What Can I Sue for in a Truck Accident?

January 4, 2023 | Ed Bernstein
What Can I Sue for in a Truck Accident?

You can sue for negligence to recover damages if you suffer injuries in a truck accident. Damages refer to compensation for economic and noneconomic losses related to the truck accident and your injuries. However, having a viable truck accident claim means your injuries must have resulted from negligence. If you have been injured in a truck accident and want to take legal action, it’s best to consult an experienced truck accident attorney who can evaluate your claim and determine your eligibility for compensation. Until you have the chance to meet with a lawyer, this guide provides a broad overview of the different types of damages you might recover in a truck accident lawsuit. But first, let’s look at what it means to sue for negligence and who you might sue in a truck accident lawsuit.

Proving Negligence in a Truck Accident Lawsuit

Experienced Lawyer for a Truck Accident Lawsuit near Las Vegas, NV area
The vast majority of truck accident claims are based on negligence. Legally speaking, negligence is the idea that a person, business, or other entity acted without a level of care that a reasonable party would have acted under the same circumstances. A viable truck accident claim is one in which the plaintiff can prove the defendant’s negligence led to the truck accident and injuries. Lawyers and courts recognize four main elements of negligence that must be present for a plaintiff to win their case. Here is a description of each element of negligence a claimant must prove in a personal injury lawsuit and how it relates to a truck accident claim:

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Duty of Care

In a personal injury lawsuit, plaintiffs must establish that the defendant owed them a duty of care. This is the simplest part of proving negligence in a truck accident claim, especially if the defendant is a truck driver. All motorists have a duty of care towards others who share the road, including other motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians. They have a legal obligation to follow the rules of the road and safely operate their trucks. Trucking companies also owe a duty of care towards those who share roads with their trucks. They have a legal duty to maintain their trucks in roadworthy condition and hire capable truckers who inspect the trucks they use and follow regulations about driving a certain amount of hours in a day and per week.

Breach of Duty

The second element of negligence is a breach of duty. The defendant must have breached their duty of care towards the plaintiff for them to be legally negligent and liable for damages. Many things in a truck accident could constitute a breach of duty. Also, more than one breach might occur and cause a dangerous accident. Examples of a breach of duty in a truck accident include:
  • Drunk driving
  • Distracted driving
  • Failure to follow the rules of the road
  • Improper securement or loading of cargo
  • Poor truck maintenance
  • Poor hiring practices
  • Poor training practices
Your truck accident lawyer will review your case to determine where the breach(es) of duty occurred.


You cannot sue someone after a truck accident unless you suffer harm. Harm is a broad term that refers to damages one suffers. It can refer to physical harm, emotional harm, and financial harm. Severe truck accidents typically involve all three types of harm. Plaintiffs suffer the physical harm of injury, the financial losses of medical bills, lost income, and other costs of an injury, and the emotional harm of suffering an injury and dealing with added financial stress.


The trickiest element of negligence to prove and the most often contested by the defendant is causation. Proving negligence means you, with the help of an experienced truck accident attorney, must prove that the defendant’s breach of duty caused your harm. Causation might not be direct, but it must be related closely enough for a court to find a party is negligent. For example, a trucking company doesn’t directly cause a truck accident. However, if they knew a truck needed new tires and they did not replace them, they could be negligent and liable for damages if the truck blows a tire, leading the truck driver to lose control of his rig and cause an accident. Many people try to deal with accident claims on their own. Hiring a lawyer provides a multitude of benefits. However, building a case to prove causation and negligence is among the most important reasons to consult a lawyer. If you sue after a truck accident and do not adequately prove negligence, you miss out on recovering damages.

Potential Defendants to Sue in a Truck Accident

Truck accidents are complex events that can involve multiple parties. This might make it difficult to identify who you should sue exactly. Sometimes, you might name more than one party. Depending on the situation, your truck accident lawyer might advise you to name one or more of the following parties in your truck accident lawsuit:

Truck Driver

If a truck driver made poor choices behind the wheel that led to an accident and injuries, you might directly sue the driver. However, it’s rare that a lawsuit ONLY names the driver. Even when the driver is named, their employer’s insurance carrier typically gets involved with a claim. If a trucker does something egregious like drinking and driving or reckless driving, their employer might try to distance themselves from liability.

Trucking Company

A truck accident claim often lists trucking companies as defendants. Sometimes they are listed solo and other times with their driver. In cases where the truck driver is an owner/operator, the driver might be listed as an individual. Yet, most owners/operators must have their own business, whether a corporation or sole proprietorship. This still leads to a plaintiff suing the business instead of the driver, but essentially it’s the same thing. When a truck accident occurs because of poor truck maintenance, poor hiring practices, or improper loading, it’s highly likely that liability will fall on the trucking company/truck owner instead of the driver.

Truck/Truck Parts Manufacturer

In rare cases, a truck accident might occur because of a defective truck or defective truck part. If a defect leads to a trucker losing control of his truck and causing an accident, the manufacturer is open to liability for damages and will likely be named as a defendant. For example, a truck with defective brake pads or airbrakes might be unable to stop at a critical moment, causing a dangerous accident. Defective tires, defective transmissions, and various other systems can lead to severe, sometimes fatal, truck accidents.

Another Motorist

Consider the following scenario. A drunk driver swerves while driving on the interstate and hits the trailer of a semi-truck. The truck skids out of control and jackknifes, sliding into one or more vehicles during the skid. In this type of situation, the drunk driver would likely be the defendant in a truck accident lawsuit. Any time another driver does something that causes a truck accident, they could be financially liable, even if they did not directly strike the plaintiff’s vehicle. Your lawyer will carefully review the facts of your case and advise you on who you should name as a defendant in a truck accident lawsuit.

Types of Recoverable Damages in Truck Accidents

There are various ways to group damages for lawsuits. On the broadest level, plaintiffs who win their case could receive money for various losses related to the truck accident, called compensatory damages. Compensatory damages include special damages and general damages. In some truck accident claims, lawyers ask for punitive damages on top of compensatory damages. Here is a more in-depth description of punitive damages and each type of compensatory damage:

Special Damages

The easiest way to think about special damages is as economic losses someone suffers because of an accident and injuries. Special damages are easily quantifiable by adding documents showing money someone has spent or lost because of a truck accident and injuries. Special damages commonly included in truck accident lawsuits include:
  • Costs for vehicle repairs
  • Current and future medical expenses, including ambulance transport, emergency room treatment, surgery, hospitalization, diagnostic testing, medication
  • Travel costs to and from the doctor/treating facility
  • Costs for specialized treatment such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, mental health services, speech therapy, or another treatment that helps injured people deal with the physical and emotional consequences of their injuries
  • Costs for making home modifications like adding a wheelchair ramp or installing grab bars
  • Costs for replacement services like lawn care, pool maintenance, cooking, cleaning, or other types of help an injured person needs after injuries
  • Costs for long-term nursing care if someone suffers a permanent injury that requires around-the-clock care and treatment
  • Lost income from missing work due to injuries
  • Lost earning capacity when a truck accident leads to permanent injuries that prevent someone from working

General Damages

General damages are the opposite of special damages. They are noneconomic losses that are often intangible and much more difficult to quantify. Fortunately, experienced lawyers know how to value general damages and can rely on experts to help. Examples of general damages in a truck accident claim can include:
  • Pain and suffering
  • Future pain and suffering
  • Reduced quality of life
  • Loss of enjoyment
  • Loss of consortium
  • Emotional distress
  • Physical impairment
  • Scarring and disfigurement
Your lawyer will review your truck accident case, your injuries, and the way they impacted your life to determine which general damages you should sue for and how much.

Punitive Damages

Depending on the situation, you might be able to sue for punitive damages on top of compensatory damages. However, courts only award punitive damages in rare situations. Courts award punitive damages to punish the defendant for their negligence and deter future negligent behavior. Under Nevada law, courts can only award punitive damages if the plaintiff shows that the defendant committed fraud, acted with malice, or showed complete disregard for the safety of others. Some examples of situations that could warrant suing for punitive damages in a truck accident claim include:
  • Drinking and driving a truck
  • A truck driver “cooking” his log book or running hot
  • Intentionally overloading a truck
  • Trucking company forcing a trucker to drive longer than their legal limit
  • Trucking company allowing a driver to operate a truck without proper licensing or training
  • Trucking company falsifying truck maintenance records

How a Lawyer Can Help You With a Truck Accident Lawsuit?

Ed Bernstein - Experienced Attorney for Truck Accident near Las Vegas, NV area
Ed Bernstein, Las Vegas Truck Accident Lawyer
If you’ve been injured in a truck accident and want to take legal action, it’s best to consult with an experienced truck accident lawyer. A reputed Las Vegas personal injury law firm's attorney can review your case and determine your eligibility for compensation. If you have a viable claim and hire a lawyer, your lawyer can help you in multiple ways, including:
  • Placing a value on your claim. Your attorney will examine every aspect of the accident, your injuries, and your losses to determine the amount of damages that constitutes fair compensation for your injuries.
  • Handling communication. Dealing with insurance companies and investigators can be overwhelming and frustrating at a time when you need to be concentrating on recovering from your injuries. Your lawyer will handle all communications with relevant parties. Not only does it free up time for you, but it protects the value of your claim because you won’t have to worry about saying something the insurance company can use to try to devalue your claim.
  • Investigating the accident. Your lawyer will gather evidence to support your truck accident claim. This evidence might include getting the trucker’s cell phone records and driving history, speaking to witnesses, requesting the truck driver’s logbook, and requesting the truck’s maintenance records.
  • Negotiating and litigating your case. Both sides have the incentive to reach a settlement agreement and avoid costly litigation. Lawyers are trained negotiators who often obtain more compensation for their clients than victims without lawyers. When negotiations go awry, your lawyer will fight for you in court to get the maximum compensation for your truck accident injuries.

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Ed Bernstein

Edward M. Bernstein, Esq. is the owner and founding partner of Edward M. Bernstein & Associates, and one of the most recognizable figures in Nevada. Ed is one of state’s premier personal injury attorneys and has hosted The Ed Bernstein Show for over 31 years. He has served the Las Vegas community for decades with dozens of community appointments and terms of service. In the year 2000, he was Nevada’s Democratic nominee for the United States Senate.

Ed received his B.A. from Long Island University in 1971 and his J.D. from Widener University in 1975. Since then, Ed’s professional accolades include numerous publications, honors and awards, court appointments, and has been named one of America’s Top 100 High Stakes Litigators.