Obtaining compensation after commercial truck accidents can be far more complicated than crashes that involve only cars. Passenger vehicle collisions usually involve only drivers and their insurance companies. A collision with a large truck could result in multiple parties being liable for the crash, and often requires a more extensive and thorough investigation. In addition, the damages are often greater and the insurance limits are often higher. You can count on a tough fight when the stakes are so high.
If you suffered serious injuries or your loved one was killed in a commercial truck accident in Kansas or Missouri, seek qualified legal representation right away. An experienced truck accident lawyer will understand the complexity of these cases and will know how to pursue the various forms of compensation that you might be owed.
Edelman & Thompson has five locations in the Greater Kansas City area in both Missouri and Kansas. You can have our attorneys help you understand all your legal options when you call us or contact us online to take advantage of a free consultation.
Why Truck Accident Cases Are More Complicated
One major difference between truck accidents and car crashes concerns the limits of the insurance policies on most commercial vehicles. Most companies are required to obtain policies that have much higher limits than traditional passenger vehicle policies.
Unlike traditional car insurance policies where victims encounter possible concerns about policy limits not being high enough to cover medical bills, commercial insurance policies are often worth enough to cover sizable settlements or awards. Insurance companies, however, do not automatically provide maximum payouts. Their goal is to pay out as little as possible – and ideally nothing, if they can get away with it.
Commercial trucks are also subject to strict state and federal regulations. You need a lawyer to investigate possible violations of these regulations, which can help establish negligence.
When investigating a truck accident, your legal team may investigate:
- The operator’s driving history and logs to see if they violated any regulations or laws that could have caused the collision
- The truck’s maintenance schedule and records
- Onboard electronic data recorders or “black boxes” on many newer trucks
- The crash scene by reviewing photos or video of the crash and interviewing eyewitnesses
- Police reports and accident reports
- Your medical records and consult with medical experts about your injuries
Ultimately, your attorney will want to assemble a full picture of what happened, who was responsible, and what impact the crash had and will have on your life.
Who Can Be Held Responsible for a Heavy Truck Crash?
Another significant difference between commercial truck accidents and other motor vehicle accidents concerns potential liability. In these types of cases, any one of the following parties could be liable for your injuries:
- Truck owner
- Trailer owner
- Truck part manufacturer
- Maintenance company
- Shipping agency
- Cargo loading company
- Government entity
- Other motorists
When cases involve multiple liable parties, it is not uncommon for the defendants to begin attempting to pass the blame on to one another to reduce their own liability. Determining liability will often require a lengthy independent investigation.
Evidence in a Truck Accident Claim
After a collision with a commercial vehicle, preserving evidence is critical. Victims should try to preserve whatever evidence they can at the scene of the crash.
First, use the camera on your cell phone to take as many pictures as you possibly can of everything involved in your accident. Get photographs of the vehicles, the people, and any other contributing factors, and take photos from multiple angles and distances. You can never have too many images from your accident.
Another important step you can take is to collect the names and phone numbers of all people who saw your crash. Witnesses can be key to determining liability.
You will usually have to rely on an attorney to obtain many of the other kinds of evidence that could be used in your case. For example, a lawyer can access the driver’s logbooks to determine if there were any violations of federal driving limits or possible falsification of entries.
Other important types of evidence could include inspection or maintenance reports, cargo logs, and electronic monitoring data. When alcohol or drug use is a factor, the driver’s blood or breath alcohol concentration (BAC) testing can also be evidence.
How Our Truck Accident Attorneys Can Make a Difference for You
Our law firm’s record of success includes over $500 million settlements and verdicts for our clients. Our firm was rated No. 1 in Kansas City jury verdicts by the Kansas City Jury Verdict Service (Most Plaintiffs’ Personal Injury Jury Verdicts, 2012-2017).
Edelman & Thompson represents clients on a contingency fee basis. You pay no legal costs associated with your case unless you receive a monetary award.
We recovered a $7 million settlement in a wrongful death case involving a truck collision, a $4.6 million truck accident settlement, and a $2.2 million jury verdict in an on-the-job truck accident. James Thompson is a member of the Association of Interstate Trucking Lawyers of America. Ron Edelman has been recognized as a Top 100 civil litigator by the National Trial Lawyers Association.
With five office locations in the Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas City, Kansas area, qualified legal help is never far away. We’ll sit with you and discuss your rights and all of the legal options available to you. Can’t meet us in one of our offices? Our attorneys are more than willing to meet you in your home or hospital room if that is more convenient for you.
Compensation After a Truck Accident Injury
Most truck accident cases are ultimately resolved through settlements that should provide enough compensation for all of the expenses a victim has incurred or will incur. Insurance companies agree to settlements to avoid the significant costs associated with taking a case to trial, not to mention the risk of a possible jury award.
Jury awards usually involve compensatory damages, which are customarily some combination of economic and noneconomic damages. Economic damages refer to actual calculable losses, while noneconomic damages are far more subjective and don’t come with an invoice.
Common economic damages include medical expenses, lost wages, and property damage. Noneconomic damages may be for emotional distress, pain and suffering, and disfigurement.
In a very limited number of cases, punitive damages or exemplary damages could also be awarded. Missouri and Kansas have different ways of handling punitive damages.
In Kansas, the plaintiff is required to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant acted with willful conduct, wanton conduct, fraud, or malice. Kansas Statute § 60-3701(e) provides that punitive damages cannot exceed the lesser of the annual gross income earned by the defendant (based upon the defendant’s highest gross annual income for any one of the five years immediately before the act for which such damages are awarded) or $5 million.
Missouri Statute § 510.265 provides that punitive damages cannot exceed the greater of $500,000 or five times the judgment awarded to the plaintiff, but the Missouri Supreme Court struck down that law in 2014. In Lewellen v. Franklin, 441 S.W.3d 136, 145 (En banc. 2014), the Supreme Court ruled that because the right to a jury trial in 1820 included the right to have a jury determine the amount of punitive damages, the cap on punitive damages awards was unconstitutional.
Kansas has several different caps. Kansas Statute § 60-19a01(b) places a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages in personal injury cases. Nonmonetary losses are also capped at $250,000 in wrongful death actions under Kansas Statute § 60-1903a.
How Long Do You Have to File a Truck Accident Claim in Missouri and Kansas?
Missouri Statute § 516.140 provides that a person has two years to file an action for an injury to their person. Under Kansas Statute § 60-513, a person also has two years from the date of a truck accident to commence a personal injury action.
Numerous exceptions exist to these statutes of limitations. In Missouri, a truck accident victim who is a minor or who is mentally incapacitated can have their limitations period extended. A minor will have two years from the date they turn 21 years of age to file a lawsuit. A person who is incapacitated may be able to have their deadline extended to two years after they become cognizant again.
Another notable exception to the Missouri statute of limitations concerns a defendant who leaves the state after an accident. If the defendant cannot be located for a period, that time will generally not be counted as part of the limitations period.
Kansas also delays the statute of limitations for a victim who is a minor or who is incapacitated, but the minor only has two years after the date they turn 18 years of age. The limitations period may also be delayed if a plaintiff must leave the country for military service. No cause of action can be filed more than 10 years after an accident in Kansas.
Common Types of Trucks Involved in Crashes
Commercial vehicles come in many different sizes, and their weight can vary dramatically based on their size and the type of cargo they are transporting. Some of the most common kinds of commercial trucks include:
- Box trucks
- Cement mixers
- Delivery trucks
- Dump trucks
- Flatbed trailers
- Garbage trucks
- Logging trucks
- Mobile cranes
- Platform trucks
- Refrigerator trucks
- Tow trucks
- Moving vans
The causes of truck accidents can be difficult to determine. Extensive independent investigations is often needed to learn how complex machinery performed and all possible factors that were involved in a collision.
Some of the most common causes generally include:
- Inadequate driver training
- Driver fatigue
- Brake failure
- Inclement weather
- Overloaded trailers
- Unsecured loads
- Failure to maintain vehicle
- Distracted driving
- Drunk or drugged driving
- Driver error
- Defective parts
- Improperly loaded cargo
No matter the kind of truck is involved in your accident or what caused the crash, it is critical for you to take immediate action and contact an attorney. Trucking companies may send agents to the crash scenes, and these representatives will often engage in several very deceptive tactics to limit the rights of victims.
In some cases, these agents may ask you to sign paperwork that they claim is a standard part of the claims process, but you may be signing away essential rights. You should not sign any document until a lawyer has had the chance to review it.
Similarly, you should always decline any request to provide a recorded statement to any insurance company or claims adjuster. Get a lawyer as soon as possible and let your attorney handle all these conversations on your behalf.
Contact a Truck Accident Attorney Today
Insurance companies make their money by avoiding large settlements to resolve injury claims. Instead, they find ways to lure people into accepting settlements that are much less than what they are entitled.
In other cases, insurers may act very friendly and express concern, but this kind treatment is usually designed to lull you into a false sense of trust and security. When you are asked some seemingly simple questions about your crash, they may use your answers against you to diminish or deny your claim.
Do not try to negotiate a settlement for a truck accident case. A lawyer will be able to assess the real value of your claim and help you seek as much compensation as possible. We take cases on a contingency fee basis, which means that we don’t get paid unless we get money for you.
Did you sustain severe injuries or was your loved one killed in a commercial truck crash in Kansas or Missouri? It is critical for you to seek the help of an experienced attorney who has successfully handled truck accident claims in the past.
Edelman & Thompson has been helping injured people in Missouri and Kansas since 1994. Call us or contact us online now to schedule a free consultation.
*Kansas City Jury Verdict Service; Most Plaintiffs’ Personal Injury Jury Verdicts (2012-2017)