An empty semi-truck weighs roughly 35,000 lbs. Fully loaded, they can weigh as much as 80,000 lbs.
As you could imagine, truck accidents can be extremely dangerous for those involved. Recent data shows that large trucks account for roughly 9% of all vehicles involved in fatal crashes.
Knowing what to do after a trucking accident and learning the legal ramifications can be confusing. Hopefully, you’re not involved in them very often!
It’s important to understand that in the state of Wisconsin, there is a process to follow to earn justice for an accident that was not your fault. In this post, we want to explain everything you need to know about truck accident cases in Wisconsin.
Let’s get moving.
All truck accident cases start with an initial investigation immediately after the incident.
The first thing after a truck accident in Wisconsin will involve law enforcement officials securing the area, assisting injured individuals, and gathering preliminary data.
The police officer(s) will document the accident scene – which typically includes taking photographs, marking skid marks, noting the condition of the vehicles, and any other physical evidence. They will also get your and the other driver’s account of the accident. If available, they will collect any witness statements.
All this information will be used to create the police report.
Your insurance company and that of the trucking company will initiate their own investigations. This will involve reviewing the police report, inspecting vehicle damage, and interviewing the policyholders and witnesses.
If serious injuries or fatalities are involved, there will be more intensive investigations conducted by accident reconstruction experts to re-establish the circumstances.
In rare cases, state or federal transportation agencies could also be involved in the investigation, especially if the truck was transporting hazardous materials or if there were significant safety issues involved.
If you were injured, you need to get in contact with an experienced trucking accident attorney in Wisconsin. Even if the accident was clearly the other party’s fault, earning compensation for injuries is a delicate process that requires an expert to preserve your rights.
Proving negligence is the most important factor in truck accident cases.
Whether it’s a semi-truck or a passenger vehicle, all drivers have a duty of care to protect other drivers on the road. “Negligence” refers to the failure to preserve this duty of care, which results in harm to another party.
The process of proving negligence in truck accident cases involves:
Proving negligence in trucking accident cases can get very complicated – and you’ll need a skilled attorney to gather the proper evidence to do so. Some of the major types of evidence used include:
These bits of evidence work to provide a complete picture of the accident – and everything leading up to it. Your trucking accident lawyer will use this information to prove the negligence of the other party.
There are more potential parties involved in trucking accident cases than many assume.
If a truck driver causes an accident, the most common liable party is the trucking company. The investigation will involve examining if they hired an underqualified driver, failed to perform proper maintenance on the truck, or put pressure on the driver to violate regulations (like exceeding the regulated driving hours).
In some cases, the truck’s owner may be different from the trucking company – and could be a potentially liable party if there is a mechanical failure.
Of course, the truck driver can be held liable if they were negligent – which may include driving under the influence, texting while driving, or exceeding the regulated driving hours.
The truck’s manufacturer may also be held liable if there was a mechanical failure due to a defect caused in the factory.
Government agencies may also be liable if they failed to properly maintain the road or have inadequate signage that contributed to the accident.
Lastly, another driver may be at fault. For example, if someone swerves suddenly and forces the truck driver to make a maneuver that caused the accident, that driver can be held accountable.
Your insurance company and trucking accident attorney will work diligently with the evidence to understand who was liable in the accident.
It’s relatively common for multiple parties (including the victim) to be liable in a trucking accident. In these scenarios, there will be comparative negligence. Comparative negligence in a trucking accident happens when each party’s liability is determined in proportion to the accident.
For example, let’s say a person driving a sedan made a sudden maneuver that caused the truck driver to crash into the victim’s vehicle. The investigation found that the sedan’s driver was driving under the influence, the truck driver had exceeded the regulated hours of operation, and the victim was texting while driving.
The conclusion may be the sedan driver was 50% liable for the accident, the truck driver was 30% liable, and the victim was 20% liable. If the victim suffered $100,000 in damages, the payouts might look like this:
In Wisconsin truck accident cases, if a party is more than 50% at fault, they are barred from recovering any damages.
Victims in truck accident cases may seek compensation for several types of damages. These damages are generally grouped into two different categories:
Economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages are relatively straightforward – and have invoices and receipts attached to them. These would include:
You’ll need to provide all this documentation to your trucking accident attorney.
Non-economic damages are much more subjective in relation to the injuries in truck accident cases. These include:
As you could imagine, these damages are significantly harder to calculate, as there are no invoices or receipts.
Punitive damages are not tied to losses suffered in truck accident cases. They are designed to punish the responsible party for reckless or intentional behavior – as well as to deter similar conduct in the future.
The methods to calculate damages can get complicated. Being that non-economic damages are subjective, you will need insight from medical experts, life-care planners, and other professionals to determine the severity of your injury.
An experienced trucking accident attorney will help you calculate damages to factor into the personal injury claim.
The vast majority of truck accident cases are settled out of court. This is the cheaper and easier option compared to taking the claim before the court system – which incurs a lot of fees and other obstacles.
Trucking accident attorneys and insurance companies typically push for a fair settlement. But if the at-fault party does not agree to the terms of the settlement (or you do not agree to their proposed payout), the case may need to go to trial.
Some common scenarios would include:
When you work with a trucking accident attorney, they will advise you on the best option to seek fair compensation.
There is a three-year statute of limitations to pursue truck accident cases in Wisconsin – under section 893.54. It’s strongly recommended to contact an attorney to begin the process as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to seek compensation.
For instance, if you wait two years to file for a neck injury, the other party will argue the injury was unrelated or was not severe enough to warrant a personal injury claim.
Hiring a truck accident attorney in Wisconsin is the most important decision you will make in this situation.
Trying to negotiate a settlement without a professional almost always ends poorly. The last thing you want is to face large medical bills and other expenses for an accident that was not your fault.
A lot of people are worried that a truck accident lawyer will cost too much money. These firms work on a contingency fee agreement – meaning they make their fees as a percentage of the total settlement AFTER the at-fault party pays it out. It costs you nothing out of pocket to hire them. At Mahony Law, we offer FREE consultations to victims of trucking accidents. We will discuss the nature of your case and determine what your best legal options are. Call our office at 262-331-3553, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or fill out an online form to start the process.
Abby is the founder of Mahony Law and devotes her time to representing people who have been seriously hurt due to the negligence of others. Abby has handled injury cases of all types, including birth injury, wrongful death, automobile accidents, motorcycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and truck accidents.
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