Imagine you're on your way to work on a busy freeway and an eighteen-wheeler loaded down with heavy cargo slips on the wet pavement, jackknifes, and skids over into your lane, causing an accident. You're lucky because it could have been much worse, but now your car is totaled and you have severe neck pain. What should you do? The following is a summary of what to do after a truck accident in Virginia, including possible defendants and how liability may be established.
What to do After a Truck Accident in Virginia: First Steps
Truck accidents often result serious injuries or death, given the weight differential between big rigs and the typical automobile. Right after an accident, you'll want to check on everyone involved (unless you're too injured to do so) and contact emergency services. Move your car out of traffic if feasible. In addition, take notes and photos detailing the accident (i.e. road conditions, damage, skid marks on the pavement, etc.); talk to any witnesses to the crash; and exchange vital information with the other parties.
Virginia Truck Accidents: Liability and Fault
Liability for truck accidents in Virginia is based on negligence, which means the at-fault party (via their insurance company) is responsible for compensating anyone injured in the accident. However, Virginia law adheres to the legal theory of pure contributory negligence, which means a plaintiff can't collect for damages if they were even slightly at fault. For example, you may be barred from your claim if -- even though the truck driver was negligent -- it can be proven that you sent a text message right before the accident occurred.
Trucking accidents tend to be more complex than simple automobile collisions and involve multiple parties (and their insurers). In addition to the driver, these parties may include:
- The driver's employer;
- The company that owns the truck;
- The company responsible for repairing and maintaining the truck; and/or
- The company that hired the trucking company to transport the cargo.
Also, be advised that signing a settlement agreement could prevent you from obtaining a full recovery as there are some injuries which may not manifest themselves until several years later. If you're presented with a settlement offer, it's in your best interests to speak with an attorney before accepting it.
Virginia Truck Accident Laws at a Glance
If you've been seriously injured in a truck accident, you're probably overwhelmed with hospital care and making arrangements with your employer and insurers. You don't have time to decipher dense legal texts. That's why we've provided the following "plain English" summary of Virginia's laws covering what to do after a truck accident.
Virginia Code, Title 46.2:
|Causes of Action and Damages
Since there's no strict liability in Virginia for motor vehicle accidents, even those involving commercial trucks, you (or, typically, your insurer) will have to establish fault in order to receive compensation for your injuries.
In addition to the driver, their employer, the owner of the truck, the manufacturer of the truck, the truck maintenance company, and other parties also may be held liable (via their insurers).
Examples of negligence include:
- Driver fatigue;
- Speeding or other traffic violations;
- Impaired driving;
- Failure to provide drivers adequate rest between trips;
- Carrying more weight than is allowed; and
- Faulty truck design or improper maintenance.
Economic recovery, or damages, may include the following:
- Medical and home care expenses;
- Lost wages;
- Diminished earning capacity;
- Pain and suffering; and
- Wrongful death.
|Federal Trucking Regulations
Truck drivers and their employers must adhere to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicle's (Virginia DMV's) motor carrier regulations. You'll want to establish whether the truck driver violated any of these regulations before filing a claim, which include:
- Maximum number of hours the driver may work within a specific time frame;
- Truck driver's alcohol and drug use history;
- Truck driver's driving history;
- Maintenance schedule for trucks and trailers; and
- The level of training the driver received.
|Statute of Limitations
Within 2 years if anyone was injured or killed in the accident (also, within 5 years for property damage).
Keep in mind that for wrongful death claims the "clock" starts running at the time of the victim's death, which may come later than the date of the accident.
See also Virginia Civil Statute of Limitations.
Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
Research the Law
- Virginia Laws - Summaries of select laws spanning criminal, injury, family, small business, real estate, consumer, and other practice areas.
- Official State Codes - Links to the official online statutes (laws) in all 50 states and DC.
Virginia Truck Accident Laws: Related Resources
Need to a File a Virginia Truck Accident Claim? An Attorney Can Help
If you've been involved in a truck accident in Virginia and you believe the truck driver's negligence is to blame, you'll want to file a claim for damages. An accident can cause serious, sometimes permanent (or even fatal) injuries; keep you away from your job; and derail your life's plans. Get started today and speak with an experienced Virginia personal injury lawyer near you today.