Your core legal right following injuries in a truck crash is receiving financial compensation if someone else caused the accident. However, every minute you do not have an attorney, you risk your legal rights. Timing is everything when getting legal help after a truck accident.
If you wonder whether you should hire a truck accident lawyer sooner rather than later, the answer is an emphatic yes. If you wonder when is the right time to retain truck accident counsel, the answer is now if you do not already have one.
Hiring an attorney marks the beginning of the legal process in your claim. You cannot control many things in a truck accident case, but you have direct power over hiring an attorney.
Once you hire a Syracuse truck accident lawyer, you can hand your case over to them, and they will do the heavy lifting and provide you with updates and legal advice when necessary. You will not need to do any work on your own (nor should you, because self-represented clients do far worse than those who have lawyers).
The Insurance and Trucking Companies Try to Protect Themselves
Truck accidents can lead to significant financial compensation. As soon as the truck accident occurs, the trucking company and their insurance provider know that they can be in a difficult position because of your legal right to total financial compensation for the injuries that they have caused.
Thus, insurance and trucking companies can go into damage control mode right after the accident to take money from your pocket and keep it in theirs. They may even get away with it if you do not have an attorney on your side to fight for you.
Trucking companies have various forms of evidence and documentation that can strengthen your case. Ordinarily, you can obtain this evidence during the discovery process as you prove liability and the trucking company’s guilt.
This documentation can include:
- The black box data from the truck that shows how the driver was operating the vehicle at the time of the accident
- The truck driver’s employment records that can show their driving history
- Substance and alcohol testing results, both from tests taken before the accident and after
- Maintenance records that can show when the trucking company had the truck inspected and what they did to fix any problems
Despite this evidence, the trucking company and their insurance provider will protect themselves, making it difficult for you to obtain important documentation.
Documents and Evidence Can Disappear in a Hurry When You Do Not Have a Lawyer
Trucking companies do not have an unfettered obligation to preserve black box data forever.
Even if they initially keep this data, you may find that it can disappear when it contains damaging evidence that can make them look worse. Then, trucking companies may similarly disregard their document retention obligations concerning other evidence, not caring about potential consequences.
Desperate trucking companies may do whatever is necessary to protect themselves from huge financial liability. They know that a very large verdict can potentially put them out of business forever, and they may not be rational.
When you hire a truck accident lawyer, they will send a litigation hold letter to all potential defendants, including trucking companies. This letter will direct the trucking companies to preserve all relevant evidence before litigation, and they can face even more severe consequences if they fail to follow these directives.
If trucking companies act illegally, imagine what they may do around the margins of your case. The insurance company is also trying to figure out how it can compromise your legal rights. Without an attorney, you leave yourself completely unguarded.
You Can Also Lose Physical Evidence Quickly
The physical evidence that proves fault after an accident can include:
- Testimony from people who witnessed the crash
- Pictures from the scene of the accident
- The police report from the accident (used in the insurance company claims process)
- Testimony from an accident reconstruction expert who will give their opinion about the cause of the accident
- Video or dashcam footage of the accident
Truck accident evidence has a minimal shelf life; some can even disappear when personnel clear the accident scene. You need a lawyer who can quickly secure important evidence so you do not lose the proof you need for your case. It is much harder to begin investigating a truck accident months after the crash.
The Insurance Company Can Trap You When You Don’t Have a Lawyer
Insurance companies may seek to talk to you directly, trying to compromise your case by getting you to say something against your interests. They may pressure you into giving them a statement, knowing they can cherry-pick your words and take them out of context, yet they cannot get to you when an attorney represents you.
Without an attorney, you may think you must speak with the insurance company, but you are not. Direct insurance company inquiries to your lawyer.
You May Make Unforced Errors Without a Lawyer
You can also make other mistakes that might compromise your case, whether it is things you say to the insurance company in different contexts or other public statements you make.
You cannot go back and undo a mistake you made before you had a lawyer. Once you make something part of the record, the insurance company will use it against you. If you are in a position where you have to explain why the insurance company owes you money, then you already face challenges. Spend as much of the truck accident case as possible on offense, not defense.
It Takes Time to Go Through the Legal Process
It may take your lawyer a fair amount of time to prepare your case because truck accidents can take some time to investigate before you even know the exact cause of the accident. You may need to pursue multiple parties.
Your lawyer needs the ability to work without worrying about losing too much time from the statute of limitations. The closer you get to the deadline, the more your lawyer may need to rush, which might lead to careless errors and compromise your case.
Part of Preparing Your Case Is Knowing About Your Damages
Before seeking damages, your lawyer needs time to assess how much compensation you deserve.
The responsible party will need to pay for your:
- Medical bills
- Lost income
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Embarrassment and humiliation
- Emotional distress
If a loved one died in the accident, your entire family will have suffered damages, and your attorney will need to take time to understand how the loss of a family member affected you. Any truck accident claimant must support and prove their damages, just as they need to ascertain liability in the case.
Rushing a Claim Can Mean Mistakes
In addition, you do not want your lawyer to have to rush your claim in any way. The insurance company’s decision is not necessarily final and binding, but you still want to put your best foot forward to put yourself in a stronger negotiating position from the beginning. The insurance company will calibrate its response to the strength of your claim.
If you omit relevant evidence or produce a sloppy and rushed package, the insurance company may immediately doubt your claim. If an insurer denies liability or challenges the severity of your injuries due to a lack of initial evidence, it can delay the process or even force you into truck accident litigation.
Even if you believe fault is clear for your truck crash, the insurance company will not simply take your word. Instead, you want complete and convincing documentation of what caused the accident and your resulting injuries.
Such documentation might include:
- Police reports
- Records of traffic violations or criminal charges against the truck driver
- All medical records and bills regarding your injuries
- Pain journals and medication records
- Mental health treatment records
- Witness testimony
- Trucking companies’ records, including driving records, background checks, and black box reports
- Accident reconstruction analysis
Some of this evidence will be in the trucking company’s possession. While it might take time to assess evidence and build your case, your lawyer should send an evidence preservation demand as soon as possible after your crash. This puts the trucking company on notice of potential legal action and prohibits them from destroying or concealing anything that might be relevant evidence in your case.
You Might Need to Wait a Long Time for a Settlement Check
A truck accident case can take considerable time from start to finish, and the payment may take even longer, given the amount of money involved. With such a large potential settlement, you can expect the insurance company to take its time writing the check. It does this to wear you down and get you to take less money, moving even slower if you took a long time to file the claim.
You may have entered the case already experiencing financial difficulties with a limited time to hold out while waiting for the check. You may end up panicking and accepting an inferior settlement offer.
Even after you file the claim, reaching a settlement agreement can take a while. You might need to field multiple offers over time to get closer to the point when you receive fair compensation. The insurance company will take its time for each settlement offer, and it may take years to settle your case.
Truck Accident Trials Also Take a Lot of Time
The same thing goes if your case goes to trial. The process begins when your truck accident lawyer files the lawsuit, and you may only proceed to trial after failed settlement negotiations with the insurance company.
The judge may set a lengthy trial schedule based on the case’s complexity and the court’s docket. Truck accident lawsuits can take a long time to finish. Thus, start the legal process by hiring a lawyer today.
You Do Not Need to Pay Out of Pocket for a Truck Accident Lawyer
Legal help is not free, but it also does not cost you money out of your pocket immediately. Moreover, there is no cost savings if you wait to hire a lawyer at a later stage of your case.
You will pay an attorney the same percentage of the proceeds of your case, as outlined in the representation agreement, no matter when you hire them. Most importantly, you do not have to pay your lawyer by the hour as soon as they begin work on your case. Personal injury attorneys in Syracuse work for you on a contingency basis, pay them for their time if you win; it is never out of your pocket. Thus, you will not put yourself at financial risk when you get legal help.
Nothing should prevent you from seeking the proper legal assistance. Doing so immediately protects your health and financial future after a truck crash.
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.