With the rising need for land transportation, the number of trucks on American roads increases annually. So has the number of accidents. Every year, 130,000 people sustain injuries in truck collisions. More than 4,000 of them die.
Did you or a loved one get hurt in a truck accident? You may be entitled to compensation. When the truck company is involved, recovering damages is not always easy. You may need an attorney to get through the process and receive the money you deserve.
A truck accident lawyer can help with all aspects of a personal injury case and improve your chances of maximizing the payout. While it is possible to recover damages without legal assistance, it is easy to make mistakes. A simple error can leave you without compensation.
How can a lawyer help after a truck accident?
A truck accident attorney can provide valuable legal advice from the moment you hire them until you receive the payout. Additionally, they can help:
1. Establish Responsible Parties
In a truck accident, several parties may bear liability to you.
- Truck driver – if the driver was running a personal errand, driving under the influence, violating FMCSA’s hours of service, or breaking the law, they may be fully or partially liable for the accident. Truck drivers are often partially responsible for maintaining the rig and ensuring its top shape before each trip.
- Trucking company – in most cases, the trucking company is liable for the trucks and truck drivers on the road. They may be held responsible if the accident occurred due to driver’s fatigue that stemmed from overworking. The company is also responsible for the condition of the truck. If the accident occurs due to poor maintenance, they often split the responsibility with the driver.
- Cargo loaders – an accident may occur if the cargo is improperly loaded. It could lead to an imbalance, making the truck more likely to jackknife or overturn. Overloaded rigs are more likely to cause an accident.
- Truck manufacturer – if the truck manufacturer installed faulty parts, they may be held accountable for the accident. For example, defective tires or brakes could lead to a serious collision that results in injuries or even deaths.
- Government – in rare cases, the government may be responsible. This happens if the accident occurs due to poorly maintained roads. For example, a truck swerved to avoid a pothole and hit another vehicle.
You’ll need a lawyer who can identify all liable parties in a truck accident case. If more than one party is responsible, they will distribute the payout according to the percentage of their liability.
A truck accident attorney will conduct an independent investigation, collect evidence, and speak to witnesses to determine who may be at fault for the accident. A proper investigation strengthens your case and improves your chances of getting the money you deserve.
2. Prove Negligence
The key to collecting damages in a truck accident case is proving another party’s negligence. Many people mistakenly believe that straightforward truck accidents like rear-end collisions lead to automatic payouts.
In reality, you still have to prove these four parts of negligence:
- Legal duty of care – the responsible party must have a legal duty of care to the plaintiff. For example, the truck manufacturer has a legal duty to install working parts. Meanwhile, the government needs to keep roads in good shape to prevent accidents.
- Breach of duty – you need to show that the defendant breached the duty of care. For example, the manufacturer installed poor parts, or the government ignored a pothole on the road.
- Causation – you have to prove that the breach of duty caused your injuries. For example, the manufacturer installed faulty brakes, so the truck could not stop on time and hit your car. You suffered a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury).
- Damages – you must demonstrate that injuries caused by the breach of duty led to damages. For example, you have to provide medical bills for TBI treatment and invite an expert witness to confirm a reduction in your work capacity (to recover for lost wages).
When you are going against a trucking company or the government, you must be ready for serious resistance. Their legal teams might do everything possible to show that there was no negligence on their side.
Battling this opposition without legal assistance can be complicated. If you hire a truck accident attorney, you can rely on their experience and expertise to prove your case.
3. Collect and File Documents on Time
Any truck accident case requires a substantial amount of paperwork. You must go through loads of documents, from obtaining police reports to recording witness depositions.
Getting them all together and filing all claims on time can be challenging, especially while recovering from injuries or grieving a loved one’s passing.
You would also need to collect documents that prove negligence. They may include trucking company’s procedures, policies, manuals, investigation records, copies of collision reports, copies of witness statements, and many more.
An attorney knows precisely when and where the documents must be collected and filed. They also monitor filing deadlines.
Statute of limitations
In Florida, you have four years to file a truck accident lawsuit. Unfortunately, when it comes to collecting evidence, finding witnesses, and filing documents, four years is not as long as it may seem.
In some cases, the deadline may be pushed back or forward. For example, if your loved one died in a truck accident, you only have two years to file a lawsuit.
Even if the four years are over, you may still recover damages. An attorney can help determine whether some of the statute’s exceptions apply to your case.
Taking Your Time
Sometimes, truck accident victims do not rush to file a claim because they have to recover from injuries. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to collect evidence and conduct an investigation.
An attorney can start handling your case quickly with minimal involvement on your part. By the time you recover from your injuries, the lawyer may already negotiate a fair settlement.
4. Calculate Damages
You may not be aware of how much money you could recover. To file a claim, you have to evaluate your case.
The key damages after a truck accident include:
- Economic damages – medical expenses, lost wages, property damages, and any other tangible damages that can help you return your life to the “pre-accident” state. It is important to remember that the at-fault party can also cover future damages. For example, if you sustain a TBI, you may need at-home care in the future. The settlement should address these expenses.
- Non–economic damages – mental anguish, loss of consortium, emotional distress, pain and suffering, and other intangible damages may be covered.
The judge may also award punitive damages if the truck driver was under the influence or demonstrated outrageously reckless behavior.
Without an attorney in your corner, it can be easy to miss an opportunity to recover certain damages. A legal representative will explain what compensation you can hope to receive. They may also give you a ballpark figure.
Many car accident lawyers offer free case evaluations. Before you sign a contract, you can learn about your chances of getting a settlement or winning the case.
5. Negotiate With the Insurance Company
Negotiations with the insurance company can be time-consuming, frustrating, and overwhelming. The company and its legal team will try hard to minimize the payout. Many victims settle for lower payments simply because their bills are piling up, and they cannot wait any longer.
Insurance companies understand which buttons to push when negotiating with the victim. Without legal experience and knowledge, you do not know when to push back and miss opportunities for increasing the settlement.
A truck accident attorney takes care of the negotiation process with your best interests in mind. After conducting an investigation, the lawyer will understand how much money you really deserve and fight hard to make sure you receive it.
6. Represent You in Court
You may have to take the case to court if:
- The insurance company does not agree to a fair settlement.
- You need to sue the driver or the company directly.
- The insurance coverage is not sufficient to cover your damages.
Arguing your case in court requires a special approach. Without the proper knowledge, it can be easy to make unfortunate mistakes. If the judge does not rule in your favor, you could lose your shot at obtaining any compensation.
If you took your case to court without an attorney and lost, you can still appeal. With an attorney’s assistance, it may be possible to salvage some damages.
7. Guide You Through the Process
Truck accident cases are not just complex, they are emotionally taxing. It can be hard to keep all the details in your head while recovering from serious injuries.
A truck accident lawyer holds your hand through the entire process, explaining the nuances, providing legal advice, and offering support.
Any accident is stressful. Fighting for your money against experienced lawyers raises stress levels even higher. With a legal expert’s help, you can reduce stress and gain time to focus on your quality of life.
Can I get a settlement without a lawyer?
The short answer is yes. However, your chances of getting a fair amount without legal representation are smaller.
Most likely, if the at-fault party’s liability is straightforward, the insurance company will make a payment. However, the time it will take to receive the money, and the amount may not be satisfactory.
If you do not have legal experience, you may make mistakes that could cost you the entire case.
Common errors include:
- Forgetting to collect and preserve all the necessary evidence.
- Failing to obtain a police report.
- Ignoring filing deadlines.
- Failing to find the right expert witnesses.
- Not keeping all records of medical treatments.
- Not seeking all damages you are entitled to.
One of the most common mistakes truck accident victims regret is making a statement to the at-fault party’s insurance company. Without legal representation, it is easy to say something that decreases the value of your claim. These statements can be used against you in court.
Can a truck accident lawyer help with a wrongful death claim?
Truck accidents often cause severe injuries. Some of them are fatal.
If you lost a loved one in a car accident, you could seek:
- Pre-death medical expenses
- Loss of inheritance
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of companionship
- Burial expenses
- Funeral expenses
Fighting a legal battle while you are grieving a loss is tough. In a state of emotional distress, it is easy to make mistakes.
A wrongful death attorney can help you take the proper steps toward recovering damages while taking the legal burden off your shoulders.
How much does a truck accident lawyer cost?
Most truck accident lawyers work on a contingency fee basis. This involves taking a certain percentage of the final settlement.
For example, if the contingency fee is 33 ⅓ percent and your payout is $100,000, the attorney earns $33,333.33.
While this may seem like a considerable amount to part with, keep in mind that your settlement may be much lower without an attorney. The key advantage of a contingency fee model is that you do not have to pay the lawyer unless you get paid.
It is important to remember that the contingency fee does not cover litigation costs (expert witness fees, administrative fees, deposition expenses, and court costs).
The Takeaway: Should I hire a lawyer after a truck accident?
Truck accidents tend to be complex. Several parties may share the liability. These parties are likely to have strong legal teams on their side.
Proving negligence, collecting evidence, investigating, and negotiating with insurance companies can be challenging and time-consuming.
By hiring a truck accident attorney, you delegate all legal tasks to a professional. This maximizes your chances of obtaining fair compensation and gives you time to recover from the accident.