The sheer size of big rig trucks gives them the potential to inflict devastating and even fatal injuries when they are involved in a collision. In 2016 alone, nearly 4,000 people in the U.S. died in large truck crashes. Some 17 percent of these fatalities were occupants of the truck itself, 16 percent were bicyclists, pedestrians, or motorcyclists, and about two-thirds were occupants of other vehicles.
From a legal point of view, truck accidents and their aftermath can be complex to sort out; therefore, it is not always simple for truck accident victims to determine who may be liable for their injuries.
Assessing the strength of your Oklahoma truck accident claim
The evidence surrounding a truck accident claim must be gathered and organized carefully. Some of the basic information to be determined by your truck accident attorney is the strength of your claim, responsible parties, and potential damages you have a right to pursue.
With a proper assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of your claim, you and your attorney can better counteract any attempt of the insurance company to minimize your claim with either a denial or an inadequate settlement offer.
Determining liability for the accident and your injuries
Determining liability can be a complicated process due to the multiple potential responsible parties involved. These determinations must be made carefully by you and your attorney as you organize and examine various pieces of evidence, including:
· Statements from witnesses
· Accident reports
· Employment records
· Medical records
· Testimony from expert witnesses
· Truck data (i.e. black box recording data, telematics, driver logs)
There are strict time frames in place to submit a claim with insurance companies. There is also a required time frame for filing a personal injury lawsuit. In Oklahoma, in most cases a two-year statute of limitations exists for personal injury lawsuits. Failing to file within this timeframe will leave you without the right to collect compensation. If you decide to file, acting in consultation with your attorney as quickly as possible after your truck accident is the best course of action.
Who is responsible – the truck driver or trucking company?
Beyond the truck driver, the trucking company may bear responsibility for the crash if they engaged in certain activities, including:
· Leaving important maintenance, inspections, or repairs to the truck undone
· Failing to properly train the truck driver
· Putting pressure on the truck driver to drive for extended hours that are in violation of federal and/or state regulations
Under OK law, trucking companies are usually liable for the negligence of their employees during employee working hours. However, some truck drivers are independent contractors and not employees.
Factors that determine whether a truck driver employee is actually an independent contractor in Oklahoma include whether the driver:
· Is free to set his or her own work hours
· Is free to refuse work assignments
· Works for other customers
· Wears a company uniform or uses company equipment
Some truck companies along with their insurers attempt to identify their drivers as independent contractors in order to avoid any requirement to provide fair compensation to injured victims. However, under federal law a trucking company is liable for the actions of its drivers when they lease a truck to the driver.
If your injury claim is denied because the insurance company asserted that the truck driver was an independent contractor, you can receive help through an experience personal injury attorney. An adept legal advocate can help you assert your legal rights and ensure the correct defendants are identified in your claim.
You may have other potential legal claims available depending on the facts of your case. These claims may include: personal injury claims, uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) claims, a dram shop liability claim, or claims against other drivers.
With more than 50 years of combined legal experience, our Oklahoma City truck accident attorneys at Cunningham & Mears understand the challenges that sometimes arise with determining liability in the aftermath of a truck accident. If you have been injured through the negligence of a truck driver, trucking company, or other party, we are here to fight the financial compensation you deserve. To arrange a free consultation with a trusted attorney from our team, call us today at 405.212.9234 or fill out our contact form.