Truck accidents in Arizona are all too common. In fact, during 2018, trucks were involved in more than 2,000 total accidents. There was at least one fatality per 58 of these accidents, and injuries were reported in 536 cases.
If you have been injured in an Arizona trucking accident, you may wonder about your rights under Arizona state law. Depending on the circumstances of the accident, you may qualify for compensatory damages (a financial settlement) from the responsible parties.
Right to Pursue a Settlement
Under Arizona personal injury law, truck accident victims have the right to pursue a settlement from the responsible, negligent party/parties. Settlement may include damages to cover the losses you incurred because of the accident, including both financial losses and personal losses, including but not necessarily limited to:
- Medical bills
- Lost income/wages lost because your injuries prevent or limit your ability to perform your work duties;
- Lost earning capacity if, because of your injuries, you are unable to return to your chosen occupation and subsequently work at a job that pays less or has less growth opportunity;
- Physical pain and suffering;
- Psychological trauma/emotional stress; and
- Changes to your quality of life and your ability to do and perform activities of daily living, including recreational activities.
In certain rare cases, if the defendant’s conduct was reckless and exhibited a callous disregard for the safety of others, your claim may include punitive damages. Some examples of such conduct might be where a driver/company knowingly operates a truck with faulty equipment and/or a truck that is “overweight,” or where the driver’s “logs” have been altered. Whereas “compensatory” damages are intended to compensate the victim for their injuries and damages, “punitive” damages are intended to punish the defendant and deter others from behaving in the same way.
Who Can Be Held Responsible in a Trucking Accident?
If you are injured in an accident involving a truck, you might be able to file a claim against the individual driver and the trucking company itself, depending on the specifics of the case. In some cases, you may even be able to sue the truck manufacturer.
Suing the driver
When the truck driver behaves negligently and causes the accident, he or she will be legally liable for damages that result. Some truck drivers own their own truck and work as independent contractors hauling/delivering for other companies. In these cases, the driver’s insurance policy will process your claim and the driver is typically listed as a defendant in any personal injury claims.
Suing the trucking company
When the driver is an employee of a trucking company and driving a company truck at the time of the collision, he/she was likely driving “in the course of his/her job,” in which case his/her employer (the trucking company) is usually “vicariously” liable for the driver’s negligence, with said negligence being covered by the employer’s insurance policy. In these cases, both the driver and the employer/trucking company are listed as defendants in any personal injury claims.
Suing the truck manufacturer
In cases where a truck malfunctions and causes an accident, victims may be able to file claims against the manufacturer itself. Examples include cases where the manufacturer produced a faulty product and/or failed to properly warn consumers about known hazards. Unfortunately, many “parts” that go into comprising a commercial truck may originate from foreign countries, so pursuing claims against truck manufacturers and the foreign parts suppliers can be very costly and therefore usually require catastrophic injuries or injuries that result in significant permanent impairment(s).
It can be difficult to determine which parties should be defendants in a trucking accident claim. The best way to be sure you are filing claims against the most appropriate defendants is to discuss the matter with an experienced attorney.
When Should You File a Claim?
Not every trucking accident will lead to a claim. In general, you should consider filing a claim after an Arizona trucking accident if you believe the truck driver, trucking company and/or trucking manufacturer was responsible for the accident. Filing a claim is strongly recommended if any of the following statements are true.
- You were injured in the accident and/or the accident led to property damage.
- The expenses you incurred because of the accident were substantial.
- You are expected to experience future consequences or changes because of the accident, such as an ongoing disability or additional medical expenses.
If you are thinking about filing a claim after a trucking accident in Arizona, hiring an experienced Phoenix Personal Injury Lawyer is highly recommended.
Remember the Statute of Limitations
All personal injury claims in the state of Arizona are subject to a statute of limitations. This is an established time period determined by state law during which any personal injury claims must be filed. In general, Arizona has a two-year statute of limitation on personal injury tort claims. This means that if your claim is not settled/resolved within two years of the collision, you would need to file a lawsuit to preserve the right to continue pursuing your claim. If the defendant driver, employer, or trucking company is a governmental entity, the statute of limitations may be considerably shorter.
In addition, because commercial truck drivers often involve inter-state travel, the truck driver, employer, and/or trucking company may not be Arizona residents and the state of their origin may have different statutes of limitations. Although the State and County where the collision occurs usually governs what law applies, there is always the possibility a choice of law issue (between states) may be raised.
Therefore, regardless of the applicable statute of limitations, you need not wait for the statute to come up before filing a lawsuit should you be unable to resolve your claim.
For this reason, we recommend contacting a personal injury lawyer and beginning the claim process as soon as possible after your accident.
Right to Legal Representation
If you are the victim in a trucking accident, you have the right to seek legal representation from an experienced attorney. Although it may be possible to file a claim without this representation, your chances of success in court will be much higher if you choose to work with an attorney. Your attorney will be able to help you with every aspect of the filing and litigation process, including:
- Filing the initial paperwork –Your attorney will make sure that you have filed all the necessary documents accurately and that you are fully compliant with Arizona personal injury law requirements. This pertains to pre-litigation “claim” paperwork as well as filing a lawsuit if necessary.
- Collecting evidence and preparing arguments –Your attorney will walk you through the process of maximizing your claim documentation for pre-litigation settlement negotiations, as well as documenting all elements of your claim should it be necessary to file a lawsuit and participate in the litigation process.
- Participating in mediation/negotiations – If the defendant extends any settlement offers pre-litigation, or after a lawsuit is filed, your attorney can help you evaluate the merits of the offer(s) and make recommendations on accepting said offers, countering said offers, or continuing to trial (if in litigation).
- Court proceedings – If your case gets litigated, your attorney will be by your side and will speak on your behalf at all court proceedings related to the case, offering both support and guidance as needed.
Contact a Phoenix Personal Injury Lawyer Today
Keep in mind that not all personal injury attorneys offer the same quality of service. To maximize your chances of success in court, you need to choose an attorney who has a strong record of success in these claims.
Some attorneys and/or law firms handle cases from intake through trial, whereas other attorneys will only handle your case pre-litigation and associate with another attorney or law firm if litigation of your case becomes necessary. Not always, but more often than not, an attorney or law firm that will keep your case through litigation will thoroughly work up your case in the event it ultimately needs to be litigated, whereas attorneys or law firms that associate cases out to be litigated don’t necessarily work up their cases as thoroughly.
If you have been injured in a trucking accident in Arizona, to give yourself the best possible chance of procuring fair and reasonable compensation for your injuries, you should choose an Arizona personal injury lawyer/law firm that has experience with such claims. Please contact Lebovitz Law Group today to schedule a free consultation or to learn more.