Every year, around 500,000 commercial truck accidents happen in the US. 80% of the victims in these accidents are either the passengers or drivers of smaller vehicles. If you have ever been in such an accident, you know how painful and challenging the recovery can be.
Moreover, the mounting medical bills and substantial property damage keep you awake at night with the worrying thought of how you will pay for it all.
The good news is that if you were not at fault, you can seek compensation for your financial, emotional, and physical losses. The only thing you need to do is hire a truck accident attorney and let them handle the case. They will compile evidence to present in court and, if the need arises, negotiate on your behalf with the insurance company.
Truck Accident Law in the US
Truck accidents involve large commercial vehicles, such as tractor-trailers, also known as an “18-wheeler,” and semi-trucks. These accidents can result in severe injuries and property damage due to the sheer weight and size of these vehicles. Since the negligent party is the truck driver, multiple law sources apply, including civil liability rules, traffic laws, and regulations of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Department of Transportation (DOT).
In truck accident cases, determining liability is one of the most important steps. Liability is usually based on negligence, which means proving that one party failed to exercise reasonable care. This could involve the truck driver, the trucking company, or even the manufacturer of the truck and the supplier.
If the truck driver is found guilty, the law scrutinizes various factors, such as driver qualifications, maintenance records, and adherence to federal regulations, to come to a verdict.
Now that you know the basics of truck accident law in the US, let’s take a look at how a truck accident attorney helps you with the case:
Investigating the Accident
The primary duty of a truck accident attorney is to investigate the accident thoroughly. They begin by providing a free initial consultation to the injured party. During this phase, they assess the details of the accident, review any available evidence, and determine the case’s legal merits.
The process involves examining the accident scene, gathering further evidence, talking to witnesses, and negotiating with the insurance company.
If the case proves to be tricky, they might even work with accident reconstruction specialists to recreate the events leading up to the accident. Understanding how and why the accident occurred is crucial in building a strong case.
Most attorneys work on contingency. Meaning: They will only take payment if they win the case. This doesn’t mean the attorney works for free. There’s a small hiring fee and a few other fees associated with obtaining documents that the client pays.
Once the truck accident attorney has reviewed the case and decided to take it on, they start gathering evidence. They may also consult with experts to analyze this evidence and provide professional opinions regarding liability.
The evidence may include:
- Pictures of the accident scene
- Getting statements from witnesses
- Visiting the accident site to make their report
- Evaluating vehicle damage
- Reviewing camera footage
- Going over the victim’s medical expenses and reports
Determining liability is often more complicated in truck accidents than in regular car accidents. As mentioned above, the cause behind the accident could also be a truck’s components.
This is why they assess all potential parties responsible for the accident, which might take some time. Once the attorney reaches a monetary sum that justifies the total damage, the file the case.
Sending a Demand Letter to the Truck Driver’s Insurance Company
If the truck driver is found guilty, the attorney sends a demand letter to their insurance company outlining collision facts. The letter also includes the compensation amount with proof of the victim’s damages.
Negotiating with the Insurance Company
Insurance companies may try to minimize payouts, so having an attorney who understands the nuances of these negotiations is essential. If you are at fault, your insurance company will pay for damages and liability. However, if the truck driver is at fault, the attorney will contact the insurance company to come to a settlement.
Negotiations take time because both parties are trying to come to an understanding, which often involves the blame game. Things might escalate, and the case might go to court if the truck driver’s lawyer makes a lowball offer.
Filing a Lawsuit
If a fair settlement cannot be reached through negotiation, a truck accident attorney will file a lawsuit on behalf of their client. This is a formal legal action that initiates the court process. Litigation is a complex process, which is why it is important to have someone skilled in handling your case.
When the at-fault party receives the complaint, they have 30 days to respond. If they want, they can still settle things out of court.
Representing the Client
The evidence gathered plays a huge role in the lawsuit. The truck accident attorney will have to form legal theories to make the court understand how the accident occurred and what they are hoping the outcome to be.
You need to be prepared if your attorney decides to call you on the stand. Throughout the legal process, your attorney will provide legal advice and guidance. They will explain your rights and options so you can make an informed decision.
When and if you win the case, the truck accident attorney will take a small amount from the settlement as their fee. This fee is decided in the beginning and is subject to change if the total amount is not what you and the attorney expected.
In conclusion, the complete responsibility of the case falls on the attorney’s shoulders. From investigating the accident to identifying liability, representing the client in court, and seeking fair compensation, they handle it all. What you need to do is update them about your ongoing medical bills so they can ensure the right settlement amount is written in the documents.
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