While tractor-trailer rigs or “big rigs” serve a valuable purpose in our society, they can also be very dangerous. Every driver in northern California has to share the roads and highways with these large vehicles. While most big rig drivers are experienced and careful, occasionally the driver of a big rig fails to exercise sufficient care and causes an accident. In these big rig accidents, the victims often have serious injuries that require extensive medical treatment. After a big rig accident, many questions arise concerning the rights of an accident victim. These questions may include:
- Who will pay for my medical treatment?
- What if I don’t fully recover from my injuries?
- How much insurance do big rig driver have to carry?
- Are there special laws that apply to big rig drivers?
- Can I be compensated for the time I miss from work?
- What if I can’t return to work?
- Will I be compensated for my pain and suffering?
- Should I deal directly with the insurance company?
- How long will the process take?
- Why choose Brown & Gessell to represent you in the San Joaquin Valley?
The attorneys at Brown & Gessell have the answers to these questions and have the expertise to make sure you are treated fairly after a big rig accident. The attorneys have handled hundreds of accident cases many of which involved big rigs. You can be almost certain that the driver of the big rig who caused the accident will have an attorney representing his interest. It is important that you have someone on your side who is looking out for you. Call us now at (209) 430-5480.
Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
Who will pay for my medical treatment?
There are several possible ways for a victim of a car accident to pay for the medical treatment related to injuries sustained in an auto accident. These include:
- Private Health Insurance: Under most circumstances, a person’s private health insurance is required to cover the cost of treating injuries sustained in an auto accident in accordance with the terms of the health insurance policy. Be aware, however, that a person who receives medical treatment paid by the health insurance company may be responsible for reimbursing that health insurance company for all or part of the cost of that treatment depending on the outcome of the personal injury lawsuit.
- Government Health Insurance: For those without private health insurance, the state or local government may have programs available to assist with the payment of medical bills resulting from injuries sustained in an auto accident. Generally, those programs are reserved for children and those that have limited financial resources. Keep in mind that if a person receives government assistance in paying for medical bills, the person may be required to reimburse the government for all or part of the cost of medical treatment depending on the outcome of the personal injury lawsuit.
- MedPay: Often times, a person’s own auto insurance policy or the auto insurance policy of the person who caused the accident may have “MedPay” coverage which allows for a pre-determined amount of money to be available for the treatment of injuries sustained in the accident. This coverage is usually available immediately after the accident and does not apply based on the fault of the respective drivers.
- Medical Lien: In some circumstances, a medical provider or financing company may be willing to provide or pay for medical treatment as needed by the patient and wait for the payment for those services until the conclusion of the personal injury lawsuit. This arrangement is particularly common with chiropractors and physical therapists. In these situations, the victim in an auto accident case promises to pay for the medical services out of the recovery obtained in the personal injury lawsuit.
- Out-Of-Pocket: The final option is the payment of medical treatment by the victim. It is not uncommon for the victim of an auto accident to pay for at least part of the cost of medical treatment. This often comes in the form of co-payments of medical services or prescription medication. It is very important that the victim of a car accident keep all receipts and other proof of out-of-pocket expenses to ensure reimbursement.
What if I don’t fully recover from my injuries?
In almost all auto accidents, there is the possibility that a victim may not fully recover from the injuries sustained in the accident. Obviously, this risk is greater in more serious accidents. In such situations, there are several ways in which a victim may be compensated for residual health issues related to the auto accident. These include:
- Payment Of Future Medical Expenses: Any settlement or verdict may include an award for future medical expenses. This type of award is designed to cover the cost of medical treatment, procedures and medication that are related to the accident and likely to be needed. The possibility that future medical treatment may be needed is not enough to receive compensation for this type of harm. The victim must show that the treatment is reasonably certain to occur in the future.
- Payment For Lost Wages: If the ongoing injury will prevent the victim from working or will limit the ability to work in some way, the victim may be entitled to compensation for the loss of future wages. As with medical expenses, the victim must prove that it is more likely than not that such harm will be suffered. It is not enough to show that the injury may possibly impact employment in the future.
- Pain and Suffering: If the victim of an accident will continue to suffer the pain and limitations of injuries sustained in an accident into the future, the victim is entitled to compensation for his or her future pain and suffering. This amount will vary depending on the nature of the pain and suffering and the expected duration into the future.
How much insurance do big rig drivers have to carry?
In California, drivers of a big rig are required to carry a minimum of $750,000 in insurance coverage to pay for injuries caused by the big rig driver’s negligence. This does not mean that the victim of a big rig accident will receive this amount. The value of a personal injury case depends on many factors including the injuries sustained, the amount of medical bills, the time missed from work and the amount of insurance or assets available. In serious injury cases, the victim of a big rig accident may be entitled to much more than $750,000. Whether he or she receives that amount will depend on the insurance available, whether the negligent driver was employed by a larger company and how much the employer has in assets.
Are there special laws that apply to big rig drivers?
Yes. The lawmakers in California have established an intricate set of laws that apply specifically to big rig drivers. These laws cover such areas as:
- The maximum speed allowed for big rig drivers;
- The places on the road where big rig drivers may and may not drive;
- The amount of rest big rig drivers are required to have each day;
- The records and logs big rig drivers must keep of their travels; and
- The type and frequency of the inspections big rig drivers must conduct.
These and other areas of law may determine whether a victim of an accident will be awarded compensation. The attorneys at Brown & Gessell are very familiar with these special laws and their application to the real-life accidents on our highways.
Can I be compensated for the time I miss from work?
Yes. In most serious automobile accidents, a victim who is employed will be required to miss work while recovering from the injuries sustained in the accident. A victim of an accident who misses work because of an accident is entitled to receive payment for the full value of the wages and benefits lost because of the negligent driver. This is true even if the employer or some other source pays the employee during the time of disability or if the employee uses sick or vacation time to cover the missed days.
What if I can’t return to work?
Occasionally, the injuries that a victim suffers in an accident are so serious and debilitating that returning to work is not an option. In this situation, a negligent defendant is required to pay the wages and benefits of the injured person to the end of his employment life. In pursuing this type of claim, it is often necessary to employ doctors that can testify regarding the cause and extent of the injuries. In addition, it may be necessary to hire a vocational rehabilitation specialist and an economist to offer opinions about employability and the actual amount of money the victim has lost because of the inability to return to work. Finally, if the victim of an accident can return to work but only with modifications to the work regimen, the negligent driver must compensate the victim for loss of earning potential.
Will I be compensated for my pain and suffering?
Yes. In almost all cases, a person injured by the negligence of another driver is entitled to compensation for the pain, suffering and inconvenience caused by the negligent driver. There is no set formula for determining how much a victim should or will receive for pain and suffering. There are, however, many factors that may influence the amount that a victim will receive including: the extent of the injuries, the duration of the injuries, the amount of medical care required to treat the injuries, the impact the injuries have on the life of the victim, the frequency, duration and intensity of the pain and the condition of the victim prior to the subject accident. In the end, if the victim and negligent driver are not able to reach a settlement, a jury will be required to weigh all of the evidence and determine how much money will fairly compensate the victim for the pain, suffering and inconvenience caused by the accident.
Should I deal directly with the insurance company?
No. The insurance company has only one goal: to keep its money. It does this by limiting the amount of money it has to pay to people injured by the negligence of its clients. The insurance company has hired professional adjusters and defense attorneys to help it accomplish this goal. You should not talk directly to the negligent driver’s insurance company or sign anything from the insurance company until you have consulted with an attorney. To protect yourself and ensure that you are treated fairly, it is important that you have someone on your side that has experience both in the legal field and in dealing with insurance companies. By hiring an attorney to assist you with your case, you can focus on getting better and leave the complex process of personal injury litigation to an expert.
How long will the process take?
This is a very difficult question to answer because the duration of a particular case depends on many different variables. The average case takes between six months and one year to resolve. Smaller, less complex cases can resolve in as little as three months while complex cases that go to trial can take as long as three or four years. Some of the variables that may affect the length of a case are: the extent of the injuries, how long a victim takes to recover from the injuries, the amount of insurance available and which insurance company is handling the claim.
Why choose Brown & Gessell to represent you in the San Joaquin Valley?
Brown & Gessell is located in Stockton, the County Seat of San Joaquin County, and central to the San Joaquin Valley. The partners at Brown & Gessell are uniquely qualified to handle your case here in Stockton because they are intimately familiar with the City of Stockton, its courts, its judges and staff, the local attorneys and with the people that will make up the jury who may hear and decide your case. Douglas A. Gessell was raised in San Joaquin County, and Steven L. Brown has raised his family for the last 20 years in the County. Mr. Gessell has attended school and church in Stockton and has worked for the Stockton Unified School District as well as several local businesses. He has been representing accident victims in Stockton for the past 12 years. Mr. Brown is the past President and a member of the Board of Directors of the San Joaquin County Bar Association and a past member of the American Inn of Courts. Prior to representing injured individuals, he represented hospitals and doctors throughout the Central Valley. Their familiarity with the streets, highways, waterways, courts, hospitals and neighborhoods allows them very personal insight into the area where your case arose. Start your case with an advantage.