When you file a personal injury or wrongful death claim following a commercial truck accident, you can expect the trucking company and its insurer to vehemently deny your allegations. These companies care about one thing: the bottom line. If they can find any way to avoid liability, they are going to fight without regard for the impact on you and your family.
In most cases, trucking companies and insurance companies use the same types of defense tactics. While these tactics will prove effective in some cases, they can often be overcome. As a trucking accident victim, or as someone who has lost a loved one in an accident involving a commercial truck, being prepared for what lies ahead can be critical to securing a financial recovery.
How Do Trucking Companies and Insurance Companies Fight Claims for Compensation?
So, how do trucking companies and insurance companies fight accident victims’ claims for compensation? Some of the most common defense tactics include:
1. Arguing That There Is Insufficient Evidence of Liability
The simplest way that trucking companies and insurance companies try to avoid paying compensation is by disputing the evidence of liability. As the claimant, the burden of proof is on you. Until you present convincing proof of liability, your claim is likely to go nowhere. Even if you have evidence, the trucking company and its insurer may argue that the evidence is not actually probative or that it would not be legally admissible in court. If your claim would not succeed at trial, then there is no reason for the trucking company or its insurer to even think about settling.
2. Arguing That the Victim Was Fully or Partially at Fault in the Accident
Another common defense tactic in commercial truck accident cases is to blame the victim. Could you have been negligent? Was your loved one distracted behind the wheel? In both Oregon and Washington, “comparative fault” reduces the damages that are available to claimants. And in Oregon, if someone is 51% or more at fault in an accident, then he or she is not entitled to any financial recovery.
3. Blaming a Third Party
Trucking companies and insurance companies also like to point the finger at third parties. While truck driver and trucking company negligence are common factors in serious and fatal collisions, there are other potential factors as well. Did the truck driver lose control because of a manufacturing defect or due to faulty maintenance work? Did another driver trigger a chain-reaction collision? Was there an issue with the road that made it impossible for the truck driver to avoid a collision? These are all questions that claimants will often be forced to answer in order to recover just compensation.
4. Accusing the Victim of Seeking Compensation for a Pre-Existing Injury
In addition to blaming victims, trucking companies and insurance companies also like to accuse them of seeking financial compensation for pre-existing injuries. In addition to proving that the truck driver or trucking company was at fault in the accident, claimants must also prove that their injuries resulted from the collision. If there is not clear evidence (i.e., medical documentation) linking a claimant’s injury to the accident, then the defense will argue that there is no support for a claim for compensation.
5. Engaging in Bad-Faith Defense Tactics
When facing claims for compensation, trucking companies and insurance companies are well within their rights to dispute the claims in good faith. However, some of their tactics – and particularly those of the insurance companies – will cross the line into bad faith. Common examples of bad-faith efforts to deny payment of compensation to truck accident victims include not conducting an investigation, offering “low-ball” settlements, accusing claimants of fraud, and forcing claimants to initiate litigation in order to recover amounts due.
How Can Accident Victims and Their Families Overcome These Tactics?
When seeking financial compensation for your injuries or the death of a loved one, it is important not to give in to these types of tactics. You can expect your claim to take time. And while you should be able to expect to be treated fairly, you may need to be prepared to face some unsettling accusations. Effective ways to overcome the defense tactics discussed above include:
- Conducting a Prompt and Thorough Investigation – You need evidence, and the most-important evidence is likely to come from the scene of the accident. As a result, following a commercial truck accident, one of the most important things you can do is hire a lawyer to conduct an investigation as soon as possible.
- Seeking Expert Medical Attention – Seeking expert medical attention right away will not only ensure that you receive the best possible care, but it will also help establish the critical link between the accident and your injuries.
- Using the Law to Your Advantage – From the limited burden of proof in personal injury and wrongful death cases (beyond a preponderance of the evidence) to Oregon’s and Washington’s bad-faith insurance laws, knowing how to use the law to your advantage can help you avoid settling for too little or having your claim wrongfully denied.
- Keeping the Pressure On – The trucking companies and insurance companies know that pursuing a personal injury or wrongful death claim is stressful, and in many cases, they will try to drag out the process for as long as possible. By keeping the pressure on, you can achieve an efficient resolution while minimizing the stress involved.
- Showing That You Are Prepared to Go to Trial – If the trucking company or its insurer knows that you have a claim and that you are prepared to go to trial if necessary, this fact can help spur good-faith settlement negotiations.
Schedule a Free Initial Consultation at D’Amore Law Group
At D’Amore Law Group, we have decades of experience helping trucking accident victims and their families secure just compensation. If you have been seriously injured or lost a loved one in Oregon or Washington, we encourage you to call us promptly at 503-222-6333 or contact us online for a free and confidential consultation.