What does a truck accident lawyer do?
Due to their size, weight, and lengthy stopping distance, commercial trucks can cause devastating damage to anything in their path if they get into a collision. Truck drivers are usually well-protected in the truck cab, but people in passenger vehicles are often seriously hurt or killed. As a result, if you or a loved one have been involved in an accident with a truck, you may be in pain, unable to work, and swamped with healthcare bills you can’t afford to pay. If this happens, don’t wait – contact a truck accident lawyer right away. They can help you figure out the best options for covering your expenses so you can get back on the road to recovery.
What Does A Truck Accident Lawyer Do?
A truck accident lawyer will go over your case to determine not only fault but also liability. What’s the difference? The truck driver may be at fault – for example, they may have failed to yield. But many different entities may be liable:
- The truck driver
- The trucking company (if the driver is an employee of the company and not an independent contractor or owner/operator)
- The truck manufacturer (in the case of a defective design or component)
- The entity responsible for loading the cargo (sometimes this is the trucking company, sometimes it’s not)
- In some less common cases, government entities or other third parties who somehow contributed to the accident
- The insurance companies for any of the above
Identifying all the possible defendants in a personal injury suit is helpful even if you don’t end up filing a claim against all of them. In situations where you have suffered severe injuries, one defendant and/or their insurance company may not have the assets to pay all your damages. Fortunately, commercial truck drivers are required to carry between $750,000 and $1,000,000 in combined liability and property damage coverage. This is far higher than the state minimum liability coverage requirements for driving your own passenger vehicle. However, there are occasionally circumstances where your medical bills and other damages may be more than even commercial coverage limits. If this is the case, knowing the other possible defendants will give you more options to cover the rest of your expenses.
Why Should You Hire A Truck Accident Lawyer?
The most pressing reason to hire a truck accident lawyer is simple – you don’t want to go up against an insurance company alone. Here is a more in-depth look at the possible pitfalls of dealing with an insurance company:
In most cases, a personal injury suit will begin with the truck driver or trucking company’s insurance carrier – you may have already heard from them. We always advise people not to talk to the insurance adjuster until they’ve had a chance to speak with a lawyer, but adjusters can be persistent. Once they get you on the phone, they may ask a lot of questions about the accident. It’s easy to think this is just standard procedure, but in many cases, it can turn into a problem.
Let’s start with state law. North Carolina law uses contributory negligence statutes, which relieve the at-fault driver of liability if the other driver was even partially at fault. As you might imagine, the insurance carrier for the trucking company would love to find any reason to claim you were partly at fault for the accident, so they don’t have to pay a dime. You might not think you’ve said anything to imply you were at fault, but you may learn the insurance adjuster has derived a whole new meaning from some innocent comment you made.
Another issue is that victims of truck accidents often suffer severe injuries that may make it difficult to even remember everything that happened clearly. You may have hit your head and been rendered unconscious. Or you might have been taken to the hospital, sedated, and rushed into surgery, then given strong painkillers for at least several days afterward. While experiences vary, some people have little to no recollection of the accident or even the days following it. Worse, the insurance adjuster might call when you’re still heavily medicated and in no position to be answering questions.
If any of these situations happen and the insurance company denies your claim on the grounds that you had some amount of fault, don’t panic – call a truck accident lawyer right away. They may be able to refute whatever claim of fault the insurance company came up with and secure the compensation you deserve.
The final problem with talking to the insurer is that they may make you an offer – one that’s way too small. Never accept an offer without speaking to a personal injury attorney first. Insurance companies are frequently eager to offer you far less than your claim is worth. They do this in the hopes that you’ll accept, and they’ll be off the hook for what they should really pay you in damages. Remember that you should be getting compensation for your medical expenses (including continued care you need in the future), lost income for any time you’re unable to work due to your injuries, damage to your vehicle, pain and suffering, and any permanent disability or chronic pain you develop as a result of the accident. If a loved one has died as the result of a truck accident, and you were financially dependent on them, you should also seek damages for the income they would likely have earned.
By speaking with a lawyer, you will have a better idea of whether the insurance company’s offer is fair. If not, your attorney will outline the options. In most cases, the first option will be a negotiation. Trying to work out a reasonable settlement with an insurer isn’t something most people want to take on by themselves. The insurance adjusters are very well-educated in their industry and on laws regarding truck accidents. The truck driver and trucking company will also probably be on their side.
If the consulting lawyer believes you have a strong case, they will most likely offer to represent you. If you accept, once you’ve retained an attorney, they will work to prove your case. This starts with investigating the accident. They will go over the police report, collect photos or videos from the scene, talk to witnesses, file paperwork to obtain electronic reports from the truck’s onboard systems, gather testimony from experts, and more. Your attorney will also put together all your medical bills and make a list of other expenses, such as lost income, travel to treatment, etc. Having worked to strengthen your case, they will begin negotiation with the insurance company.
Will I Have To Go To Court? Will I Have to Testify?
Not necessarily. Most cases are settled out of court, but in some situations, if the insurer won’t agree to a reasonable amount of damages, you may proceed to a court case. This can take time, and even after you’ve filed papers with the court, it is still possible to settle if the other side rethinks their approach. Your attorney will keep you apprised of developments in your case and answer any questions you have about the process or about a proposed settlement.
If you do end up having a full trial, you do not have to testify. However, your attorney may strongly encourage you to do so. Often no one can describe the pain you’ve experienced as well as you can. Only you can tell the jury everything you went through as the result of the accident. If you decide to testify, your attorney will help you prepare by going over the kinds of questions the insurance company’s lawyer is likely to ask you.
How Do I Find A Lawyer For A Truck Accident?
We recommend that you look for an attorney who has previously handled truck accident cases successfully and who will offer you a free, no-obligation consultation. You should never have to pay anything just to find out if you have a valid claim. If the attorney believes you have a case, they should clearly explain their fee structure and answer your questions. Most personal injury attorneys work on a contingency basis, which means that you don’t have to pay them a retainer or anything else up front. Once they’ve secured a settlement, they will take their fees as an agreed-upon percentage of the recovery.
At Auger and Auger, we have a “Zero Fee Guarantee” – you don’t owe us anything if we don’t win your case. We hope this will help reduce many of our clients’ financial stress when inundated with medical bills and other expenses. We don’t want you to have to worry about any additional bills if you don’t win your case. We’ve also recovered six-figure settlements in several trucking accident cases discussed here on our Verdicts and Settlements page.
What To Do If You Are Involved In A Truck Accident?
Usually, the most pressing thing to do is to get medical attention for your injuries, which may be quite serious. Call 911 to request an ambulance and explain your injuries to the best of your ability. If you’re able, try to get your vehicle out of the roadway in the meantime. If this isn’t possible, turn on your flashers to warn other drivers.
Try to keep an eye on what the truck driver is doing. Ideally, they should also move the truck off the roadway, turn on their hazard lights, and place cones around the vehicle to reduce the risk of another accident. Make a note of any identifying signs on the truck, and write down the license plate number if you can see it.
If possible, you should exchange information with the truck driver. However, if you can’t get out of your car due to your injuries or damage to the car, and the driver doesn’t come over, this may not be an option. You should stay in your car if it seems unsafe to get out.
When exchanging information, make sure you ask for:
- The driver’s name, address, phone number, and email address
- Insurance company and policy number for the truck driver
- The trucker’s driver license number
- The trucking company’s name and contact information
It’s also a good idea to look around the scene of the accident to see if there are other witnesses. When possible, try to get their contact info as well. If you only see them briefly and don’t have a chance to talk to them, write down as detailed a description as you can in case you need it later. Your attorney will most likely ask you about witnesses. However, if there aren’t any, that isn’t necessarily bad for your case. In many situations, we’re able to find footage from traffic cams to use as evidence.
But traffic cam footage is not always complete and may only show one or two angles. If you can do so safely, try to take pictures of the scene. You should also take pictures of your own injuries, and not just on the day of the accident. Taking pictures over time can help to show just how long your recovery period was.
As we discussed above, you should avoid talking to an insurance adjuster until after you’ve consulted an attorney. In the meantime, if the other party’s insurance carrier calls you, just say that you can’t talk right now, and you’ll call them back at a better time. Next, you should call a truck accident lawyer who offers free consultations.
It’s also worth noting that sometimes people don’t realize they’ve been injured or the extent of their injuries right away. Even if you feel fine and have no visible injuries, it’s a good idea to let the paramedics check you out at the scene. Sometimes, you may not have pain right away due to the adrenaline rush that can follow an accident. If you start to experience pain, later on, be sure to see a doctor right away to have your injuries evaluated. Let them know you were recently in an accident, and although you initially felt fine, you are now having concerning symptoms that may be related to the crash.
If you have questions or concerns about an injury you’ve suffered in a truck accident or in any situation involving another party’s negligence, please contact Auger and Auger Accident and Injury Lawyers for a free consultation. We’re happy to go over your case and explain your options for seeking compensation. Contact us online or call 828-222-7649 for help today.