COVID-19 Has Complicated Truck Accident Investigations
The higher demand for shipped items coupled with the long delays that have become commonplace during the coronavirus pandemic has led to an increase in the workload for truck drivers. This is notable given that there were already more than 2 million commercial trucks operating in the United States every day before the pandemic. Unfortunately, the impact of the virus has also created additional challenges with truck accident investigations changes due to the increasing number of truck accidents occurring during the pandemic.
Increase in Trucking Accidents Due to Coronavirus
Due to the dramatically increased demand for the delivery of everything from groceries to home goods, many of these truck drivers are working overtime to meet demand. Although the total number of vehicles on the road has decreased due to stay-at-home orders, it is likely that a larger proportion of these vehicles are commercial trucks. Despite there being less traffic on the road that truckers need to contend with, collisions with commercial truck drivers are still an unfortunate reality.
Loosening of Federal Trucking Rules
One of the steps taken by federal regulators during the COVID-19 pandemic has been to loosen certain regulations and restrictions for truck drivers. On March 13, 2020, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued an emergency declaration that impacted all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
The emergency declaration provided truck operators with emergency relief from certain federal regulations regarding the operation of commercial trucks. These restrictions were only loosened by the government for truck drivers involved in the emergency relief effort. However, this is a broad designation that covers truck drivers that transport medical supplies, food, and equipment or even individuals important in the fight against the virus.
While regulations have been loosened on the state level before, this marks the first time the federal government has ever loosened hours of service rules nationwide. These loosened restrictions have impacted truck drivers in a number of ways. The most notable change is that they have relaxed the rules for certain drivers regarding their hours of operation. Federal rules prevent truck drivers from working more than a set number of hours each day and week. In an effort to ensure these important supplies are delivered on time, regulators have loosened these restrictions for some drivers.
Under emergency rules, truck drivers must take a 10-hour break after delivering their cargo. Likewise, they must take an eight-hour break after delivering passengers. Under normal rules, these drivers cannot operate their trucks for more than 11 hours in a 14-hour period.
While the government may find these changes to be necessary, the reality is they can put other drivers at risk. Fatigued driving is one of the most dangerous conditions for truck operators, and an increase in fatigued drivers on the road can have a devastating effect on other motorists.
Delay in Truck Accident Investigations Changes
Despite the ongoing pandemic, under the law, insurance companies are not permitted to simply refuse to hear a claim. While the claims process may become more complicated, these insurers must proceed with any liability claims against their insurers.
That does not mean that the claims process will not face some unique challenges. Like many companies, large insurers are reducing their workforce and requiring some staff members to work from home. With the tightening of their workforce comes some unavoidable delays during the claims process.
Some of these delays relate directly to the investigation of your claim. Insurance companies are likely to ask for more time to investigate the liability in your truck crash, and experts might be unavailable to view the truck that was damaged in the crash to determine how it occurred.
These delays can add up quickly. In many cases, it may become difficult to reach the adjuster for the trucking company’s insurer. These adjusters might be facing limited hours or a higher workload. For some insurance companies, making contact with these insurance adjusters was challenging before the pandemic occurred. Now, getting a response from them can take much longer — if they respond at all.
The good news is that you do not have to resign yourself to the insurance company’s effort to delay your claim. You have the right to move forward with your case even when state or local courthouses are temporarily closed. The sooner you discuss your options with a trucking accident lawyer, the sooner you can pursue compensation for your truck accident injuries.
Challenges With Diagnosing and Treating Your Injuries
One of the primary challenges with truck accident investigations changes for a commercial truck crash involves your access to medical care. Obtaining prompt medical care is one of the cornerstones of a successful injury claim. Not only can you protect your health by seeking treatment, but you can also strengthen your claim for compensation after a crash.
When you visit the doctor after a truck crash, the medical records that he or she generates can become powerful evidence in your accident claim. These records can substantiate your injury claims and demonstrate to the jury the severity of your injuries.
Another important factor of your medical treatment is proof that you sought to address your medical needs promptly. If you allow your injuries to go untreated, the trucking company may not be responsible for the entire amount of your damages. You have a duty to mitigate your losses, and seeking medical treatment after an accident is evidence that you have done so.
Seeking this treatment is not as simple in the age of COVID-19. Many people are concerned about their health and are unwilling to go to a hospital or clinic out of fear of becoming infected. While these fears are understandable, they can hamper your ability to successfully recover compensation for your personal injury claim.
You might be able to proceed with an injury claim even if you put off seeking immediate medical treatment after your accident. However, at some point, a medical evaluation can be required. Not only will you need medical records to establish the severity of your injuries, but the trucking company will also have the right to review your records and determine if they are accurate.
There are other issues related to the coronavirus that can impact the truck accident investigations changes on your truck accident claim. In some areas, the high volume of COVID-19 patients has required medical facilities to prioritize those infected with the virus. This means that seeking immediate treatment for your injuries could be impossible in some instances. This is more likely to be an issue for follow-up care or physical therapy as opposed to the treatment of injuries after the accident.
A delay in seeking follow-up care raises the same issues that haunt those who do not seek immediate medical treatment. Insurance companies routinely point to a plaintiff’s failure to attend follow-up appointments to comply with the doctor’s advice as evidence of a failure to mitigate damages.
Contact RAM Law
If you have sustained injuries in a collision with a commercial truck, you could be entitled to monetary damages. Despite the challenges we all face due to coronavirus, you are entitled to pursue your claim immediately. Schedule a free consultation to learn how a Rebenack, Aronow, & Mascolo, L.L.P. trucking accident lawyer can help. Contact us online, or call or offices in New Brunswick or Somerville at (732) 394-1549 today.