When you are involved in a truck accident, you know the importance of hiring a trucking accident lawyer regardless of whether you were the truck driver, a pedestrian, the driver of another vehicle, or another road user. These attorneys need to know the truck and state laws, depending on the location of the accident. This is also important for the successful case when it arrives in court.
What are the factors to consider?
- Weight and size matters
Trucks are heavier than cars – this makes it more significant than a car because the accidents are more severe. This becomes more serious when you get into a case with a commercial vehicle or tractor-trailer.
The other problem is that cases involving truck accidents are more challenging to file in court than car accidents. This is due to greater compliance issues regarding industry standards and truck safety laws, which makes it an important component of handling semi-truck crash incidents.
- Evidence matters
This will apply to any motor accident, but more so for trucks. Any physical evidence of the accident scene is useful, including skid marks, scuffs and yaw marks – keep in mind that these tend to fade within hours of a truck accident once the police remove the barriers.
This fading may be due to external factors such as weather changes, as well as other cars passing along the same road.
Even though there are certain documents that the FMCSR (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations) mandates, the trucking company can dispose of these documents once a certain time limit passes. This is why you will require the help of a truck accident lawyer, because the sooner you collect, examine and preserve the evidence, the stronger your case will become.
Moreover, the individuals in question such as the truck driver, the owner of the trailer, the trucking company and the manufacturer of any defective parts of the truck such as the brakes, can be liable for the accident. Therefore, the sooner the evidence is in record, the better it will be for you.
- Avoid putting off any defence options
In the case that you are unable to contact or acquire the services of a lawyer, you can have your family member to schedule a consultation. This ensures that the evidence available is under preservation for the case.
How can a truck accident lawyer assist you?
- Helps you to follow complex rules while filing the case
Legal requirements are very tricky to handle on your own, particularly when you do not know all the documents and paperwork that goes into a case. These requirements include the font size of the case summary, as well as the permissible evidence and citations of legal precedents. You will therefore need the services from a trucking accident lawyer, who will guide you on the legal process.
- Alerting you about the options you have in the settlement
The settlement of many cases will not be in court, but instead out of court. This means that the insurance company or the defendant will present certain offers to you.
Your truck accident lawyer likely understands the implications and results of the offer, because once you accept it you lose the right to sue for compensation. Your lawyer will also guide you to know if this is the best route to follow or not.
- Determining all the parties responsible for the accident
Truck accidents are usually different from other traffic and car accidents, and this is because multiple parties can be liable for your injuries, even if you were partially responsible.
After an accident, the most likely scenario is that you do not know all the identities of the parties that were in the accident, or even possible defendants. This is the reason that makes it vital to seek a clearer picture of the individuals that may be responsible for your injuries, and this allows you to seek compensation before the statute of limitations passes.
The most obvious parties in the case are the drivers of the vehicles, though other parties also contribute in some ways, for instance:
- The vehicle manufacturers
- Insurance companies for each party
- The employers
- Truck companies
- Government institutions
- Helping you sue in case you are partly responsible
Truck accident laws allow you to sue for recovery of your injuries and property even though you were partly at fault for the accident. In fact, some states follow the theory of comparative negligence. This means that each party within the case receives some of the fault of the accident due to their behaviour. A truck accident lawyer will know the negligence theory, in addition to its application within your state or the state where the accident happened.
- Deciding on the optimum legal strategy
Many options are available to you, and it is best when your trucking accident attorney advises you on the best route to take.
The most common choice is filing the case in a court, but other options may also work depending on the case itself. The decision of some cases happens in an out of court situation, while others go through arbitration or mediation.
Each route of solving the case has its own advantages, but the problem is deciding on the best to take – your semi-truck accident lawyer will advise you accordingly on the issue.
What to do in case of injuries in a truck accident
There are certain general guidelines to follow when you suffer injuries in a truck accident, some that may differ slightly from other accidents. Here is a breakdown of what to do immediately after accidents involving semi or 18-wheelers, trucks or tankers.
- Do not give implicating information
Police will arrive at the scene after the accident, and the law requires them to write a police report – that means that they will interview witnesses as well as the parties involved in the accident, even yourself.
In this case, keep the information that you give at a minimum. Avoid the following scenarios:
- Saying ‘I did not see you’ or similar statements
- Expressing that the accident was a result of your negligence
- Telling the other driver that you or your employer will take care of the case
These statements imply that the accident was your fault, and you will not win the case in court or any settlements. It is also too early to know the distribution of liabilities.
- Reporting the accident
This is especially important if there are any injuries. Many states also require you to report accidents immediately they occur, since leaving the scene before waiting for the police to arrive is a crime. It will also assist the insurance company to validate your claim for compensation.
- Seek medical treatment
You may get injuries from the accident but are not aware of it, probably due to shock or being in a daze. Even if you think you do not require it, it is still important to visit a doctor to receive proper care and find out whether you have any serious injuries.
Moreover, certain injuries may not show immediately, but can manifest with time, for instance brain trauma.
- Ensure you notify your insurance company
Your insurance policy will contain the information that you need when you are reporting a claim; therefore, you need to call your insurer as soon as possible. This will also help you to find out the coverage you are eligible to get.
Looking for a lawyer for truck accidents
The lawyers that deal in semi-truck accidents near you can cover a variety of issues ranging from wrongful death, personal injuries, liability determination and destruction of property.
When you are looking for a trucking accident lawyer, look for the following aspects:
- The experience of the lawyer – they need to know transportation laws that apply to both the state and national levels.
- Skill level – their reputation in similar cases, how well can they argue the case. They should also know how to deal effectively with health care as well as insurance companies, and prepare the case well.
- Fee structure – some of the best car accident lawyers are affordable, so look for one within your budget. In addition, good lawyers will usually accept cases on contingencies of ‘no win=no fee’ basis, as long as they feel that there is merit within the case.
- Commitment – it is important that you look into the background of the lawyer
What questions should you ask the lawyer?
Before you decide on looking for a trucking accident lawyer, it is vital that you have as much facts and information about the accident as possible.
It is also in your interest to show the lawyer some documents after the accident, which include the motor insurance policy, your medical records, exchanged information at the scene of the accident, as well as other things. Some questions to ask are:
- The experience the lawyer has in cases involving auto accidents
- The percentage of the law practice that the lawyer has in the specific area of car accidents
- The usual settlement ranges for similar cases
- The extent the lawyer will handle your case
- The out-of-pocket expenses that you need to pay
- The structure of the lawyer fees
Some documents that you need to present to your lawyer include:
- Insurance policy – your truck likely has an insurance cover, and your trucking accident attorney will want to see it to know the type of recovery that you require.
- The evidence of premiums – the lawyer needs proof that you have paid the premiums of your insurance. When your lawyer gets this information, they can establish that the policy is active, since you already paid for it.
- Tickets that have a relation to the accident – make sure your semi-truck accident lawyer knows this information, for instance if you got a speeding ticket.
- Any information that the police provide at the accident scene – in situations of accidents, the requirement is that police arrive to the scene and draft a report. This includes diagrams of where the pedestrians or cars involved were at that time, and this information is vital to helping the lawyer understand the case in depth. However, if you lack a police report, the lawyer can still get one on your behalf.
- Statements – most likely scenario is that after an accident, a representative from your insurance company calls you. The company wants to get a statement from you, and it is your right to have a copy of the statement. The lawyer can also organize to get this information if you do not have the statement.
- Photographs of the scene – In the case that you lack pictures, a representative of your insurance company likely has them. If you have pictures with you, it is best to give them to your lawyer, but if you do not then the lawyer can organize to obtain some from the insurance provider.
- Medical history – car accidents may leave significant physical injuries on you, and leave you seeking medical care. Your lawyer will therefore require your medical records to establish the extent of injury and recovery time. If you lack the records, provide the lawyer with the address and name of any medical provider you visit and they can get your records.
- Pay records (salary or wages) – since many accidents result in loss of work time, the lawyer can assist you to recover your lost wages. They will need to know the money you have ‘lost’ by using your usual earnings before and after the accident.
- Your psychological history – if the accident results in mental and emotional trauma, the lawyer needs to know and see the medical records related to that. This means you should provide copies of psychological names and addresses of the health care providers as well as a release form.
Truck accidents are more difficult to handle than other accident types because they are subject to different laws and requirements. For this reason, it is important that you do not go it on your own, but instead hire the services of a dedicated truck accident lawyer that will help you and ensure you have the best shot at getting compensation.