If a truck accident hurt you, you may recover monetary damages from an at-fault party or insurance company. Here’s an overview of the truck accident claim process and how an experienced attorney can recoup money for your expenses and future needs. Reach out to a truck accident lawyer.
Contact a Lawyer
The smartest first step you can take after your truck accident is to contact a local truck accident lawyer who can handle your claim. Having a skilled lawyer on your side soon after a truck accident gives you the best shot at securing maximum compensation for your losses. It also helps to protect you from making costly mistakes, such as saying the wrong thing to an insurance adjuster or agreeing to a settlement for less than you deserve.
Choose a lawyer with experience dealing with truck accident claims and a proven track record of favorable results. Working with a lawyer who knows the local legal system and understands the trucking industry helps to ensure that you receive fair treatment from insurers and the courts. While a truck accident lawyer can’t guarantee results, hiring one with experience and a solid reputation can improve your chances significantly.
Accident and Claim Investigation
As a first order of business, your lawyer will typically want to find out how the truck accident happened and who may have liability for your losses. And that usually requires some investigation. A lawyer may want to know, for example:
What was the sequence of events?
Key evidence that might establish how an accident unfolded might include
- What you remember about the accident
- What the truck driver had to say about the crash
- What other eyewitnesses saw
- Video footage of the accident from traffic, security, or dashboard cameras
- Photos and video from the crash scene
- Forensic evidence like tire or paint marks
- Damage to the vehicles
- A police accident report collecting accident data
The sooner an attorney can get started locating, collecting, and reviewing this type of evidence, the greater the chance of forming a clear picture of what happened. And that, in turn, can lead to a solid claim for damages against parties at-fault for the truck accident and their insurers.
What factors might have contributed to the accident?
You need a lawyer who can explore decisions, actions, and conditions that preceded the accident and may have contributed to it.Skilled truck accident lawyers might want to review, for example:
- The truck driver’s logbook or electronic logging device (ELD) records, which keep track of whether a driver had complied with hours of service regulations governing the length of time truckers can spend driving without a break.
- The truck’s onboard computer records, which may contain data about the truck’s speed, braking, and sudden directional changes, all of which may give insight into the driver’s safety and compliance with motor vehicle laws.
- The truck’s maintenance history, which can disclose whether the truck’s owner has put off needed maintenance or if the truck has experienced previous, dangerous mechanical failures.
- The truck driver’s training history, including whether the trucker had the requisite knowledge, skills, and experience to operate the truck that crashed.
- The truck driver’s accident history and whether the trucker’s employer knew about any prior accidents the trucker had caused.
- Drug and alcohol screening results, to determine if a truck driver operated under the influence of impairing substances.
These are just some of the factors an experienced truck accident lawyer might want to consider when evaluating the causes of the accident that harmed you. The facts differ in every case, but a lawyer’s goal always remains the same: to uncover evidence to prove someone else’s liability for your losses.
Having gained an understanding of the circumstances of a truck crash, your lawyer’s next step is often to determine who may have liability for paying your monetary damages. Generally speaking, anyone whose dangerous decisions, actions, or inaction contributed to the cause of the crash could owe you payment for your losses. So could insurance companies that issued liability policies to those parties. You may also have the right to payment from an insurance company that sold you an accident damages policy.
Truck accident lawyers tend to let the facts guide them in determining who might bear the blame for a crash.
Frequently, those facts point toward a relatively small number of parties, including:
- A truck driver whose careless actions behind the wheel led to a crash
- An employer who failed to screen or train the driver
- A truck owner or trucking company that did not maintain the truck in safe working condition
- A shipping company that loaded the truck’s cargo in an unsafe manner
- A public or private entity at-fault for causing unreasonably dangerous road conditions
- Another motorist who failed to share the road safely with a truck
- An automotive manufacturer that produced dangerously defective truck or car parts
These are just the usual suspects, however. Experienced truck accident injury lawyers know not to make assumptions about who might have liability to you. Instead, they keep their minds open and their eyes sharp, always analyzing the evidence to make sure you have the opportunity to pursue compensation from everyone who deserves to be held accountable for your losses.
Another crucial part of the truck accident claim process involves evaluating the nature and scope of the harm you suffered.
As a truck crash victim, you may receive compensation for:
- Medical expenses for treating your injuries
- Costs for repairing or replacing your damaged vehicle or other personal property
- Other expenses you have because of the accident or your injuries
- Your past and future lost income and job benefits due to your injuries
- Physical pain and emotional suffering from your injuries
- The difficulty of living with scarring and disfigurement
- Diminished quality of life and daily inconvenience
Depending on how the truck accident happened, you might also have the right to receive punitive damages from an at-fault party who engaged in especially reckless or illegal conduct.
An experienced truck accident lawyer carefully analyzes the impact the truck accident and your injuries have had on your life.
The lawyer may examine, for example:
- Your medical records and a doctor’s prognosis for physical and emotional recovery
- Medical bills, receipts, and other records relating to the cost of your care
- Invoices and vehicle repair estimates
- Evidence of how your injury limits or alters your daily life
- Expert analyses of your future financial needs
The lawyer’s aim is to establish the maximum amount you have the right to receive as compensation for your losses. With that figure in hand, the lawyer can then turn to seeking payment from at-fault parties and insurance companies.
Once your lawyer has reached conclusions about liability and damages, they may begin to seek payment from at-fault parties or insurance companies by:
- Sending an informal letter to the at-fault party or that party’s lawyer explaining your claim and demanding payment
- Submitting a formal claim to an insurance company requesting payment under the terms of a policy covering your losses
- Filing a complaint in court that initiates a lawsuit against an at-fault party or insurance company
These methods are not mutually exclusive. A lawyer might recommend doing just one of them, but it’s also common to pursue several of them in sequence or simultaneously. It all depends on the circumstances of your case and what the lawyer thinks—based on experience and training—will yield you the most favorable result. Once you sign-off on a strategy, the lawyer can proceed.
Litigation and Negotiation
No matter which method of demanding payment your lawyer pursues, the party you demanded payment from will typically respond in one of four ways:
- Agree to pay in full
- Agree to pay in part, but refuse to pay the remainder
- Refuse to pay anything
- Request more information
Obviously, immediate full payment is the best outcome. But unfortunately, it’s also the rarest. Far more often, the party you’ve demanded payment from will resist full payment and instead choose to enter into litigation or negotiation of your claim.
Litigation is the process of having a court or other decision-making body decide your claim. Negotiation attempts to resolve your claim by mutual agreement. These processes may happen simultaneously, because they tend to work in tandem. That is, by pursuing a litigation strategy, your lawyer may gain an advantage in negotiation, and vice-versa.
Litigation commonly involves an exchange of information about your claim that lawyers refer to as discovery. Its purpose is to allow each side to explore the strengths and weaknesses of each other’s cases. Through discovery, the parties can sharpen their perspectives and make informed decisions about whether to settle your claim or continue fighting.
Most Truck Accident Claims Eventually Settle
Through negotiations informed by facts learned in discovery, most truck accident claims end in a settlement, which is a mutual agreement to resolve your claim. In the typical truck accident settlement, the injured crash victim receives money from an at-fault party or insurance company in exchange for releasing them from further liability and dropping any pending lawsuits against them.
Settlement negotiations usually happen between the lawyers for the parties. Adjusters working for insurance companies also frequently participate in those negotiations. Negotiations can happen in person, by phone, or over email. And they can happen at any point in the truck accident claim process, from immediately after you send your initial demand to just before your case is scheduled to go to trial.
Sometimes, the parties will participate in voluntary or court-ordered mediation to assist them in negotiating a settlement. In mediation, a neutral party (the mediator) facilitates settlement discussions. Like direct negotiation between the parties, mediation can happen in a single, in-person session or may stretch over days or weeks of phone calls and emails.
Settlement, if it happens, brings a truck accident claim to a definitive end. With rare exception, you can’t reopen a settlement once you agreed to it and receive your payment. That’s why you need a skilled lawyer negotiating on your behalf and advising you about whether to accept or reject a settlement offer. The decision whether to settle is yours to make, but you don’t want to make it until you get the best deal possible in your circumstances.
But Courts Also Decide Some Truck Accident Claims
Truck accident claims that do not settle usually resolve in court in two ways:
- A judge rules on the claim based on written arguments the parties submit during a phase of litigation known as motion practice
- A judge or jury hears evidence and arguments presented at a trial and decides the claim
Either type of court decision on a truck accident claim can have a wide variety of potential outcomes. The court could award you full damages from all the parties you’ve pursued for compensation. Or only partial damages from some of them. Or no damages at all.
This uncertainty about what may happen in court drives many parties to want to settle truck accident injury claims. You need a lawyer on your side who is ready to make your case in court if that’s what it takes to get the best possible outcome. You never want the parties who owe you money to take settlement for granted. With a skilled trial lawyer in your corner, you send the signal that you can win no matter what direction your truck accident claim takes.
Contact an Experienced Truck Accident Lawyer Today
At every stage of the truck accident claim process, having an experienced personal injury lawyer on your side makes all the difference in your chances of achieving a favorable outcome. If you suffered losses because of a truck accident, contact a knowledgeable attorney today for a free case evaluation.
Mr. Finkelstein is the Managing Partner of Finkelstein & Partners, LLP. He has become a noted consumer activist through his representation of injured individuals against corporate wrongdoers and irresponsible parties.
An accomplished litigator, Mr. Finkelstein has represented Plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has successfully handled dozens of multi-million dollar cases.