commercial truck accident attorney in mobile alabama

What Must I Prove to Win My Truck Accident Case

Of all of the motor vehicle accident types that affect drivers in the state of Alabama, truck accidents are some of the most tragic. When a truck accident occurs that involves a smaller passenger car, the smaller vehicle almost always sustains the lion’s share of the damage, and those within the smaller vehicle almost never walk away without moderate to severe injuries.

If you have suffered serious harm in a truck accident–or if you have a lost a loved one to a truck accident–you can file a civil action to seek compensation for damages. However, in order to win your suit, there are four elements that you must prove. Consider the following overview about liability and what you need to prove to win your truck accident case.

Identifying the At-fault Party

Before you can even file your truck accident case, you’ll need to identify the at-fault party. In a truck accident claim, this can be especially complex as there are typically multiple parties who could be to blame. For example, fault may fall on the shoulders of the truck driver, the trucking company, a vehicle manufacturer, or another third party.

Elements You Need to Prove to Win Your Truck Accident Claim

Once you have identified who is to blame for your accident, you’ll need to collect evidence to prove the four elements listed below. Note that it’s very possible that you are naming multiple defendants in your claim; if so, you will need to prove the first three elements listed for each individual party.

  • Duty of care. The first element that you must establish in a truck accident claim is that the party (or parties) against whom you’re filing the claim owed you a duty of care. Usually, this duty is implied. For example, all drivers owe others on the road a duty of care to operate their vehicles safely and within the confines of the law; truck drivers have a heightened duty as commercial carriers.
  • Breach of duty of care. The second element is much more difficult to prove than the first – breach of duty of care. A breach of duty of care means that the party against whom you’re filing your claimed violated the degree of care that they owed to you. This is also referred to as negligence, or the failure to act with the same degree of care that another party in a similar situation would. In a truck accident claim, the “breach” could be anything from operating a truck while intoxicated or distracted to hiring a driver with a poor driving record to failing to perform proper truck maintenance and more.
  • Causation. The third element of an injury claim is causation – that the defendant’s negligence/breach of duty of care was the proximate cause of your accident and injuries. Another way to think about this is that you have a duty to prove that your injuries would not have occurred but for the defendant’s actions.
  • Damages. Finally, you must prove that you have suffered actual damages, economic or noneconomic or both, as a result of the accident and injury. Examples of common damages in a truck accident claim are property damage expenses, pain and suffering, medical expenses, and lost wages.

What is the Burden of Proof in a Personal Injury Claim?

It’s important to know what the burden of proof is in a personal injury claim, or the degree to which you have to prove the four elements listed above. Unlike a criminal case, which adheres to the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard, you only have to prove the above elements by a “preponderance of the evidence.” This is an easier, lower standard than is “beyond a reasonable doubt,” and essentially means that you must prove that it is more likely than not that what you’re alleging is the case or that what you’re saying has a greater than 50 percent chance of being true.

How Our Alabama Personal Injury Lawyers Can Help

You are likely facing serious losses and economic hardship if you have been in a truck accident or have lost a family member in this type of accident. At the law offices of Burns, Cunningham & Mackey, P.C., our lawyers can guide you through what you need to prove in a personal injury claim and how to prove each element successfully. We work on a contingency fee basis and have the experience and reputation you can count on.

To schedule your free consultation, please reach out to our law firm by calling us directly at 800-574-4332, visiting our office in person, or sending us a confidential message today.

personal injury

How to Negotiate a Fair Injury Settlement

If you or someone you care about has suffered an injury and it was the fault of another party, you deserve full compensation for your losses. Unfortunately, recovering what you deserve is not always a smooth or simple process.

It would be a rare occurrence for the responsible party to simply walk up to you and write a check for your medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering. In truth, you and your family have probably been through a lot, and there may be more hardships on the way.

While it might be a nice day when you get a settlement check and take it to the bank, you will completely forfeit your right to seek additional compensation as soon as you cash that check. This is why negotiating a full and fair settlement is vital from the start.

Know the Full Value of Your Personal Injury Case

As an accident victim and someone that probably doesn’t have much experience with personal injury law, you may not know whether the amount you’ve been offered is fair compensation for your injuries. By accepting the offer, you might later find that your medical expenses and lost wages are higher than you originally believed.

There are some online personal injury settlement calculators that some people use as a gauge. These are not only unhelpful but can also be dangerous. Assessing the value of your claim with a standard online tool isn’t likely to deliver an accurate result. There are several reasons for this.

  • State laws vary drastically. What is a high-value case in one state may not be worth much in another due to the different ways that state’s approach negligence and even limit the payment of damages. This is a factor that can dramatically impact the value of your case.
  • They can’t account for all relevant factors. Some personal injury cases have legal issues related to lost income, pre-existing conditions, and shared fault. An online calculator may not be able to account for this.
  • You may not have all the required information. These tools ask you input a great deal of information, some of which you might not have. Estimating some of these figures often requires the assistance of someone with more experience.

Tips for Negotiating a Favorable Injury Settlement

Getting a fair settlement after an injury is a process. Immediately following an accident, the best thing you can do is to remain at the scene and collect as much information as possible. Keep a record of all evidence, and seek immediate medical care to document any injuries.

It is a common misconception that the insurance company is on your side. Even your own insurer just wants to close its case as quickly and as cheaply as possible. Avoid speaking about your accident to an insurance adjuster or anyone else until you first discuss your situation with an experienced accident attorney.

The negotiation process in an Alabama injury case involves several steps. Depending on the nature of your injuries and the type of case, these may vary slightly. 

  1. File a claim. This begins when you file a claim with the insurance company. Be sure to follow the insurer’s instructions for notice, which is generally as soon as possible after an accident.
  2. Initial letter. The insurer will send you a “Reservation of Rights” letter, which informs you that they are investigating your case but haven’t admitted liability.
  3. Demand letter. You and your attorney can work on your initial demand letter, which is only sent after you have medically stabilized. This is a letter telling the insurance company what you believe is a fair settlement.
  4. Response. The insurance company will respond to your demand letter, generally with a counter-offer. This process can go back and forth until you reach a settlement agreement or until you decide to take your case to court.

Contact an Experienced Alabama Personal Injury Attorney

At Burns, Cunningham & Mackey, P.C., we understand the confusion, stress, and anger that often accompanies a senseless injury. If you or someone you love has been injured due to another party’s careless or negligent behavior, we are here to help.

When you work with us, we will not only advocate for your rights as an accident victim but will also put our vast experience to work on your behalf as we fight for the compensation you deserve. And by this, we mean full and fair compensation, not a compromise that will leave you struggling to pay your bills.

Contact our Mobile office today at (800) 574-4332 or reach out to us online to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.

railroad crossing accident

How Common are Accidents at Railroad Crossings?

Alabama has seen its fair share of railroad crossing accidents in recent years. In February, a tractor-trailer collided with a train in Pelham. Thankfully, there were no injuries reported, but this was one of the few times when the semi-truck took the brunt of the damages from a collision. Last December, a railroad accident in Birmingham did not turn out as well. In that accident, an Amtrak train headed from New Orleans to New York crashed into a passenger vehicle on its tracks, killing the two occupants of the vehicle.

Railroad crossing accidents like these happen less frequently than other traffic events, but when they occur, the results can be catastrophic. It is not uncommon for train collisions to result in serious injuries and fatalities, and typically there is also extensive damage done to vehicles that are involved in the collision.

What Causes Accidents at Railroad Crossings?

According to the Federal Railroad Administration, there are over 2,100 railroad crossing accidents in the U.S. each year, which amounts to about five or six each day. And when a vehicle collides into a train, the chances of a fatality are 20 times greater than a collision with another vehicle.

Driver negligence is certainly a factor in some railroad crossing accidents. However, there are a number of other reasons these types of accidents can occur. Examples include:

  • Warning signals not installed: A large number of railroad crossings in Alabama still do not have warning signals (such as crossing arms and flashing lights) installed to adequately alert drivers of an oncoming train. When there is no warning system, the chances of an accident are increased.
  • Warning signal defects: Some railroad crossings have warning systems, but they are defective due to lack of maintenance, faulty products, or other issues. When a warning system malfunctions, drivers again may not receive adequate warning that a train is coming.
  • Track defects: Damaged, broken or otherwise defective tracks can make it more difficult for cars to get through the crossing. Track defects also heighten the chances of a train derailment, which can endanger nearby vehicles, bikers, or pedestrians.
  • Steep or uneven roadway: The road leading up to a railroad crossing should not be too steep for vehicles to get through safely. The gradient, or steepness of the road must be in compliance with federal regulations.
  • Obstructed line of sight: Various impediments may block the view of drivers, preventing them from seeing an oncoming train. Examples may include overgrown trees and bushes and other vegetation that gets into the train’s line of sight.
  • Train operator error: Sometimes, the negligence of the train operator could contribute to a railroad crossing accident. This may happen because of chemical impairment, distractions, excessive speeding, and other negligent or reckless actions.
  • Defective train components/parts: Some train accidents can happen because of a mechanical failure or a train component or part that malfunctions. For example, if the train’s brakes fail, it may be unable to stop in time to avoid a collision with another vehicle, object, or person.

Who can be Held Responsible for an Accident at a Railroad Crossing?

As mentioned earlier, the driver of a vehicle that collides into a train is sometimes at-fault for a railroad crossing accident. Other times, however, another party may be liable. Potential parties that may be held responsible for a train accident include:

  • The train operator;
  • The railroad company;
  • The train track owner;
  • The designer or manufacturer of the train;
  • The government entity responsible for maintaining the roadway up to the track.

Railroad accident cases in Alabama are highly complex and challenging to pursue. There are numerous laws and regulations that govern the industry, and a thorough investigation is needed to uncover the exact cause of the accident. Things are further complicated by Alabama’s “contributory negligence” legal standard. Under contributory negligence, an injured party can be barred from recovering any kind of compensation at all if they are found to be even 1% at-fault for the underlying accident that caused their injury.

There is no doubt that railroad companies and other large entities (along with their insurers) will attempt to use this defendant-friendly standard against you if you decide to pursue an injury claim. For this reason, it is important to get an experienced attorney involved in your case as early as possible, so you can preserve your legal right to recover damages.

Call the Seasoned Alabama Railroad Crossing Accident Lawyers at Burns, Cunningham & Mackey

Accidents at railroad crossings can result in severe injuries and fatalities. If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in a train accident, you need strong legal counsel in your corner advocating aggressively for your rights and interests. At Burns, Cunningham & Mackey, P.C., we have extensive experience representing individuals injured in railroad accidents, and we work closely with our clients to provide the skilled and personalized representation they need and deserve. 

Call our Mobile office today at (800) 574-4332 for a free consultation. You may also send us a message through our online contact form.

truck accident lawyer

I Was in an Accident with a Commercial Truck – Who Can I Sue?

Truck accidents are some of the deadliest that occur on the roadways. Each year, thousands of individuals in the U.S. are killed and tens of thousands are injured in accidents with large trucks. And when a big rig truck that typically weighs in excess of 80,000 pounds when fully loaded collides with a regular passenger vehicle, occupants of the passenger vehicle are the ones who tend to sustain the most severe injuries.

Data published by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) helps illustrate this point. The IIHS reports that in 2017, a total of 4,102 individuals were killed in large truck crashes. Of those killed, 17% were occupants of the big rig truck, and 68% were occupants of cars and other passenger vehicles that were involved in the crash. Another 14% were bicyclists, motorcyclists, and pedestrians. The IIHS also reports that the number of people killed in large truck crashes in 2017 was 30% higher than the number killed and 2009, just eight years earlier.

Who do I Sue if I Was in a Truck Accident in Alabama?

Trucking accidents are far more complicated than most other types of personal injury cases.  There are numerous laws and regulations that govern the industry and there are often multiple factors that contribute to an accident.

Some of the parties that could be held liable in an 18-wheeler accident include:

  • The truck driver: Driver negligence plays a major role in a large number of truck accident cases. Some examples may include speeding, reckless driving, distracted driving, driving while drowsy, and driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The driver may also have violated the Federal Hours of Service Regulations, which restrict the number of hours they are allowed to be on the road.
  • The trucking company: The company that employs the truck driver may share fault in the accident. Trucking companies often try to avoid responsibility by claiming that the driver is an independent contractor. This may or may not be the case, and the working relationship between the driver and the company needs to be closely examined to determine if the trucking company can be held liable. For example, the trucking company may be responsible if the driver displays the company placard with their logo inside the vehicle, even if the company claims to have an independent contractor relationship with the driver.
  • The shipping company: The company that is shipping cargo could play a role in a trucking accident if they overloaded the truck (beyond its legally allowed weight limit) and/or loaded the truck unevenly. Overloaded or unevenly loaded trucks are more susceptible to rolling over or being flipped on their side when they encounter heavy winds and other types of inclement weather while traveling at higher speeds.
  • The truck mechanic: Semi-trucks typically log thousands of miles over-the-road per month. For this reason, proper maintenance is absolutely critical to help ensure that the truck remains in safe driving condition. There are times, however, when the party responsible for servicing and maintaining the truck fails in this duty. This can cause a mechanical breakdown while on the road, putting the truck driver and those they share the road with in serious danger.
  • The vehicle or vehicle part designer or manufacturer: If a vehicle or vehicle part defect plays a role in a trucking accident, it may be possible to hold the designer, manufacturer, or other parties in the supply chain partly responsible for the accident. Examples of product defects that can cause a vehicle accident include brake line failures, tire blowouts, steering system failures, and many others.

Filing a Truck Accident Injury Claim in Alabama

As mentioned earlier, trucking accident cases can be very complex because they are often caused by the convergence of multiple factors. Things are further complicated if the accident occurs in Alabama. This is one of the few states that applies the “contributory negligence” legal standard. Under contributory negligence, an injured party can be barred from recovering damages if they are found to be even 1% at-fault for the underlying accident.

Defendants in a truck accident case will no doubt try to use Alabama’s defendant-friendly laws against you by claiming you were at least partially at fault. This is why it is extremely important to get an experienced personal injury lawyer involved as early as possible in the process, so you can preserve your legal right to compensation.

Call the Skilled Alabama Truck Accident Attorneys at Burns, Cunningham & Mackey

If you or someone close to you has been injured in a trucking accident, there are numerous parties that you may be able to sue for damages. In order to be successful with a personal injury claim, however, you need strong legal counsel in your corner. At Burns, Cunningham & Mackey, P.C., we have extensive experience and a successful track record with even the most complex accident injury cases, and we work closely with our clients, exploring every potential legal avenue toward securing full and fair compensation on their behalf. 

Call our Mobile office today at (800) 574-4332 for a free consultation. You may also send us a message through our web contact form.