Are you a trucker dealing with downtime from an accident? Struggling to get reimbursed for your repairs and lost income? Read on to learn how you may be able to recover the lost money from the other person’s insurance.
As a business owner, time is money. When your semi is down through no fault of your own, you’re losing income. Why should your business unfairly take the financial hit? While US laws require truckers to protect the public with high-dollar liability insurance coverage, four-wheeled vehicles don’t often have the same insurance obligations. Fortunately, most states have some favorable laws for truckers. It’s important to know your rights, demand fair compensation, and have a team of professionals ready to help.
Claims happen, no matter how perfect a driver you are!
Our client, Joseph, hauls beef cattle throughout the Midwest. He had 2 million miles accident- free. Last winter, a young woman lost control on I-80 and struck the side of Joseph’s tractor and trailer. Fortunately, both drivers and all the cattle were fine, but Joseph’s equipment was out of service for over 60 days due to repairs and parts delays. The repair bill was $30,000; and Joseph’s lost income was over $50,000. The woman’s insurance company offered to pay for his repairs but would only pay $2,500 for his downtime. Joseph had some decisions to make. Should he just take the offer and give up on the rest of his downtime loss?
Many people assume that if the adverse insurance company admits liability, the claim will be easy, and all losses will be paid quickly. While the at-fault insurance company will often pay the repairs, they don’t often pay all the downtime losses. This is because proving liability (fault) is just the first of two major steps in resolving a claim. Proving damages (downtime, out of pocket expenses, diminished value, etc.) is the second step and can take much more time and effort.
Not all insurance adjusters handle trucking claims frequently, especially if they work for an insurance company which only insures cars. If you find yourself in a claim with an auto adjuster, you’ll have to work extra hard to explain your lost income calculations and prove your damages.
Calculating lost income:
If our client Joseph knew the actual loads his equipment missed during the 60 days down, he could have provided the adjuster with proof of those missed loads to prove his lost income claim. However, he didn’t know the exact loads he missed since he was down so long. Many other truckers are in the same situation after an accident. Many truckers pull from a load board, so when they’re down, they can’t pull from the load board. Therefore, there is no proof of any actual loads missed… they just know they would have been working if their equipment wasn’t down.
Since proving actual loads lost may be impossible in your case, consider using an average of how much you earned in the months prior to an accident. Before submitting the proof to the adverse adjuster, it’s important to go over the numbers and supporting documents with your attorney or accountant. By having accurate records and strong supporting documents, you’ll create a convincing case for lost income.
Even though Joseph could prove he was the victim of the accident and prove the money he lost, he still had to prove he mitigated his damages (mitigation means making his losses as small as possible). The adverse insurance company suggested he could have rented another cattle-hauler while his equipment was in the shop. While Joseph knew this was ridiculous, he emailed a number of rental agencies who emailed back saying they had no cattle-hauling equipment available for rent. This proof was provided to the adverse insurance company to counter their mitigation defense, persuading them that Joseph had mitigated his losses.
Negotiate a fair settlement:
It’s important to communicate professionally and calmly with the adverse insurance company in order to negotiate a fair settlement. Providing detailed records of income, expenses and mitigation will strengthen your case. If negotiations become difficult, consider seeking help from an attorney experienced in trucking insurance claims. Some attorneys offer free consultations and work on a contingency fee basis, which means they only get paid if you get a settlement.
Consider legal action if needed:
If negotiations fail, a trucking lawyer can help you pursue your claim in court. Litigation is often a lengthy and costly process but may be necessary to get the compensation you deserve. To get maximum compensation, a trucking attorney will help you gather evidence and present a strong case to the judge. In many cases, it may be necessary to hire experts, including a mechanic or an accountant, to prove your losses.
Stay updated on your insurance and legal rights by joining trucking associations and online forums. These platforms provide valuable information and support from others in the industry. By staying educated and seeking the help of a trucking attorney and other professionals, you’ll navigate the process of getting the compensation you deserve after a trucking accident.
The information provided on this site is general in nature and is not legal advice.
About the Author
Kelsea Eckert, a transportation attorney for owner operators and small fleets, negotiates downtime and property damage claims nationwide. She understands the challenges faced by truckers and is here to share her knowledge on pursuing compensation for all types of property damages, downtime and other out-of-pocket expenses lost after an accident. Visit her website at DowntimeClaims.com or call the office at 1-800-DOWNTIME.