Have you suffered injuries or property damage in a truck accident? You may have the right to take legal action to pursue compensation from the truck driver or trucking companies at fault for the crash. However, trucking companies and insurers have many adjusters, investigators, and attorneys at their disposal who may try to minimize or deny your legal claims.
You should not have to face big corporations on your own to get the financial relief you deserve. A truck accident lawyer can give you an edge in negotiations and seek accountability and justice for the harm you have suffered.
An attorney can help with your truck accident claim by investigating the crash to identify the causes, liable parties, and the extent of injuries and losses you have incurred. They can then advocate on your behalf with trucking companies and insurers to fight for maximum compensation for you through a settlement or at trial.
Legal representation during your truck accident case can provide peace of mind that you won’t need to navigate the legal process alone.
The Process of a Truck Accident Claim
Truck accident cases typically have many steps before they resolve, either through a settlement or a trial verdict. Understanding the process of a truck accident claim is essential before you move forward with your case.
Some of the critical milestones in a truck accident case can include:
- Investigating the accident. A truck accident investigation seeks to uncover all available evidence from the crash to help the injured accident victim and their attorney determine what happened in the wreck. An investigation will identify the party or parties at fault for the collision or who can be liable for the accident victim’s injuries and losses.
- Obtaining medical treatment. An injured victim should seek prompt medical attention following a truck accident. You should begin medical treatment as soon as possible to have proof that your injuries resulted from the truck accident. Timely treatment also improves your likely prognosis and prevents claims from the trucking companies or insurers that you failed to mitigate your losses by not promptly treating your injuries.
- Gathering documents. Truck accident victims and their lawyers should also begin gathering documentation to support claims for compensation. These documents may include bills, invoices, receipts, pay stubs, income statements, W-2s, Form 1040s, or employment and business contracts. Other essential documents include police crash reports and medical records from the accident victim’s treatment and rehabilitation of their injuries.
- Working with experts. A strong truck accident case may use testimony from accident reconstruction, automotive engineering, trucking industry operations, medical, vocations, and financial experts.
- Filing insurance claims and demand letters. Pursuing compensation after a truck accident formally begins when an accident victim and their attorney file claims with the insurance companies and send demand letters to the at-fault parties and insurers to seek compensation.
- Negotiating a settlement. After an accident victim formally files their compensation claims, the parties will try to negotiate a settlement of the case to avoid the need for a trial.
- Filing a lawsuit or demand for arbitration. A truck accident case that does not quickly end in a settlement will usually head into litigation after the injured accident victim files a lawsuit in court or files for arbitration of the case.
- Discovery. Discovery allows parties in a lawsuit or arbitration to exchange evidence to narrow down issues in dispute for the trial or arbitration hearing.
- Going to trial. At trial, the parties present their evidence and arguments to a jury or judge, who will render a verdict ruling on the outstanding material disputes in the case.
Thoroughly Investigate the Crash
Truck accident cases require extensive investigation to uncover all the available evidence. Government regulations require trucking companies to maintain considerable documentation of their operations. These documents may provide evidence of the cause of a truck accident and help identify which parties should be liable for an accident victim’s injuries and losses.
An experienced truck accident attorney can secure and review evidence such as:
- Accident scene photos and videos
- Surveillance camera, traffic camera, or dashcam footage of the crash or pre-crash activities
- Eyewitness testimony
- Police accident reports
- Truck driver hours-of-service logs
- Truck driver alcohol or drug screen results
- Truck driver driving or employment records
- Truck driver cell phone records
- Truck event data recorder (“black box”) logs
- Cargo or load manifests
- Trucking company dispatch logs
- Truck or trailer inspection and maintenance records
- Post-accident vehicle inspection reports
- Expert accident reconstruction reports
Truck accident attorneys may also work with experts in various fields to help with technical issues in the case. For example, accident reconstruction experts can prepare written reports or visual depictions to describe what happened in the accident and explain who caused the crash.
Engineering experts can inspect the truck or trailer after the crash to determine if a mechanical failure due to a defective part or inadequate maintenance led to the accident. Trucking industry experts may testify how the trucking company’s violations of regulations and safety standards caused the crash. Forensic computer experts can review trucking companies’ electronic records to find evidence of post-accident tampering with the records.
Medical experts can explain the injuries suffered by the accident victim, what treatment the injured victim has undergone or will need in the future, and the accident victim’s prognosis. Vocational and financial experts can testify to an accident victim’s future economic losses due to permanent disability or impairment.
Identify Liable Parties
A truck accident attorney can review evidence obtained in the investigation to identify which parties should be liable to compensate their client.
Parties who you may hold responsible for a truck crash include:
- The truck driver
- The trucking company
- The truck’s owner (if not the driver or the trucking company)
- The cargo or freight broker who loads the truck or trailer
- Third-party truck mechanics
- Third-party background check or drug testing companies retained by the trucking company
- The truck’s manufacturer
- Third-party truck part manufacturers
Determine the Availability of Insurance Coverage
Truck accident attorneys can also determine the extent of financial resources available to compensate their clients for their injuries and losses. Many trucking companies have complex corporate structures that may obscure which entity or entities to sue for the truck accident.
Companies also use layered insurance coverage, in which coverage for a particular policy only triggers once policies with higher priority have exhausted their coverage. This can make it difficult to determine whether a trucking company has made a fair or good-faith settlement offer. However, an experienced truck accident lawyer can carefully review the trucking company’s corporate structure and insurance coverage to calculate available financial resources.
Document Injuries and Losses
A truck accident attorney can help their client fully document injuries and losses to help pursue the maximum compensation in their case. Lawyers can help determine the extent of future expenses and losses that a truck accident victim may incur after settling their case or going to trial. Once a claimant settles or obtains a judgment in their truck accident claim, they cannot pursue additional compensation from liable parties if the claimant later incurs more medical costs or financial losses.
Explain Your Legal Options and the Claims Process
A truck accident victim who has never pursued an injury claim may not know what to expect during the claims process. A truck accident lawyer can take the time to sit down and explain your legal rights and options to you and provide you with the information and advice you need to make the best decisions for your interests throughout your case.
Your lawyer can also prepare you for the legal process. Many claimants become anxious or worried when their cases drag on. Understanding the steps of the claims process can give you peace of mind. Your attorney can also keep you updated on the progress of your case.
Prepare and File Insurance Claims and Demand Letters
Pursuing compensation from the trucking and insurance companies formally begins by filing claims and demand letters that request a sum of money to compensate you for your injuries and property damage. Your truck accident attorney can prepare a thorough, persuasive claim or demand letter to put your most robust case forward.
After filing your insurance claims or sending demand letters, your truck accident lawyer can aggressively negotiate with the trucking companies and insurers to try to reach a settlement that pays you full compensation for your losses.
Your attorney can also communicate with insurance adjusters before formally filing your claims. An adjuster or trucking company representative may contact you soon after the accident to ask you for a written or recorded statement. However, the insurer likely only wants your statement to try to undercut your claim.
A lawyer can field any phone calls or letters from adjusters or defense lawyers, providing the insurance company only with the bare minimum information it needs to process your claim.
Timely File Lawsuits
The statute of limitations under California law imposes a deadline on filing a lawsuit in your truck accident claim. You have two years after a truck crash to file a lawsuit for personal injuries and three years for a case for property damage. The trial court could permanently dismiss your suit if filed after the deadline.
A truck accident lawyer will ensure the timely filing of your claims. Having a lawyer draft and file your lawsuit can also help avoid other mistakes that can result in the dismissal of your case and the potential loss of your right to pursue compensation in civil court.
Represent You in Court and At Trial
Lawsuits must adhere to complex court rules and procedures. A trial litigator will know these rules and can take your truck accident case to trial if necessary. Your attorney can handle requests for documents, information, and depositions during discovery and advocate in court against motions to dismiss your case.
At trial, your lawyer can present a robust and persuasive argument to the jury or judge to fight for a verdict in your favor. A lawyer can also protect your interests if your case goes to an appeal after the trial.
How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Truck Accident Lawyer?
A truck accident victim may have concerns about hiring a lawyer to help them with a legal claim, especially if they experience financial burdens due to medical bills or lost income. However, most truck accident lawyers represent injured victims on a contingency fee basis. In a contingency fee arrangement, an injured truck accident victim does not pay any fees upfront to hire an attorney or pay fees during their care.
Instead, a truck accident attorney only gets paid if they win compensation for their injured client through a negotiated settlement or by winning the client’s case at trial. The attorney receives a fee equal to a percentage of the total financial compensation recovered for the client, plus potential reimbursement of case expenses paid by the attorney, such as court filing fees or expert witness fees.
A contingency fee arrangement allows an injured truck accident victim to afford the legal representation they need by only paying once they’ve received compensation for their expenses and losses.