If you or a loved one are involved in a truck accident in Missouri or Illinois, you want to contact Fernandez Law. Attorney Gonzalo Fernandez has been helping injured clients for more than 30 years get the compensation they need and deserve. Truck accidents usually generate difficult and complex litigation involving several corporate defendants in different aspects of the trucking industry and layers of insurance. In order to maximize what you are entitled to, you need an experienced truck accident lawyer who is familiar with these types of cases.
Our team at Fernandez Law can offer advice and support to help you understand and pursue your legal options for recovering money damages. We cut through the tangle of liability issues by finding violations of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations whenever they might have occurred with respect to commercial vehicle maintenance and inspection, truck driver’s hours behind the wheel, and handling of particular cargos. Our ability to relate particular violations of the federal trucking regulations to your accident, injuries and pain and suffering can lead to highly productive settlement negotiations with the responsible defendant’s insurance company.
Call 314-433-9131 or click the button below to contact us and speak with a lawyer
Types of Truck Accidents Our St. Louis Area Lawyers Handle
Large truck accidents can involve a variety of vehicles ranging in type, as well as ownership, which can complicate a case. Some vehicles are owned and operated by a corporation that has its own delivery fleet of semis or large cargo vans, such as a grocery chain or multinational delivery service. In other instances, the city, county or federal government may own or lease the vehicle in question, including garbage trucks, buses or emergency vehicles, to name a few. Then, there are driver-owned vehicles, which may include 18-wheelers, snow plows and school buses, as well as other vehicles. In some cases, the driver owns the truck, but the trailer being hauled is owned by a corporation. The truth is that any time a commercial vehicle is involved, the stakes are higher as more than likely multiple parties can be liable. In addition to the owner of the vehicle and the driver, the company or individuals who loaded the vehicle, who conducted maintenance and inspection of the vehicle, and even the manufacturer can face liability. And all of these different individuals have their own attorneys. Our team at Fernandez Law has experience dealing with many different types of large vehicle accidents.
- Construction vehicles ranging from dump trucks to mobile cranes
- Repair and maintenance vans
- Delivery and parcel express trucks
- Buses, mobility vans, airport shuttles, hospitality vans, and other passenger vehicles
- Emergency response vehicles, such as fire engines or police cars
- Garbage trucks
- Snow plows and mobiles
- Tractor trailers
- Other large trucks
Questions to Ask When Hiring a Truck Accident Lawyer
Big truck and large commercial vehicle accidents can cause devastating injuries and sometimes even death. Finding the right attorney to represent you is critical to resolving your case to your satisfaction. There are a number of questions you should ask as you interview potential attorneys, including:
- How many if any large truck – not pickup truck – accidents has the attorney closed in the last 24 months? You want to look for a reasonable number and gauge the attorney’s comfort and experience level in handling these kinds of cases. You want to make sure your case is not the first case they are handling in this area or even in the last five years, but you also want to make sure you are not just a number.
- Has the attorney ever taken a large truck accident case to trial or does the firm just settle cases? Remember, these cases are much different from a car accident. Injuries and damages are usually much greater, and the case is much more complicated because of the number of individuals and/or organizations that may be liable. Sometimes a trial is needed. You want an attorney who is not only comfortable handling such cases and settling them, but you want an attorney who has the experience to try your case in front of a jury, should there be a need. You also want an attorney who understands the Federal Motor Carrier Regulations, has dealt with serious injuries and knows how to gather evidence before it goes away.
- What kinds of experts do they work with? At Fernandez Law, we work with experts who are familiar with federal trucking regulations, including how much rest truck drivers must get to avoid fatigue between trips, how cargo should be loaded and secured, what information the truck’s black box can provide, and how to read a trucker’s log book to find pertinent evidence. We work with life care planners who are familiar with catastrophic injuries and understand the long-term challenges truck accident victims face. We work with accident reconstructionists to measure tire skid marks and look for gouge marks in the pavement, which tell you the point of impact. They go on-site to document evidence from the accident scene before it disappears.
- Who is actually going to be working on my case? Will the attorney you are talking with be the one to work on your case? Or, will your case be handed off to someone you haven’t met or even talked with? If so, what experience and expertise does that person have? This is important to know because you want to be dealing with someone you are both comfortable with and confident in. Many attorneys don’t have the expertise to deal with such cases, so they refer them out to another firm for a co-council fee.
- For those who have suffered a serious injury, does the attorney have experience representing clients who have suffered a similar injury from a big truck accident? You will want to hire an attorney who has experience dealing with serious injuries, such as traumatic brain injury and severe spinal cord injuries. Understanding long-term needs, including future ongoing treatment, is critical in such cases.
Donts Immediately Following a Truck Accident
Being in any accident is difficult enough, but being in a semi truck accident can be even more stressful. Injuries and damages are typically more serious. There are several things you should not do to protect yourself and your case.
- Do not talk to the opposing insurance adjuster about the accident without your attorney present. In most instances, your attorney should speak for you.
- Do not provide a recorded statement to the insurance adjuster without your attorney.
- Although you have an obligation to speak with your own insurance adjuster, make sure your attorney is involved. You may say, “I’ll be happy to speak with you, but I’d like to have my attorney present or participate via conference call.”
- Note that if your insurance company puts you in an adverse position, for example, if they deny you coverage, you are no longer obligated to speak with them.
- Do not sign anything, especially legal documents, without your attorney reviewing it first.
- Do not post anything – not pictures or content – on social media. In fact, you should change all of your profiles to the private setting as soon as possible. Remember, your social media accounts are discoverable.
- Request that your friends and family not post about you and your accident.
- Do not accept new friend requests, especially from people you don’t know.
What can I expect when I reach out to an attorney in your office?
We will get your contact information and take a thorough statement on what happened. We will discuss facts of the case, your injuries and your medical treatment – past, present and future. We want to know how you are injured, any prior history of medical problems, including those related to your injury from the wreck. We want to understand your personal insurance coverage, as there may be resources available to help you in the interim before your case is resolved. We want to know of any evidence or resources you may be aware of that might help us with your case:
- Possible witnesses
- Video footage
- Police report
- Your health insurance (including Medicare and/or Medicaid)
- Car insurance (including automobile insurance policy declaration)
- Release to get information from health care providers
How much time to I have to file a truck accident lawsuit?
It depends on the state in which the accident happens. In Missouri, you have five years. In Illinois, you have two years.
What Causes Truck Accidents?
Commercial truck accidents happen for a variety of reasons that can be the fault of a driver, corporation, or insurance company. Each incident presents a unique set of challenges that are difficult to navigate on your own. Our truck accident lawyer has worked on a wide array of truck accident cases and can help you get through the tangle of complexities and maximize what you can recover. We work with a team of experts including accident reconstructionists, safety engineers, highway, bridge and railroad crossing civil engineers, and trucking regulation experts to get to the bottom of what happened.
Many people don’t realize that large commercial trucks are usually equipped with electronic data recording systems, commonly known as black boxes, that will electronically record what took place in the moments before impact. Usually, these systems are self contained and record to an internal hard drive. What we often see in truck crashes is that the 3,000 pound family sedan is completely totaled but the fully loaded 80,000 pound semi truck can drive away from the scene. If the electronic data is not immediately downloaded and preserved, driving the truck will record over the critical electronic data stored on the hard drive. In addition, many companies equip their vehicle with proprietary GPS tracking or logistics software that allows us to see where the truck has been and how far it has travelled over a period of time. This can be key information in a truck accident investigation that the company will not just voluntarily give up. It is imperative to get access to this valuable electronic information immediately. In addition, busses and many commercial trucks now have built in video recording systems - not to mention the thousands of cameras along our nation’s highways.
Tired Or Impaired Truck Drivers
Most commercial drivers get paid by the load. The faster they can deliver, the more they can earn in any given week. Recognizing the risks inherent in this type of compensation system, the Federal government has set limits on how many hours over-the-road truck drivers can spend behind the wheel and how much rest they must take between drives. Unfortunately, there are always those who are willing to play games and cheat the system if it is to their financial advantage. Many drivers push themselves to the limit, choosing to ignore rest periods mandated by federal regulations. We have even had cases where drivers keep two sets of records or logs in case they get stopped. These types of violations can result in overly tired or impaired truck drivers who can cause devastating damage to the cars they share the highway with. Federal regulations require truck drivers to keep detailed logs of their activities to help ensure they get enough rest and avoid driving while fatigued. Log book violations by truckers include: (1) failure to keep logs as required (2) keeping two separate logs — one accurate and one kept to show investigators and (3) failure to surrender the driver’s log as requested and required by law.
Truck drivers have many tasks in addition to operating their vehicles. Many use laptop computers to help them keep logs, prepare reports, and track expenses. A distracted truck driver can cause a catastrophic accident. Use of a laptop, cell phone or DVD player while driving is foolish, yet it happens every day on highways in Missouri and Illinois.
When a trucking company or driver fails to secure a load, debris can spread over a wide area and lead to a serious accident. Though the negligence might seem obvious, commercial truck companies and their insurance agencies may try to avoid paying adequate compensation for the losses of accident victims. It is important to obtain legal representation as soon as possible to inspect the accident site and examine the evidence.
Failure to Maintain Truck Driver Logs and Regulations
Federal regulations require truck drivers to keep detailed logs of their activities to help ensure they get enough rest and avoid driving while fatigued.
Log book violations by truckers include (1) failure to keep logs as required (2) keeping two separate logs — one accurate and one kept to show investigators and (3) failure to surrender the driver’s log as requested and required by law.
Semi truck brakes and tires must be regularly inspected and kept in good shape before and during travel. When these precautions are not taken, serious accidents can occur.
Accidents Caused By Overloading or Falling Debris
Trucking regulations spell out how cargo should be loaded and secured. Weight regulations, tie-down regulations and red-flag rules for irregular size cargo all work to keep us safe. When these regulations are overlooked, accidents can occur.
What is my semi truck accident case worth?
This is one of the questions we - as truck accident lawyers - get most often. The answer depends on three factors:
- Who was at fault;
- What are your injuries or damages;
- How much insurance is available.
The defendant may try to blame you for the truck accident. If they can confuse a jury into believing that the accident was your fault, they have the ability to not pay a dime. In our experience handling commercial truck cases, the driver has even more incentive to lie and try to blame you: They have a C-class commercial truck driver’s license that could be jeopardized if they are found at fault and work for an employer who might not be too happy if they’re driving recklessly. Their livelihood could depend on whether they are able to shift the blame to you.
If fault is in dispute, the defendant may accept partial responsibility for the accident but also blame the injured victim. In these cases, the amount of money they’re willing to pay will be reduced by whatever fault they believe the plaintiff bears in the accident. For example, if they think the injured party has sustained one million dollars in damages but is 50 percent at fault, they may only be willing to pay $500,000 or half of what the case is really worth. Fault can be one of the biggest factors affecting the value of a case.
A jury is allowed to award a plaintiff money for both economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages cover financial loss you have incurred; it usually consists of medical bills, lost wages, funeral bills and pharmacy expenses. You can collect for past damages as well as damages you will incur in the future.
Non-economic damages include compensation for your pain and suffering, mental anguish and how this truck accident affected your life.
Economic damages are usually straightforward: what was the bill? Non-economic damages are a bit more difficult to assess. While there is no magic formula or algorithm that will determine the value of a case, there are some general guidelines that can help you figure out what it’s worth, including the following guidelines:
1. The cost of your past medical bills.
If you get rear-ended by an 18-wheeler and get examined in the emergency room and do not have any injuries, you will have a semi truck accident claim that’s worth less than someone who spent a month in the hospital ICU on a ventilator and has a half-million-dollar medical bill or someone who’s suffered a wrongful death. This may seem obvious because these are extreme examples, however, it can become a very complicated issue.
2. Future expected medical care.
If a health professional believes that there is no expectation that you will need any care in the future, then your case will have less value than someone who is paralyzed and needs a lifetime of medical treatment and adaptive devices.
3. Loss in wages.
A person who was a construction foreman making $90,000 a year and can no longer work will have a wage loss component to his damages that a retired or unemployed person may not have.
The bottom line? The more damage incurred, involved the greater the potential value of your case.
Truck accident lawyers are often constrained by what insurance is available.
Every state sets a minimum amount of insurance that all truck drivers must carry; current law requires $25,000 of collision per person in Missouri and $20,000 in Illinois. Most states protect the personal property of a married couple that is owned jointly and limit assets that can be attached, such as a primary residence. The reality is that you’re often limited by what insurance is available. Fortunately, most commercial trucks carry fairly significant insurance policies to protect the companies that they work for. Many people don’t realize that it’s often possible to make an insurance claim under your own policy.
Sorting through what insurance is applicable to an accident can be confusing. There are things such as Uninsured Motorist, Underinsured Motorist and Med Pay policies that can allow you to recover much more than you may expect. It’s vital to speak to an attorney with experience in navigating these treacherous insurance issues.
Who pays for damages after a truck accident?
If you can prove driver negligence, then the driver or the company they work for could be held liable. The company could also come under scrutiny if you can show it neglected to keep its vehicles up to standards, which then resulted in a semi truck accident.
Sometimes there are more than one reason an accident has occurred. We often find ourselves suing the State Department of Transportation for poorly maintained highways, inadequate guardrails or safety mechanisms, poor markings or lack of signage on roadways or at railroad crossings. Other motorists or faulty road conditions could be contributing causes to the auto accident. You need an experienced semi truck accident attorney who can look over the accident claims, fully analyze the situation and try to reconstruct what happened.
After getting into an accident with a large commercial tractor trailer, you’ll likely be balancing car repairs, medical procedures and calls with insurance agents. You shouldn’t have to handle getting truck accident compensation alone – which is why we’re here to help.
How can I get compensation after a truck accident?
If you’ve been involved in an accident with a large truck, chances are that you’ll receive a call from an insurance adjuster representing the driver and trucking company, kicking the process off.
The adjuster will normally ask for your permission to record the conversation so that they can investigate the claim and cover the following topics:
- How did the accident happen;
- Were you seriously injured;
- What repairs does your vehicle need?
Many times, this conversation is critical in terms of liability. At Fernandez Law, we’ve seen many cases where our client has spoken to the insurance adjuster and given a recorded statement before we got involved in the case. The insurance adjuster then takes something our client says and tries to use it to shift the blame on them.
It’s perfectly fine to speak to the adjuster about the details of getting your car fixed quickly, but refrain from talking about how the accident occurred or any injuries unless your truck accident attorney is on the line and part of the conversation. To receive fair compensation, get an attorney involved who can represent your interests with the insurance company.
While your car can get repaired quickly, a bodily injury claim may take longer. Your attorney cannot and should not begin negotiating a settlement on your injury claim until you are completely done with treatment and released by your doctor; failing to wait may mean you’ll make a demand for settlement without knowing the full extent of your damages. You need to finish treatment so your attorney can put together all your medical records and bills to submit them to the defendant’s insurance company with a demand for settlement.
Then, the insurance company will review the demand and analyze it in terms of liability (who was at fault) and whether the amount demanded is reasonable given the plaintiff’s injuries. This usually leads to a back-and-forth negotiation between your attorney and the insurance adjuster. If the two sides cannot agree on a fair settlement amount, then you need to be prepared to file your lawsuit and hold the defendant accountable for their actions in a court of law where a judge or jury will determine what your damages are. This will prolong the process and can be frustrating for a victim who just wants to get on with their life, but is often the only way to get fair compensation for your injuries.
How do I pay for an attorney after an accident?
At Fernandez Law, we understand that this is a difficult time for clients. You have been severely injured, you can’t work and you’re not sure when or if you will be able to work again, and you are overwhelmed by the prospect of having to fight the negligent driver’s insurance company and lawyers. We can help. We front all expenses and are reimbursed from the settlement or judgment proceeds after your claim is resolved.
How We’ve Helped Our Clients
Learn more about the compensation our team has won for clients.
What our clients say
"I was referred to Mr. Fernandez by a family member who is an attorney, for assistance with my elderly mother’s claim for injuries resulting from an accident involving an 18-wheeler. He was direct, honest, and very kind as he spoke with my mother, helping her to understand what his work would entail. An obviously talented negotiator, he presented appropriate research to support the claim for my mother’s injuries and it settled with an offer that brought the case to a quick resolution."
"Gonzalo is one of the most hardworking lawyers I’ve met. He takes his job seriously and does not let anything slip up. I can’t thank him enough for his help and recommend him highly!"
"Gonzalo kept me up to date and worked tirelessly. He answered all my questions and supported my family and I throughout. He is smart and a great listener."
In a crisis moment, I contacted Gonzalo Fernandez to review my situation. He was able to review my information within hours of initial contact and then provide me with sound legal advice.Gonz went above and beyond what I would've expected.I'd highly recommend him and his team to anyone that needs legal representation. Thanks Gonz for all you've done!