Legal Columns

PERSONAL INJURY

How to get reimbursed when you have a traffic accident with a large vehicle such as a bus or truck 08/17/2017

This is the personal injury team of Song Law Firm with valuable information if you are in an accident with a larger vehicle such as a truck or bus. Earlier this year, an 83-year-old New Jersey woman died when her vehicle was rear-ended by a passenger bus. The incident was the subject of national news coverage. If a large vehicle such as a bus or a truck strikes an average passenger car in the rear, the shock will be more than three times the weight of an ordinary passenger car. As a result, the potential for serious injury greatly increases in these accidents. In some cases with serious injuries, victims have received settlements or verdicts in the millions of dollars. So, how does a personal injury attorney protect a victim’s legal rights in the event of a traffic accident with a large vehicle?

The two basic issues for any vehicular or general negligence lawsuit are (1) the defendant's legal liability and (2) the degree of injury of the victim to determine appropriate damages. You can only receive compensation for your injuries if you prove that the other driver was legally at fault for the accident. If you were partially at fault, you may only receive that percentage of your damages attributable to the defendant. If you were more than 50% at fault in New Jersey, you are not entitled to damages. An example of this could be if you make a left turn in front of another driver who otherwise has the right of way. You may be injured but not entitled to compensation. Trucks or buses are usually commercial carriers which would require that a claim be made against the driver’s employer as well. In the case of a state or local government vehicle, certain written notice requirements come into play requiring no delay for the injured party to see legal counsel.

Once the attorney determines the proper defendants, he/she must assess the injuries by collecting records of all medical treatment after the client finishes with all doctors. At that time, the attorney sends a demand or settlement package to the appropriate defendant(s), usually to their insurance companies. The package will detail the evidence of negligence and make a settlement demand based on the injuries. In the case of a commercial vehicle there are rules governing the conduct of the carriers and their drivers. In New Jersey, if the case does not settle, there is a two-year statute of limitations to file a lawsuit or be barred by law from seeking compensation.

Commercial carriers and their insurance companies have a great deal of expertise in handling these types of accidents. Therefore, it is especially important to seek legal counsel in the event of injury. Otherwise, it is extremely likely that deserved compensation will be less than appropriate. In fact, the company may ignore you entirely.

If you have any other questions, please feel free to contact pi@songlawfirm.com for a free initial consultation.