Truck & Auto Accidents

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Count On of Our Skilled Truck & Auto Accident Attorneys

The issues surrounding accidents that involve large commercial trucks can be significantly more complicated than those for car accidents. Sadly, the sheer size and weight of a truck virtually ensures severe injuries to the occupants of smaller vehicles. In addition, the complexities of the commercial transit business can make it difficult to determine who is to blame for the accident. Each West Virginia truck accident attorney at Gianola Barnum Bechtel & Jecklin, L.C. has the special skills and experience to litigate against large trucking companies and their legal teams, to help our clients pursue the fair compensation they deserve. We are also here if you are in need of a West Virginia injury lawyer.

Causes of Truck Accidents Although both state and federal laws exist to protect the safety of smaller vehicles sharing the roads with large commercial trucks, the reasons for truck accidents are many, including the following:

Lack of driver experience and training

Driver distractions caused by excessive communication with dispatchers during a run

Improper truck inspections, resulting in blown tires or other equipment failure on the road

Unbalanced loads, leading to loss of control or jackknifing

Aggressive schedules, achievable only by speeding or reduced rest times

Unbalanced loads and overloaded trucks leading to loss of control and jackknifing

Establishing liability for a truck accident

Identifying liability for truck accidents is an involved process. Each West Virginia truck accident lawyer at Gianola Barnum Bechtel & Jecklin, L.C. conducts a thorough investigation—not only of the accident itself, but also of the circumstances leading up to it. We may use specialized investigative resources to examine the vehicles involved, and we review all available driver logs and other documentation to develop effective evidence for each case.

Identifying your options

Your legal options depend on the extent of your injuries and the related expenses. Unfortunately, many truck accidents result in severe injuries, or even long-term or permanent disability. While insurance claims do not often provide full and fair compensation for serious injuries, we can often negotiate an out-of-court settlement that fully pays for all medical treatment, therapy, specialized home care, and other associated costs. But if your injuries result in lost earnings ability and a lifetime of costs, we may recommend a jury trial to pursue compensation for the care you need, as long as you need it. Also your West Virginia injury attorneys.

Truck & Auto Accident Details

"Escape Clauses" in Automiblie Insurance Policies

An automobile insurance policy may have a provision for “other insurance.” When more than one insurance policy provides coverage for a loss, the “other insurance” clause can limit an insurance company’s liability by defining the priority in which the policy should pay an insured’s claim. There are three types of “other insurance” clauses: (1) pro rata; (2) excess; and (3) escape.

Pro-rata clauses are the most common. They direct that the insurance policy will pay the claim equally or in proportion to the other policy’s limits of coverage. An excess clause states that the policy will not pay on the claim until the other policy’s limits are exhausted. An escape clause, also called a void clause, states that the policy will pay nothing on the claim if any other applicable insurance exists. This clause is not favored because its application may result in denying an insured the benefit of the coverage he or she has purchased.

If there is no “other insurance” clause in either insurance policy, then both are usually treated as primary. The loss is paid pro rata according to the policy limits. However, the majority of insurance policies include “other insurance” clauses of one type or another. When both policies have “other insurance” clauses, a minority of courts will hold the clauses mutually repugnant and require the proration of liability. Some courts will not enforce escape clauses because they violate state statute or public policy.

The majority of courts examine the insurance policies and the clauses to determine which policy is primary. For example, if one policy contains a pro-rata clause and the other an excess clause, the policy with the pro-rata clause will be deemed primary. If one policy has a pro-rata clause and the other an escape clause, the escape clause would be deemed unenforceable and each insurance policy would be liable for its proportionate share of the loss. Some courts will allocate liability to the insurance policy that is closest to the risk without regard to the types of “other insurance” clauses in conflict.

Auto Insurance Notice Requirements

Because the business of motor vehicle insurance is a complicated one that may necessitate the transmittal of a great deal of information between the parties to an auto insurance policy, issues related to the duties of an insurer and an insured to give notice to one another of matters affecting the status of a policy or the occurrence of events having significance to policy coverage frequently arise. These issues can include such things as modifications to the policy itself, the status of the insured with respect to his or her premium payment obligations, the occurrence of an event triggering coverage under the policy, or cancellation of the policy by the insurer.

The inevitability of disputes over the occurrence or sufficiency of the notice given by an insurer or insured has resulted in the inclusion in motor vehicle insurance policies of detailed provisions dealing with the giving of such notice. In addition, because of the mandatory nature of motor vehicle insurance coverage and the consequences to insurers, insureds, and third parties affected by the existence or non-existence of policy coverage in a particular case, state insurance laws often contain detailed requirements concerning the subjects on which the parties to an auto insurance policy are obligated to give notice to one another, and in some cases to state insurance officials, and the manner in which such notice is to be given.

The business of insurance in the United States, including motor vehicle insurance, has traditionally been governed by the laws of the individual states rather than by a single system of federal law. As a result, legal requirements concerning the giving of notice by parties to auto insurance policies will vary from state to state.

Personal Injury Automobile Accident Cases

If an insurance policy covers accidents of travel, it must be shown that a death or disability resulted from such a risk before benefits can be paid. A death caused by the collision of automobiles is clearly within the ordinary interpretation of accidental means. This result is not prevented by any negligence of the insured. Courts feel that clauses of this nature must be given a reasonable construction. If the insurance terms are not expressly limited, some courts will extend coverage to situations where the use of an automobile was not an important factor or where the particular loss was fairly removed from an event that involved the use of an automobile. Other decisions, however, are not as generous. Some courts will not trace back an injury to an automobile or extend benefits to a particular loss or expense.

The term “automobile accident” has had many interpretations. When an automobile skidded, throwing a passenger to the pavement, it was held that the policy condition was fulfilled. Likewise, an injury sustained by a vehicle’s occupant, who was thrown to the floor when the automobile made an emergency stop, was found to be the result of an “automobile accident.” For insurance contract purposes, an insured is not deemed to intend all the probable or foreseeable consequences of his or her conduct. Insurance benefits will be paid unless the insured’s conduct made a serious injury or death a virtual certainty. Negligence of the insured is no defense unless it is so gross that it removes the loss from the definition of “accident.”

Personal injury protection “PIP” insurance provides for payment of health care expenses and lost earnings up to a certain amount. PIP provides medical expense coverage if a driver or another individual covered under the policy is injured in an automobile accident. It is often called no-fault coverage because it pays medical expenses no matter who is at fault. No-fault automobile insurance states require drivers to carry PIP. In some states, insurance companies are required to offer PIP coverage. Insureds can then choose if they will purchase it. This should be done clearly and in writing.

The theory behind personal injury protection coverage is to reduce the number of negligence accident cases involving minor injuries that are filed in the courts. A statutory compromise is reached in which the right to sue a person, who harmed an insured, is restricted to cases involving serious injuries. In cases not involving serious injuries, the insured is entitled to significant benefits designed to minimize the economic impact of the automobile accident and injury. The coverage, however, is only required by a limited number of states. While the coverage provides valuable benefits, it has not always performed well. The goal of removing minor lawsuits from the courts has not been met because no-fault insureds can sue if their claims are denied.

Tort Liability for School Bus Operations

The elongated yellow body of a school bus is a familiar sight on the streets and roads of the United States. Because of the frequency and scope of their operations and the manner of their employment, school buses inevitably become involved in motor vehicle accidents and other incidents that result in the bringing of legal actions seeking to recover damages for death, personal injury, or property damage caused by such incidents.

In addition to the standard questions that can arise in any motor vehicle accident case, the operation of school buses creates a number of legal issues unique to the use of that category of vehicle. Damages may be sought for the death or injury of a passenger who is embarking on or disembarking from a school bus or attempting to cross a road in the course of doing so, raising questions that may include the sufficiency of mirrors or other vehicle equipment and the degree of care or attention required to be exercised by a school bus operator or by a passenger, in many cases a young child. Incidents not directly related to the highway operations of school buses, such as assaults committed by drivers or passengers, may also implicate legal issues dealing with the nature and scope of liability for the consequences of such incidents. In some states, governmental units that operate school buses may claim that such operations involve governmental functions and that they should therefore be immune from liability in legal actions arising out of school bus operations, or that they should be relieved of liability because the operator of a particular fleet of school buses is an independent contractor over whose actions a school district or other governmental unit has no control.

Tort law, the branch of the legal system that deals with the recovery of damages for private injuries or wrongs not arising from contractual relationships, has developed in the United States out of the separate legal systems of the individual states rather than out of a single unified body of federal law. As a result, the legal standards governing tort liability for school bus operations will vary from state to state.

Tort Liability for Use of Emergency Vehicles

The operations of emergency vehicles are a common everyday feature on the streets and highways of the United States. These operations consist of the employment of vehicles that include ambulances, police cars, and fire trucks in response to situations demanding more or less immediate reaction. Due to the frequency of their operations and the nature of their use, emergency vehicles are inevitably involved in accidents that result in the bringing of legal actions seeking to recover damages for death, personal injury, or property damage caused by such accidents.

Emergency vehicles are employed for public purposes and, as their name suggests, are frequently called upon to respond in situations created by public or private emergencies. In some states, governmental units with responsibility for the operations of emergency vehicles may therefore argue that they should be immune from liability in tort actions resulting from the involvement of those vehicles in accidents. A related consideration is the fact that the operators of emergency vehicles are often exempted from the duty to obey traffic regulations during emergency operations. A plaintiff in such an action may assert that emergency vehicle operators nonetheless have a duty to exercise care to avoid injuring others during the operation of their vehicles and that a breach of that duty was the cause of the accident at issue in the litigation. In particular, a plaintiff in such a case may assert that conduct such as the negligent or reckless operation of a police car in a high-speed chase that unnecessarily endangers other drivers or pedestrians should not be excused on the ground that the vehicle was responding to an emergency at the time.

Tort law, the branch of the legal system that deals with the recovery of damages for private injuries or wrongs not arising from contractual relationships, has developed in the United States out of the separate legal systems of each of the states rather than out of a single unified body of federal law. As a result, the legal standards governing tort liability for the use of emergency vehicles will vary from state to state.

What to do After an Automobile Accident in West Virginia

Knowing what to do in the aftermath of an accident offers tremendous reassurance. Securing help from an experienced attorney and following a few simple strategies can keep you on track and ease the process. Our West Virginia car accident attorneys are here for you.

Seek medical attention. It is important to seek medical assistance immediately following an accident—even if your injuries appear minor—and monitor injuries over time to ensure your condition does not worsen. Proper medical treatment is essential for your health and also provides our West Virginia automobile accident attorneys with key evidence to establish damages in a personal injury case.

Collect information. Take notes about the accident as soon as possible. An automobile accident attorney in West Virginia may use this information to strengthen your case. Observe weather and road conditions. Take photos of your vehicle, any visible injuries, and the scene of the accident. Also obtain contact information for all witnesses.

Do not leave the scene of the accident. Leaving the scene of the accident puts you at risk for criminal prosecution.

Do not discuss the details. Never offer apologies or opinions about the accident, or speak about the accident with anyone other than the police and your automobile accident attorneys. Your words may be used against you.