to work right away to build a strong case against the truck driver, trucking company, and any other responsible parties. We will work hard to help you get top dollar for your injuries, and will never charge a fee unless we recover money for you.
Compensation in Truck Accident Cases
In any personal injury case, you may be entitled to three types of damages (compensation): economic, non-economic, and punitive damages. Economic and non-economic damages are types of compensatory damages because they compensate you for your losses. Punitive damages are meant to punish a wrongdoer for intentional or reckless conduct.
Economic damages provide you with money for your direct financial losses. This may include property damage, lost wages, reduced earning capacity, medical bills, and future medical treatment. If you have a permanent disability as a result of a West Virginia truck accident, you may also recover money for things like renovating your home and vehicle to make them accessible.
Non-economic damages cover intangible losses, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, scarring, disfigurement, and loss of enjoyment of life. These damages can be harder to prove than economic damages, as you don’t get a bill or invoice for something like trauma. However, your West Virginia truck accident attorney will work with experts and use their knowledge of similar cases to put together a strong claim for non-economic damages.
Finally, punitive damages may be awarded in a case where the at-fault party acted intentionally or recklessly, such as a drunk driving accident or if the trucking company knew that a big rig needed repairs but chose to not make them to save money. Punitive damages are meant to penalize a wrongdoer and deter others from engaging in similar conduct. In West Virginia, there is a cap on punitive damages of the greater of four times compensatory damages or $500,000.
Truck accidents often cause serious or even fatal injuries. If you or a loved one has been hurt in a truck accident, the best way to ensure that you get the money that you deserve is to work with a lawyer who has the knowledge, experience, and skill to take on the big trucking companies and their insurers. Reach out today to schedule a free consultation with a member of our legal team.
How Our Law Firm Can Help
Truck accidents are often associated with severe injuries. In the aftermath, you may not know what to do or where to turn for help. Our law firm will work with you to help you get the money that you deserve for your injuries.
At Johnstone & Gabhart, we are dedicated to helping clients throughout West Virginia with their personal injury claims, including truck accidents. With decades of combined experience, we will aggressively advocate for your right to compensation. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation with a WV truck accident attorney, give us a call at 304-343-7100 or fill out our online contact form.
How Can I Afford to Hire a Truck Accident Lawyer?
Most personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee basis. This means that instead of paying an hourly rate or a flat fee, you will sign an agreement to pay a percentage of any money that you receive (typically 30 to 40%). If you don’t recover money through a settlement or verdict at trial, you won’t be responsible for paying an attorney’s fee.
Contingency fee agreements mean that you can afford to hire a West Virginia truck accident lawyer, even if you don’t have the extra cash to pay out of pocket. In Charleston and throughout WV, call Johnstone & Gabhart today to schedule a no-cost, no-obligation consultation with a member of our team.
Do I Need an Attorney for a Truck Accident Case?
Yes. While it may be possible to handle a very minor car accident claim on your own, truck crashes rarely – if ever – just involve property damage. When you have been hurt in a collision with a big rig, you should not talk to anyone or sign anything until you have had the chance to consult with an attorney. Your lawyer will protect your rights and fight to get you maximum compensation.
Studies show that people who are represented by counsel recover an average of 40% more in personal injury claims compared to people who represent themselves. Having legal representation is particularly important when complex federal and state laws are at play and you’re going up against a major corporation and its insurers. In West Virginia, call Johnstone & Gabhart to talk to a seasoned truck accident lawyer about your claim.