You have been seriously injured or lost a close family member in a truck accident in California. While you may be entitled to compensation and you may be able to secure a settlement with the help of an experienced attorney, there is also a possibility that you will need to take your case to court. If this happens, what can you expect in truck accident litigation?
Litigating a truck accident case is different from other kinds of accident claims. The trucking companies, truck manufacturers, and other parties have teams of defense lawyers who fight truck accident cases for a living. So, if you are going to have any chance of success, you need an experienced attorney on your side as well.
7 Steps in Truck Accident Litigation
There are many steps in the litigation process, and the specific elements involved in any one particular case will depend on a broad range of factors. With this in mind, here are the seven main steps involved in seeking just compensation for a serious or fatal truck accident in California:
1. Hiring an Attorney
First, you are going to need to hire an attorney. In order to maximize your chances of success, you should hire an attorney sooner rather than later. However, it is important to choose wisely when seeking a lawyer to take on one or more major corporations.
Ideally, you will want to choose a lawyer who has specific experience – and success – handling truck accident claims. Various aspects of truck accident litigation are unique, and hiring a lawyer who has been there before will help ensure that your case proceeds smoothly and enhance the likelihood of a just settlement or verdict.
2. Conducting an Investigation
Once you hire a lawyer, your lawyer will conduct an investigation. This typically involves a forensic investigation of the scene of the accident and the vehicles involved, as well as:
- Subpoenaing records from the trucking company, such as the maintenance log for the rig, the driver’s hours of service log, and more
- Hiring engineering experts to pinpoint the specific cause of the crash
- Interviewing witnesses identified in the police report and/or those you spoke with at the scene (if applicable)
Your lawyer will need to gather all of the key information efficiently so that he or she can timely file a lawsuit on your behalf.
3. Determining Liability
Between gathering evidence and filing a lawsuit, your lawyer will need to determine which party or parties are liable for your losses. In the case of a commercial truck accident, there are a number of possibilities, including:
- The truck driver
- The trucking company
- The company that manufactured the truck (or the company that manufactured a specific component that failed and caused the crash)
- The shipping company that loaded the truck at the warehouse or port
- The company that owns the cargo that was on the truck
- A dealership, maintenance center, or repair shop that performed negligent work on the truck
- The government contractor responsible for designing, building, or maintaining the road where the accident occurred
Each of these parties may have its own insurance company. And, if you take legal action, each company will assign one or more attorneys to act on their behalf. The number of parties that may be involved is one of the reasons truck accident litigation is so complex.
4. Calculating Your Damages
Before filing a lawsuit, it is important to know the amount you are pursuing. This amount will be included as part of the “demands” in the initial complaint.
It is absolutely essential that you have a clear picture of your economic and non-economic losses before filing the lawsuit. Some of the damages, such as medical bills and the income you lost from missing work, will be fairly easy to quantify. Others, however, may need to be substantiated through expert testimony, such as a doctor testifying to your need for ongoing physical therapy for a disabling injury.
It is important to recognize that the compensation you request in the initial complaint may not be what you ultimately receive. Your total damages are a good number to bear in mind when reviewing any settlement offers or considering taking your case to trial.
5. Filing a Lawsuit
Once a determination of liability has been made and you and your lawyer have calculated the damages you have suffered, then your attorney can file a lawsuit to recover just compensation. Filing a lawsuit starts the formal legal process.
From here, the duration and complexity of your claim will depend on factors such as:
- The jurisdiction where your claim is filed
- The extent of damages and the amount of compensation you’re pursuing
- Questions of fault
The insurance company lawyers who represent defendants in truck accident cases are primarily interested in protecting their employer’s bottom line. Considering the amount of money on the line in these cases, they are likely to fight back against your lawsuit.
6. Negotiations and Pre-Trial Procedure
Once you know how much you are entitled to recover, then you can seriously consider any settlement offers that may be on the table. Depending on the circumstances of your case, negotiations may go back and forth before you eventually receive an acceptable offer. Or, you may have little choice but to fight your battle in court.
If your case does not settle before your court date arrives, then your trial will commence. In court, your attorney will present evidence of liability and damages, the defendants’ lawyers will present their counterarguments, and then, assuming your case does not settle during trial, the judge or jury will decide if you are entitled to financial compensation.
Speak with California Truck Accident Lawyer Mickey Fine
Attorney Mickey Fine is an experienced litigator who has recovered millions of dollars in compensation for truck accident victims and their families in Bakersfield, and throughout Southern California. If you have been seriously injured or lost a loved one in a truck accident, please call (661) 333-3333 or request a free consultation online today.